As I have been researching the Disney Parks, I came across stories about a man named Van France. Mr. France has his very own window on Main Street in Disneyland! He was the founder and driving force behind Disney University, the very extensive training program for Disney cast members. He believed throughout his career (and was supported by Walt Disney himself) that the key to running a successful park on the scale of Disneyland was to train and keep successful employees. It wasn’t just about learning how to do a job, it was about being trained to be part of the Disney ‘show’. As such when people were being trained to work at “The Happiest Place on Earth” they were given one clear message, “We create happiness.”
It is brilliant in its simplicity. No matter what else someone might do as a part of the day to day operations of their job, their first responsibility is to create happiness. The stories of that being lived out are many and varied from replaced balloons and ear shaped Band-Aids to wishes granted to dying children and special visits from Disney characters. But beyond this, it is also about smiles and attention given to guests. It is also about the cast members who unnoticed dance while they watch the parade, take 3-point shots at the trash cans, and hum along with the music in the stores. It is about people bringing their own happiness with them and letting it spread out. “We create happiness” means that every cast member is committed to the mission of the park no matter what else they might be doing. And just because it is simple, doesn’t mean it is easy.
In my denomination (The United Methodist Church) we have a mission statement, too. It is our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We make disciples: simple and straightforward, easy to understand, and amazingly easy to agree on. We make disciples. Most of us can tell you our mission, but very few of us can say what it means and even fewer can explain how to do it.
This discussion repeatedly gets bogged down in the dual problems of how can you tell if you’ve made a disciple and whose job is it to make one? First, no one seems to be able to define a disciple. We know one when we see one, but we can’t quite define one. It follows, therefor that something is complicated and rare must need to be created by people with very specific disciple making skills. The average church goer couldn’t possibly do something so difficult, so it must be someone else’s job. As you can imagine, these discussions highjack the purpose of the discussion and no disciples get made.
After many years of fruitless discussions I have decided to take a page out of Mr. France’s book and simplify. We make disciples. That’s the mission statement of the denomination therefore that’s the mission statement of each and every person in the church. No matter what else we may be doing, we first need to make disciples. Even if the only disciple we can make is ourselves, we make disciples. We might not even be sure if we’re doing the right things. But if we make disciples, we are doing it right.
Every person. Every church. Every job.
We make disciples.