Thursday, June 01, 2006

Paranoia or Legitimate Beef?

Near the middle of May, my little church up on the hill hosted a Family Movie Night to raise funds for the local Relay for Life. This wouldn't just be sitting in a room around a TV...this would be projecting a movie onto the side of the church or, in case of rain, onto a wall of the sanctuary. We advertised it around town, particularly on the local cable announcement channel and on our sign, explaining what it was and to bring blankets or lawn chairs.

As it turned out, it did rain that night, so we held it indoors. No big deal. The group chose Madagascar for our family-friendly movie, which I'd never seen and thought to be absolutely hilarious (the penguins alone are worth it). We ate pizza, we had fellowship, AND we raised money for a good cause. A few of us decided afterwards to try the outside deal again sometime, perhaps later this summer, and advertise it better.

Well, yesterday afternoon I had to drive past the local Gigantor Church which, as luck would have it, is actually right down the street from us. Their sign reads as follows:

Come To Our Drive-In Movie!
Willy Wonka
Support Our Youth

My face must have turned some shade of crimson, because it took on this tense feeling that is beyond description. Such tense feelings HAVE to involve a color change. My stomach started treating my torso as its own padded playpen, suddenly screaming to get out while the guards weren't looking. I couldn't speak, could only grip the steering wheel tighter.

The megachurch stole the little country church's idea.

The megachurch stole the little country church's idea.

That tells me one of two things:

1. I should be happy about this development. It shows that Gigantor Church of the Consumer Nothingness doesn't always have the best ideas. It shows that my little church inspired them to take something on that we had first, instead of the other way around.

2. I should continue to be pissed off about this. This church doesn't acknowledge the local ministerial association and other churches in town resent it for sheep-stealing. Now they have to take our ideas, too? An activity that no one else in town was doing is suddenly being done by the one with the most resources. (Except, of course, they'll do it better...IT'S A DRIVE-IN~!)

So yes, I'm feeling a little put out by this situation. My wife even suggested writing them a letter. For some reason, I don't see that doing a lot of good.

But oh wait, here's the High Road Paragraph:

Well, no one holds a monopoly on an activity. We should celebrate our unity in Christ and not let such petty squabbles weaken our bonds to one another in the Spirit. They are the colon and you are the appendix. We are all pieces of the body of Christ and should serve our functions as best we can as we have been given. Now turn to 356 in your songbooks where we will join in singing, 'They'll Know We Are Christians.'

That's all well and good. I cannot disagree with the above paragraph. But it's a two-way street. Gigantor Church of We Are the Borg has been absorbing people in town for as long as they've been in existence. It is a little suspicious that, so soon after our wall projection evening, they would have one as well. Could they have had one last year? Could this really be an annual thing for them and I just missed it?

I actually hope that that's the case. I hope that they've been doing this since they first moved in. If they have been doing this that long, then I can rejoice that, in this instance, what's theirs is theirs and what's ours is still ours...that for one instance, another church in town--the biggest and richest--didn't just improve on something already being done and thumb its nose at the same time.

Again, no monopoly. Probably paranoia. Christian unity.

But they started it.

Update: For various follow-ups, read this and this.

Second update: I regret ever writing this stupid entry.

While I appreciate the discussion that it has encouraged (when it's focused on the issues and not on what a horrible pastor I must be), the whole thing was ill-advised.

Some part of me likes the extra traffic, but it's really been for all the wrong reasons, and with each passing day and each additional visitor I regret the image of myself and my ministry that I have helped to cast.

I don't get sole blame, however. This was partially meant tongue-in-cheek, hence the addition of lines such as "they started it." Mr. Rhoades over at MMI helped to cast this as full-out jealousy and hatred by titling his link "Church Competition." I've never seen myself in competition with other churches, and that's the last thing that I had in mind when writing this. Instead, I wanted to raise the question of whether a neighbor church thought it could do one of our recent activities in a "bigger better" way.

I love my people. I love my church. I love Jesus.

This whole thing has been very unfortunate.