Twenty five years ago America was obsessed with the most publicized criminal trial in United States history. On trial was the former Heisman Trophy honoree and running back for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, #32, O.J. Simpson. “OJ” was accused of the double-murder of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
With warrant in hand the police searched for OJ and his vehicle, a white 1993 Ford Bronco. Businessmen, housewives and school-kids were all on the look-out for OJ and his car. Some took-up positions on highway overpasses waiting for the Bronco to go by. News helicopters searched the streets broadcasting possible sightings live. If you happened to own a white Bronco yourself there was a very good chance people would give you a wary eye if you drove by. There was a good chance someone would call the police on you.
I empathize with the motorist whose white bronco is pictured above. Why? Because like the Bronco owner I too am looked at suspiciously, especially in church. Maybe you sometimes feel like you are as well?
Let’s look at the circumstantial evidence against us:
• I wear black and rarely get dressed up when going to church, even on holidays. We often look like we work at Panera Bread more than we serve at church.
• I don’t carry a Bible, at least not a paper one and everyone knows that mature Christians don’t use tablet computers or smart phones in church because it looks too much like they’re playing games or checking Facebook during the sermon.
• Most congregants have no idea what we do. Unlike an usher or a sunday school teacher, parking lot attendant or a building maintenance person, congregants and even some church staff rarely see us doing that what it is we do. If we are doing our job well, often no one notices. Some people know my face from passing me in the hallways, but that’s about it. The fact many of us are introverts doesn’t help.
• I am a Tech Artist. Those in the church that actually know what I do are often suspicious of “the media,” “arts” and “technical artists.” For many years now the predominant view in the U.S. Evangelical church is “the world, and everything in it is sinful.” The world after all is influenced by culture. Culture is influenced by media and the arts. The arts are created by artists. Therefore artists, the arts and culture are suspect. And we know “the media” is against Christians and Christianity.
Have you ever felt this suspicion? I have. It’s palpable.
So how should a tech artist respond? How do we build trust with leadership and congregants in the church? Here are some thoughts:
OK, I am warning you now that you may not be impressed by my first suggestion, but if we as tech artists want to be trusted the first step is…
• Be trustworthy. Yes, that’s it! Not very profound, huh? Trust is rarely offered unconditionally. It is earned and it can be lost. Trust must be proven. Our faithfulness and dependability confirms our trustworthiness. There is no substitution. Consider that no one can be tested without first being offered a small degree of unearned trust. Honor the risk people take in you.
• Technical Artists must work hard and be very intentional about verbalizing that which we intend on doing. Communication can eliminate false assumptions and misunderstandings. Verbally repeat back to leadership your understanding of their stated priorities, how you plan to accomplish the task and how you intend to include the person in leadership in your planning. Make sure there is buy-in on all these points.
• Don’t solely say trustworthy things, but be seen living trust-worthily. Even Jesus told the Jews in the temple courts “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father” (John 10:37 NIV). It’s interesting that Jesus did not demand trust based on His words or divine-position without His actions backing up what he said (John 10:25). We would be wise to consider what the Apostle John wrote, “… let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). The more your actions match your words the more trust others will have in you.
• Be known as someone who seeks to speak honestly and in love. This is a tough one for me. I am naturally honest (sometimes blunt, to a fault), but “speaking in love” takes work for me. While blunt I also often despise confrontation, especially if someone over me is (in my opinion) making a mistake. Consider that for someone to trust you they must become vulnerable to the possibility of being hurt by you. The Apostle Paul said, “we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ…” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV). That should be our goal!
• Live in the present. When we keep track of each occasion when trust has unjustifiably being kept from us we drag the past into the present. Scorekeeping always serves to magnify a situation beyond reality.
• It takes time. Time is the dominant factor in developing and strengthening trust. Don’t expect an overnight change of attitude from those that are suspicious of you. Look for as many opportunities as possible to match your words with your behavior and be mindful of your peers and leadership’s attempts to do the same.
Tom D’Angelo has worked in television production and AVL corporate theater for nearly four decades. He is Emmy Award nominated (Best Director category, Mid-Atlantic) and has been part of various teams nominated or winning national Emmys. As the Media Director at a megachurch in the 1980’s he developed a love for the Church and church performing and technical artists.