Los Angeles, Orange County and Southwest England all have in common this explicit truth in Design: demanding response. I suspect that it’s not just here, but probably is a prominent feature in each of our contemporary, metro-modern lives. Whether demanded by commercials on TV or web-ads, it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure out that the goal of modern marketing is to elicit our precious responses — even if that response looks something more like road-rage or pop-up frustration. Sure, this Design-and-Response model is always looming overhead in everyday life, but does it correlate with how we understand God’s ultimate design: ourselves?
- The Protein of Response
- Limited Edition Life
- Analysing our own Designs
- I’m a RAZR ad
- Self-Obsession or Essential Discovery
- The Responsibility of Personal Design
- Understanding our Design’s Deep Intentions
- Re-opening the case of our Great Commission
- Using your Design to elicit Response
- Discovery D.I.Y.
In effect, our ‘responses’ to these ads are what sustain the ‘bodies’ of web & TV networks at all. Even crazy statements like “Must I have that new Dolce & Gabbana RAZR?” and “will I trade in my put-put for a Benz at this weekend’s once-in-a-lifetime sale?” can easily become the new obvious questions. We respond to these all day long– usually on impulse. With response being the sustenance of these ‘design-bodies’, it becomes vital, and without it the flow of blood through web & TV veins would be arrested in a response-deficiency heart-attack.
This response is vital to humankind in a similar way. In any socio-economic model, you can easily see distilled versions of this back-and-forth interaction: Bob the greengrocer posts a sign about his new batch of tomatoes (design), Sally purchases a tomato (response) and uses the tomato in dad’s salsa recipe that night (design) when John comments about how great it is (response).
And the rubber meets the road: As Christians in arts & media uncovering new ways to be light in our industries, we’re accustomed to analysing our own responses to the demands of Design. And as we meet together in prayer and fellowship, we understand it even more comprehensively when learning from each-other’s experiences. We therefore look at our own responses to everyday design in order to understand which ones are appropriate for us to expect from our audiences.
God has a history of Designing for Response. He has created us each specifically and by His own Creative hand as illustrated in Isaiah 44:24 “Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself…”
In Romans 1:20 Paul writes, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse…” In this last verse, Paul’s examination of God’s design-process reveals that God’s Creation clearly demands a response. Being the most cherished creations as understood from Matthew 6:30 “…if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you…”, we are also Designed for Response.
God’s purpose for us, from the beginning, is to realise His Glory and amazing Love, and He created the whole thing to be unique. Just look at the duck-billed platypus, ostrich or plesiosaur — it’s apparent that God isn’t into production-line economization when it comes to His creations. He’s into what I call ‘limited-edition life’. And if we’re more precious to Him than the rest of His (already Limited-Edish) Creation (Matt 6:27), then we shouldn’t be surprised if we’re exponentially more ‘diverse, and individually designed’ than that!
It’s true: we’re one-offs. We’re the job the mass-producer cringes at because it takes so much work to do ‘just one’. But God chose that fine ‘one-off’ approach in creating each of us so He could have us exactly as He wanted — perfectly unique (and uniquely effective) in our own Designs. It’s indisputable that God has designed us each individually to work in different areas toward His universal goal of ‘realising Jesus’ in our world.
What happens if we look at this on a wider scale? We can see this one-off approach in many other areas of life, and see how it continues to carry a sense of character and value. It’s no accident– Take some of the most renowned shopping areas in the world: Harrod’s in London, SoHo NYC or the Jeweller’s District in LA and you’ll notice the most valuable items are the ones that are hand-made, or at least one-of-a-kind. There’s inherent value in uniqueness… the diamonds, furniture and clothes found in these fancy places are all good examples. Do we see ourselves as being unique, hand-made or valuable like these items? We, in-fact are even more valuable.
Just as the desired response of an advertisement drives its initial design, our designs are also based upon the purposes we’re made for. We all agree that we (cumulative) were made for God’s purposes (plural), but it could be more accurate in saying that each (singular) of us is made for His purpose (singular) in the sense of evangelism and our ‘calling’, which is – as it relates to us more personally – to elicit the specific response. Similarly, we can assume the desired response of Motorola’s Dolce & Gabbana RAZR ad is to stimulate a desire for either the phone or status it represents, ultimately ending in a purchase that, without the ad, would never have happened. We are equally designed to elicit a response, but ours ultimately ends in people seeing a clear image of Jesus.
