Ray Pritchard is a very dear friend. God used Ray and Marlene in our lives when we were desperate to be restored because of wounds inflicted by the church. His book An Anchor for the Soul is my “go to” resource when I want to leave something with a person seeking a relationship with Jesus. So it was with some amusement (because I know him) and a lot of appreciation that I read these words on Ray’s weblog (Crosswalk.com). Ray was writing about my recent addition to the weblog fold at Crosswalk.
“Kudos to Dave Burchett for a stellar first week as the newest Crosswalk blogger. Dave is an accomplished author, an award winning sports TV director, and an extremely trenchant commentator on the issues of the day. Dave is an old friend, and I’ve always wanted to use the word “trenchant,” and now I’ve done it. Check him out. He’s says things we need to hear.”
Trenchant? Meaning number one according to dictionary.com is forceful, effective, and vigorous. Thanks Ray! But then I got to the second listing. Caustic and cutting. Wait a minute…which one did he mean? Since I am generally a glass half-full guy I will go with meaning one. Ignorance is bliss and there ain’t no more blissful guy than me.
It was an encouraging note from Ray that someone at my age (and his) could still be effective and maybe even worth hearing. That had been a concern recently. You see, when I passed 50 the advertising world, television executives, and marketing wizards put me out to pasture as no longer desirable. The gold standard in advertising has been the 18–49 year old demographic. CBS News ran a story about the rethinking of the value of that demographic. Here are some excerpts from that report.
The AARP began running magazine ads in an effort to draw attention to what it sees as demographic discrimination. “These days,” the ads say, “doctors don’t pronounce you dead, marketers do.”
“You’re either 18-to-49, or you’re dead to most marketers,” says Matt Thornhill, president of The Boomer Project, a marketing research and consulting firm in Richmond, Va. “You don’t exist. Or if you exist at all, you exist to wear denture adhesive or to drive a Cadillac. And that’s about it.” Marty Kaplan, media analyst and associate dean of USC’s Annenberg School of Communication, says that “some programs are positively 50-plus averse. If you have statistics that show you are watched by that demographic, it’s like kryptonite to advertisers. They don’t want to be uncool.”
Ouch. It is painful to think that some ad executive is distressed if uncool Dave watches his or her show. For the record, I welcome all age groups to buy my books. Your money is good with me!
CBS reporter Jerry Bowen noted that it’s long been the reality for those who make and sell commercials, based on the belief that the 18 to 49 year old population, some 120 million Americans, is where the money is. Advertisers also believe younger viewers are more impressionable, more susceptible to advertising, and more willing than their parents to try new things. But, Bowen points out, there is a growing body of evidence, study upon study, that indicates the business model of television is wrong; that if advertisers really want to reach consumers with the most money to spare and spend, they need to aim older. They need to go after the 77 million-strong baby boomer generation, more than half of whom are in their fifties.
Yes! Our wallets have overcome our lack of coolness! The reality is that the same discussion is going on at many churches. I have witnessed churches that were desperate to reach the younger and more hip demographic. But that strategy has some biblical shortcomings that merit discussion. I realize that churches need to understand their neighborhood. If you are surrounded by starter homes with young families that affects your programming and strategies. But I have not been able to find anywhere in Scripture where some demographic group is favored for the gospel or for the body of Christ. I can’t find in the Greek or Hebrew that a younger demographic makes for a more dynamic fellowship. Maybe a more attractive fellowship with a better softball team but not more dynamic. The body of Christ is all of us. And I would be deeply saddened if some church trends continue and it begins to generationally segregate our congregations. It may be inevitable. But something is lost in the body of Christ when the older men no longer mentor the younger men. And something is missing when the older women no longer teach the younger women.
But as for you, promote the kind of living that reflects right teaching. Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have strong faith and be filled with love and patience. Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord. They must not go around speaking evil of others and must not be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to take care of their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely in all they do Titus 2, NLT
Remember that this letter was written by Paul to the church at Crete. This was a “tough room” for ministry because of the reputation of the citizens. Cretan didn’t become a pejorative for nothing. Paul didn’t exactly pull his punch when he wrote these words. Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.” Imagine sending that letter today. (Insert group here) are always liars, evil brutes, lazy glutton. Whoa Nellie! Would we have a barnburner in the media! But Paul was pointing out the role of the older women to instruct the younger women in the faith.
The Apostle Peter said to “the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
The term elder would indicate an older, more mature believer who is charged with setting an example and caring for God’s people. That is what I fear is being lost in the search for new structural forms of worship. I have my issues with the corporate church. Boy do I. But that is the structure Jesus established for His followers. A church doesn’t have to be gigantic or fancy or high-tech or feature a slick Branson style production. But it does seem like the biblical model is to be cross-generational. I love the interaction with younger people. It challenges my thinking to reexamine issues that would not be on my 50 plus radar. It keeps me young. It challenges me to set the example that Peter challenged me to do. And it gives me the opportunity to offer the experience of living to younger men who are now heading down the same path. Will my telling how I misplaced priorities and worked too much make a difference in the life of a young husband? Can my exhortations to get involved in the lives of their children and celebrate that child’s unique design help? Who really knows. But there is no chance if the opportunity for interaction is removed.
I don’t really care about how I am viewed by the marketers of Madison Avenue. But I do think the marketers of the Message need to pray long and hard about elevating some demographics above others in the body of Christ. We are all in this journey together. Young and old. Rich and poor. Powerful and weak. And that it is by Divine design.