Why Church is a Zoo?

I realize this a common theme in this blog. But imagine if as children we had learned this value.

Last night at church I let the kids pick a favorite plastic toy. They could pick a frog, lizard, or snake. They sat in their respective group and I asked, “who has the best animal?” Of course each child believed theirs is best, and could not understand why everyone did not agree. 

I told them the story of the really bad zoo I went to one time. Each exhibit had only one animal, and it was always a donkey. The monkey house, lion cage and elephant exhibit contained only donkeys (Yes, donkeys).  Even if a donkey was your favorite animal, it would not be much fun to have a zoo with only one animal.

Church is supposed to be like a zoo, but we pretend it is enough to call it a zoo even if all the cages are filled with the same animal.

We read in scripture the need for diversity (see Romans 12 and 16, Ephesians 4) a wild mix under one roof, but we are fooling ourselves when we believe a brown donkey, black donkey, short donkey and a fat donkey means we have achieved diversity.

The animal kingdom exists in gatherings of sameness. Yet the church is the only institution designed to be contrary to our natural tendencies.  It’s a place where power is never rewarded, the lowest in social standing has equal value to the highest, and there is no racial, gender, or economic advantage given. It’s a place where uniformity in thought or even belief (I suppose I am thinking of those faith communities who purpose together to look for and follow Jesus) is not needed. In fact, it is destructive.

No question it is easier to be with our own spiritual genus, but that has no power to truly transform us or display the miracle of Christian unity.

Unity cannot exist when we have uniformity. 

I’m so glad The Refuge is a zoo.  

  I hope we can keep adding more and more different kinds of animals to it over time.

The benefits of being an inclusive and wildly diverse faith community are amazing and numerous, but like at the zoo perhaps the most compelling reason is because it is fun! How much more interesting it is to be with people I would never normally see or be with during the week and together experience transformation. How fun it is to learn from those I would never know if I were only with people of my income level, race, or spiritual background.

The zoo metaphor is illustrated in this scripture, which portrays life when Jesus makes all things right, “and the Lion will lie down with Sheep.”

This entry was posted in Christian Culture, New Models and Paradigms, The Refuge, Thoughts on Scriptures. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why Church is a Zoo?

  1. Mark Tracy says:

    Funny. I had a dream with you in it last night, Karl. We greeted each other with a good brotherly hug. I was telling you how much I appreciated your ministry. Maybe that appreciation is why I read your blog.

    From time to time I attend a church downtown made up of the diverse culture of people surrounding it. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, etc. You are right. Vibrant, alive, exciting, and involved. However the church reflects the culture of the people surrounding it! They are already diverse. Such is the nature of the inner city. But there is also the HIspanic Church, the Black church, the Asian church, and the White church filled with those who prefer to worship among those who speak the same language, like to worship with those who share a common culture, etc. I can’t imagine old Pennsilvania Dutch Christians dancing and waving their arms in the air, nor Christians from a raucus Black Church enjoying worship in a Mennonite church–Yet, they all love and worship Jesus Christ and share in the greatest and most fulfilling task we have in Christ; to add the lost to the kingdom of God…not to conform other believers to the “right” way to worship. I really appreciate the work you are doing Karl, I would likely tend to gravitate to your church if I were in the area. But as a brother, I would encourage you to build your ministry on the merit of your vision. How other Christians chose to worship and who they choose to fellowship with may not be your “cup of tea”. Your form of worship may not be their “cup of tea”. This does not make you or them wrong, it only makes you and them “diverse”.

    • karlw says:

      so well said! btw, i am honored i showed up in your dream!
      i have lately felt the desire to reconnect with some folks that have a different slant on church and worship. i realize how easy it is for me to become a person who is accepting of all, except… and then you fill in the blank.
      i love the idea of worshipping in a way that is how an individual might connect with God and yet at times putting that aside for the bigger thing we all want- His Kingdom.

      i realize, i dont know where you live?
      good words, thanks

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