The Hard Work of Mattering

You know a place is old when their main sign advertises “air conditioning.” And if said establishment is still open for business today – without updating their sign – you probably have the same crusty feeling that I do in assuming their AC isn’t the only thing that needs some serious updating.

But think about this:

The day someone approved that sign for production, air conditioning was clearly worth advertising. It meant you were a cut above the competition.

And yet, today, that very thing that made you notable now makes you notorious.

I’ve found that it takes a considerable amount of energy, creativity, and money to remain “current.” Market research, software updates, new purchases, color wheel shifts, hardware upgrades, vocabulary additions, style conformity, and a strong attention span, to name a few. And with all that work, it’d be very easy as leaders to throw our proverbial hands in the air and just assume an audience – whether buying a product or buying into a belief – will just “get” the value of our venture, regardless of it’s presentation.

This is precisely why so many businesses and so many churches fail to endure the leap from one 20 year generation cycle to another.

They failed at mattering.

Sure, the opposite can be argued: that an organization focuses so much on “being relevant” that they forget what they’re selling. But I would fault the core values of the leadership before I’d fault their efforts.

If you truly have bought in to an enterprise – from Jesus to making a better pizza – you’ll make it your Gospel. For someone of this caliber, being current will never change your Gospel, but it will provoke you to make your Gospel applicable to the day in which you live.

At it’s core, fighting hard to remain current is fueled by a desire to connect with people. And win their hearts, not just their pocket books or their approval.

But this is hard work. And often we disengage due to fatigue, fear, or often because we don’t have people around us helping us stay up-to-date.

It’s a cop-out to think, “My new energy drink is so effective I’m not bothering to print labels or use new bottles,” as surely as it’s a cop-out to say, “Jesus will speak for himself the moment people walk into our church, so who really cares about our carpets or our musical preferences?”

True, you could have the best energy drink ever; also true, Jesus can prove himself magnificent all by himself. But clean bottles with labels and inviting church atmospheres go a long way in forecasting the experience a person feels they are going to have with what you’re selling.

The day that we value how we’re communicating, as much as we value what we’re believing, is the day we embrace whatever generation we’re living in, and use every creative means at our disposal to reach it. ch:

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  • Ron Porter

    Awesome post CH!! It doesn’t matter many fish you’ve caught with your trusty (and now rusty) lure….if you don’t freshen it up, it’ll scare your fish away instead of luring them in…

  • Christian Fahey

    Man, you write interesting stuff Christopher. Incisive post. Nice work!

  • Great post! You’re such an incredible writer 🙂

  • Well said, friend. And I think it goes beyond too..how do we convey a desire to connect OUTSIDE of church as well?

    • That, my friend, is certainly grounds for another post! Hoping I can do it justice.

      Care to be a guest blogger some day soon? It’s a standing invitation.

  • Beth Walrath

    Great post. We have so much technology there isn’t any reason we should be “behind the times”. Yet at the same time, we have to remember we are the ultimate advertisers for Christ. So we have to becareful what the world to all the “worlds” modern conveniences.

    • I think often on the idea that God gave mankind technology for one simple task: to reach the nations with the Gospel. Lord, may we use it well.

      • Beth Walrath

        Good point. That’s my cue to quit procrastinating & blog again. 🙂

        Staying current while not forgetting people still need the personal touch is key. Someone told me that the hotel I work in has heart. As we are trying to remodel it & keep up with the new hotels we still have a homey feeling. Just reminded me that people are striving for love & comfort. We can be as up to date as the new places, but if we forget old fashion customer service our business won’t last.
        It’s the same with in the church, the outside appearance & the people may bring new people in, but it’s how the feel once inside the church that counts. Personal relationships make the church strong.

        • Couldn’t agree more. In fact, the whole concept of branding, contrary to popular belief, is not the graphic representation of a place, but the emotional memories people draw from their experiences there. Thanks for bringing that up.

  • Michelle

    Actually I find the oppisite is true. People are hungry not for flashy, not for new, not for next, not for updated, people are hungry for relationship.

    I will gladly give all I have to the next church that says to those who are hurting, battered, ugly, crusty, addicted, foul, violent, whoring, exhausted, dying and diseased: “Hey, come and rest a while. Don’t worry, Jesus loves you, and we will walk with you from now to the grave. That’s right, we are here for you for the next fifty years. Through rehab, through divorce, through prison, through cancer, through your relapses and failures as well as your triumphs we will be here. Come and be His disciple with the rest of us who are beggars who have found bread from His table.”

    It’s not about leadership, though they can be important.
    It’s not about “the new look” though that’ll get the initial attention.

    It is about discipleship. Bleeding, weeping, crying and working with the broken and the lost and the hurting. It’s about a model that runs with every man woman and child active and engaged so that if the pastor leaves, they weep on his neck, bless him, and continue on so strong that you can’t tell really he is missing.

    That church, that body, that little Christ, is what will survive a 20 generation gap.

    I guarantee it. It’s the one that’s lasted over 2,000 years.

    • Michelle: couldn’t agree with you more. Unequivocally, irrevocably, the lost want the authentic. The legit. And we must meet those needs as Christ’s representation.

      My question here is, why did Jesus learn Aramaic?

  • nice. funny how some people think because you change the package, it means you change the product. look at Pepsi, same product for 70 plus years, and every couple years they change the slogan and the package.

    The gospel will never change, and is forever relevant, but we do need to be aware of how we present it, and be obedient to what god tells us. Heck, Isaiah went around naked for 3 years to get the point across. john the baptist, def out of the box, and Paul used Greek poetry. all different “brands” of the same message specifically designed by God for a particular audience.

    • Well said, indeed.

      Though it is worth noting Coca Cola did eventually take cocaine out of their recipe. Most likely good thing.

  • Hannah St.Croix

    Christopher I love it..the Same never works.. Evangelism to a 20 year old 50 years ago and to a one in present day is different. Your right the message is always the same but the language or the way that it is presented changes. Can’t expect to buy a PC and get the results of a MAC? 😉

    • Ha, nice Apple plug girly. Indeed.

      Speaking the language of the culture was Jesus’ m.o. Or else he would have landed speaking Queens English for sure! 😉

  • Jen

    And on that note I better get my but in gear….got a website and blog to fix and update!! Thanks for giving me a little push…I think I needed that!

  • Love this – great stuff!