We’ve been unpacking some lessons learned from planting a church within the Disney (World) employees by Steven Barr, the founder of “Cast Member Church”. You can read the entire article here: Five Lessons Learned From a Church Embedded in The Walt Disney Company – Fresh Expressions
So far we’ve looks at the first two lessons, (1) Don’t plant a church; plant Jesus, (2) Prioritize Intercessory Prayer Over Strategy, and (3) Change Your Metrics. This week, I want to address the fourth lesson, “Stop Labeling People.”
The Fount is blessed with having wide agreement on the most important matters: theology and ethics. There are differences in some opinions, but by and large, we agree on the basics. This is good in some ways, because it helps us to move forward in unity. However, it is not so good when it becomes a barrier for others joining our church. For some, it can feel like a closed community if most of our viewpoints are the same. It is one of the reasons that we are having challenges to grow. There are some obstacles for us to overcome if we want to grow again.
First, let me point out that I am NOT saying we need to “dumb-down” the Gospel! Far from it. In fact, we need to be clear and concise in our articulation of what the Christian faith is all about. We need to teach the Truth, without compromise. But at the same time, we need to stop labeling people. Sometimes, it can be subtle. But if we want to reach more people, we need to be open to all kinds of people and welcome them, even if they disagree with us. We need to meet people with the love of Jesus Christ, regardless of what they believe or what opinions they hold. Again, we don’t compromise our core beliefs, but we do need to be welcoming.
There is an interesting video circulating on social media that speaks to this. A speaker is saying that our main message to people should be “God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.” It doesn’t matter if they are straight, gay, trans, whatever race, whatever social-economic status, whatever religion. Our message should be “God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.” Period. By not labeling people as this or that, we can instead love them and speak truth to them without causing barriers to be put up, blocking their hearing of the Gospel.
Obviously, we are all sinners. We don’t want the fact that someone is a sinner to inhibit their hearing the Gospel. “God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) If that’s true for you and me, it’s true for anyone we meet! Labeling people only tends to exclude them from hearing this Truth.
If we want to grow, we must come to terms with the fact that our growing edge will be among those who are confused, conflicted and curious about Jesus. And the best way to present Jesus to folks such as this is to welcome them with the love of God, and tell them the truth.
Next week I’ll address the fifth and last lesson learned in planting a church amongst the Disney employees: “Focus on the Mission and Stop Marketing.”