Eastside Baptist Church will be hosting its second annual Journey Through Christmas event next weekend, Dec. 6-8. The event is a continuous walkthrough drama of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Anytime that the Bible can be brought to life through drama, it allows people to learn from all the senses,” said church Pastor David Fox. “It gets people engaged in the gospel.”
Tours will begin every 10 minutes, with 15 to 20 people in each group. Two guides dressed in biblical clothing will lead each group through the 12 scenes of the drama. The scenes will include both acting and narration, and will cover events like the announcement of Jesus’ birth, his entrance into Jerusalem, a Calvary scene and a scene of his resurrection.
“No one will be able to go through this without knowing why Jesus Christ came,” said Fox.
At the end of the tour, Fox will lead a summation of the events that occurred in Jesus’ life, and present each participant with an invitation to salvation.
“When we hear the gospel, it always requires a response,” said Fox.
Counselors will also be present at the event should an attendee need it. Guests are also welcome to indulge in refreshments at the hospitality tent following the walkthrough. All children will be given Christmas stockings full of candy as a parting gift. From start to finish, the event is expected to last 30 minutes per group.
“I think this year is going to be a great year as far as growth,” said Fox. “We had 450 people last year and the weather was just atrocious.”
Fox said that the church is expecting about 1,000 people to attend the event over three days. The amount of advertising for this year has almost tripled, which Fox believes will also contribute to higher attendance.
“There are about 45 businesses that have allowed us to advertise at their facilities,” said Fox. “Some of the independently-owned restaurants in town are putting tickets in to-go boxes.”
Tickets are simply for advertising and are not needed to attend the event. The Journey Through Christmas is free to all, and has become a form of ministry for Eastside Baptist Church.
“There will be over 100 workers here each night,” said Robin Fox, David’s wife. “This is an outreach to the community but it’s also a ministry of our church and we want to get our congregation involved. This has been a very relational project.”
The workers include over 50 actors, multiple group guides, a parking and security team and several live animals. There will also be entertainers in the registration tent and volunteers serving refreshments at the hospitality tent.
There are roughly 300 members of Eastside Baptist Church, and over 100 of them are serving in some way during the Journey Through Christmas.
“This church family is phenomenal, and I am blessed to be their pastor,” said Fox.
Planning for this event takes the majority of the year. According to Fox, the leadership team has a meeting in January after the event, and then picks up planning in May.
“We have a meeting in January when it’s fresh on our minds,” said Fox. “We talk about what went well, what didn’t and what needs to be added or dropped.”
Once September hits, the congregation moves into major planning mode and begins on set design. Leading up to the event there are outreach team members, prop designers, seamstresses for costumes and a construction team.
“A lot of man-hours have been donated, as well as fabrics, snacks and dinner for the volunteers,” said Fox. “There have been groups here working for I don’t know how many Saturdays.”
The drama production actually began about 14 years ago at Volusia County Baptist Church in Florida. The event there has grown to 26 scenes, including a full-size rocking ship on the Sea of Galilee. Karin and Mike Besser directed the event each year, aided by their daughter, Kailey Gaskins.
Gaskins moved to Greeneville when she got married three years ago and is now the executive director of Journey Through Christmas. Her parents have since moved to Greeneville as well and are highly involved in the event.
“My grandfather got saved at the event [in Florida] one year and died several days later,” said Gaskins. “I want to give that hope to other people in the community.”
Eastside Baptist Church is hoping that the Journey Through Christmas will become a family tradition for the area. In the future they hope to offer the event on several consecutive weekends, and possibly on Wednesday nights as well.
“I hope that after they see these scenes that when they are reading their Bibles, they will go from reading black and white to reading in color,” said Fox.