The Weekend away shares a number of characteristics to the film ‘The Greatest Showman’: A motley diverse group leave their normal lives for a time to enjoy some quality time together, learning a number of life lessons (e.g. Bunk Beds require a contortionist’s skill to be comfortable in) before bringing the whole weekend to a climax in a glorious show full of talent, music, skill and Zumba which when you think more deeply about it has a significant life lesson to teach us!
Our speakers Phil and Anne White in fact used clips from the Greatest Showman to encourage and challenge us to ‘Go and be witnesses’. Their encouragements that echo the film that we are loved and chosen by God for this work, that being a witness is about being ourselves and simply saying what we’ve seen and experienced and that we all have a part to play, a skill to bring and a role to play.
On the Sunday, I’d planned to speak about how the Weekend Aways’ talent show is a great picture. I wasn’t sure this was from God initially but was relieved on the Saturday when Phil, unbeknownst to me, had used the greatest Showman as a theme. You see we’ve been looking for an image to give the vision life for a while. Our Vision Statement is good and clear: Love God, Bring Life, Change Lives. The areas of focus in our objectives are good - Evangelism, Discipleship, Justice and an investing in our youth, kids and family work. The strategies of Go Sundays, linking our teaching to Sclub, looking for partnerships in the town are all good but they’re not a picture that you can ‘feel’. The Talent show is that picture, I think.
There’s so much about the Talent show that is great.
Kids and Children Leading the way, there’s Encouragement, each time we see skill development. It’s diverse, there’s humour, it’s accessible - even visitors easily join in. It’s surprising, there’s a forgiving atmosphere, it’s sometimes beautifully painful, it’s messy, there’s a real strong sense of Community. The body works together, It’s humble, there’s enthusiastic volunteering, it’s joyful, welcoming, generous in the praise of others. It’s costly for those who participate, and they are courageous. It’s creative and inspiring. It’s a normal humble heavenly act of worship especially with a beautiful story and a prayer that ended the night.
I taught on the Sunday morning that our verse for the year is ‘Seek First the Kingdom of God and his Righteousness’. I said, and I stand by it, that our Talent Show is a perfect picture of the Kingdom of God. I’m encouraged then because we show every time in our Talent Show the attributes that we can now seek to show every time and every place we gather. The vision for the church is not something we are not yet. It’s something we need simply to be more.
More kind, quicker to volunteer, more merciful, more encouraging, more generous in our praise and service, messier, more creative, more humble, more welcoming etc. I’m excited because God has formed us already and is forming us into His Troupe of men and women with the greatest message to share. Not ‘This is me’ but instead ‘This is we’. Actually, that and more. ‘We are His’. God has paid and provided by the Holy Spirit all we need for this life together.
So, to quote one of the songs from the Greatest Showman to finish,
Don't fight it, it's coming for you, running at ya
It's only this moment, don't care what comes after
Your fever dream, can't you see it getting closer
Just surrender 'cause you feel the feeling taking over
It's fire, it's freedom, it's flooding open
It's a preacher in the pulpit and you'll find devotion
There's something breaking at the brick of every wall, it's holding
All that you know
So tell me do you wanna go?
Do you wanna go give, serve, share, love, forgive, encourage, witness, change the world, pray, teach, challenge. I hope so. We need us all to do this in this next season. Don’t sit watching. Come and dance to God’s song in this talent show of a church for God’s glory.
Specifically this should change the way we plan services, especially our all age gatherings. It should change how we treat each other and remove the idea of ‘going to church’ replacing it with ‘being the church’. This should mean more faces are seen and more voices heard. It should mean we are unafraid to take risks and make mistakes. What else do you think it could mean? Comment below!