February 9, 2004 - Posted at 2:45 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Christian churches in Arkansas, and across the nation, are buying thousands of advance tickets to screenings of Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ." Many churches see the film as a way to attract more members.
Gibson's controversial telling of the 12 hours leading to Jesus' crucifixion doesn't open until February 25, on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The movie has already sparked interest from Christian churches across the country. Apart from the recent criticism that the movie is anti-Jewish, pastors say they see it as a basis for sermons and as a way to bring people to their faith.
Chuck Monan, minister at Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Little Rock, said his church went back to buy more seats after an initial batch of 1,000 tickets sold in one day.
Trinity Baptist Church in Texarkana spent nearly $6,000 to buy two screenings with an option for six more.
Greg Jones, an education minister at the church, says the buy is a way to make sure church members can see the movie.