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Can I Learn from a Disciple of the "King?"

On Friday of this week, our church is honored to host the annual fall senior adult gathering and banquet for our Jacksonville Baptist Association (Engage{JAX} Network.) This annual event is always well attended and this year more than 300 tickets have been purchased.

As the host venue, we have little to do other than open the facility and provide some technical help. 

In fact, since this event is planned and organized by a volunteer committee of Baptists from throughout our city, the Network actually has little to do other than promote and provide financial accountability for tickets sold and honorariums for guests.

This is a fellowship event. I say that because sometimes we look down our pious noses at church events that do not seem to have a purpose. This event's purpose is fellowship. It's designed to be fun. There will be times of singing and eating and stories shared. In other words, in case it's not clear - this is good. Christians can gather and have fun. In fact, they should. This does not take away from the mission.

Now, if all the church does is casserole meals and fellowship events, it will eventually cease to be a church and become more of a club, but I digress. In an of itself, an event like this does not detract from the mission of the church and may just scratch an itch that often churches miss - the joy of doing life together.

What caught my eye regarding this year's event was the special guest. 


Fake-elvisThat's right. The senior adults of Jacksonville will be entertained by an Elvis Presley impersonator.

Just to be clear, based on the photograph I have seen, this is a 1970s Elvis impersonator, not a 1950s version. That means the white jumpsuit, sequins, mutton-chops and scarves. No "Jailhouse Rock" jeans or red "Teddy Bear" jacket.

And, just in case you're thinking I'm an Elvis hater. I'm not. I'm listening to "Burning Love" (hunka-hunka) as I write this.

Honestly, when I first saw this I thought, "Seriously? They're bringing an Elvis impersonator in for entertainment?"

I've heard that many often long for the "good-old days" of church, back when hymnals were used, pianos and organs were the norm, pastors wore suits and ties and bulletins actually had the order of service printed, but this seemed extreme.

Was this a throwback to the by-gone days?

Was this a not-so-subtle message of longing for the past? 

Are we now at a place where we have forsaken trying to draw crowds to see the King of Kings and have settled for a copy of the "King of Rock?"

No, I think the message is simpler than all that. I think someone thought "This would be fun." That's it. Fun. No message. No statement. No forsaking of the Gospel. Just a fun night listening to songs that take the crowd back to another time where music wasn't really as innocent as we'd like to think, but at least it wasn't Miley Cyrus, right?

Since we're committed and faux-Elvis will be here Friday, I started thinking about these people who entertain as Elvis impersonators. What an interesting hobby or career.

There are thousands of Elvis impersonators in the world. Most of them live in Las Vegas, but you can find one in just about every city in the nation. This is amazing because Elvis (according to most reports) is not actually alive. There's no new material, unless you count the version of "A Little Less Conversation" that came out in 2002. 

There's actually a network of impersonators that connects via the internet. There are conventions and gatherings and if you remember Nicholas Cage movies, you know they can sky dive as well. 

What does it take to be a good Elvis impersonator? Here are my thoughts:

  • It helps if you can sing.
  • It's even better if you can sing and sound like Elvis.
  • Having the right clothes is essential.
  • Depending on the era of Elvis you are impersonating (and this has to do with your age) you will either need the gold jacket, black leather 1968 special suit or the 1970s jumpsuit.
  • You need the Southern drawl and the curled lip.
  • If you are really into it, you need a Cadillac.
  • It helps if you take karate lessons.
  • Maybe a stint in the Army would be a benefit.
  • Hip action is needed, but depending on where you perform, be careful. If you're appearing on an Ed Sullivan impersonator's show, your hip gyrations will be edited and not viewable by the audience.
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches need to be a favorite of yours.
  • Watch the movies, all the Elvis movies. 
  • Study the movies, the documentaries, read the biographies, visit Graceland and maybe take a trip to Vegas as well.

You see you cannot be an effective Elvis impersonator if you do not study, prepare and do as best you can to act and perform like the real thing. I'm not saying you need to wear a WWED bracelet, but I do believe that while performing as a faux-Elvis, the thought "What Would Elvis Do?" needs to be running through your mind.

To be an effective copy of the real thing, you must be a fully devoted disciple of the King. So, yes, I can learn from these disciples of the "King of Rock."

The problem is that even if you are the very best Elvis impersonator in the world. I mean, even if Priscilla and Lisa Marie are convinced you're really Elvis, it doesn't do you much good. Oh, you may get to entertain in Vegas, or maybe even a Jacksonville senior adult event, but ultimately, being a copy of Elvis will never be enough. It cannot. There's no life in being a copy of a dead man.

However, there's another King, a true King, who calls his followers to impersonate him. Jesus Christ, the King of kings, has clearly called his followers, his disciples to impersonate him. It's deeper than a WWJD question. We have been called to live our lives as copies of the King who is not dead, but alive. In fact, in order to be his disciples, we must die to self. We will never be convincing impersonators of the King if our lives look more like "ours" than "His."

Elvis may have left the building, but Jesus remains. He is still alive and his version of Graceland is far better than the house in Memphis.

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