April 30, 2006
Image Isn’t Everything 2: depth and transparency offer hope for GenX
In part 1 of his post, Andy Rowell lamented the preoccupation his generation has for image management, and the way GenX church leaders have adopted this vice. In part 2 Andy offers a few antidotes to younger church leaders seeking a more genuine spirituality.
I think there are three dangers we need to be vigilant about. First, we need to beware of the tendency to be image-strong and content-weak. GenX ministries need to be careful about distinguishing themselves solely by their name and website. We want to convey, "This is not your average church." But we want to be better than the average church in substantial ways. In the end, it is not these three that remain: websites, jargon, and coffee. Let us teach better, worship better, and love better than the "average" church.
Second, we need to beware of our attention-getting tendencies.
Right now, Generation Xers are between the ages of 23-38. Not many of us are senior pastors, denominational leaders, authors, magazine editors, spiritual directors, or seminary professors. But we are longing to be in those positions, to make a name for ourselves, to make an impact. There is nothing wrong in itself with those desires. But we have to remind ourselves that sometimes our desire to draw people to Christ can get mixed up with our motivation to draw people to our ministry and thus get attention for ourselves. That doesn't mean we stop doing evangelism or making ourselves attractive to outsiders in every way we can. But it does mean, we keep doing our "closet work"?prayer, study, and pursuing deep relationships to keep us honest.
Third, we need to beware of a lack of transparency. My earlier description of "event preparation" almost sounds like Screwtape's advice to a younger devil learning his trade?"Deceive! Don't tell the audience your secrets. Manipulate what they experience." We may be image-conscious, but we do not want to be working for the Deceiver.
Transparency is the antidote. We must not do anything we wouldn't want exposed to the light. In fact, we should be intentional about exposing our ideas to other respected Christians for their input. And though it is tempting to fudge the truth, we need to be prepared to candidly report what we have done and what is going on. If we are doing the following sort of things, we need to be able to admit them. Use the following as practice statements:
- "We hired that guitar player for $500."
- "That projection equipment cost $30,000."
- "I worked 35 hours on that message and didn't spend a lot of time with my family because I wanted to make it good."
- "My staff expenses this year were $2,000."
- "We paid a professional $1000 to come up with that logo."
- "I only spent an hour on that message last night because I didn't prioritize my time well."
- "I will be taking four weeks of vacation."
- "As a worship team, we are having a difficult time understanding one another and it has been painful for all of us."
- "I am seeing a counselor."
Honesty needs to be habitual for us. We must schedule regular times to communicate with people about what is going on in our ministries. We need to meet with individuals as well as hold "town hall meetings." Transparency is the hardest when the people have been kept in the dark for a long time. Regular transparency will protect us from letting image lead us down a path of habitual deception.
Today, at the coffee shops and conferences, GenX pastors compare ministry coffee bars, digital presentations, and narrative preaching styles but my hope is that more and more we will discuss these things with each other:
? Beyond the gimmicks, how is your ministry really different?
? What are you learning from your time in the closet?
? How are you seeking to be transparent about the running of the ministry?
Some wonder about the future of the church. Some wonder about the future of its leaders. If image-conscious GenX pastors start to ask each other these questions, I will be hopeful for the future of both.