What Black Panther Taught Me About the Church
The world is talking about it. Black Panther has literally swept the globe by storm. With an opening weekend of $218 million, it shattered expectations and created an opportunity for conversations that needed to be had. But as I sat watching the movie, my mind began to light up in different ways than those around me.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that Black Panther was a timely movie and I don’t want to detract at all from the message it was sending and the conversations it has started. But as a pastor, I saw lessons that this movie brought out that can be applied to the church.
I saw lessons in Black Panther that can be applied to our church.
You see, Wakanda is easily any church in the United States, maybe especially an Adventist Church. Allow me to draw some comparisons and I’ll share with you what Black Panther taught me about the church.
1. We have unimaginable wealth
Just as Wakanda was sitting on a pile of unimaginable wealth that could have transformed the entire world, so is the Seventh-day Adventist church sitting on a pile of unimaginable wealth that could transform the world. No, I’m not saying the General Conference is built on a mine of vibranium. Our treasure is not a metal. Instead, it is the beautiful understanding of scripture that we possess.
Our wealth is the beautiful understanding of scripture that we possess.
If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, read my post “Why am I a Seventh-day Adventist?”. We have a clearer understanding of who God is than any other denomination. Our belief about the Sabbath is crucial in this time of frenzied pace and hectic busyness. Our understanding of the state of the dead brings hope and comfort, as well as vindicates the character of love our God possesses. We really are incredibly wealthy!
The question, though, is: What are we doing with our wealth?
2. We don’t want to share the wealth we possess
I know that some people do share what we believe, and honestly it probably makes you cringe a little. I know it does me. The Wakandans had a similar attitude to millennials today — at least this millennial. We tend to think that everyone has their own beliefs and ways of doing things and if we try and share what we think, we’d be imposing on them.
As much as that makes sense in our brains, we have to realize something. Just as the Wakandans discovered by the end of the movie that they needed to share their knowledge and wealth with the world, so we are under obligation to share what we possess.
Does this mean we need to “evangelize” the way that so many people do, as if we are better than everyone else and we need to make them feel guilty for not believing the same way we do? Absolutely not! Jesus never did that and neither should we. But I think if we honestly understood how much wealth we possess, we would realize how much the world needs to hear what we know.
If we honestly understood how much wealth we possess, we would realize how much the world needs to hear what we know.
3. We are afraid to let outsiders in
The Wakandans were terrified of being discovered. They built this incredibly cool camouflage around them to make sure no one could stumble upon them. But that wasn’t their only fear. They didn’t want to allow people into their country — especially refugees — because they believed that this would make them like all the other countries: filled with crime and filth.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in church meetings or talked with people and the message has been conveyed that if we let just anybody into our churches, they would somehow corrupt us.
The church is to act as God’s hands and feet in the world. We are to give help to the helpless, comfort to the depressed, and hope to those who have lost theirs.
The church is to give help to the helpless, comfort to the depressed, and hope to those who have lost theirs.
Sure, we may be misunderstood. Even Jesus wasn’t completely free of that. People didn’t approve of who He hung out with while He was here on earth. When comparing His ministry with the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus said:
“For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” ~ Matthew 11:18
If Jesus was even misunderstood, we can’t hope to fare any better. But this doesn’t mean we stop loving people and letting them in. Jesus was a friend of sinners and we should be too.
Jesus was a friend of sinners and we should be too.
4. There are people who believe they can lead better than the current leadership
I think this is an incredibly important point that needs to be brought out in an article such as this one. I’m not calling out the leadership of our church and saying that I could do a better job. I’m just remarking at similarities I see between Wakanda and the church and I believe that if we as church members can change, it will make a difference in our church.
In Wakanda, there were several people who thought they could do a better job than the current leader. First, at the coronation, M’Baku, leader of the Jabari Tribe, challenges T’Challa for the throne. Then, later on in the movie, Erik Stevens, aka Killmonger, also challenges T’Challa for the throne and begins making radical changes to the kingdom.
Every leader is going to find individuals who think they can do his or her job better than they can. Perhaps the individuals are right, perhaps they are wrong. Either way, when they challenge a leader and try to usurp power, they cause more harm and confusion than good.
Every leader is going to find individuals who think they can do his or her job better than they can.
In our church, there are many people who feel like they could do a better job at leadership than the people who are currently in those positions. If you are such a one, don’t try to stage a revolt or try to grab the power for yourself. Help the current leaders! Give ideas, counsel, support. Do your job as a church member as well as you can. Through your influence, change may be just around the corner.
So what have I learned about the church from Black Panther? I learned that our church has unimaginable wealth, we don’t want to share that wealth with others, we are afraid to let outsiders in, and there are always people who feel like they could lead better.
This isn’t meant to be a depressing article. In fact, I hope it’s quite the opposite! Because just like Wakanda, I believe our best days are ahead of us. As we learn to take our place in this earth’s history, sharing the knowledge we possess and becoming the hands and feet of Jesus, the world will take notice of who we really are.