About a year and a half ago we went to Disney World in Florida. We were there for a Children's Ministry conference, but took some time to go play at the park for a few days. As we were walking around Animal Kingdom we noticed that they were doing some renovations and upgrades. Along the walls built to keep us safe and out of the construction areas were quotes from Walt Disney. I read most of them and just walked on, but one grabbed my attention.
When I read this I immediately thought of the church. Not a specific church, but the church as a whole. I thought of the many conversations I've had with church members, pastors, and worship leaders about this very idea.
Many times the thought is by making changes to the service, worship space or format it will make the church the “hip & cool” church or it will “bring in new people.” You see, every church wants to be on the “cutting edge” and wants to “stay current,” but I believe there is something that we can learn from Walt Disney's statement that he didn't even intend.
If you have ever been to Disney World or Disneyland, you know from the minute you step on the grounds you know you are in for something special. The technology, the artistry, and the overall experience is second to none. They are constantly creating, innovating and discovering new ways to engage their audience. They are on the forefront of entertainment. However, they are also very aware of one very important aspect of their industry; where they came from.
As you wander around a Disney park you can experience the latest, newest and coolest rides, but you can also ride the “It's a Small World” ride or the “Mad Tea Party” spinning cup ride, both of which have been there since the beginning. What I believe Disney excels at is pushing the envelope and creating brilliant new rides, but also remembering and holding onto the things that helped them create the environment of wonder and excitement we have all come to expect.
In my opinion the church could take a page out of Disney's handbook. Yes, we need to look forward. We need to create and develop and push the envelope, but we can't do that at the expense of the foundation that helped create what has been built. Sure, the “It's a Small World" and “Mad Tea Party” rides have been around for a long time, but people still love them! What they have done, though, is keep these classic rides and continue to improve them. As the technology improved, so have the rides, but they are still the simple ideas that the park started with. Disney is great at keeping the nostalgia, yet continuing to grow, improve and push the boundaries, that is what has kept them at the top of the entertainment world and will for years to come.
There are churches out there that are bridging the gap between old and new. Churches taking old hymns and giving them a modern feel and sound. Churches that are taking old sanctuaries and updating the sound and media systems, but keeping the classic feel. Churches that are using traditional liturgy, but updating the language. There is a way to push forward, try new things and engage the congregation with todays technology, but we shouldn't do that just because we want to be the “cool, hip church” or because “everyone else is doing it.” We should do that because that's what we feel is the right thing for our church at this time.
I know, it may sound like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth, however, like Walt Disney, I think the church needs to “keep our aim constantly focused on the future”, but also, as Disney does so well, remember the foundation on which we were built.
Those are a few of my thoughts this week. I would love to hear yours! Feel free to leave a comment below or on our Facebook page! Be sure to share this with your pastors and church leaders! Thanks for hanging out with me today!