The Zoo Effect

My pastor sent me the following article this week. We both thought it really hit home. Maybe you will too.

The Zoo Effect by Larry Doyle

Last summer, my wife and I, along with one of our sons, his wife, and our three grandchildren, took the Amtrak to Washington, D.C. Among the sights we enjoyed that week, was the National Zoo. As we walked around that amazing place, taking in the strange sights, sounds, and sometimes smells, we were impressed with the incredible variety of the different animal species. Each one was unique, and everything about them, down to the shape of their bodies, was designed for a purpose - a purpose usually connected to their survival in the wild.

Leave it to me to think of something really weird. I was struck with the fact that in spite of their differences, all of the animals in the zoo had one thing in common - something they share with each other regardless of their species or origin. They were not designed to live in a zoo. The environment in the zoo is not their native habitat. Although zoologists attempt to create an environment similar to what is found in the wild, it is impossible to recreate everything an animal encounters and experiences in its native habitat.

Then, I thought about the church. Christ followers, sometimes known as Christians, were not created (re-created to be exact) to express their faith and live out devotion to Jesus in the confines of a building with stained glass, a steeple, pews, and a pulpit. While this may be what many of us have known, and experienced growing up in church, it is not found in the New Testament - anywhere! We were designed for a different environment.

Jesus gives a good picture of that environment when He said, "As you go, make disciples." (Matthew 28:19). Where? Jesus explained, "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth." (Acts 1:8). The world is our natural habitat as Christ followers! Being a follower of Christ cannot, and must not, be defined by attending services, or doing religious things on the weekends.

By placing our emphasis on gathering people into buildings (regardless of the size or shape), I'm afraid we've created something like a zoo for believers. The tragic results is we have Christ followers (at least they think they are following Jesus) who cannot, and will not, live in the wild.

Once wild animals get used to living in confinement, they find it practically impossible to survive in the wild. In fact, animals born in captivity cannot live outside of captivity. They cannot defend themselves, and cannot provide for themselves. Doesn't that sound like what we hear in churches today? I'm sure you've heard someone say, "I going to find a different church, because I'm not getting fed where I'm at now." This sounds like they are changing zoos, or at least zookeepers. Animals in captivity depend on the zookeeper to feed them, while those in the wild, feed themselves. God never intended the "gathering together" of believers (Hebrews 10:25), as a place where believers are fed, rather a place where they would be encouraged, inspired and challenged to feed themselves.

Do our churches operate like a zoo? Or, are we preparing, equipping, and sending people out to impact and transform our world, by living and proclaiming the Good News?


awesome article! thanks for sharing!

Popular posts from this blog

My "Crazy Love" Small Group Discussion Questions

Ron Swanson Quotes (Updated 1/15)

Her Story: Does Satan really exist? Many United Methodists see evil as more subtle.