7 Ways Disney Represents Jesus better than the American Church

For Christmas this year Amanda and I decided that in lew of getting gifts for the children and each other that we would instead go to Disney World as a family.  This year would be an "experience" Christmas for the Pullins!!

I spent some significant time reading blogs and planning our trip to get the most out of Disney.  The time finally came for us to make the trip and all I can say is it (Disney World Vacation) was one of the best vacations we've ever had.  That place is amazing.

Since I've been home there have been numerous folks ask us about the trip and my response is, "have you been?"  For those that answer "yes" we look at each other with the kind of look where we both know the amazing experience that Disney offers their guests.  For those that say "no" I just say, "that place is amazing and if you ever get a chance to go you should; you won't regret it."

I wonder how many people say, "that place is amazing and if you ever get a chance to go you should; you won't regret it" about their church atmosphere on Sunday morning.  My heart and hope is that we can create a culture and atmosphere of church worship that is as attractive and missional as the environment that Disney creates each and every day.

Over the four days that we spent in the Parks it became very apparent to me that so much of what I was experiencing was pointing to the Gospel Story.  Every where I looked I saw ways in which Disney was representing Jesus and pointing to the biblical narrative.  As our trip came to an end it occurred to me that Disney actually does a much better job representing Jesus then the American Church does.

Below are 7 ways that Disney represents Jesus better than the American Church on Sunday mornings.

1. At Disney, Guests know who the hero is.  At Disney it is very obvious that not only is a "hero" needed but the Hero and their journey is the main part of each story they tell.  Disney reminds all guests of our longing not only to know the hero's journey but taps in to our deep human need to be rescued.  Unlike the Church that often doesn't describe the story of Jesus as a hero's journey to rescue humanity but instead spends a lot of time arguing against particular soap box issues.

2. At Disney, The story of Good Vs. Evil is very clear and consistent.  Everywhere you turn as Disney you are confronted with the story of good vs. evil told in a different light.  There is no way someone can come to Disney and not be reminded that in the end good will prevail over evil.  Unlike the Church where this epic battle of good vs. evil is often diluted down to some very ordinary morality codes that often gives us an excuse to push anyone away who isn't like "us".

3.  At Disney, Guests are reminded of the reality of death.  One of the things that makes the "thrilling" attractions so attractive is that you are reminded on some level that at some point in your existence you are going to die.  You are faced with the reality that if a particular roller coaster (or other thrill ride) goes bad that would be the end of "you" in an instance.  Unlike the American Church that is often weary about talking about death and its reality for fear that if the challenge is to high those in attendance will go somewhere else and/or stop contributing financially.      

4. At Disney, The Experience of the Guest is of great importance.  From the time the rope drops until the time the last person leaves everyone who is on the Disney Cast that day is committed fully to every guest experiencing the Disney "magic."  Unlike the American Church where guests often feel unwelcome, "called out", or an outsider; often the guests experience is one of the lowest priorities for a Sunday worship experience.

5. At Disney, Those who serve sees themselves as a vital part of the missionEvery single employee at Disney sees themselves as a part of the "cast" and their job is to be a part of "making magic" for the guest.  This is their mission and everyone is a vital part of it.  Unlike the Church where most people who serve sees themselves as "volunteer" and not as a vital part of the mission but as someone "who helps out" when they can.

6.  At Disney, Guests are invited and expected to be a part of the storyDisney has an amazing way to not only invite you in to the "magic" but gives guests unlimited opportunities to actually participate in the story.  Whether that is an interactive attraction; a character calling you a prince or a princess; or a host at a restaurant actually acting as if you are in the country of the food....Disney expects full participation.  Unlike the American Church where most guest leave on a Sunday morning feeling like an outsider and have no idea how to be a part of that particular church's story.

7. At Disney, Celebration is done with excellence and is a non negotiable.  I've been to Disney a couple of times and its amazing to me that their standard of celebration when it comes to attention to detail and the guests' experience is second to none.  Every day is the most "magical" day the world has ever known and the whole cast is committed to making that a reality.  Unlike the American Church where many attend out of obligation and often times Sunday morning is one of the most boring hours of the week.

As convicting and eye opening it was to be at Disney and to see them pointing to the way of Jesus in a way that is more compelling than the church on Sunday morning I still came away hopeful.

Watching Disney function reminded me that it is possible to create an atmosphere of hospitality and experience that can tap in to the hearts of people. 

I came away from Disney with a conviction that when it comes to Sunday worship that churches don't need to over swing but what they do needs to be polished and tight. 

I came away encouraged that casting compelling vision, being dedicated to hard work, and empowering people to take ownership in their areas of responsibility can lead to an experience of church on Sunday that is highly attractive and deeply missional.

As always would love to hear any thoughts, reflections, or questions....feel free to comment below.