A few years ago I had the opportunity to take my children and some friends to the Circus that came to our area. Needless to say we were all excited to go and be wowed and entertained. (I was especially excited seeing I didn’t have to pay for the tickets!!!).
The circus started off with tricks by some animals – horses, dogs, camels. They were….alright. Then they brought out some jugglers. They were… ok. Next came the guy who throws knives around his assistant and of course never hits her. That was… cool.
There were other feats along the way. One in particular that got my attention was this strong man named Mr Kola. He lifted up a huge log and spun it around and controlled it. He did so many herculean acts with it. After he was done I felt that performance was… nice.
Honestly, I had to question and check myself throughout and after the Circus. I expected to be impressed and excited and blown away and I was left feeling just alright. I am not blaming it on the circus at all. The performers did well. They put on a show.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I had lost my childlike enthusiasm (although none of the children jumped out of their seats either). Maybe I was just tired after a long day and long weekend. Maybe I have seen so many entertaining things on television that it is hard to impress me anymore, live or on tv.
It got me thinking that maybe something is wrong with the system. Not the circus system, but the entertain-me system. Maybe the whole premise of a few in the spotlight, entertaining the many is broken, flawed and not sustainable.
I think about the present thinking most of us have about church and I could not help but see similarities to the circus (except the price of the food at the circus is RIDICULOUS…church food is free). But most of us when we think of church, we think of a service, led out by a few trained professionals (don’t try this at home) and everyone for the most part watches.
And some weeks we are more excited than others. Some weeks we are boosted up. But then some weeks we are not impressed. Boring sermon, weak transitions, off key singing or a bad song. And we think the answer to appease those who come is to make it even better. And the way to get even more people to come who have not come before is to make the lights brighter, performances glitzier, and promote it as the greatest event on earth (or at least in the neighborhood).
There are some who are realizing that it’s not working. People who show up are not generally becoming more committed, just more critical. People in the community who have not connected are not jumping off of their couches, scratching stuff off their schedules and flocking to our great presentations and programs. (Sorry to sound so harsh).
Maybe this model isn’t working. And maybe there’s another way. It hit me as Mr Kola was down there spinning that massive log around. Here it is, he is there working and my out of shape, weak muscled self is sitting down critical and not impressed. Maybe if I were down there and felt how heavy it was my mind would have changed. Maybe if I were his assistant and had to help him get it up on his shoulders I would change my tune.
What if I’m not impressed…what if I were involved? How my thinking would change if I got involved? Maybe we need to explore creating and encouraging church environments where it’s not about being impressed but being involved. Things are not centralized but decentralized so everyone takes responsibility. It’s not about one strong man in the middle wearing himself down while everyone sits there impressed or unimpressed. It’s not about a weekly show but a movement of people working together.
What if church became less like a circus? How could we create a model of worship, service, discipleship where people were not impressed but involved? What ideas do you have?