I am sure by now most of you have heard about our Star Wars Easter. Even though we have been doing these thematic services on Easter for a decade or more people still seem to see them as something of a novelty. The Winnipeg Free Press did a half page story on the service as they did our Batman Easter a couple of years ago. When we did Star Trek a few years ago we were the lead story on the Global National TV news.
What some of you may not know is that we are the subject to some very vicious criticism. There are entire websites that become obsessed with thrashing me as a non-biblical and compromised seeker sensitive pastor. Others produce videos accusing me of blasphemy and heresy. I am not going to post any of these links because I don’t think these mean-spirited, modern day pharisees need any more traffic than they already have. The easiest thing in the world is to hide behind a computer screen, do nothing productive at all for the kingdom of God yourself, and to throw rocks at others who actually are. To be honest I don’t even read them myself as nobody needs to subject themselves to that kind of abuse. You risk either being hurt or developing a hard heart instead of a thick skin which is just as bad. However, it is never good to entirely ignore your critics as your enemies actually keep you sharp. I have staff that are more than willing to share the highlights with me. Remember Jesus said “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” If you never hear any criticism that is again a good indication that you maybe you have become too uninspired in your approach.
There is one major criticism that I think is worth discussion. Again and again I hear this; “Isn’t Jesus enough? Does the gospel really need Elvis or Batman or Luke Skywalker? Is the gospel story too boring for you? Why don’t you just preach the gospel of Jesus instead of dragging the world into the church?” And so it goes. These questions seem very noble and righteous on the surface but they are missing the context of what we are trying to do entirely. First off, of course I think Jesus is enough. As an evangelist at heart everything I do is designed to bring people to the place where they would see that Jesus is not only enough, He is everything. The harder question is this; how am I going to get them in the door to hear that? If I spent a million dollars advertising ‘This Easter come and hear how Jesus is enough… the Old Rugged Cross will be performed by the choir’… the only people that would come are those that already believe that Jesus is enough. Unfortunately our world has tuned out the gospel. They think they already know it, which of course they don’t!
What non-christian people do know is Pop culture. Star Wars in particular is wildly popular and Disney has just paid $4B for franchise. This Easter we had somewhere over 6000 attend one of our 5 services. That is over double what we would have had without the theme. That is 3000 new people that heard that ‘Jesus is enough’ because they were intrigued enough to come and check us out. Dozens of them came to faith in Christ and filled out decision cards. They have been invited to a 4 week course that teaches them how ‘Jesus is enough’. These people were lost for all eternity last week and now they have discovered the gift of eternal life… but instead of rejoicing the modern-day pharisees become like those of old who objected, “It is not lawful to heal on the Sabbath”.
Perhaps the most ironic thing of all is that even Jesus resorted to the same approach. He did not walk through the streets shouting, “Don’t you people know that I am enough?” Instead he told parables about fishing and farming and ranching and sheep and goats and seeds and vineyards etc. What was that all about? Why did He have to drag the world into his preaching? Because He lived in an agricultural society He was using the cultural metaphors that his hearers understood to communicate the complexities of the Kingdom of God. In fact almost all of Jesus’ preaching was the use of stories and illustrations of the world in which He came to reach.
I believe it is the single most effective way to preach the gospel. We do exactly the same thing in world missions. We study the culture to discover the redemptive analogies that most easily relate the gospel and then use them to point the people to Christ. In Muslim countries the most effective evangelists actually use the Koran to introduce Arabs to Jesus. Some well-meaning Christians find that offensive. I say, unless they can do a better job, they need to keep their mouths shut and go find something better to do.
On Easter morning I admit that I did start my message with an elaborate reference to Star Wars and I was dressed up as a Jedi Knight. I do understand that could look goofy. (John the Baptist may have looked goofy in camel skin and I don’t even want to know what people thought of Isaiah as he walked around barefoot and naked for three years – Isa 20) But for the remainder, my message included 15 scriptural references, dealt with the history and origin or Satan, his fall from heaven; the creation and purpose of man, the fall of man, the consequences of the fall and finally the plan of salvation to restore man to his rightful place with God through the work of the cross and the resurrection. That would seem like a lot of biblical ground to cover in just 30 minutes and hardly qualifies as a watered down gospel. At the end of the day scores of people young and old made a commitment to follow Christ. If criticism is the price I have to pay to see people rescued from a fate worse than death, then bring it on!