Last weekend, my family and I went to the movies and saw Minions. If you haven’t had the chance to see the movie (or the previous two which featured them, or the dozen or so commercials on television), minions are diminutive yellow creatures with tiny arms and legs whose purpose in life is to dutifully serve their master. They have their own language (which seems to be a combination of English, Spanish and gibberish) and their own culture (which venerates bananas and pranks). These loveable little guys are by no means perfect (causing disaster after disaster throughout the 90 minute film) but their hearts are always in the right place.
Watching a movie where the dialogue is largely unintelligible was challenging. As we watched, we understood what was going on through the minions’ behavior instead of their words. We saw their acts of care and compassion even when we could not make sense of their conversations. Watching Minions also made me wonder about visitors to our church. Do they see our actions and are they amused for more than an hour, even though the language used sometimes sounds like gibberish? Do they recognize our desire to serve our master and love one another even though we are by no means perfect? Or do visitors feel that a church service is just goofy looking people using goofy sounding words?
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
Clearly, an animation studio is capable of conveying a compelling story through odd characters using odd terminology. It is not a stretch to believe that the church can share the greatest story ever told through a group of peculiar people utilizing peculiar words. Just as these big screen ‘corn pops with eyes and overalls’ told their story through their actions, the church can share the Gospel through her acts of love and service.
But we can also do more. We can work on our terminology and resist the temptation to use words like temptation, iniquity, transubstantiation, eschatology, justification, sanctification, anthropomorphism, and atonement. These are great words which are full of meaning but may be heard as gibberish to the casual attendee of a worship service. They would likely sound like Kevin’s, Stuart’s or Bob’s words in Minions sounded to me. While it may be entertaining for an hour or two, eventually unintelligible communication becomes too difficult to follow and too much trouble to engage. It would be better simply to keep it simple.
Like minions, we who are followers of Christ dutifully serve our master, Jesus. We are by no means perfect and we often make great messes of life. We have our own language and our own culture, both of which convey care and compassion for others. We often look and dress differently than most. If you give the church a chance, it will likely entertain you at first but eventually you will fall in love with the people you see there. Maybe after a little bit of time, you’d even be able to understand what most people think is meaningless sounds.
And, like minions, we love to sing!