Sometimes God uses ye olde tyme movies to remind me of how I should act as a disciple of Christ. This Christmas it was the old 1947 classic, “Miracle on 34th Street.” We watched it with the kids on Christmas Eve after church, and the message of this 60+ year-old movie really hit home for me.
First of all, the movie taught me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. One of the big messages of the movie is about how commercial that Christmas had become. This movie was made in 1947! We tend to romanticize the time after WWII as an idyllic time of peace, godliness, and morality, but in many ways they had the same issues that we do in 2010. They were verging on the most prosperous times in American history, and consumerism was beginning to run amok then just as it does now. It was great to talk with the kids after the movie about the trap of consumerism and how we wanted to avoid it.
Secondly and more importantly, the turning point of the movie reminded me of an important lesson about church that God has been drilling into my head for the past 18 months or so. The plot of the movie revolves around a man named Kris Kringle who believes he is Santa Claus; he gets hired by Macy’s to be their in-store Santa (a big deal in the days before malls and thousands of mall Santas). Hundreds of kids come to see Santa to ask for the presents they want, and one kid in particular asks for a fire truck. When Kris assures him that he will get his fire truck, mom gives him the evil eye and says that Macy’s doesn’t have any more of them!
Here is where the movie turns: Kris takes a notebook out of his pocket and tells her that Gimbel’s, the chief competitor to Macy’s, has just what she is looking for and it is on sale too. The flustered mom can’t believe that Macy’s Santa would send her to a competitor and vows to become a regular at Macy’s because of their focus on customers! The owner of Macy’s thinks it is a great idea, and soon every department store in America is helping their customers find exactly what they want, even if it is at a competitor’s store. They do it because they think it’s genius marketing that will attract more customers to them, but Kris Kringle does it just for the good of the little boys and girls who should get the Christmas presents that they want.
This is a pretty good reminder of what our attitude is supposed to look like as a church…the Kringle one, not the Macy’s or Gimbel’s version. Kris thought of those kids first. The bottom line at Macy’s didn’t count; the needs (okay wants, but bear with me) of the children did.
How might that look if we adopted that attitude amongst ourselves? How would my life look like if I didn’t prioritize my wants and my advantage, but instead just helped people to achieve their goals and dreams? How would my interactions go if I weren’t looking for my own advantage but for opportunities to show the love of God to them and serve them? I think it would look a lot like Christ:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ” (Philippians 2:3–11, NASB)
How would our churches minister if that was our goal? Allow me to share a case in point: We had a family come to worship at our church a couple of weeks ago. They just moved here from Georgia, and were in their words looking for a traditional Baptist church. They were a very nice family who seemed like they were serious about their faith and were kind and friendly.
As a pastor it is tempting to try to show them why they should come to my church. I am a shepherd and I think that our church is pretty awesome! And since I think it is awesome, other people should also think it is awesome, right? So they should come to WG because it’s a great place for them to grow in Christ and build authentic relationships with other growing disciples.
Only they were looking for a traditional Baptist church and told me that. We aren’t by any definition a traditional Baptist church, and I am by no means a traditional Baptist preacher. Frankly, we aren’t really what they are looking for. There are a couple of churches near ours that have more of the “traditional” feel that it seemed like this family wanted. So I had a choice to make: what’s best for this family, or what’s best for me and my church.
I naturally welcomed these folks and several others did as well, and told them that we would love to have them. I also told them about the churches in the area that I knew were good biblically and were more conservative and traditional than we were. They were kind, and I think that the drum kit and maybe my preaching style told them that we weren’t a good fit. They haven’t been back and didn’t give me a card or anything to contact them. I hope they took me up on my suggestions for church finding!
Now before you think I’m all cool, realize that I know the deal. It’s a bit self-serving, but I would rather have the family find somewhere they really want to be than reluctantly keep coming to our church and never dive in with both feet. And yes, it also feels good to help them in their search. And I think that it honors Christ more than me trying to shoehorn them into my way of doing business. So in all it benefits me to be other-focused as well.
For 2011, what resolutions are you making in order to have a more Christ-centered attitude in this area? Where can you make a change to be more interested in His good and the good of His people than self-interested?