Rogue One is the first of three standalone spinoffs from the main Star Wars movies that are set to explore some of the more interesting, but often behind-the-scenes, aspects of the series. The film explains how the rebels got the blueprints that ultimately allowed them to blow up the Death Star in the 1977 film that launched the series, as well as why the station was vulnerable to such a relatively minor attack in the first place.
The story centers on Jyn Erso, a young rebel who was separated from her family as a child when the Empire forced her father to help them build their super weapon. He proves to be the key to making the battle station functional and, as such, the Imperial forces are not inclined to give him any choice in the matter. Consequently, he’s separated from those he loves and his daughter is left to be raised by an extremist rebel named Saw Gerrera.
Eventually, however, Erso became jaded against both sides of the war and set out on her own. After that didn’t go so well—she’s reintroduced to the rebels when they rescue her from an Imperial prison transport—Erso eventually begins to cooperate with the rebellion forces as they promise the chance to see her father once again. Over the course of that interaction, their fight becomes hers and she helps to guide the effort to destroy what her father helped to create.
I really enjoyed Rogue One, and it was definitely a different take on the Star Wars movies than what we’re used to—there was nary a lightsaber to be found until the final scenes. I’d be surprised if it does as well as The Force Awakens, however. Unlike that film, Rogue One was primarily a Star Wars film for Star Wars fans. While there are parts that everyone can enjoy, the goal was not so much to bring in a new generation of enthusiasts as it was to make something existing fans would appreciate.
We have a tendency to do something similar in our churches if we aren’t careful. We design programs and services that our members will appreciate but, in doing so, we can forget about those without a connection to the church. That’s not to say that focusing on our members is always a bad thing, as there are also some churches that stress reaching out to the community so much that they forget to build community within their walls as well. But there needs to be a balance between discipling those God has already brought to our churches ad still creating an open and inviting atmosphere for any who want to visit.
After all, if you look at Jesus’ ministry, isn’t that what he did? Our Lord was constantly making time to pour into his disciples and teach them in a manner that would specifically help them grow. He explained parables to them that he left vague for the crowds (Mark 4:10–12), and got away from the crowds to spend time alone with them on multiple occasions (Mark 4:35–41, 8:8–10, Luke 9:18–20). At the same time, however, he always welcomed others, whether they were part of his inner circle or not. While sometimes that was by reaching out to them (John 4, Luke 19:1–10), on other occasions he did so by simply welcoming those who sought him out (Luke 7:36–50, Matthew 5–7, 19:13–15).
There will be times where the best thing we can do, as a body of Christ, is to help one another grow in our faith. If, however, we become so focused on the good work of discipling our fellow Christians that we forget to make new disciples as well, then we’ve missed a vital part of our calling. And, lest we think maintaining that balance is the sole responsibility of church leadership, every one of us has an important role to play in making our communities of faith a welcoming environment to others.
So this Sunday, make it a point to welcome not only the familiar faces but the unfamiliar ones as well. Christ’s church exists to bring all people closer to him, wherever they may be on that journey. What will you do to help?