Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Uncanny Church

In robotics and animation there is a concept known as Uncanny. Basically it is that general sense of discomfort you get watching those Robert Zemeckis movies like The Polar Express and Beowulf. Anytime the human eye sees something artificial trying to look real, it knows. The closer an artificial thing resembles reality the more appealing it is—up to a point. At that point where it looks real but is just slightly off, it ceases to be cute or neat and looks creepy. Things that fall in between that point and reality fall into what is known as the “Uncanny Valley.”

This concept may work for more than just film and robotics. Take the idea of Church, for example. Ever walked into a service and felt like something was wrong? You may be stuck in a group trying very hard to be a real fellowship but sadly missing the mark. Real church is described as a body. It is a community of people sharing life and faith and living out incarnational mission in society. Artificial church gets together once or twice a week at a physical location and observes a program or participates in an organized set of activities.

Signs that you may be stuck in the valley: You say things like, “We are going to church.” You spend a significant amount of resources on infrastructure. You hire people to do the ministry of the church. You measure success mathematically. You schedule or program something called “visitation.” No one actually comes to said “visitation.” Fellowship and Worship are two separate activities. No one from the “lost community” ever “comes to church.” No one from “the church’ ever really interacts with actual “lost” people.

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

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