Zoo Christianity

One of the things I think we all love about zoos it the ability to see animals many of us would never be able to afford to see in the wild. Most of us would never seen a tiger, hippo, or a monkey in real life. Zoos bring the animals to us and allow us to capture the exotic nature of a wild safari without the danger or the cost.

One of the things I think we would all acknowledge about zoos, though, is that the animals we love to see in them are rarely as full of life as they are in wild. On a recent trip to a zoo with my family, we stopped to look at the lions. There were three of them laying on the ground, sunning themselves. My wife leaned over to me and whispered, “I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a zoo and every time they look exactly like this.” Animals that are fed, caged, and have their every need cared for rarely have the spark of life that we think of when we picture an animal in the wild.

My wife’s comment reminded me of a trip to Africa several years ago. In the midst of different wings of our ministry trip, we had a down day for rest and recuperation. Our contact asked what we wanted to do that day. I told him I wanted to see a giraffe or a hippo. He got a delighted look on his face and said, “We can go to the zoo!” I quickly shot back, “Paul, this is Africa. I don’t want to go to the zoo!” I wanted to see what the animals operating like God designed them.

Often, Christians live in cages, too. These are cages of their own making. They are regularly “fed.” They have all their needs met. In these cages, they are safe to do everything Christians do. People from the outside can even come in and look at what Christians are and what they do.

The question is, like the monkey or the lion that has lost his spark in the zoo, have you lost your spark? Have you settled for less than what God has intended for you? Maybe it’s time for Christians to venture out into the wild and learn what it means to feed themselves and function without the cage. You might be surprised what a Christian released into their natural habitat is capable of.

Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Canada by James Rajaste


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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

7 responses to “Zoo Christianity”

  1. melissadugan says :

    The seed that is Christ within us can’t grow and go to maturity if it’s not watered and feed

  2. David Bolton says :

    I love the analogy, Travis! One I’ve never considered. It also makes me wonder how many of the animals who have been raised in the zoo their whole life, if given the choice, would actually choose the wild over the known safety and ease of provision within the cage. And would their handlers ever give them the choice?? Hmmm…

    • Travis says :


      Good to hear from you! You’re right…we’re taught to value things and if we were raised in a zoo, we value the protection it provides. This is true regardless of whether we are in a traditional church or a house church, btw. Both can be a zoo if we’re not careful.

      Hey, also, thanks for sharing on Twitter today. I appreciate it!

  3. Timothy Krause says :

    Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Rob Ross says :

    Great analogy. Reminds me of when my wife was sharing with a lady at Costco. She was telling her about our house church. She shared about how everyone participated and brought something to the table. The lady’s response was that she liked the idea but could never be a part of that kind of church. The lady said she needed someone from the pulpit help her understand and apply the Bible.

    Freedom requires risk. Being caged provides comfort. I think David made a good point. If given the chance would church members choose freedom over comfort? Would they even be given the chance to choose?
    Thx for the post Travis.

    • Travis says :


      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      You’re right, there’s a risk that’s required to participate and not just be passively associated with the church. Unfortunately I’ve seen people walk away because that cost is too high. We get taught to desire certain things and we value those things we desire, so there will be some that will never grow because they never push against their desires that they think are natural but are really just what they’ve been taught to value.

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