Star of Wonder

Last night I went with my wife and parents-in-law to see Star of Wonder, the over-the-top Christmas pageant at Phoenix First Assembly of God.

No doubt, it was a wonderful presentation. Check out the promo for yourself.

I enjoyed the story line, the music, the visuals and the general feeling of electricity that pulsated throughout the room as dancers danced, singers sang and the orchestra belted out beautiful Merrytide melodies.

However, I got a little stuck on two things: a) the caged tiger and b) the guilt I felt for not bringing a donation.

So, as my wife said, the tiger’s been trained and all. However, I still felt a pinge of guilt as I stared at this caged tiger walking back and forth in its imprisonment (not to mention the leashed kangaroo). Is that really what Christ’s birth is about – domination of animals for our enjoyment?

The other part that got me was the guilt I felt for not bringing an extra donation. As I got out of my car I thought “I don’t need to bring my wallet in, I won’t want to buy anything.” However, about mid-way through the program Rev. Tommy Barnett (senior pastor at Phoenix First) got up to rally the crowd for donations to the Dream Center in Phoenix. Great ministry, would love to donate…but I didn’t bring my checkbook or my wallet. Paul and Linda paid for our tickets…was that enough? I felt horrible, especially when the bucket went past and there was only six bucks inside. Elizabeth did too, she really wanted to donate to the cause and rightly so. As we drove home we noticed how now that the show was over we felt less guilty about not having a donation to give and not that inspired to write a check and send it back to Phoenix First.

And that’s what got me.

They were using an emotional high to elicit donations from the crowd.

Is that okay?

I don’t know.

I fundraise regularly and I always feel uncomfortable asking for money, even if it is a good cause. Maybe that’s why I’m not quite kosher with this whole fundraising push at Phoenix First.

Is that the way of Jesus?

I’m just not sure.

Kudos to Phoenix First for putting on an awesome show, reaching millions with the Gospel of Christ and doing some solid work at the Phoenix Dream Center. Good on ya’.

I am just personally wrestling with what happened last night, and wondering if that’s the best way to go about it.




Filed under Christianity

3 responses to “Star of Wonder

  1. kelseypaulsen

    Here are my thoughts…

    There’s a huge church out here called Bayside Community that also does a very large & extravagant worship service. If you’re at all familiar with Christian music, singer/songwriter/former guitarist for Journey, Lincoln Brewster is their worship leader. Their service is so large (15 total!), they have to give out tickets to church goers so they have an idea of the attendance. They also save 1,000 open seats for people who just walk in without a ticket. So, this gives you an idea of how familiar I am with this kind of experience…

    Drawing people in emotionally is a sneaky trick that a lot of ministries use to give donations or even to “accept Jesus as their personal Lord & Savior”. It’s been proven successful & a lot of people connect really well with this kind of experience, especially in this Post-Modern age where people want to experience God.

    The problem is this…

    Emotional Connection…the Church is teaching believers & non-believers alike that emotion = faith. (i.e. “If I don’t feel close to God, then I have no faith”). It’s a dangerous game to play since emotions are fleeting. Personally, I believe that experiencing God is a huge draw for my youth & other congregants, but I never want to equate that emotional experience with having a large/little amount of faith. After all, faith is immeasurable.

    Consumer Manipulation…this emotional connection that is created is the same kind of experience that retail stores use to draw people in to buy crap they don’t need. It’s all about Impulse Shopping. Marketers have discovered that when people emotionally connect with their product (i.e. “If you buy these jeans, you will look cool & become popular”), they are more likely to buy them. So, they amp up their advertising, recruit celebrities to promote/wear/advertise their product for them & tug on the heart-strings (or wallet-strings) of America.

    So, is the Church guilty of Impulse Giving?

    Impulse Faith?

    Honestly, guilt & discomfort shouldn’t really be the feelings to describe any kind of church experience…


    • recreative

      You end with, “Honestly, guilt & discomfort shouldn’t really be the feelings to describe any kind of church experience…”

      I think that is exactly where my heart is.

      And now, just for fun, what about the times that Jesus discusses faith with seeming reference to a measurement (e.g. Luke 7:9). Is there a measure of faith? There are those that argue yes.

      Anyways, I’m not coming to any conclusions here. Trying to keep it neutral. Sooooo Lutheran of me.

  2. kelseypaulsen

    Haha! You’re so good about your “Switzerland” attitude… I think it’s my non-denominational background that convicts me to pick a side 😀

    As far as faith goes…

    Honestly, faith is one of those things that can only be measured by God. I should have said “faith is immeasurable to the human eye”…

    What we, as Humanian (pronounced “humane-ian” –> new word! haha!) Sinners call little or no faith may not be so in God’s eyes. After all, the thief on the cross next to Jesus probably had little faith according to us, but to God, he was faithFUL. Jesus also says that faith as little as a mustard seed can move mountains (Matt. 17:20 & Luke 17:6), but what does that look like to us?

    Does mustard seed-sized faith even look different to us vs. God?

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