If I mention Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo do you know who I am talking about? These are the key characters in a children’s cartoon movie, Madagascar. In the story these characters have spent their entire lives in captivity in the New York Central Park Zoo. They are admired by the public each day as they put on shows at the zoo. They are domesticated animals. In the movie they have only known the zoo with its admiring public and the meals that are provided daily for them by the staff. They are living their blissful lives unaware of the world just outside the confines of their city park zoo until Marty the zebra can’t leave well enough alone and through a series of circumstances leads his friends to escape into the wild. When they land on the shores of Madagascar they find they are totally unprepared for the world that awaits them.
As I watched this cartoon with my grand kids I could not help but think of the many pastors and congregations that dot the landscape of our country. I call them domesticated because many of them, their pastors and congregations, grew up in christian homes and were educated from birth in Christian schools. They have no experience in the “wild”. All they have known is “christian” environments. Years ago, while holding a teen outreach event at the church where I pastored for 18 years, I had a conversation with the evangelist about his interns. He said one of the challenges they faced was a total disconnect from the unchurched teens they were called to reach. They didn’t know how to preach to them or relate to them. The interns were domesticated. They grew up in different worlds. They hadn’t been reared around lost kids. Therefore they struggled to communicate and connect with them in meaningful ways. Part of the evangelist’s ministry was to “un-domesticate” his interns so they could be effective in reaching the lost.
As you analyze yourself, your staff and your congregation do you look more domesticated than wild? I have good news, the evangelist was reared in a christian home and educated in Christian schools from birth. He was domesticated but learned how to connect and reach thousands of unchurched teenagers. it took him years and intentional effort to overcome the barriers between him and those he was trying to reach. Now, when you look at your rearing and those of your congregation what do you see? Are you primarily domesticated and finding it difficult to reach your community? Is your church internally focused because that is all it knows? Are they basically unaware of the surroundings just outside their church doors? As you read this what thoughts do you have to help you overcome the challenges of domestication? I would cherish the opportunity to hear your ideas and help you determine how to “un-domesticate” your church. Please consider reaching out to me to start a conversation. I’ll be happy to talk with you.