Last night I went to a presentation by Brainard Carey, who talked about making a living as an artist; I wrote about it in more detail in this post on my creativity blog.
I was struck by how much of what he said could apply to churches too.
He began by asking why do we, as artists, check our success at certain levels? He says the only thing holding us back is ourselves. In other words, we've got a lot of self-defeating behaviors, and many of them are unconscious. If we could control that behavior, all sorts of success would follow.
I've noticed that churches have a lot of self-defeating behaviors too. We cling to doing what we've always done, even if we've lost sight of why we do it or whether or not anyone finds it meaningful or relevant or even fun. We watch our members grow old and wonder why younger people no longer come to church.
Brainard Carey talked about artists who need to learn to speak in the language of financiers, if we want to find a patron. Likewise, the old church language may not work. People might ask us why they should come to church. What do we say?
Too many people talk about getting to Heaven. But frankly, that's not very motivating. We can't control our addictions, even when they destroy our lives. Why would we expect that life after death would be compelling? The idea of life enhancing behaviors during life is rarely motivating.
Brainard talked about artists who approached rich people not by asking for money, but by describing their project, saying "This is our dream," and then asking, "Have you ever thought of investing in a dream?"
What if we talked about the dreams of God for our lives and for all of life on earth? Would non-churched people invest in that dream? Can we describe it so vividly that people want to be part of it?
Over and over again, Brainard Carey reminded us of the value of asking for what we want and need. If you want a show, ask for one. If you need an audience with a mover in the industry, invite that person to coffee near where the person works or for 10 minutes in a cafe in the building. He understands how we're afraid of rejection, which makes us afraid to ask, but he assures us that we will be astonished at often the answer will be yes.
With our members, I've noticed that church leadership can be hesitant to ask people to work on projects, much less lead them to fruition. And then we wonder why we're so burned out. The same is likely true of working with people in other institutions.
And in a corollary command, Carey warned us about underselling ourselves, which artists tend to do. He reminds us to ask for the moon.
What would happen if churches asked for more? What if we told members what it really would take to create the church communities we want to have?
We worry that people would run away in horror. But maybe they'd commit more fully.
If you live in Southeast Florida, you've still got one more chance to hear Brainard Carey: he'll be speaking tonight at Girls' Club Gallery (117 NE 2nd Street in Ft. Lauderdale)at 7 p.m.
pause for silent prayer
6 months ago