Without Spot or Blemish?
The Demise of the "Copy-Cat" Church

Are "Hell's Flames Still Hot?

HeavensGates01After a one-year break, one of the church's in our town is gearing up for another round of "Heaven's Gates, Hell's Flames" -- the popular evangelistic drama that swept the United States (and parts of Europe) in the 90's. And the amazing (or perhaps, puzzling) thing is that it's still around!

Sure, the production has had it's critics (like this one or this one), but I'd love to hear your thoughts as to why churches and para-church ministries continue to present this drama in today's culture.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

But it makes me feel so good when I can tell the rest of the world why they are going to hell!


I think those presenting this sort of thing see themselves as "good" enough and do not see themselves as sinners saved by the radical grace of God. I think they lack understanding and probably have never experienced the reality of their own failures and their own total dependance on God. A bit like the parable of the debtor who was forgiven much and then went out and was unforgiving of a little debt. Like him they just don't get it - what it means to be forgiven.

I remember when my old church put this on and how they guilted us into inviting friends.
I never invited my friends because I was embarrassed not at the message (even though the message is horrible) but because of the lame skits and acting in it.
I think that is one of the reasons I started to distance myself from that church.

Personally, I have never seen it. But I have seen others like it. One reason it produces such results is b/c of the visual art involved--the whole thing isn't a lecture.

Just the other day, I was thinking about a play like this we put on at a megachurch I was at. In 4 days, 1200 people accepted Christ or rededicated. But where are those people today? The emphasis on evangelism is changing, thank God. Let's just hope that it changes sooner rather than later. Many churches that are doing these things don't really care about the people, just the numbers.

Mykel -- I'm totally relating to your feeling "embarrassed" about inviting friends -- not because the acting was bad, but more due to the strong, underlying nuances of guilt and fear as replacements for conviction. Benjy raises an important question over "where are these thousands of converts today?"

Although, Benjy -- I disagree that churches doing these productions "don't really care about the people, just the numbers" -- I think they really do care, but maybe haven't taken the time to evaluate it all from other perspectives.

I just found out that our "sister" church in Barstow is putting this on. They sent us flyers and asked us to announce it. I told my pastor that I did not agree with the method of Heavens Gates - Hells Flames and that I would not be telling the youth about this.
He respected my opinion and also is refusing to announce it.
I believe that the church putting this on really cares for people, the pastor is an awesome guy, I just think we sometimes fall into a trap and do things just because "we did it before and it worked!"
How about we listen to God and move with his spirit? If that means doing the same thing again then great but more often then not it isn't.

I'm actually surprised that so many here have been against these kinds of plays, particularly since they are the direct descendents of the morality plays of the pre-Modern era that were one of the primary ways of reaching the masses outside of the churches of the day.

Given the postmodern fascination with story, I would think these plays would be wholeheartedly received, rather than so throroughly rejected.

Perhaps it is solely the issue of Hell that is causing the disapproval. But is not Hell part of the whole Gospel? Why shield people from such knowledge? If the topic of Hell is fair game, then does the argument only come down against the actual "artfulness" of the productions? If that is true, then that's a poor reason for despising them.

Dan, I'm not sure that the problem is the "drama" (although it can be cheesy at times),or the subject matter (i.e. hell). Maybe it's the evangelistic "method" in general -- scaring people into making "decisions" rather than inspiring people into "discipleship."

I dunno, DP. You track the nature of revival in the United States and a whole lot of it involved quite a bit of scary talk about Hell. Those old Puritan pastors preached a lot of hellfire.

I guess I am one of those people who believe we ought to tell the whole truth, even the scary parts. One can argue that the lack of talk about sin and Hell today are one of the reasons we have such lukewarm disciples.

Dan, if hell was so important, why didn't Christ spend more time on it? Christian scholars far smarter than all of us combined are at odds as to whether hell as we think of it is literal or metaphorical. It is real, and will be a horrible, terrible place worse than any of us can imagine.

We are too often defined by what we are against rather than what we are for. Do we spend too much time talking about sin, or not enough? I think we too much emphasis on the sins of others, and not enough on our own sin.

I disagree with your statement that "One can argue that the lack of talk about sin and Hell today are one of the reasons we have such lukewarm disciples." I think its because we too highly value events like this one. Why scare people away from hell, instead of invite them to a loving relationship with our creator?

Well I guess you are the critics. Proof is in the fruit! Tell me yours to be able to criticize. My wife was saved 7 yrs ago during this drama and denounced drugs and is now one great gift to the body filled with love and passion. I would only pray it does the same for any percentage of the 200 that just rededicated or got saved last week at my church. Praying for those that get converted is much better than criticizing the methods. Please realize if you have a more effective 'net' please let me know about it.

-Pastor David

I attend at least one passion play a year because I am active at my younger sister's church highschool and at my own college (also a church school). Is this play different? In every passion play I attend with people I don't know I am always worried about the (sometimes comically amateur) portrayal of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. But the passion plays I attend never tell anyone that they're going to hell, only that Christ lived and died for them and that salvation is available through Him.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)