Identity Quest

Got an interesting tweet from Charles Harrison yesterday.  It said simply “Len Sweet is onto something.” I asked for more info – what I already know of Len Sweet, if he is onto something, it is worth knowing.

At a training event at FUMC Richardson, Sweet set out some interesting comparisons between what we as Jesus’ followers have tended to be about and what we ought to be about.

I will likely discuss others later, but the one that has my head spinning right now (and since yesterday morning I’ve not been able to fully dislodge from my awareness) is

Image-Giver v. Wordsmith

I am, I would like to have thought, a wordsmith.  I’m good with words.  I craft them together carefully, mindful of many of the sources I’ve read, listened to, and watched over the past 30+ years.  In the past decade or so, I have also been increasingly aware of the changes in my own thoughts and understandings.

But now I’ve got to work in other directions.  Sweet wrote this recently, as posted on the United Methodist Portal:

Too often, he said, the church has clung to familiar ways of communicating that have worked well in the past—developing mission statements, perfecting documents and following parliamentary procedure.

Meanwhile, young people have moved on to more interactive faith communities where they connect through simultaneous use of digital images and sounds.

“Advertisers don’t spend billions to give you words—they give you images. Why are you not coming up with an image statement?” he asked church communicators….

Young people see spiritual content in a different way than past generations, he said. When he travels the lecture circuit now, young people often ask to meet with him ahead of time rather than sit through a prepared address. That’s because while information is so readily available online, what they lack is face-to-face time.

I still like that I’m good with words.  Now, however, this isn’t good enough.  I have to become more image-conscious in that I want to, even have to, find ways to use images, still and moving, that help communicate the things I beleive God has brought me to understand.

Charles Harrison blogs here.

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3 thoughts on “Identity Quest

  1. This post on image vs. word reminds me of my visit to Lorenzo Chapel in Santa Fe. The Stations of the Cross were explained as an alternative to the written Scripture for illiterate people(s). In fact, the whole Catholic and Orthodox traditions of iconography have been intended to provide ‘touchstones” to remind believers of truths originally transmitted via the word.

    Of course, those of us in the Protestant tradition have vehemently championed Word vs. Image. My understanding is that Orthodox Judaism does the same.

    I’m sick to death of image. The other night, when I saw you in person for the first time in probably 15 years, I admit I was embarrassed that I was wearing a worn-out cord shirt and the jeans that my daughter says are dorky … but the truth is, my image never amounts to much anyway. And how much better to visit with you and introduce you to our kids than to only see friends when my image is in place!

    Yes, the young folks are used to flash and glitz, and it can keep their attention for a season. I’m not sure it’s the portal to substantive life transformation.

    Remember the story, when Elijah was running from Jezebel, holed up in a cave … there was a thunderstorm, an earthquake (natural equivalents of glitz, I think) but God was in the still small voice.

    Then again, after this entire post, I do have to consider that I have deliberately NOT taken any responsibility for building churches (with the exception of being salt and light in the world).

  2. The IMAGE is certainly a juggernaut. Images rev us up and control us. It seems only logical to jump on the image creating / manipulating / using bandwagon. My take though, is that the emphasis on IMAGE may be more expressive of late modernity than incipient post-modernity. Now the face – to -face relating – THAT goes beyond image.

    It also makes some difference what we have in mind when we talk about image. If what we have in mind is the static and timeless, I think we’ll go astray for sure. But if we have moving images, we have better chances.

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