If you’re a church leader, then it would behoove you to seize the opportunities that The Shack can bring to your church and ministry. I want to lay out some practical do’s and don’ts in how to engage people who enjoyed this movie whether you agree or disagree with the movie.
- Do start a conversation. Steward that moment wisely. Humbly ask, “What spoke to you about the movie? Why did you cry at that scene?” Listen to learn what was happening in their heart. Listen to understand, then go deeper. The issues of the heart cause people more problems than the issues of our head. When their heart is healed, the head’s an easy fix.
- Don’t Ruin the Moment. I believe The Shack is artistic and thoughtful. It promotes wonder and a bigness to God. I believe it will stir hearts of believers and unbelievers alike. So, cynical pastor, I warn you; it will inspire your people. Don’t be a killjoy and rain on their parade. If you meet their excitement with ten reasons why The Shack is heresy, not only will you lose influence with them, but you will lose the opportunity to teach them. Meeting their emotional high and spiritual zeal like a wet blanket projects you’re emotionally small and shallow spiritually.
- Do offer positive and measured wisdom. If your parishioners believe you’re so shortsighted that you can’t take the high road by offering measured perspectives that highlight and maximize the good and minimize the bad, then they won’t believe you to be a person worthy of listening to about anything. This will occur no matter how “correct” your laundry list of errors are about the movie. Offering positive and measured wisdom with restraint will serve you well.
- Don’t defeat yourself. When you preach weekend after weekend on revival, dedication to Christ and spiritual awakening, when something stirs a desire to be closer to God and you recklessly extinguish it, then you’re not only your worst enemy, but you bring to question everything you’ve ever taught.
- Do use it as a talking point to bring people to solid biblical footing. Leader, if you have points of disagreement with The Shack, then force yourself to listen to what spoke to others. I bet you 95% of their joy will be things you affirm. For example…God really loves people…The Father’s not happy when bad things happen to us…The Triune God meets us in our pain….God’s concerned for hurting people. When you find points of agreement, affirm those realities. After you have listened to the joys of your people, and throughly heard them out, then, if you must slip in some of your concerns, then do so subtly. But I must warn you, and much to your dismay, most people will not have the Trinity or the hypostatic union at the top of their concern list. If you feel you must speak out, then take a tone of clarification not confrontation. Wrap up the conversation in a friendly and happy tone, and say something like, “I wish they could have clarified…” Then no matter what your concern, I’m sure it will be received when delivered in that context or manner.
- Do learn from it. Ask yourself, “What about this story grips people?” What is this story speaking to? What is attracting people to this? Whether you agree and or disagree, you’re responsible to understand what’s grabbing the heart of the masses and seek to understand what God is doing in our generation.
- Do believe in your people. Listen, your church will not experience a major shift in worldview by watching this movie or reading this book. That’s not how worldviews shift. No grounded believer or, for that matter, a lukewarm cultural Christian will see this movie and walk away and say, “I don’t believe in the Trinity anymore. Tritheism all the way for me, baby!” Or say, “Everyone is going to heaven. I renounce hell.” This is nothing more than condescending pride that assumes people can’t sort through information. It assumes that spiritually minded and sincere people are too stupid to figure out the truth. These critics are based on the premise that our people are so incompetent that they’re totally unable to eat the fish and spit out the bones. Give your people a better shake than that.
- Do lead by listening. Learning what makes people tick and what speaks to them is really important if you plan on shepherding their hearts and guiding them in truth. Be attentive to the essence of what people are saying. Speak to the common ground you share. When you address the place of common agreement, your words ring true. When they feel understood and listened to, then freely guide and influence in the direction you feel is most fitting, and speak blessings over what the Holy Spirit is doing in their hearts.
If you take these do’s and don’ts to heart, you’ll earn the leadership credibility to navigate people through many more troubled waters ahead and will earn the right to speak truth when it counts.