I may have mentioned before my woodworking hobby. Yesterday I was in the hardware store picking up paint and shooting the breeze with the clerk while the colors blended. He started talking about his woodworking habit and quickly pictures were whipped out as we showed off our projects to each other. I have just finished making some box joints for a project. Most people appreciate the beauty of a box joint, but it was a pleasure to talk to someone that knew how difficult it is to make them well. There is a different level of appreciation when you know what is involved in accomplishing something.
On Friday the Chicago White Sox pulled off a rare enough triple play, but moreover it is the first 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play in major league history. Everybody thinks “cool.” But unless you know a thing or two about baseball, you cannot really appreciate the play. Buried in the middle of this quite odd sequence, and easy to miss, is the fact that after the tag at first, the player authoritatively throws the ball to home from his knees! Go ahead, try it, I dare you. That’s a lot of arm. The more you know, the more you appreciate something.
Because of this phenomena we often end up selling flash more than substance. Everybody understands when the ball goes through the hoop, but it takes knowledge, understanding, and perhaps even having tried it yourself a time or two, to appreciate the passing, picking, cutting and ball-handling necessary to run a stalling offense. And so basketball introduces the shot clock and we get all sorts of razzle-dazzle, but in the process a subtle beauty is lost.
We associate Beyoncé and her precursor group, Destiny’s Child, with big flashy shows and lost of flesh. But consider this performance from when they were very young.
With musical talent like that why do we need flesh and flash? The first time I ever heard that it was purely auditory and it moved me to tears. It makes me sad to see her videos that so obviously sell her beauty if not just her sexuality; I long for the musical beauty of something like this video. Think about the last Super Bowl halftime, would you have a clue Beyoncé had the kind of talent illustrated in this video from that performance?
Sometimes I think the reason the church has lost it’s way so much is that we spend a lot of time and energy on developing the flash and forget the deep beauty of our message. Paul says in First Corinthians:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
If we encourage people to faith with flash (“wisdom of men”) then their faith rests on a weak foundation. Many would respond that the fundamentals have to be strong for the flash to work. Maybe, but have you tired coaching basketball lately? It’s pretty hard to get a kid to focus on picking and passing when all he sees his “heroes” do is shoot threes or jam.
True faith in Christ is so beautiful that the flash gets in the way. That is unless we are not sufficiently rooted in Christ ourselves and the flash is all we really have to sell. Sure, like the box joint or the triple play, people may not fully get it, but if we do our own faith well, they will know it is somehow good.
So maybe instead of working on the flash we need to work on the substance. It might just change the world.