by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
One of our daughter Monica's favorite animated movies on video is called The Swan Princess. It has all the qualities of the great Disney films: an exciting story, colorful characters, memorable songs and more. My wife, Charlotte, and I like it too, in case you couldn't tell. If you have kids, I recommend it. But most people have never heard of it, even though it premiered four years ago, in 1993. Is it one of Disney's rare failures? No. It's not even from Disney, and that's the problem. Disney films -- even the bad ones -- are well known. The name "Disney" has become synonymous with entertainment, especially for children. Nobody has ever heard of Nest Entertainment, which produced The Swan Princess. Everyone has heard of Walt Disney. Unfortunately, people are sometimes reluctant to try something new or different; we prefer the "tried and true." I'm reminded of the old jingle for Dr. Pepper soda:
If they would only try you,
they'd know you taste good."
As a result, there will never be The Swan Princess Happy Meals, or action figures of brave Prince Derek or the evil sorcerer Rothbart. The reason is advertising: Disney knows how to promote and market its products and itself, and it isn't shy about it. In fact, according to writer Harlan Ellison, "there are only five fictional characters known to every man, woman and child on the planet. . . . Mickey Mouse, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Robin Hood . . . and Superman."
As the Church, we are in the promotion and marketing business too. We have quality "products": Eternal life in Christ, peace, joy, justice and more. We also have ourselves to promote and market as Maplewood United Methodist Church: We offer fellowship, prayer, preaching, singing and much more. People may not have heard of us but if we can get them to try us, we know they'll like us. We have to promote and market ourselves and the One we represent.
Shortly before our daughter Monica's fifth birthday, in September, we discovered The Swan Princess cups, plates and napkins at a local party-supply store. And there's a sequel called The Swan Princess: Escape from Castle Mountain. Apparently, the folks at Nest Entertainment haven't given up on promoting and marketing their film. And they seem to be having a bit of success. We shouldn't give up either. Even when it seems like we're not accomplishing anything, we must spread the news of Maplewood United Methodist Church and the Good News of Christ, until "every man, woman and child on the planet" knows our Savior.
"And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.'" (Mark 16:15 RSV.)