Star Wars Church
Three generations of our family made the 4th day of Christmas journey to see Star Wars this week. Afterwards, our 11 year-old nephew said to his Star Wars nerd uncle, “I didn’t care about Star Wars before, but now I love it!” So if Star Wars can retell the same story that was told decades ago, and win the hearts of a whole new generation of fans, could the church tell the old, old story and find new converts too? Maybe we can learn a thing or two here.
Here’s what Star Wars Episode 7 does right to draw new Star Warians:
- Keep the story straight. The new Star Wars feels so much like the original Star Wars it’s mind boggling. Much of the plot is a reiteration of Episode 4. It’s the same story all over again, just like a romance movie is the same two-people-fall-in-love story, told all over again. Star Wars takes it a step further. The music, the 1970’s era scene transitions, the costuming, the actors- they are all familiar friends. When I went into ministry, my wizened mentor Ray Vickery told me one thing: “Whatever you do, help the people keep the story straight.” We church people have one story, the Gospel. We don’t change it based on what sells. All we can do is retell it well.
- Update the context. The new Star Wars is basically the same story as the old Star Wars, but told to an audience in a different context. For example, our 14-year old niece loved Rey, the new heroine in the new movie. My niece and I talked about the difference between the 1970’s era heroine, Leia, and Rey. Leia was pretty progressive for the 70’s but compared to Rey she is a complete wallflower. The story needed to be updated with awareness of how very far we’ve come in society’s acceptance of women’s equality. Many of our churches could still use this contextual update and others.
- Let a new leader lead. Much has been said by people far more in the know than I about how George Lucas had to step aside so JJ Abrams could rescue the Star Wars story and tell it well. If we want the gospel to keep going out, we have to let new leaders take it to new audiences. They can see things we can’t.
- Unify. There’s only one movie. There’s not the fundamentalist evangelical version of the movie, the progressive liberal version of the movie, and the high church Catholic version. There’s plenty of arguing about how good it was, what they coulda shoulda woulda done differently, etc. but there is one movie. I’m concerned churches continue to be so competitive with each other that we are actually trying to play different versions of the movie. There is one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God . . . everybody loves Luke Skywalker whether or not they agree with him only being in one scene. Can the church do less for our Gospel?
- Families do it together. I can’t remember the last time I saw a PG-13 movie that had no foul language in it. Not a word! And no sexual innuendo either. The violence was there, but no gore. Clearly the filmmakers kept the goal of offering a wholesome viewing experience in mind. Several multigenerational families were there together in the packed theater we were in. The youngest child I saw was 7 years old, and the oldest person was easily in her 80’s. The movie is over two hours long. And we church people are worried about needing to take the children and youth somewhere else during our one hour worship service? Perhaps if we kept in mind creating an experience for the whole family, church could also pull this off.
I bet there’s more. Some churches have jumped on the Star Wars bandwagon by offering special Star Wars services, sermons, events, and more. Sounds fun! Even more, maybe we can learn from the franchise to spread the Gospel’s sacred story to generations hungry for a story upon which they can center their lives. May God be with you!