Five years ago, Immanuel Fellowship EMC in Winnipeg, Manitoba found themselves with large numbers of young people, many uninvolved and uncommitted. While the leadership prayed and sought the Lord for His wisdom to address this challenge, the seeds of a new ministry were planted, and today have sprouted into a drama ministry that has touched thousands of lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It began as Pastor Sunday Akin Olukoju was preparing Sunday messages. He thought about how Jesus loved to use stories and parables when talking with His disciples and the crowds. He decided to call a few young people together to do short drama skits to introduce Sunday messages/sermons. Congregational feedback was good. The young people loved it and clamored to participate. “We need to do more”, they said. From these small beginnings a drama ministry began to grow.
Olukoju is quick to point out that it is imperative that drama participants differentiate between being actors and drama ministers; the former is about fame and money, the latter about ministering – sharing the message of salvation through creative and soul-inspiring drama. And it is important that the message be allowed to travel without restrictions. “Our films are not personal property. They are a public message – for public consumption,” he says.
From live pre-sermon dramas, the drama leaders eventually became interested in producing a feature-length movie that they could use as a teaching tool. Besides ministry within the church body, the Immanuel congregation is very involved in ministry to immigrants, vulnerable youth and broken families. They wanted to produce a movie that would warn against the all too easy slide into the gang lifestyle, and that would depict the devastating effects of bad choices and decisions in marriages and family life. But first and foremost, they wanted to produce a movie that would powerfully present the message of salvation and that would show the transforming difference Jesus makes in the lives of people who commit themselves to Him.
The young people were onboard - enthusiastic and motivated. Recognizing a need for training for the new drama ministers and help with everything from script editing right through post-production, the church leadership sought the collaboration of Mount Zion Film Productions, a highly respected Nigerian Christian Drama Ministry that ‘makes Christian movies for television and people all over the world’.
To date, the drama ministers at Immanuel EMC have collaborated with the Mount Zion Ministries to produce three movies to good effect within the community. Two of the movies are currently on YouTube and the impact has mushroomed as people from around the world watch and post comments. “These are people we will never know or meet – but they have all come to hear and share the good news.”
Pastor Olukoju is open to the idea of guiding and supporting willing churches that are interested in doing what they are doing through drama. The church is also open to partnership and joint productions. Much has been learned in the past few years. This type of ministry requires many things: fervent prayer, people passionate about drama ministry, training, teaching, selfless donation of time, resources, talent, unwavering focus to keep Jesus and salvation as the main message, and finances for the considerable expenses involved. Pastor Sunday Akin Olukoju may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Movies from Immanuel Fellowship currently available on YouTube are “Forces Against My Soul” and “The Finest Wine”. Its third evangelistic movie titled, “The Mobile Prison” has just been released and DVD copies are available from the church for $15 Cdn.