After spending five days in Disney World with my family, I am left with many observations and theological questions from our time there. Yesterday I preached on Finding God at Disney World. I found so much inspiration there that I am planning on at least 2-3 more Disney themed posts this week. You are welcome, whether you want them or not.
So how are Disney and the church alike? My first impression of this came as I awaited our entrance to Epcot and the next day at The Magic Kingdom. Shortly before the parks open, they send out someone to work the crowd. This person welcomes you, tells you about what is in store for you that day, gets you excited about what is about to happen, then leads you in a song of celebration. I was amazed at to how similar it was to the start of a worship service.
Except, frankly, Disney was way better at it than most of us. The level of anticipation in the crowd was extraordinary. People really believed they were about to enter the happiest place on earth. When Mickey came riding in on that train the level of excitement and joy far outpaced our expectation and joy for the presence of God in worship. The music was even similar. The first song they sang rounded like it could have been belted out by many a praise group at a Baby Boomer church.
The comparison was striking to me, but for the past two weeks I have been pondering several questions about this comparison. Did Disney learn from us? Did we learn from Disney (not necessarily Disney specifically, but from corporations and their practices)? Is this just a chance comparison? Is this born out of American Consumerism? Am I asking too many theological questions about the opening ceremony for Disney? Any thoughts?
The two other things that amazed me at Disney, and made me think about the church, were the extraordinary attention to detail in the parks and the Cast Members and their embracing of the roles they have. First, a thought about the attention to details. I could probably write a whole book on Disney’s attention to details. (In fact, I am sure people have) I was simply amazed at the creative prowess on display in their efforts to create a different world. They have thought through everything you can and will experience at their parks and they have worked to make the experience as enjoyable for the hordes of people there as possible, and as profitable for themselves as possible at the same time. When I encounter churches with a high level of detail in worship services, or in their facilities, I am usually pretty amazed at well. For one, it is rare so I am surprised. And two it just shows a real commitment to excellence in what they are doing. Should we emulate this kind of attention to detail? In our worship? In our facilities? In our ministries? Or is it too much? Does it distract from the big picture? Does it make things too produced to be effective for mission?
The last reflection is on the Cast Members (as all employees there are called) and their embrace of their roles. I never encountered an employee who was out of character, unfriendly, unhelpful, or behaved in any way inconsistent with the values of Disney. That is an extraordinary accomplishment? When we as the church embrace our role as the children of God with any resemblance of this dedication it leads to powerful impact in our lives and the lives of others. It was simply a good reminder of the role we have to play in this world and what true commitment to it should look like.
Those are some of my thoughts, I would love to hear yours.