By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional Reporter
BATON ROUGE – For the past 13 years, Lanier Baptist Church in Baton Rouge has presented a musical production chronicling the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and church members are passionate about the message that unfolds.
“The production is very dramatic with heart-throbbing moments. You can’t help but be moved. Our prayer is that we can reach out to the lost with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Rev. Mike Ferguson, the pastor of Lanier Baptist Church.
The Easter musical drama, “His Amazing Love,” will be presented April 18-20, 6:30 p.m., at Lanier Baptist Church. The passion play is free and open to the public. Each year, new songs and new scenes are added as the Lord leads, the pastor said.
“We prayed about it, and we felt the Lord wanted us to do this production again,” Ferguson said.
Virtually all of the 120 church members are engaged in the Easter musical with more than 90 adults and children from the church composing the cast and crew. The drama will feature live animals, stunning scenery and a powerful message of hope, the pastor said.
The play, which is divided into three acts with 12 scenes, lasts about an hour and 15 minutes. A Gospel invitation is made and the program closes with a majestic “Heaven” scene.
Although not a large congregation, church members make a big impact in their state capital community through the Easter play.
“Last year, over the three nights, we had about 1,500 people attend. More than 70 people repented to receive Christ, and another 100 people repented to restore their lives with Him,” Ferguson said.
The pastor said the church, through the ministry of the Easter production, reaches out to a “really broken” community, but that many now “are serving the Lord the best they can.” About 30 members serving in the drama surrendered to Christ during a prior Easter performance.
With the Easter drama, the pastor said he has witnessed changes in his church body through the years.
“I see growth and change in our people’s lives through the years. Hardness has melted away, and they have joy inside,” Ferguson said.
Robert Reames, the minister of music and co-director of the Easter drama, echoed the sentiment.
“We’ve witnessed people in the play be saved. The Easter production has a very powerful message. Word for word, it is straight out of the Bible. You can’t watch this without making a decision for Christ or wanting a closer relationship with Him,” Reames said.
“Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friend,” (John 15:13) is the central theme of each of the annual Easter productions, Reames said, and His love is displayed throughout each scene.
“You will see Jesus bloodied. You will hear the clanging sound of hammers as nails are driven through His hands and feet. You will see the spear pierce His side and see Him suffering. And you will see Jesus take His last breath,” he said. “It’s very powerful. It really grabs you.”
After the invitation, the final scene in the drama depicts Heaven, as described in the book of Revelation.
Joseph Ferguson portrays Jesus in the production, and is the co-director of the play.
“The Heaven scene is the most majestic moment. The angels come in wearing white robes. Jesus enters wearing a 100-foot cloak. Crowns are laid at his feet. Jesus sits on His throne. The presence of the Lord is there.” Joseph noted.
Throughout the many months of preparation for the drama, Joseph said the entire cast and crew pray for the Lord to show them areas in their lives that are in bondage.
“We do not want anything in our lives to hinder the Holy Spirit. We all are so passionate about this play. We know the Lord wants to get His message out. We are engaging in acts of worship with this production. We are carrying out the Great Commission,” Joseph added.
Prayer also is needed to overcome obstacles that sometimes hinder this ministry to the community.
The historic flood of August 2016 caused extensive devastation to Lanier Baptist. Every building on campus was deluged and all the background sets and other materials for the drama were destroyed. Consequently, no Easter play was staged in 2017.
The church did not have flood insurance, but last year when church members rebuilt the sets and backdrops donations poured in to replace everything.
“God gave us beauty for ashes. During this play last year, the Holy Spirit was so thick. People were standing, raising their hands and worshipping the Lord. We pack the Bible in every moment in the play. It’s powerful and a blessing,” Joseph said.
Months of extended rehearsals and long practices help prepare the cast, the preparations all around are sometimes exhausting, Reames told the Baptist Message.
“It’s challenging but worth it. We are looking at the end results – a closer relationship with the Lord and seeing new relationships begin with Christ,” Reames said.
“The devil doesn’t want us to succeed,” he added. “But we all know in the end there’s victory in Jesus!”