My dad and step-mom are both very involved with museums in the Philadelphia area. Just like churches, they tell me, there are purists and pragmatists in the museum world. For example, the current Star Wars exhibit at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute science museum might be thin on science, but it sure packs in a crowd, brining revenue for the museum’s scientific and educational mission. And after those crowds look at the original Millennium Falcon model and get their photo taken with a Stormtrooper, they might also then browse through the permanent collection of wonderful exhibits and demonstrations of scientific wonders.
Get people in the door with a flashy special exhibit, and they just might wander through the permanent collection and be inspired by something much more substantive and authentic.
The same analogy can be made for art and history museums, too. Think of the King Tut, Princess Diana or Titanic traveling exhibits. Interesting, flashy and broadly appealing, perhaps, but not quite the stuff of historical or artistic depth.
Can the same be said of the church? Do we have a tier of worship and programming that is visitor-friendly, designed to be accessible to a broad swath of people who might not otherwise make their way into a church? And then do we have a "permanent collection" of faith treasures – theology, liturgy, and wide-ranging faith practices – that provides depth and meaning to those already committed to the church’s mission and message?
I think that many congregations clearly attempt the first, striving to be open to visitors and appealing to newcomers. (How effectively they do this is another issue!) But I’m not sure how many congregations are good at maintaining and sharing a "permanent collection" of faith treasures. We might get folks in the door, but what have we to offer after they come in?
What do you think? Is this a useful analogy? Am I off base?
Have a good week!
6 thoughts on “The Church’s Permanent Collection?”
Though I would venture to say that TFI’s Star Wars exhibit isn’t as light on science as it seems (although maybe that’s just me, having seen it 4 times–I volunteer there). It certainly is high in entertainment value and low-er in technical jargon, but going through and learning about electromagnetic fields, center of gravity, and artificial implants/etc. that keep your failing body working well (see Darth Vader) are quite scientific AND fun! A la Matt Staniz’ program, “Pursuing God through U2” last year at Temple Lutheran — and I think it’s this exact kind of programming that needs to take place! Something that not only exlpains to us different aspects of the church, the liturgy, or Christ’s life, but that also delves into why it’s still relevant! And that it’s not just relevant to me, but to people around the globe. In interesting corners of the world.
There’s a man who goes to my church (Temple Lutheran) who used to volunteer at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. They did an exhibition on Lewis & Clark, and apparently the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology had (has?) objects that Lewis and Clark used — letters they wrote and things like that. How cool is that?! But they’re kept in a storage room, or put in a box with a notecard glued onto it.
I suppose that’s why I’m here, and always commenting. I’m trying to find out about the cool stuff like that. The things that you guys know and just don’t know how to share, the things that you would share were there more interest…I don’t know. I’m still working on it.
very creative way to think about it, Chris. If we do good liturgical worship, I think that would be a part of our “permanent collection.” But it gets the creative juices going about what are the things that are excellent and are always there, the treasures of our church.
Rick Warren suggests something similar in his Purpose Driven Church book–to the point where Sun. worship is for visitors, since that’s when most non-church folk expect church to be. For those who are committed members there is another service during the week.
Nice illustration. I would tend to agree that this is what happens. However, some would argue that they’re not putting out the Millennium Falcon, but simply putting the “permanent collection” in a new case or box or presenting it a little differently. What would you say to them?
This is a great image – thanks for sharing it.
As a fan of good analogies, this was stellar. I found your site off another blog, and just sent your post about Millenials and Tradition from back in March to my young adult list (we’re the millenials who clearly think the way you do – we all go to “traditional” churches and lower the average adult age a good chunk). Awesome. I look forward to reading my newest subscription. 🙂
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