I finally saw the recent hit movie, The Greatest Showman. While I liked the movie a lot, I’m not the best judge of good movies. Most of what I watch is almost a decade old. However, there were themes in this movie that awakened my heart and made me immediate want to watch again. I believe there are 10 things that Christians should love about the Greatest Showman.
1. Life is meant to be a great adventure.
The main song tells the theme of the movie. “Everything you ever want, everything you ever need is here in front of you. This is where you want to be.” Jesus came that we might have life and life to the full. Anything less than an adventure would be an insult to the overcoming power of the Holy Spirit living in us.
2. The pressures of life tempt us to deaden our hearts.
Much of the movie is about P.T. Barnum finding the outcasts and celebrating those unique differences that they felt ashamed about. They had learned to stay in the shadows because of the pain others have caused them. But there was also Phillip Carlyle and Jenny Lind who had success in the world standards, but were also dead in their hearts. P.T. Barnum awakened desires of wanting more.
Jesus said one of the main reasons the seed in his parable didn’t make it was because of the pressures of this world. The seed of God’s word is always trying to inspire hope and life into people, the pressures of life try to deaden us to its possibility.
3. Choosing our dreams awakens our hearts, igniting passion, and surrounds us in purpose.
When the cast members are thrust out in front of the crowds, they move from trepidation to celebration. They finally came out of the shadows and felt real life. In a quick move when P.T. Barnum is trying to encourage Tom Thumb to join the circus, he moved from motivating him by money to casting vision of Tom on a horse and being saluted. Speaking to Tom’s desires of being respected, pulled him to say yes to the offer.
One of the greatest things I have learned about helping people out of addiction, it is not telling them to stop that gets them better – you have to call them to a desired future greater than themselves. Find out what makes them alive and they will remove things (like addiction) that hinder them from getting their. The Bible said it this way: for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame.
4. The more alive we become, the more those around us will gain courage to chase their dreams.
As P.T. Barnum chased his dreams, people came alongside of him because he made them come alive. You see this first with his wife and girls, then the cast, and finally Phillip Carlyle. Even the sore newspaper guy acknowledge some admiration for Barnum at the end. It was under the roof of the circus, the place Barnum built, that many found the courage to be themselves and finally find a home.
This should be the legacy of the church. We have been made alive in Christ. Jesus is alive in us and His words have life. We are free to live and love. Jesus didn’t start the church to create a homogeneous group of people all following a certain set of rules; He was creating His kingdom on earth. His kingdom is bring people out of darkness into His glorious light. We are a city on a hill. We are to be so fully alive that the world can’t help but notice and say, “we want what they are having.”
5. We need others to come alongside us so we can freely chase our dreams.
Just as Barnum sparked life into others, he needed others to come alongside him. This was most prevalent at the end of the movie, but it was also their at the beginning. After being released from his job, he sees his family alive and full of hope. I have to admit seeing his girls sign his song was emotional for me. As a parent you, you long to create a world where your children are free to be who they were created to become.
It’s too easy to become discouraged by ourselves. Living fully alive is difficult. It requires risk. To be fully alive awakes you to greater joys, but it can also feel deep pains. We will be tempted to give up, so we need cheerleaders in our lives that will believe in us and call us beyond the repetition of everyday life to the adventure we are created for.
6. We need others to come alongside us to focus on the practical steps to chase our dreams.
Life many dreamers, Barnum became so alive with chasing his dreams that he ignored conventional wisdom. It worked well for most of the movie, until ulterior motives crept in and got him off track. Carlyle tried to be a voice of reason to him in the Jenny Lind tour to no avail, but he also was the catalyst for the circus back up when Barnum was giving up.
We are not meant to live apart from others. It is too easy to get misguided on our own. Too many things seem right when they stay in our heads. We need people we trust to be sounding boards who can point us in areas we may not have thought of yet. Walt Disney had his brother Roy that help guide Disney in financial decisions which help get the Disney franchise off the ground. Even the most creative, imaginative people among us need others to hone in our calling.
7. Chasing dreams can end in failure, but the alternative is a greater danger.
In the movie, as everything is falling apart, Barnum is reminded what was accomplished through his dreaming. The cast was disappointed that all of it was gone, but they stand firm in they could never go back to life before they met Barnum. They tasted what life could look like and committed to never going back.
As an entrepreneur, I have started many things that have failed, but we also fail at everything we never try. I don’t want to bore the great cloud of witness by playing it safe and never advancing the kingdom of God. While there are no guarantees of success, there is the guarantee that God will go with us.
8. Without God, everything else is empty.
Jenny Lind’s song represents Barnum’s on-going craving for more. “Towers of gold are still too little.” We are created for extraordinary feats, and the world is truly never enough. We can take this as a need for contentment, but in this song I hear the longing in each of us for the infinite. We are made for God and will never be satisfied without Him.
9. The church should be a collection of people leading others to be fully alive.
The signature song of the movie has to “This is Me.” The cast members are refused entrance to the after show of Jenny Lind’s performance. Instead of sulking back into the shadows, this song becomes an anthem for staying alive to who they are. With all of our differences and oddities, this song celebrates people.
I love the imagery of the cast triumphantly standing together declaring they will not become anything less than who they are. The church’s role is not to cast everybody into the same mold, but we are to get people connected to God. In their mess, in their sin, and in their uniqueness, we connect them to God. Jesus wants to meet them where they are and let them know He sees them and loves them.
10. The songs awaken our hearts to more of God.
Come on. We do it every Sunday, it must be true. Ok, I’m stretching for number 10, but in truth I have awoken almost every day since watching this movie with one of the songs in my head. I know they are secular songs, but their are so many of these spiritual principles threaded throughout the lyrics. I find myself being encouraged to live more fully alive and more connected to God with these songs.
This review of The Greatest Showman (which you can buy here) is response to the fact that I loved this movie. I am excited about these themes I mentioned here and would love to see more people living from the place of knowing that they are fully loved as they are. If we can stop worrying about how we are supposed to act and just be the amazing people God made us to be, we will more easily hear His voice and accomplish the plans He set out for us.
- What are your thoughts of The Greatest Showman? What did you like or not like about the movie? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Kevin Shorter is the founder of this prayer-coach site and have served for several years in ministry and churches teaching on a variety of Biblical topics. Go to the contact page to request him to speak at your conferences and seminars.