This story may not seem like it has much to do with church but I promise it does, so bear with me.
Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a major film studio and tourist attraction in Japan. The set has been used to film numerous samurai and ninja movies since the 1960s. As the samurai movies declined in popularity, the studio decided to open up for public tours in 1975. At its peak, Toei Studio Park drew over two million visitors a year.
By the turn of the century (2000), the number of tourists had declined to 750,000 and the studio considered closing the park. But then they started asking questions. What could they do to improve the quality of a visit to their park?
In response, the Studio decided to give visitors a greater immersive experience in the world of the samurai. They added features including: period costumes for visitors, so they could dress like their favorite movie stars; mock sword fights by actors; instruction in swordplay basics for the kids; and, re- moving the restrictions on taking photos and videos.
The result was an upsurge in park attendance. Visiting Toei Studio Park became a more meaningful and exciting as people got to experience more of what it was like to be a samurai—or at least an actor portraying one of these Japanese warriors.
Colonial Williamsburg, which is one of my favorite places to visit, made a similar discovery a few years ago and now features more immersive activities that bring visitors into the life and times of colonial Virginia.
So what does this have to do with the church? Many churches have been striving to do for church what the Studio Park has done—create a more immersive faith experience for disciples of Jesus Christ. Church leaders are now more intentional about creating times and spaces that are participatory and experiential. That includes everything from worship to small group studies to serving in mission to the com- munity.
This is good news. Worship should be about participation. The word “liturgy” refers to the word or order of our worship. Translated, it means “work of the people.” We are not invited into God’s presence each Sunday merely to be entertained but to encounter God and experience the presence of the Holy in all we think, say AND DO.
How do you experience God in worship? What parts of the worship service move you to have a sense of the Holy? What about the rest of your week? Do you have disciplines (prayer, Bible study/reading, time for reflection) that help you take Sunday into the rest of your week?
Send me an email and let me know how you are experiencing God in your worship and in your daily faith walk. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace, Pastor Bob