A sign posted outside of an art gallery read:
“Art is a sign of life. There can be no life without change, as there can be no development without change. To be afraid of what is different is to be afraid of life.”
A notice for a controversial new exhibit? No, this sign was outside a New York Museum of Modern Art exhibit featuring Picasso and Matisse. The year: 1912.
There have always been those in life who like change, and those who don’t.
I read a book once that put labels on these two types of people: dynamists and stasists. Are you by nature a dynamist, or a change-oriented person? Probably, the answer is yes, if your vocation or avocation involves the production of digital media in a church setting. The work of digital media in ministry is by nature an act of moving forward. We are all agents of change for a church often controlled by stasists comfortable with the way it’s always been done.
I wonder how many of us who have been practicing our craft of media in ministry still encounter major resistance from significant parties within our church communities. I would venture to say far more than one might expect.
People have often been shocked when I speak of continued resistance to media within Ginghamsburg’s walls. The supposed “media mecca”, as some have said, should be beyond having to repeatedly fight the same battles. A colleague of mine at Ginghamsburg used to keep an old ad on his wall that showed a rumpled pair of men’s briefs with the words above it, “Change is Good”, as a way of acknowledging that ongoing tension. There are many reasons for this resistance, among them new families unaware of the past, a continual struggle to create artistic expressions of media for worship and education, and the natural tendency for people to confuse Jesus with the horse he rode in on in their lives, so to speak.
People don’t start out stasists, you know. They simply find expressions for their faith in a particular culture, or time and place. Not challenged to move beyond that culture, they over time confuse their experience of Jesus with the cultural context of that experience. Eventually, they come to believe that certain songs or ways of worship are more sacred than others are, and that to change them would be sacrilege. Sound familiar?
Jesus’ rant recorded in Matthew 23 (the “seven woes”) is against people who have forgotten the meaning behind their activity, and have put ritual ahead of real faith. Thank God that Jesus is capable of reaching beyond these barriers, now as well as then.
Being a media producer in a church is the perfect opportunity to strip away the confusion. A new medium gives us an opportunity to speak the Gospel message in fresh ways, not to merely repeat meaningless ritual.
In the coming months we’ll look at specific ways to do that in this column. But the first, and most important piece, is to garner courage for the mission. The end of that same art gallery sign in 1912 said that the exhibit was a proclamation “against cowardice”. A radical dynamist himself, Jesus is our courage giver, empowering us to be dynamists in the face of change resistance. So practice change. It keeps your faith vital.
Change is an ongoing reality in my own life. My colleague Jason Moore and I recently realized that the goals I set for Ginghamsburg when I arrived in 1995 (read Technologies for Worship, Feb 2000) had largely been met. At the same time, other ministries were increasingly in need of assistance in getting started in media. So we, along with two other friends in ministry, are finding the courage of the Divine Dynamist to step away from the comfort of an established ministry.
We are forming a new company to produce high quality resources, partnerships and education for media ministers. We are calling it Lumicon Digital Productions. [In case you’re wondering, Lumicon connotes the light of Christ in the world, and the light of technology (ANSI lumens), and it connotes the ancient art form of icons for faith expression, and the icons of today on our desktop computers.] Because we believe, like the sign said, that life in Jesus is about change, and good digital art reflects that life, and we want to make such digital art real in churches everywhere.
Next time we’ll look at one of the big arguments against our sort of ministry.