There are very few people in the world who like how they look. Many of us (including me) struggle with our opinion of our appearance affecting our self esteem. We believe we would be better if we could change our insert the particular flaw you hate here. I understand what you are going through… I always struggle with accepting my weight, no matter how much or little I weigh. What can I say – I love chocolate and despise the gym. One of my sisters was a beauty pageant queen and another is a physical trainer who owns several gyms – it’s hard not to compare myself. It always seems odd to me that my greatest struggles often occur when I weigh the least. The inability to accept how we look is not rational or logical, but it is real. It can definitely affect our ministry.
While I do not want to be insensitive to our struggles, today we are not talking about how fat, bald, short, skinny or generally ugly we are except in how our appearance relates to discovering the mission God has assigned you and your band to do. So, let’s try to set aside our struggles with our appearance for the moment and look as objectively as possible at some of the basics.
We must start by believing that for the most part God created to look like we do now. Obviously, there are things we can or could do to slightly change how we look (for example: I could lose weight and keep it off) but unless we get into very extensive plastic surgery our appearance is not going to radically change. So, we can take the basic characteristics of our appearance as clues to our mission.
It is also true that we most easily connect with and relate to people who are most like us. Missionaries have known for a long time that people coming in from another culture will always be less effective than indigenous people. That is why the most effective mission organizations usually send leaders from another culture to start the movement and then train indigenous people to do the primary missions work.
In the past Christian musicians targeted specific demographics. Most often we chose either the people who purchased the most music or a specific missions group. We changed our appearance and our music to reach those people. This was not a wrong method to use. Even Paul said that he became all things to all people. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Most of the time, the musicians who changed their appearance were doing it with really good motives: either to target a smaller group of people who were not being reached by church or to reach as may people as possible. The artists who wanted to reach as many people as possible attempted to support themselves primarily through music sales and labels. The artists attempting to connect with a smaller, largely unreached group attempted to fund their work primarily through self sacrifice and donations, much like missionaries.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s some of these musicians came more to the forefront of Christian music as more radical music styles became accepted in the secular music industry and Christian labels followed their lead. Many people were brought closer to Jesus as a result of this cultural shift in the availability of Christian music styles. But at the same time, many Christian musicians were viewed as less than genuine in either their faith or their culture – hence the consistent use of the word ‘poser’ (or ‘poseur’ for those of us with more sophisticated vocabularies) in reference to Christian musicians. Artists who tried to reach as many people as possible were accused of being all about the money. Artists who tried to reach smaller peoples groups were accused of copying a culture and even mimicking specific secular bands because they were not good enough make it on their own. Whether the accusations were true, partially true or not true at all the effect was the same; although there was a great impact, the full potential impact of Christian music ministry was diminished.
Today things are very different. Both technology and culture has changed. Mass market strategies are becoming less effective by the minute as people embrace words like local, connected, genuine, and original. We see the shift in everything from the kinds of food we want to purchase to the more minimal and sustainable lifestyles we want to live. People no longer buy music because a label sinks money into marketing an artist as the latest greatest cool phenomenon. We buy music because the songs and the artists’ story touch us somehow. So, today it is important that Christian musicians are honest, open and genuine in both their faith and their culture.
…and so, today, more than ever, we need to be who we truly are… with all our flaws and imperfections available for the world to see…
So let’s look at some of the ways our appearance can help us define our mission:
Yes, our race can help us define our mission but not in the way it did in the past. For the most part, we no longer live in a 1930’s white folk stay with white folk society. Now your race must be culturally relevant to, but not necessarily the same as, your target audience. Say for example that you want to minister to middle class Caucasian young professionals. Do you need to be Caucasian? Not necessarily. This particular group of people is receptive to many races and often is more intrigued by other cultures than their own. But now say your target audience is elderly Caucasians who live in the south. If you are any race that is not Caucasian, you probably are not going to be effective and should consider changing your target audience. We cannot change our ethnicity, but we can use our race to guide us to an appropriate target audience.
Height and Weight
Again, we’re not judging here. We are simply looking at how our height and weight relates to our target audience (which is a large part of defining our mission). If we are female and we do not have the body of a movie star or fashion model it’s OK. Recognize that your target audience is probably not Junior High girls. But, there are plenty of women who can identify with how you look and relate to how you feel about how you look – minister to them. If you are male and not built like a football player, don’t try to build a ministry around football players. If you are 110 pounds and 5’3” tall you might not have a ministry with bikers but horse jockeys might love you! Figure out which audience can best identify with you and minister to them.
Fashion and Style
This is one characteristic of how we look that can most easily be changed. But remember that we are no longer trying to fit into a certain culture by changing what we wear. We are using who we truly are to connect with and relate to other people. So, if you are going to change what you wear, change it to more accurately reflect who you are. In other words, use your outside appearance to help people see your heart. If anything we may want to exaggerate our style. Are you a geek? Go full on geek with your apparel and hair style. Are you a hippie at heart? Let’s see those bell bottoms and long hair. Your sense of fashion and style, when it reflects who you truly are, will enhance your story and help you connect with your target audience. If it does not, you need to change your target audience, not who you are.
Today’s fans expect musicians to be genuine, real people with interesting stories that relate to their lives and touch their hearts.
So, now there is no such thing as music ministers not having the “correct” appearance or look because there are millions of people who can no longer relate to or connect with what the music and fashion industries present. We no longer have to change ourselves to fit the music market. Now we have the freedom to be ourselves and identify the people who will most benefit from knowing us.
This is the fourth part of Defining Your Christian Bands Mission.
CLICK HERE to read Part One: Target Audience
CLICK HERE to read Part Two: Music Styles and Venues
CLICK HERE to read Part Three: Your Age
Next week we will look at how your story can help define your mission. Stay tuned – it’s going to be an encouraging post!