I love going to the movie theater! There is perhaps not another escape from the realities of a stress-filled life that soothes my soul more than inserting myself in someone else’s story. Think about it. We get to sit in a comfortable chair, facing a life-size screen, and we are invited into the stories of other people. Whether dramatic, loving, painful, intense, or scary, we are drawn into these stories as outsiders and invited to participate, temporarily. While we may at times wish we could live the life that we witness on the screen, it is simply a narrative that orbits our real life, like so many other narratives we witness but don’t live. We don’t stay in the story as a part of our reality, but we are able to leave it behind with the emotions that it caused.
The whole physical setup of a movie theater accentuates the “outside-in” perspective of watching someone else’s story. People sit in rows, arriving at a prescribed time all forced to face one direction, as they wait for the show to begin. This is true of movies, theatre, concerts, and other entertainment based presentations. We feel like we’re part of the group facing the screen or stage, waiting for something to engage us and take us from our reality into another experience. If you think about it, when you go to something like a sporting event, where all of the spectators are in a circle, it feels more participatory. The crowd gets involved, is vocal, is loud, is animated. Perhaps sitting facing each other helps the community aspect of being in the story with the players. At a movie theatre, however, you are almost encouraged to sit quietly and imagine yourself as part of the action.
Much of our culture is built on observation instead of participatory activity. Likewise, much of church activity and “faith” has now been defined by watching a stage. We sit in rows and hear stories about stories of people that actually played out “the movie” in scripture. Sure, we sing and participate together in other sacraments, but our missional person has often been redefined as someone that sits in a row on Sundays, then we call that participating in Christianity. It is, but it’s only partly participating.
In the book of John, we’re told that Jesus tells his disciples, “as the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) It’s as if Jesus is saying, “get into the movie guys! Play a part, don’t just watch.” Our fulfillment as Christ-followers will never be completely be experienced without living a “sent” life like Jesus told his disciples. We don’t just “come” to church, but we must live a “sent” life into the world alerting people to the reign of God through Jesus. We alert people by the way we live, work and play with them, in love and in grace. We show what Jesus showed…”as the Father sent him”, that’s how we are sent.
In our culture we watch others…on tv, in games, in movies, in sporting events. The adrenaline and excitement often comes from the activity or story of others. What if we tried to step into the movie ourselves? What if we stepped onto the field of play? What if the adrenaline of excitement came from our own movement from the observer to the preacher? Instead of only listening to the stories of God’s work from a stage in an auditorium, what if we started realizing that you have been invited to participate in the story yourself? God has invited all of us to write the story in real-time. The story of God is not just a past tense observation of people that followed him, it’s the present and future stories we all write in following him and living out his mission for the world…alerting people to the reign of God thru Jesus Christ. To love them into the Kingdom.
The next time you walk into a movie theater (like I will do often), and get a pair of 3D glasses to make it “more realistic.” Think about how realistic your journey with Jesus is (or isn’t). If your faith is simply defined by attending a worship event and a small group, then I encourage you to ask bigger questions, louder questions, about how your life can help write the story of God going forward. You’ve been invited to get out of the comfy popcorn seats and join the action on the screen! By living into your calling as a sent person of Jesus, it’s like putting on 3D glasses for your faith.
If you desire to live a more activated faith life, that feels like a 3D movie, then I invite to find out more at http://www.forgeamerica.com. Our tribe of missional practitioners are there to help you realize and equip your sent-ness. We may see you in the movie theater, but let’s not live our Christianity that way, join us outside the movie theater, outside the church walls, and step into the movie, into the story of God!