Scrutiny and Responsibility
I just wrote a sentence and then immediately erased it. Let me explain why. First, here is the sentence:
"I want to have a wider audience."
That statement is prideful, narrow-minded, short-sighted and ridiculous. Here's why. I work for a great organization. God has chosen to bless Student Life and its ministry for many years. Even in moments of trials for us or where we might wonder if we have any idea where we are going or what we are doing, God has been faithful to continue us as a tool to further His kingdom. We will host something like maybe 80,000 students total at our events this year (I'm actually not real sure what the estimate is) and then we have a few thousand churches using our Bible study. We, as a general, non-written rule, don't really like to talk about numbers outside the walls of our building, but here's why I mention them. I have been personally blessed to have the opportunity to have my hands in almost everything we do around here. For that reason, I have a pretty big audience.
So, what do I mean when I almost make a statement like "I want to have a wider audience." I mean a few different things, some of them noble, some of them not.
1. I want to have a more diverse audience. Our audience is almost chiefly from the United States. It is also largely made up of upper middle class, suburban, white kids. I have complained about that before, but I have found that to be fruitless. There's nothing wrong with that fact. There are just times that I hope to be able to expand that scope.
2. I want my current audience to grow. I want to be able to reach more people, pure and simple. You question whether my motives for wanting that are all good, but I assure you most of them are.
3. The vast majority of "my" current audience has no idea who I am. So, when I say "I want to have a wider audience," I mean that I want to have an audience that recognizes what I have to say. Now, some of my motives for wanting that are certainly prideful, but others are not. I believe God has purposed some messages in me to deliver. I want to be a good steward of that.
4. I want to have an audience that is more easily connected. The audience at Student Life is made up of youth groups. Members of youth groups are connected to other members of their particular group yet are rarely connected to members of other youth groups, at least not in very meaningful ways with regards to the content we present. However, people who all like John Piper or Brennan Manning or Passion or Hillsong United inherently have something in common that unites them to each other. They speak a common language and often do so. For some reason, that is not as readily apparent in our current audience. It might be true amongst some of the youth ministers and even fewer of the students, but it is definitely the exception and not the rule.
5. I want to have an audience that's not so Baptist. I carry a lot of baggage about the Baptists (the Southern flavor), and some of it I should just get over. But, man, I get tired of all the Baptist stuff. Other denominations certainly don't have their act together either, and I'm definitely not favoring one over another. What I do want, I guess, is a more equal opportunity audience where groups are challenging each other rather than one frame of thought dominating the conversation. Within Student Life I think we have that at times. Our audience just doesn't always reflect that.
So, I want to have a wider audience but I also recognize that's a ridiculous thing to say. However, in order to begin trying to accomplish that and to just present new challenges to myself and broaden my horizons a little bit, I've written a book. I should say Student Life has been gracious enough to allow me to write a book they will publish. It's a small devotional book, part of a line we're going to start producing called 31 Verses Every Student Should Know About... Mine is on the Way, our camp theme, and, incidentally, what the movement of Christ was initially called in the book of Acts.
This isn't the type of book I always dreamt and envisioned myself writing, but it's a start. And I've actually really enjoyed doing it. And I'm kinda proud of it.
And, yes, my name will be on it, which means I'll get some credit (though I certainly don't deserve all of it). For this reason, I recognize that I am opening myself up to more scrutiny. People want certain things out of their outspoken Christian brethren. In fact, many times, they can demand perfection. Now, you all know that I am certainly anything but perfect. However, I want to accept this responsibility, the responsibility of trying to reach a wider audience. I want to embark on this next stage of my life (because for some reason I feel like this is somewhat of a turning point for me; whether or not I'm correct is yet to be seen) and live up to as many expectations as I can.
For this reason I will no longer use symbols like "@#$%" to express my frustration or the words they stand for unless absolutely necessary, and then, I will probably delete them out of guilt, like I have done below.