Thursday, March 31, 2011

Doing Church in a Movie Theatre

I’ve always loved going to the movies. If you know my husband Matt and me, you know that if there is a halfway decent movie out, that’s where we’ll be on a Friday night. The BEST date night for me would include a Lime-Cilantro Chicken salad from Nordstrom Café, a little time to walk it off in the mall (to work up an appetite), a movie (a British chick-flick is the ultimate), popcorn, Diet Coke, Jr. Mints & Peanut M&M’s.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies (the exceptions were Sound of Music and Chariots of Fire because of their spiritual content—I love you mom!). I mean, what if Jesus were to return and we were in a theatre—would I make the rapture?! But times change . . .
I married a man who loves a good story. So, even when we were practically living on minimum wage, we always budgeted for a trip to the movies on date nights. Over the years, my Regal Crown club card has earned its share of free drinks, popcorns, and movies! Now, the cinema, aka “my happy place,” is giving back in an even bigger way! How ironic that we would start a church that meets in a Regal theatre? How amazing that almost 200 churches nationwide now meet in theatres!

I’m thrilled to be part of a theatre church! If you are thinking about going to church in a theatre or starting a church in a theatre, here are the positives:
· Cup holders! We let our people bring in coffee/drinks, and this is comforting to an “unchurched” person. Seriously, when we’re clapping or raising our hands during worship, visitors can hold their cup and not experience that awkward “what-do-I-do-with-my-hands” moment.
· Huge, clean bathrooms!
· Big screens—we have 2 projectors and use the entire screen. People are so used to looking at the screen now and even prefer it. We’re betting that we can simulcast into another theatre and our congregation will still have a similar “my pastor is in the room” experience. Which leads to. . .
· Room to grow—there are multiple theatres still available. Right now, we use 3 theatres—one for adults, one for teens, and one for children. As the main service grows, we hope to have a second worship team in a 4th theatre, and we will simulcast the message.
· Non-threatening environment to unchurched people—Some people might be intimidated to go into a church building but are very comfortable walking into a local theatre.
· Unifying—Every week our set up team works hard to transform the lobby, hallways, theatres, and 3 storage rooms (nursery, tots, & pre-k’s) into a church! Some might see having to set up/tear down your church every Sunday as a negative, but I’ve found it to be incredibly unifying. These volunteers become like family. One young man came to set up after spending the evening in the ER, and he was clearly in pain. I said, “Allen, what are you doing? You should be home in bed!” He said with a smile, “I’m here for the service, the church service. That’s what we call it, right?” I was blown away.
· Forces you outside the church walls, because you don’t have any! We focus on small groups inside people’s homes; we use Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, or Panera for staff or counseling meetings; we go TO the community for outreach and don’t wait for them to come to us.
· Your people learn that the church is NOT A BUILDING—it’s the body of Christ. Where does God live? In my heart, NOT in a building. I am the sanctuary of God.
· Personally, I look forward to the set-up time each week. On Sunday mornings, my teenage daughter Skye and I drop Dad off at the theatre at 7 am and head over to Starbucks for 30 minutes of latte’s and girl time. Then, my daughter sets up all the classrooms for the little ones. This time is very special to me, and I’m so proud of my daughter really “owning” this ministry.
Want to hear the negatives?
· I miss having a larger, deeper stage area for the performing arts (I’m a sucker for cool lighting & funky background décor). On the plus side, we put our efforts into making videos since we have such BIG screens!
· I leave church craving popcorn REALLY BAD! They make a fresh batch just as we leave, and it smells sooooooooo good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fighting Words

Words are so powerful. I’ve recently gotten on a bandwagon about how carelessly we describe our difficult situations in life. For instance, I’ve told you about my struggle with anxiety in a previous post, “The Ugly.” Once I decided to openly admit this, I wrestled with the question--how do you admit you struggle with something without admitting defeat or sounding like you’ve already given up? The answer--you adapt “fight” language.

For example, I don’t say, “I have anxiety.” I now say, “I battle anxiety.” This enemy of anxiety proves to be a formidable foe, but God is on my side and overwhelming victory will be mine one day. Earlier this year God gave me a scripture for 2011, Jeremiah 20:11.

It says, “The Lord is with me as a violent warrior.” I love that scripture and the picture it puts in my mind! It shows me that in the Spirit, God is fighting my enemy of anxiety like a half-crazed, sword wielding, God-version of William Wallace in the movie Braveheart. Other translations describe God here as a “mighty warrior, great warrior, dread warrior, dread champion, mighty terrible one,” etc. In other words, be afraid devil! Be very, very afraid!!

Do you believe that God will fight for you? David did. David knew how to use “fight” language because he knew he had a violent warrior God who would back up his trash talking* to Goliath! I keep a rock on my desk that I picked up from the stream where David found his 5 smooth stones before fighting Goliath. On the rock I wrote, “The battle is the Lord’s.” When I feel overwhelmed by things out of my control, I stop and look at the rock. The words remind me that God is on my side, He will fight my battles, and my speech needs to sound like I believe that!

From now on, before you say something like “I’m an alcoholic,” or “I’m lazy,” or “I’m fat,” or “I have cancer,” take a moment to choose your words carefully. Instead, try using fight language to show the enemy and yourself that you haven’t given up and you won’t give up. Why not say something like, “I’m fighting the urge to drink” or “I’m struggling with overeating, but I’m determined to win this battle!” Add some powerful scriptures on healing, freedom, and victory and you can say like Charlie Sheen, “Winning!” Only, you will actually be winning!

When Holly Wagner, co-pastor of Oasis Church, found out she had breast cancer, she was careful not to say, “I have cancer.” She realized (and I’m paraphrasing), “I’m not partnering with breast cancer, I’m not arm-in-arm going forward with breast cancer—instead I say that I have been diagnosed with cancer, but I won’t let it win.” That’s fight language! And, the good news is, she’s now cancer free!

I’m not saying you need to live in this imaginary place where you don’t face reality. Some people take this to a weird extreme. But the Word of God is clear on this subject, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”* I invite you to join me--choose to speak life, to fight on, and to ultimately win the battle with the help of our violent warrior God!

* Check out David’s bold fight language! David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” I Sam 17:45-47

*Proverbs 18:21