We all think through a particular frame of reference as we live life and encounter new experiences. For some of us, our frame of reference is a relationship with Jesus Christ and, therefore, we filter (or at least compare) all that we see and hear through the teachings of Jesus. For many of us, our frame of reference is the teaching and modeling of our parents or other figures of authority with whom we have been in relationship throughout our lives.
I try to spend time with people who are disconnected from God and the church on a regular basis. There are several reasons why I make this a priority in my life. First of all, people who are unchurched tend to be a lot of fun. Also, people who are unchurched are more authentic, because they have not yet been trained by the church to hide their struggles, their faults, and their defects. Of course there are people in the church who are a load of fun and truly authentic.
It is also very easy to become insulated by insiders. I lose my perspective of an outsider when I am not making space in my life to spend time with those on the outside. And, despite what most people think, the insider and the disconnected are not all that different. After all, we both have God’s image stamped on us, rather we acknowledge it or not. If nothing else, we share the same creator.
Now let me return from that massive tangent. As I have spent time with younger unchurched generations, I have noticed an interesting frame of reference: celebrity life. In a culture full of reality television stars and a celebration of mass media, more and more people are interpreting or gaining understanding of their experiences through what they see in the lives of celebrities.
Perhaps some examples would be helpful. Do you have a friend who has recently had a child? If that friend and her friends are not connected to church in a meaningful way, good luck not hearing someone reference Beyonce remodeling an entire floor of a hospital or Courtney Kardashian reaching over to pull her own baby out during childbirth. Then there’s Will and Kate.
The next time you are dancing (I, of course, would never dance–what a total sin!), good luck not having someone compare your twerk with that of Miley Cyrus or claiming to reserve you a spot on next season’s Dancing With The Stars.
Has it always been like this? Have all generations used celebrity life as a key frame of reference or has today’s media, technology, and access created a new reality? By the way, there is no judgement here. This is simply an observation. Actually I am wondering how the church can even leverage this concept for the sake of speaking into people’s lives. Any suggestions? And in full disclosure, when I was younger, I never missed an episode of The Real World.