We recently celebrated my wife’s graduation from grad school by taking the family to Disney World. We’d never been, so we spent six days and five nights on vacation. Since I am incapable of fully taking a vacation, I spent about 25% of my time thinking about what the church can learn from Mickey Mouse. Specifically, I observed three areas where the future of the church will be similar to present-day Disney World:
1. Technologically Immersive
The future of the church undoubtedly makes use of technology in a more immersive way.
Magic Bands are all the rage at Disney World. You gain access to your room, enter the park, make purchases, and much more via this wearable technology. But they do even more. I realized this when I was riding a “haunted” ride and a hologram of a ghost appeared in a mirror “with” me and my daughter holding a sign that said “Texas Bound.” How did the projected ghoul know where I lived?
The magic band, of course.
It happened again at our resort Food Court. The movie poster hanging on the wall (which five years ago was a static piece of decoration) morphed to include me on the cast list. How did it know I was near by?
My magic band, of course.
The church has made vast improvements in utilizing technology to reach people for Jesus. Social media, online “campuses” and more are all great tools for churches. How might we adopt a more magic band approach? I’m not sure. But what I do know is that it is likely to happen.
- Imagine the offering plate including a sensor where you tapped your phone to contribute.
- Imagine children’s check-in happened as a student passed under a sensor, allowing much quicker attendance registration.
- What if when someone entered your church’s lobby, using sensors in phones, a television broadcasted “Welcome, Rachel!”
If you’ve been to Disney World, you know that the ratio of internationals to Americans seems like it is 1:1. As I walked around the parks, I realized that every shade of skin was represented. A dozen languages were being spoken. People had flown from the four corners of the earth to experience Disney World.
The church is already international, of course. The Indian church is growing rapidly. The underground church in China is larger than the church in the United States. A revival is taking place in sub-Saharan Africa. The church in Iran is quietly expanding greatly.
Where I live now (the greater Houston, Texas metropolitan area) is the most diverse city in the United States. Over 1 million people who live here were born elsewhere. 1 in 5 Houstonians were born in Asia. Demographers and sociologists agree — Houston looks like America will look in the next 50 years.
This is also what heaven will look like:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)
The present reality of the church is multi-ethnic, but it is often segregated geographically on different continents and countries or socio-economically in the same towns and cities. The ultimate reality of the church will be multi-ethnic, but with believers worshipping side by side. The best churches (including the one I serve in Katy, Texas) look like Disney World, with multiple languages being spoken in their lobbies and worshippers from many different nations already praising God together.
3. Beautifully Messy
Imagine the scene:
Magic Kingdom. Nightfall. Cinderella’s castle emblazoned in colored light. The park announcement: Fireworks are starting soon. We’ll be dimming the lights. It’s an exclamation mark on a day of pure magic. Couples are holding hands. People are getting engaged. Toddlers are hoisted onto dad’s shoulders, eager to “oooo” and “aaaah.”
My family is trying to escape the crowd, because my son has already puked once and isn’t feeling well. We gotta get out of there.
On the bridge by the castle we’re shoulder-to-shoulder with onlookers who are oblivious to our plight. It’s just too perfect — the sounds, the sights, the weather. We’re surrounded by a story book ending. And there, on that bridge, with all the beauty and magic swirling around him, my son lost his lunch again, sending spectators scattering to avoid his projectile vomit.
If ever there was a picture of the church — present and future — isn’t that it?
Sometimes there’s cause for celebration, and the church is full of those “ooos” and “aaaahs.” And sometimes people walk in and vomit their problems all over you.
The church is beautiful.
The church is messy.
Disciples are those that show up with that saw dust stuff and a broom and sweep it up, not those who scatter to avoid the mess.
Titus Benton is a student pastor, executive director, and wanna-be writer. Follow @TitusLive for more.