Much is often made of the primacy of place given to athletes, actors, and musicians in our culture, simply because they are able to score points, look cool, and, well… Conversely educators, carpenters, retirees, or even simply ‘moral’ people, are never placed into the spotlight for these characteristics. Cultural exegetes are right to say that this communicates our cultural values; we place more importance on ‘being cool’ than being wise, skilled, or having good character. In short, what we give attention to, what we spotlight, communicates what we value.
In the Church we continually spotlight communities, ministries, and leaders who have a large attendance and polished administration. These individuals are the speakers at conferences, they are the regional overseers within denominations. They are the authors we read, and the blogs we link to. We need to rethink this practice, and begin to choose what we highlight, in light of what is actually valuable, and what true indicators of the Kingdom’s presence are.
We must stop spotlighting people and ministries because of their size or polish! This merely reinforces the stereotype that Church is about large crowds, charismatic speakers, and anointed musical performances.
We must start spotlighting people and ministries because they faithfully articulate and practice the theology and praxis we see manifested in the Cross of the Messiah. We must highlight those ministries that successfully model the equipping role of leadership, that send out with no regard for ‘personal ministry success;’ that identify with the broken, and effect justice; that embrace the Cross.
To clarify, we don’t need to stop highlighting large ministries as a rule, we simply need to think critically about what we are trying to accomplish when we choose who and what we highlight, after all Jesus wouldn’t qualify for our spotlight! In beginning to spotlight (for example) churches that successfully send out Church planters instead of large Churches, we will communicate a value for Church planting that will result in a greater leveraging of the movements resources towards this value; moving it from a stated value to a lived value. The same is true for Churches that successfully reach multi-cultural populations, establish centers for artistic and cultural influence, etc.