Recently I stumbled upon a tension that I think is underneath a lot of conflict in the modern church’s past, present, and future. It?s a tension that I think wise, devoted church leaders find themselves on opposite sides of:?
Is style connected to identity … or not?
Think about that question. Think about what it means for you personally in terms of who you are and the way you present yourself to the world. Think about what it means for your church and the way you express your identity as a community. Is style connected to identity? Can you make a significant change to your style without a corresponding change to your identity? Or vice versa?
Can your senior pastor change his style from “Dave Ramsey starter kit” to “lead singer of the Lumineers” without also changing his identity from conservative baby boomer to artistic hipster? And if he can, should he?
Can your church change your style from urban startup minimalism to suburban megachurch maximalism without also fundamentally changing your identity from simple, connection-oriented community to spectacular, attraction-oriented event? Is it even possible to enact a style shift like that without a resulting shift in identity? And if you can, should you? Would it be wise? Would it be honest? Would it be good?
I haven?t finalized my answers to these questions ? yet ? but my views are forming as I write, think, and pray about all this.?
And obviously, semantics are a huge part of this conversation, but I don’t really have the space to define my terms right now. I’m content to say you’ll get the gist of what I’m driving at the next someone proposes a style change that you feel is out of sync with your or your organization’s identity. Or maybe you?ll be the one proposing the style change and someone else will protest under the banner of identity. Either way, you?ll feel the tension I mentioned at the top of this post.?
So, is style connected to identity … or not?