Dinner and a movie: church style

Three days ago my eager hands trembled as I gleefully purchased IMAX tickets for the opening night showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that releases July 14th at 12:01 AM. Not only will I indulge my senses in the migraine-inducing sights and sounds of an IMAX production–I will also be enjoying the camaraderie of attending such a spectacle with a great friend who feels even more enthusiastic about the release than I do.

So what is it that is so great as to pull me from hours of sleep on a work night? Is it the movie? Yes. Our mutual Harry Potter infatuation? Yes. Is it the experience of gathering with hundreds of other ecstatic fans to celebrate as one unit of frightfully nerdy patrons? Oh, yes. But I dare say it’s less about the people than the movie itself. I don’t pay $11 for social time.

Now, switch gears with me…

What if church was this thrilling? What if we could come lining up for the good seats (dead center, top 2/3 of the theater), aching to experience the thrill of bonding, a new amazing experience that ensnares our minds and captivates our time? When was the last time you sat through a three-hour church service without looking at a clock? But what about an entertaining three-hour movie? Why Is it that movies excite us more than God?

On the flip side… should church be like going to the movies?
Oh, I have my own answers to those questions, of course. I even have plenty of thoughts on church as entertainment. I’ll get back to that in a moment. for now, let’s focus on two unique ways that churches are striving to answer those inquiries:

1) The Drive-In Church.
Now when you tell the kids to pile into the car to get to church on time, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of showing up late, running break-neck through the parking lot, and swinging wide the doors to the sanctuary with your noisy–and probably unkempt–ducklings in tow. At the Drive-In Church you could show up with your pajamas still on and nobody would care. Why? Because you’re just sitting in your car watching the church service playing out on a stage, hearing it all through a speaker.

So instead of snogging with your sweetie while a romantic comedy plays on the big screen you can praise with other parked patrons from the comfort and anonymity of your vehicle.

Examples: Woodland Drive-In Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan ; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Daytona Beach Shores, Florida (pictures)

Is this church as entertainment? Or is it a valid solution for a community’s needs?
Can there be true community when you never even leave your own car? Or is it enough that people come at all, and they shouldn’t be forced to do “normal” church if they don’t feel comfortable with it?

2) The Drive-Thru Church
Forget fast food. Forget the microwave. If you want your Jesus served up hot and fresh, check out this zippy answer to the “I just can’t fit God into my day” dilemma. Because now you can! So before you pick up your dry cleaning, take a moment to remember God. don’t worry, it won’t take long.

But I ask you: does it come with a free toy in the happy meal?

All sarcasm aside (yeah right), I wonder if this is a valid variation of “church”, or if it’s simply a gross descent into the depths of selfishness and irreverence to which much of our world so desperately clings.

Example: Metropolitan Church of the Quad Cities, Davenport, Iowa (article 2)

Why should God be “fit” into our days? Why should we make religious life such a low priority that we can only condescend to meeting Him in a car? Is acting out a rushed, careless religion any better than having no religion at all? Where’s the depth, meaning, devotion, and heart? There’s got to be something more to a life of faith than just showing up for a quickie.

I realize I’ve strayed from Harry Potter quite a bit. And while I was typing this up, I came to a small thought on that issue. Should church be like going to the movies? No. Because when I’m entertained by a movie I get lost in the story, separated from my life and the reality around me. I may be next to someone, but I’m not with them. We may be watching the same thing, but we’re not together. I don’t want my religious life to be a quick snack between errands or a theater show I see from my driver’s seat. I want my religious life to be a part of life. I want it to be in community where I’m held accountable, involved, and truly connected to all around me.

Don’t take me out of life, help me live it.


2 thoughts on “Dinner and a movie: church style

  1. I am extremely fortunate to go to a wonderful church: it is the highlight of my week, and I look forward to Sunday afternoon all the time. :)

    The catchphrase (for want of a better word) of the church I used to go to was “Souls, Cells, Celebration”. Church on Sunday is (amongst other things) about celebration as a community: celebrating God’s goodness and love, exalting Jesus in our worship, and an opportunity to show God’s love to others who come to church, Christians or not.

    That makes a lot of sense to me. Church isn’t going to the movies, because we’re not going there to be passively entertained by the worship team or the pastors. Every believer is a participant in worshipping Jesus and reaching out to the others around us — and why not, because God’s love and salvation is definitely something worth celebrating! When believers get a revelation that church is a celebration, church may just become the liveliest and most “happening” place ever. :)

    On the other hand, much of my growth in Christ has not come from just attending Sunday church, but being a part of a Bible study/cell group and getting connected with people there. I learn much from the sermon at Sunday church, but it is in my cell group where the groundwork happens: there I’m constantly challenged and encouraged in my faith, I connect with people, and am growing with them in faith as I get to know them better.

    You asked: Can there be true community when you never even leave your own car? I spent several years attending Sunday church, just coming and leaving without getting to know people, which got me absolutely nowhere. Only when I got involved in a cell group and got to know peopel — essentially took church out of Sunday and into my week — that I grew hugely in my faith, because I developed relationships with people who were also walking and talking the faith, who knew me and who could support me when I was struggling, and in turn they became friends whom I could also encourage and support. It was in the cell group that I found a solid community and growth. My experience is that Sunday church is a time for celebration and worshipping God in unity as a community and being taught by the pastor, and then the real “applicable” learning and growth happens during the week and in a cell group where I’ve developed relationships with people. There is community in both, yet they are of different focus and emphasis.

    I hope this explains some! :) And I can’t believe that “drive-thru” church actually exists. I truly find that appalling. o_O;;

  2. I like your concept that Church should be engaging. It hardly makes sense to me for there to be a requirement that Church is boring. Besides that there are still plenty of questions as to how Church should be engaging.
    Quaker silent worship can be just as intense as Pentecostal dancing and shouting, but if one is not a participant, but simply an audience, then the desired effect is not achieved.
    Silent worship can be filled with prayer listening to and talking to God, but it can also be spent picking at your nails or staring at the floor.
    While I remember the days where I stood in the front row at the Gathering singing at the top of my lungs, I also remember plenty of people who were not singing and seemed to be just standing there. I know what it is like to be overwhelmed with emotion and unable to sing, but I doubt that this was the case with all of those standing silent all of the time. What was going on in their minds?
    I have been talking with people on a listServ that I frequent about 100% participation churches. I have come to the conclusion that there are people oput there both attending churches and not that we need to minister to and need more than a list of requirements from us as to what they should be doing. There is a reason church is not all deacons or pastors, but there is definitely room for more activity on our part.
    Keep thinking and wondering…

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