I posted this picture from Instagram the other day with the caption “Sometimes I mistake my church for a Disney World castle” along with some hashtags cause I’m cool.
This is the church I grew up at. My family and I have been going to it since I was in 6th grade (which was about 9 years ago). Since then the number of attendees has increased from probably close to 800 (when we first started attending, I really have no idea) to thousands, having 4 services every weekend and 3 other campus sites with at least 2 services each. I loved my church growing up. I loved it so much that when I moved to Wheaton to go to school, I “church shopped” for 3 years until I found a church I liked. And even then I didn’t actually like it. Why? Because it wasn’t my church back in Ohio (Christ Community Chapel, or CCC).
The new church I found was a place where I was needed, and a place where I could serve. It is smaller, much smaller, but I also feel more connected than I did at CCC. Being back at home for the holidays, I’ve been thinking about what I loved about CCC.
My comment about mistaking my church for a Disney World castle, was slightly sarcastic, but I meant it to be a deeper comment than just that my church looks beautiful from the outside. I’ll explain.
You can walk into Disney World, walk around, see people, walk out and not feel any connection to the people around you. You visit Disney World because it has cool rides, and there are famous characters from movies that come to life and you collect their autographs and take pictures with them. So, I don’t have Mickey Mouse walking around my church giving kids autographs, but I do feel like we have lost the purpose of church.
Disney World is meant to entertain, to give people a good time, not necessarily impact their life. Now, I’m not saying that Disney World can’t impact your life, I apologize if you are one of those people who have had their lives changed because they went to Disney World. It’s interesting, because I still think that my pastor’s sermons are meaningful, impactful, gospel centered, and well delivered. But because I feel like I’m walking into a castle meant to entertain me, I can walk out and have the sermon not mean a thing.
In my new church, I’ve found a new meaning to what church is and what it’s meant for. There’s an intimacy that I believe CCC has lost due to it’s energy and sheer amount of people that show up every weekend. Not only can I walk in late, unseen, and walk out completely unchanged, I don’t have to talk to anyone or tell anyone about what is really going on in my life. The intimacy is the fact that people should know what’s going on in the lives of the other people in the congregation. Not knowing every detail and gossiping about them and creating unnecessary drama, but just knowing people.
Church is about community, and I don’t think Disney World is the best venue to find good community. I think it’s great that there are so many people going to church every weekend. But if the individuals aren’t challenging themselves by connecting with the people sitting around them at church, than we are losing the point of being in church. This can give members of the Disney World church to remain stagnant in their relationship with Christ; go to church, sing some songs, say hi to a few people, listen to a guy talk, and leave.
I don’t know what the solution is to a Disney World church. But I know it’s a problem. And it feeds the consumeristic worldview of our American culture.