Engaging Culture

Change for the Next Generation

I’m reading “Velvet Elvis,” a book by Rob Bell. It’s a wonderfully eloquent book about the power of change, and the need for every generation to discover their own way of expression. As a pastor, he focuses the book on the Christian faith. But the principles work in any group – company, business, church, or religious organization. I’m faced with this challenge everytime an organization we consult with transitions to the next generation, or the time comes to re-energize a company with fresh, new branding or creative. Rob uses the illustration of an old velvet Elvis painting he found in his basement, and takes the perspective from the world of art:

“Here’s what happens: Somebody come along who has a fresh perspective on the Christian faith. People are inspired. A movement starts. Faith that was stale and dying is now alive. But then the pioneer of the movement – the painter – dies and the followers stop exploring. They mistakenly assume that their leader’s words were the last ones on the subject, and they freeze their leader’s words. They forget that as that innovator was doing his or her part to move things along, that person was merely taking part in the discussion that will go on forever. And so in their commitment to what so-and-so said and did, they end up freezing the faith.

What gets lost is the truth that whoever painted that version was just like us, searching for God and experiencing God and trying to get a handle on what the Christian faith looks like. And then a new generation comes along living in a new day and a new work, and they have to keep the tradition going or the previous paintings are going to end up in the basement.

The tradition then is painting, not making copies of the same painting over and over. The challenge of the art is to take what was great about the previous paintings, and incorporate that into new paintings.

And in the process, make something beautiful – for today.”

And here’s Rob’s key sentence about change: “It’s not that there isn’t any truth in it or that all the people before them were misguided or missed the point. It’s just that every generation has to ask the difficult questions of what it means to be a Christian here and now, in this place, at this time.”


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  1. Velvet Elvis is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. It really challenges your thoughts, beliefs, and even your purpose. I love the section where he asks if we would still be a follower of Christ even if evidence came up that Jesus was married and had children. Would it weaken our faith? Would it change our beliefs? Do we believe in and follow Christ only because it all "adds up" or because we each have had a personal experience with God?  It really makes you think…  

  2. Phil, this is probably the most impactful book I've read all year, infact, I've read it about 4 times over now. I keep finding new things I didn't the last time I read it. It will truly make you think. His new book, Sex God, is equally good and not exactly what you expect it to be by the title. I downloaded the audio of both of them from the iTunes Store, he reads them himself and they are a fantastic listen especially if you have a long car or plane commute coming up. 

    Royzoner is right, NOOMA, is outstanding in content and production quality. If you've never seen one, I suggest number 007: Luggage.

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