Have you watched Stranger Things yet? It is so good! If you consider yourself even a little bit of a geek and you are thirty or older, then it really should be considered required viewing. Stranger Things is like a mix between Goonies and X-Files. The show nails the setting, the characters, and story perfectly. The Netflix original series is yet another break out hit, and I have no shame in admitting that I powered through the eight episodes in less than a week. Now that I am on the other side of watching the show, I am reflecting on areas where Stranger Things connects with the Christian faith. There is one element of the show that I think Christians can learn a lot from.
Warning: minor spoilers ahead
The basic premise of the show is that a boy is lost, and those who care most about him are trying to find him. His three best friends seek him out. Even though they realize that doing so is going to have dangers they may not be able to handle, they keep looking for him. The boy’s mother also does not give up. Even when everyone is telling her that there is no reason to keep searching, she does not give up hope. She is relentless in her pursuit to get her son back. The biggest guiding plot point in Stranger Things is seeking the lost until they are found. That is a very biblical concept.
In the fifteenth chapter of Luke, Jesus tells a trio of parables. The first one is about a lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine safe sheep to find the one that is missing. The second parable is about a woman who loses a coin, and then tears her house up looking for it. The final parable is one of the most famous stories Jesus told: The story of the prodigal son. A disrespectful son declares to his father “you are dead to me” and leaves to never return. The son makes a series of bad life decisions. He hits bottom and decides to go home to see if his father will have enough mercy to hire him as a servant. However, the son returns home to find that the father never gave up hope that his lost son would return. All three of these parables end with much rejoicing because the lost have been found.
Taking a cue from these parables, Christian parlance refers to those who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior as “the lost.” Part of the mission and very purpose of every church that exist is to reach the lost. However, on a whole we are not doing that. The numbers do not lie. The vast majority of Christian denominations in the United States are losing members annually. There is a lot of hand wringing about this fact, but very little action. This is the first element Christians can learn from Stranger Things. When it comes to reaching the lost, we need urgency. For the characters in Stranger Things, finding the lost boy is a driving mission. They show the same zeal that is described in the three parables. They are unwavering and singular in purpose. They do not care what others think about them, what the dangers may be, or how uncomfortable seeking the lost will be. They do it from a deep driving love to find that which is lost.
That deep driving love for those who do not yet know Jesus is sadly muted in many churches today. Again, the numbers do not lie. A very sobering and painful statistic is that on average a member of the United Methodist Church only invites someone to church with them once every thirty eight years. If Christians are only inviting people to church once every four decades, then that is clear evidence of a complete lack of urgency. Stranger Things constantly reminds the viewers through all eight episodes that time is running out and as the series goes on the characters get more and more motivated to find their lost friend. This is an example that all Christians should absolutely emulate.
The second element we can learn from Stranger Things is to find the lost we have to go to them. One of the snags to finding the lost boy, is that he is in a place that is hard to get to. It is not as simple as calling for him. To find him the characters have to find a way to where he was at. Just like the shepherd in Jesus’ parable we have to meet the lost where they are at. This is contrary to how a lot of churches and Christians want to have things work. It is our preference to open our doors and let people come to us. With an odd mixture of naivety and arrogance I have heard good church folk say about those who do not know Jesus, “They know where we are when they want to come here.” No! That is a terrible idea. The lost do not get found if no one is actively looking for them. The way that those who do not know Jesus find Jesus is by experiencing him. That only happens when the church, the body of Christ, loves people the way that Jesus loves. If we want to find the lost, we have to go to where they are and we have to radically love them, serve them, and invite them to experience this love like never before.
I realize that there are some key differences between Stranger Things and sharing the gospel with people who do not know Jesus. First and foremost, the people that Christians consider lost do not usually think they need saving in the first place. Second, saving someone is not something we do. It is ultimately God who does the saving. It is not an exact analogy, but as I devoured all eight episodes of Stranger Things I was reminded of the urgency Christians should have to save the lost. I really enjoyed Stranger Things. While I wait for season two, I suppose I will go look on reddit for fifth edition stats for a demigorgan.