My wife Angie and I recently saw the movie “The Greatest Showman.” It is the dramatic retelling of how P.T. Barnum began his circus. Starring Hugh Jackman as Barnum, I found myself more emotionally connected to the story than I would have suspected. So, I began to wonder why the musical movie with Jackman, Zendaya, Zac Efron, and a host of characters playing freaks made such a connection to me. Here’s a few thoughts.
Dreamers win our hearts. From the beginning of the story, we see a boy who dreams of more. Without any doubt, he’s certain that he’s made for something more. It is the reason his wife loves him so much. It is what drives him so desperately to succeed. As pastors, we dream of a life, of ministries, and of a church that do more than what was previously thought possible. It is a great reminder that we should not just dream of great things but actively pursue God’s heart for those He created. Dare to ask God for His desires to be fulfilled in you.
We all feel like outcasts. The story of Barnum’s circus is one of platforming the outcasts. In the movie, Barnum convinces a bearded lady to sing, a midget to play a general, a fat man to play fatter, and an African-American acrobat to show off. In doing so, his constant mantra is that the world just does not know how much they will love these previously deemed unlovable people. It is the portrait of us… pastors. We often think that our ministry is to go find the freaks and outcasts and thrown-away people. I was reminded that I am the outcast who was brought into God’s family. Sit back down at God’s family table.
The need for redemption always shows up. All of Barnum’s dreaming for a better life turns into an egotistical journey to make everyone love him. Barnum loses his wife and children in a bid to make the world love him. He lost the core of his dream — to give a beautiful life to the people he loves. He chased fame. He got caught up giving attention to the wrong woman. He became a user of people who he previously loved. He got lost in the dream rather being lost in love for those the dream would benefit. So, he had to come back home. Pastors, this is a mirror for us. The outcasts and hurting people around us need redemption. But so do we. When we use our church dreams to platform ourselves and use work to soothe the void of meaning in our souls, we need redemption. Come back home.
Jackman believed. Take five minutes to watch the video below and then read a few final thoughts.
Now I get it that the room was filled with professional actors and singers. But there is no denying that Jackman has an emotional connection to this story. He was able to communicate that connection through his acting and singing. Not that I have a man-crush on Hugh Jackman, but it is impressive that he is able to play Wolverine/Logan, Jean Valjean, and P.T. Barnum. If I cannot believe more strongly in the mission of the church than Jackman believed in the necessity of this film, then I should pack it up and find something else to do. He believed deeply in telling this story. It was evident. How much more should we believe in telling the story of our redemption in Christ. Shout the story with your voice and with your life.
I can neither confirm nor deny that I wept several times during the movie. Maybe there was dust in the theater. Maybe my heart was burdened. Maybe my spirit simply needed a bit of inspiration. At any rate, if I had cried, it would have been because stories are beautiful when the outcast are brought in, the dreams are fulfilled well, and the lost get found.