I’m afraid of you. And I hate to admit it.
I was just talking about this concept earlier today. I’ve been teaching each Sunday morning for the past (nearly) four years within the church we started in that course of time. And some people from our church community and I were discussing that, in those early days of the first year, there was a boldness and confidence (authority, even?) in what I would say compared to today.
Today is much different. Over the past few months, I’ve begun to ask “Is everyone with me?” or “Are you tracking with this?” I’ve become leery of saying certain things in fear that someone might disagree, sorry to say, and uncomfortable in my own skin as someone called to speak truth to the culture around me.
I hate this. I feel it as soon as I ask it on a Sunday – the inner feeling of self-doubt and the verbal asking for some sort of security or validation. I might as well just interrupt the sermon with, “Do you still like me? Please don’t turn me off! I’m still a good guy. Anyone?”
I ran across a quote courtesy of Jeffrey Overstreet which I am including below which speaks to this and I immediately thought of my own insecurities and missing those days when I was a little less concerned about how I would come across and more concerned about the truth I needed to proclaim:
“Catering to fears of being misunderstood leaves you dependent upon your audience. In the simplest yet most daring scenario, ideas are diluted to what you imagine your audience can imagine, leading to work that is condescending, arrogant, or both. Worse yet, you discard your own highest vision in the process.” – Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland
I think this is true no matter if you are a painter, songwriter, storyteller, speaker, plumber, musician, salesman or cubicle-ite. There’s something that dies within us the moment we begin to think in terms of palatability for the audience – from the art we create to our Christian witness. Something within my own spirit dies when I reduce truth to something the audience wants to hear. Something within our own creativity dies when we edit the story or the song for a radio structure or store placement.
At the very least, I find it true for me. I need to forget any other audience and be true only to the greatest audience of one.
At least, I think so. Right? Anyone with me?
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.