A large banner in front of Leverington Church in Roxborough, Pennsylvania has drivers and churchgoers stopping and taking a second glance.
“Harry Potter Meets Jesus” the large banner in front of the church reads.
“I’ve always had a heart for trying to reach folks outside the church,” Pastor Langdon Palmer shared with Faithwire. “So, I thought it might be a way to build a bridge and introduce people to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Palmer, lead pastor of Leverington Church began an eight-week sermon series on May 12 and has seen an increase in his attendance since.
“People are literally saying, ‘I came because of Harry Potter,’” he said.
The prayer and discernment that went into the series prep
Palmer did not just dive into this sermon series. Instead, he brought it before the Lord in prayer as well as bringing it before the elders of his church.
“I went to my elders first before I did this,” he shared, emphasizing how seeking their wisdom in sharing a series like this one was crucial.
Palmer, who has pastored Leverington Church for five years, told Faithwire that he almost did not do the series in fear of critics falsely thinking he was trivializing the Gospel.
“I really prayed a long time before I did this, I’m a born-again, evangelical Christian, and I was especially concerned that conservative Christians would misunderstand what I was trying to do, and think I was into witchcraft or think I was trying to create the church of Harry Potter,” he added.
Palmer’s purpose is the opposite: He wants to build a bridge between non-believers and the church.
Palmer’s heart for non-believers
The lead pastor emphasized to Faithwire that his heart behind the series was the same that it is with every series: to reach both the churched and the un-churched.
“I’ve always had a heart for trying to reach folks who are outside the church and who maybe don’t image the church is a place for them,” he shared. “I think there are a lot of really good folks who were in love with the series, including myself, so I thought it might be a way to kind of build a bridge and introduce people to the gospel of Jesus Christ, like a front door that made sense to them, using stories that they were used to.”
Since launching the sermon series, the church has seen an increase in attendance, half being around age thirty, then the other half dispersed up to people in their seventies.
“I wasn’t directly targeting millennials, but it was more like I thought that this series would make sense to a lot of people that don’t normally go to church.”
Palmer pointed out that the church is located in an area with a large population of people in their 30’s, who probably grew up either watching Harry Potter or knowing what it was.
Palmer added that he did not expect the sermon series to make the news, let alone hit major television networks.
“I was just doing this for our neighborhood,” he said. “We put a banner out on our front lawn, we’re in Philadelphia, so I was hoping that people going by would say ‘oh, that’s really weird,’ or ‘that’s interesting.’”
“It wasn’t like we were trying to get any kind of national attention, we were just trying to reach the folks in our community,” Palmer shared.
In a post to Facebook in May, the church advertised the series, saying that the series would address a variety of difficult and often confusing question.
“Do you believe in free will or in fate? Is life just random luck or is there a plan? Do you have a destiny or is life just what you make it… or is life just meaningless? If God is in control then how can my choices matter?” they asked in their post.
Palmer explained that each sermon begins with a clip from a Harry Potter movie that encompasses an idea that he then compares to the Bible.
“I think J.K. Rowling really gets the human condition,” Palmer, told Fox News. “You get these profound and moving scenes that depict what it’s like to experience prejudice, rejection, or being misunderstood…I went from a total skeptic to having the last book pre-ordered on Amazon.”
In 2007, J.K. Rowling, an Anglican herself, admitted to MTV that there were Christian themes in her writing, which explains the parallels.
“It’s probably the most significant, cultural relic of our generation. Whether people like it or hate it, it’s everywhere,” Palmer said about the series.
As expected, Palmer was hesitant in doing the series because he knew the pushback he would receive from both Harry Potter fans and Christians.
“Overall the Christian response has been mainly positive,” he shared. “Most of the negative comments are from secular people who think that I am stealing Harry Potter.”
Palmer added that now that the Philadelphia Inquirer and Fox News have published stories on the series, he is beginning to see negative comments.
“I would say to the person who is nervous about this series, listen to one of the podcasts and see if by the end you feel like it is pulling people closer to Jesus or pushing them farther away.”
The sermon series has reached an incredible amount of people in the Philadelphia area. Palmer shared one story of a young woman who had originally gone to the church’s Easter egg outreach, and then, after being invited to church, she attended the Harry Potter series.
The woman, who had no intention of joining a church, now goes to service every single week. Not only this, but she wants to get baptized.
Another couple, who had previously left a different church after being hurt, attended the series, loved it, and are now in a small group at the church.
This isn’t the first creative sermon series Palmer has done over the years, in fact, it’s among many. He has done series on ‘Lord of the Rings,’ and a few different series on C.S. Lewis, like a ‘Narnia’ series, and another on ‘The Great Divorce.’
“I see signposts to God everywhere, and I’m really just trying to honor that and do stuff that makes sense to people,” Palmer shared.
Listen to ‘Harry Potter Meets Jesus’ here.