Imagine you’re staying in a nice hotel. You walk through the lobby, step into the elevator, and push the button for the 24th floor. Just before the doors close, another guest hops in and pushes the 25. You look up and realize it’s one of your favorite writers — for the sake of this exercise, let’s say it’s Malcolm Gladwell. You have 24 floors’ worth of time to make small talk with him, if you so choose. A question comes to mind and you think it’s a good one:
“Excuse me, Mr. Gladwell … I’m a big fan of your writing and I wondered, what are you reading these days?”
What a great question! He’ll probably recommend something brilliant and under-the-radar. He’ll probably recommend a book that will change the way you see the world and, in so doing, will catapult you to new heights of intelligence, congeniality, and success. But imagine how disappointed and confused you’d be if this was the response you received:
“Oh, thank you. Let’s see, what am I reading? Hmm. To tell you the truth, I’m not much of a reader — I much prefer the Monday night comedy lineup on CBS. But if it’s a book you’re after, well, I do see those Hunger Games books everywhere, so maybe start there.”
Oh. Well then.
Obviously, that conversation would never happen. Malcolm Gladwell is a great writer and a great reader. When Gladwell writes or speaks, it’s evident that he’s a thoughtful consumer of his chosen medium of creation. The same can be said for great artists who work in film, graphic design, architecture, painting, sculpture, music, and so on.
You’ll never find a great songwriter who doesn’t love music or who only listens to her own records. Rather, the more I hear my favorite musicians talk about music, the more I’m convinced that they love and appreciate music with more passion and depth than I do.
So, with all that in mind, I’d like to talk to all of you who work at a church. How long has it been since you listened to something other than your own records? In other words, how long has it been since you visited another church so you can do a little pew research? (Terrible pun intended. Always.) I’m not talking about attending a conference, convention, camp, or retreat. I’m talking about visiting another church so that you can worship and observe.
If you preach most Sundays, how long has it been since you visited another church in order to see how they connect the message with the music, readings, media, and other elements?
If you’re a youth pastor, how long has it been since you sat in on another youth group’s midweek Bible study in order to see how they creatively engage kids with the gospel?
If you’re a worship leader, how long has it been since you’ve stood with the crowd and tried to follow along with the slides and the repeating choruses and the forced hand-clapping?
If you’re a video director, how long has it been since you’ve seen someone else’s approach to IMAG and transitions and so on?
If you’re a service programmer, how long has it been since you sat through someone else’s announcements, then stood up for the greeting, then sat down for a video, then stood up for a reading, then sat down for the offering, then stood up for some singing?
Most of us work within a medium or a concentrated set of media, and I think we ought to thoughtfully consume our chosen medium. I think we’ll benefit from the rest, the perspective, and the ideas.
What do you think? Is this something you’re already doing? Is it something you’re willing to try? Is it the dumbest idea you’ve ever heard? Let me know. In the meantime, I’ll be thoughtfully consuming my chosen medium of creation (that’s code for “I’ll be checking tweets and blogs”).