I am often asked if Cast Member Church is more of a "church" or more of a "mission."
Without hesitation, I always answer, "yes." Then I smile and wait for the expression of confusion to appear on the questioner's face.
It's a fair question. Cast Member Church doesn't look like most churches. We are not what some would call "Sunday-centric." We don't offer a weekend worship service. We don't have organized Bible studies. We don't have a music ministry, kids ministry, youth group, or men's and women's groups. The lack of these offerings causes some followers of Jesus to wonder if we should call ourselves a "church." After all, many of our CMC family have yet to place their lives into the hands of Jesus.
Yet our global family is continually being discipled UP (Scripture and Prayer), discipled IN (Encouragement and Challenge), and discipled OUT (Mission and Compassion) as any church should be.
We admit that our unique methodology doesn't resemble the modern/western Church. These innovations have caused some to ask if our structure should be categorized as a mission. Well, we don't have missionaries raising support so to live out their mission as a vocation. We don't host attractional events with an evangelistic emphasis. We don't provide specific opportunities for others to bring their friends to hear a Gospel presentation.
Yet the Good News of Jesus permeates EVERYTHING we do (as any mission should).
So it's not a question of "either-or" or even "neither-nor."
Cast Member Church is what it is: A mission that has a church.
Please take a moment to digest that last statement.
For us, that statement goes all the way back to our beginning. There were three things that God asked of us before we began CMC. All this time, they have served as "guardrails" to all that we are called to do at Disney.
1. Never own a building.
2. Form a community/family of those who don't know Jesus.
3. Foster a "discipling culture" where every disciple becomes a disciplemaker (over and over).
Allow me the remainder of this blog to talk about why we will never have a building.
Cast Member Church has never had a building for gathering. It hasn't been necessary. We choose to meet in living rooms, kitchens, resort food courts, pubs, theme park restaurants, and anywhere else on Disney property where we others hang out. We also have a rapidly expanding GLOBAL network of Zoom rooms for former CMs scattered on six continents.
Jesus says, "And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there." - Matthew 18:20 MSG
According to Jesus' words, church can happen whenever and wherever people meet to draw near to Him. It also seems mission can occur in the same context (if we are intentional about it).
The book of Acts talks about how the Church met in homes. They also met in the Temple because that was a place where everyone spent time. It was a religious center. It was also the place where you could hang out to discuss the issues of the day. I'm not equating the temple with the local mall or Starbucks, but it was the place to see and learn about what was going on.
The early Church also had an understanding that their faith was not to be centered around a location. Jesus' words to the woman at the well helped to change that point of view:
"But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration." - John 4:23-24 MSG
Jesus invites us to live and move among those who don't know Him; to be his emissaries in every nook and cranny of life. Rather than be known for a building or our worship gatherings, we want to be known as people who work out their faith in view of those around us. Rather than inviting someone into a building, we ask them to dinner or coffee.
This approach also allows us to be "incarnational": The same word used to describe how Jesus-being God-made Himself to be one of us. Why would He do this? So that we would know Him, up close and personal. AND that He could say, "I understand what you are going through."
Being incarnational allows those around us to see Jesus up close. It also says that we are no different from anyone else; we struggle with the same issues, weaknesses, and temptations.
Meeting out in the open is our way of saying that we are not ashamed of our staggering and stumbling toward Christian understanding. We intentionally choose to be the Church out in the open. We want others to observe our journey. We want them to share in our messy pursuit of the One who has offered us the adventure of a lifetime.
It proves we are far from perfect, and spotlights the One who is.
Here's a great quote from Shauna Niequist that sums it up perfectly:
"People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel like they're home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they'll take their shoes off and curl up in gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd." - Shauna Niequist
A core desire of Cast Member Church is to create those spaces wherever we find those who are yet to know the love, truth, and compassion of Jesus. And the fact is, the vast majority are not gathering or even interested in visiting a church building.
So this compels to be a mission that happens to have a church. It's a win-win.
In the next blog, I'll share why CMC focuses on those who don't have a relationship with Jesus, over those who already know Him.