By Brandon Petty
I can still remember the first time I watched Disney Channel. I was a young boy and visiting my aunt’s house. It was like Christmas, watching cartoons like Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Club. Remember that one? M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E! Mickey Mouse! (Donald Duck), Mickey Mouse! That one might show my age a little bit, but I loved watching it. To me, Disney Channel had this magical feeling when you would sit down and watch it. We didn’t have the channel at my house, so whenever I was able to watch it, I felt as if I was a part of the magic.
A few weeks ago my family and I were able to go to Disney World for the first time. My wife had visited in high school, but for me and my girls, this was the first time. We were blessed by generous friends with five days of park passes to Disney World. This was definitely a dream come true for me as well as my kids. I had no idea what to expect, but what I experienced made me think about what I could learn from Disney and how it applies to the church. Here are a few things that I learned:
A Vision Embraced by Others Will Never Die
It’s amazing to think that Disney World was built after Walt Disney died. Most of what we see in Disney’s mainstream success today is the result of a dream that Disney never got to see in person. But he envisioned it way before it ever happened. One of the men who helped design Magic Kingdom is quoted as saying; “It’s too bad that Walt never got to see this.” To which someone replied, “He did…that’s why it’s here.”
A powerful dream and vision that is embraced and lived out by others can never die. Think of the vision that Jesus had for the church. Upon His death and resurrection only 150 people called themselves believers. Now there are millions of believers all over the world! That is the reason we encourage every GC owner at our church to own the vision. It’s yours, too! This church is not about my agenda. It’s about a vision that was given by God and intended for others to live out and fight for with all of our being. The most wasteful thing we can do with our lives is living them out without ever giving ourselves over to a vision that’s larger than us.
Be Excellent in the Details
My mind was blown at the details inside each theme park. Every single employee, from the security guards to the tram workers, called each kid a “prince” or “princess”. Every single employee. Each employee had the title “cast member.” And a person dressed up as a character never stepped out of that character, even if they were talking to an adult. We even played an interactive Perry the Platypus spy game in which our kids were handed actual cell phones and we had to complete a mission in Epcot. At each meeting spot, a different element of the park would come to life by pressing a button on this phone…it was incredibly creative! From the thoughtfully shaded areas for waiting in lines, to the parades, fireworks, and character meet and greets, our walk in the humidity was worth it.
What if every single week, we served people in our church with that kind of attention to detail? What if we served people with that kind of joy and passion? From the parking lot to our kids’ ministry, we should come ready to make it the highlight of every single person’s week. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the weekly routine of doing what we do on a Sunday, but we only do it once a week. These people do it every single day. As a church that has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, we should be even more excellent than Disney. After all, we have so much more to offer than a child’s theme park. We have the greatest hope on the face of the planet!
No One Wants to Leave
Orlando, Florida has intense humidity in the summer. Every single day by four or five o’clock, rain would come in a downpour. And every single day, people bought ponchos, used umbrellas, or simply walked around soaked. Rides would shut down temporarily, and yet people waited. No one wanted to leave.
Some people may wake up on a rainy Sunday and re-think the whole church thing. But what if the church worshiped, served, and loved with such passion and energy that people never wanted to miss it or leave? I think of moments in Scripture where believers wouldn’t let prison, persecution, or trials keep them from coming together to worship God and serve others. They even met in underground cemeteries to hide from such persecution because they never wanted to miss an opportunity to worship and fellowship. I want to be that kind of church.
Exhausted, but Worth It
If you’ve ever been to Disney World, especially for multiple days in a row, then you know one thing is true: you will be exhausted! The walking, sweating, carrying your kids when they’re tired of walking, waiting in long lines, running to your fast pass lines, and did I mention SWEATING? But we kept going back. We got up early and stayed late. We would be sore, stinky, and sleepy and yet we stayed longer. Yet we kept going because at the end of the day, it was fun and worth it.
How many of us quit the church the moment we get tired? The moment that things get tough in our lives, the church is the first thing that gets crossed off of our list. We quit serving, giving, and attending worship services. We throw out terms like “burned out,” but our calendars are still full of other “stuff.” I long for a church of believers that keep going no matter how tired we get, because we realize IT IS WORTH IT. It’s worth our time, energy, sweat, emotion, investment, and frustrations. It’s all worth it. I can’t look at the image of our Savior nailed to an old, wooden cross and tell Him, “Sorry, I’m tired from doing too much stuff.” I just can’t. I read about the saints before us who gave their lives so that we could live out their faith today. What we do matters WAY more than what Disney is doing or will ever do. I want to be able to keep going in those times of doubt and frustration, because at the end of the day it will be fun and definitely worth it.
I absolutely loved seeing my kids enjoy the vacation of a lifetime. I was grateful for the generous gift that made it possible. But all of that pales in comparison to how much I love Jesus and His church. As we left Magic Kingdom on our last night, they began playing the music to When You Wish Upon a Star. I stood there looking up at that grand castle. I thought about how amazing it is to experience a dead man’s dream and how hard he worked to see it continue after his death. But we’ve been handed a dream by the only man to ever conquer death. His dream lives on just as He lives.
I pray that we could all take a lesson from the Walt Disney experience. But most of all, I pray we catch a much larger vision for a much greater purpose.