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.
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.
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.