I had occasion to attend a national gathering of Ministers and elders. Having never been overly excited about the minutiae of church politics and administration, I was interested to watch the same people getting to their feet and pontificating about words and clauses in resolutions and recommendations. I listened to debates about structures and programmes; I heard exhortations on how to update â€˜worshipâ€™ and attract people into pews and consequent benefits for church finances.
As I sat there and endured it all, I had a â€˜wowâ€™ moment. It suddenly dawned on me that what many of these ministers and elders needed was a â€œMadagascar experienceâ€!
For those not familiar with the movie, Madagascar focuses on four â€˜starâ€™ residents of the Central Park Zoo in New York City who are also best friends: a lion, a zebra, a giraffe, and a pregnant hippo. When one of them goes missing, the other three break out of the zoo looking for him, and eventually all four are captured and put in boxes to ship them back to Africa. the continent their species originally came from. An accident at sea strands them on the shore of Madagascar. Having had humans take care of them their entire life, the four know nothing of surviving in the wild, or that one of them, the lion, is genetically predisposed to eat his three best friends. Exploring their surroundings, the four friends soon meet the Malagasy locals (a type of lemur given to having loud “rave-like” dance parties) and their carnivorous enemies, the â€˜foosasâ€™. As the two sides try to use these four new, strange friends to their benefit, our heroes are also confronted with the reality of their predestined roles in nature.
As I sat in the Assembly of church divines, I imagined each of them back in their home parishes fulfilling roles much like the â€˜starsâ€™ of the Madagascar. Just as the lion would practice his roar so the preacher would practice his sermon. The choir would practice its songs and the â€˜worship leadersâ€™ their roles. Then, just as the Central Park Zoo would open its gates to the public, so the churches open their doors at 10am, the public arrive and pay their money to see the performance. At the end, the public leaves having been duly impressed and the stars return to prepare for the next show.
All this may sound rather cynical, but as I sat and listened to all the debates and discussion about inconsequential matters as far as extending the Kingdom of God is concerned, I wondered what many of the ministers would do if they were transported into the â€˜real worldâ€™ and the streets to confront wild people and situations that did not fall neatly into their proscribed jargon and patterns. It may force a reality check, the end result of which would be far more realistic sermons and empathetic Bible studies that would give their faithful attendees and supporters something tangible to work with during the week at the coalface of business and factory life.