Yes, you’re a RAZR ad. *sarcasm* No, of course you’re not! Just so we can rest a bit easier, let’s take a look at the difference between us and them: One is that after the agency posts that ad to placement, they sit back, collect the cash and never think twice about it — moving to the next project. We, however, have the fortunate distinction of our ‘Designer’ continuing on the journey with us to make sure we’re realising our full potential — that we’re being His Living Design the way He meant. He’s our helper whose focus is to assist & direct us on a path that, while tailored to our unique designs, does embody the full potential of that design… rendering us nothing but effectively eliciting response.
Even Jesus himself, being resurrected and during His impartation of the Great Commission says “…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20). Another main ‘feature’ of our designs is that because of this ‘Holy Spirit integration’, our designs become in a sense, quite dynamic. We can grown into our designs – unlike the RAZR ad, which can only ever be used for one purpose. In this article, however, I’ll be focusing mainly on that which we are ‘naturally’ inclined / designed towards… such as the following:
Though my obvious design-feature is graphic-design, my artistic ‘first love’ is poetry. So that lands me in a specific place, right? Some Christian poetry group? Well, no. Because my poetry is hard to categorise, I have a really hard time moving forward with it. It’s not user-friendly and it’s even less Christian. So I have these obstacles… whether it’s getting published or even just performing at some open-mic. But even though myself and others find it hard to categorise, God has used it in ways that only He could.
Rather than trying to change my writing-style into something more ‘normal’ or categorical, the Spirit has lead me deeper into that unique aspect of my ‘design’. Thanks to God for His guiding Spirit, a love for poetry which was never there before has been grown. God has used some of the poems to encourage others; as topics that I’ve discussed with people, or just in lifting me up in a rough time!
In experiencing this ‘specialised involvement’ we enjoy, I realise that God is not running a people-assembly-line. Rather, He is Thee Master Craftsman with the best tech-support the world has to offer. Grasping this very point is a huge milestone of discovery in our understanding of the nature of God.
Since we know that when we vow our lives to Christ, we submit our lives to His purpose – realising or reestablishing our initial, original design(s). We then begin the journey toward working with Him to perfect that design — maybe that means improving it with Him, or just realising it. What self-obsession!, you say? Check this out: consider Psalm 139:13-14, in which David says “…thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” in which David completely surpasses any notion of self-obsession to focus solely on the powerful, creative force which is inherently within even himself, by creation. David praises God for making him “wonderfully”.
It’s true we must not be self-obsessed, but as today’s Christians we have a drastic tendency to over-compensate for that potential selfishness which could lead us too far to the right, effectively overlooking the uniqueness and specific purposes for which God has designed each of us. Let us take the stand of David and not miss out on the fullness of God’s original design of ourselves — not in order to glorify ourselves, but to live out the commitment of advancing His Kingdom, and in humble acceptance and praise of His will for ourselves. After all, just as the RAZR ads are the tools of the agency, we are God’s primary tools. And that, not be our choice, but by His own!
Since I’m designed for a specific response, am I therefore perfectly equipped to elicit that response? Not necessarily. In my case, I’ll probably be on a lifelong journey of growing in my poetry. I may not be experienced enough to minister to a Jack Kerouac through the ‘poetic’ aspect of my design, but perhaps God will grow me in that direction. In the meantime, I find myself quite happy with the way the Spirit leads me… perfectly challenging and strategically planning my next poetic growth-spurt. And I think we can rest assured that He knows exactly how He wants to grow his Designs. Of course, this is all assuming we’re in-step with Him… which brings me to ask a question:
To what end does the response benefit?
It’s easy to find ways to exploit it for personal gain or even for wrong-doing. I’d find it equally possible to gain fame or to bless with humble love in exercising my ‘Design’. We’re all familiar with Paul’s exhortation in 1Cor. 3:13 “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
When you think about the way you were designed, can you imagine how you might wrongly exploit your design? Ministering in the arts & media industries, we do well to recognise the dangers of self-deceit that each of us face. Some of these dangers are the very reason we tend to overcompensate for our selfish tendencies. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Jesus, it’s the wisdom of balance.
So equally, we must move forward with a bold faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s resurrection and the faithful Spirit’s lead. Once we’re there – Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Pro. 3:5) – we’re prepared to ask the right questions:
How can we exploit the strengths and character of our design to elicit the right responses for The Kingdom?
We are God’s own design-for-response. We’re the living advertisement of His amazing riches of Grace. We’re the beacon on the hill, proudly proclaiming His good news. But we already know this, right? Yes– we know our job-descriptions, but are we very familiar about how and why we got the job in the first place? We’ve gotten the job because of God’s love toward us in His ‘good pleasure’. Good enough for me, rock on. Consequently, we were designed “fearfully and wonderfully”, each to a specific area of expertise– just as the niche roles we fill in the media industries.
In trying to advertise this new phone, placing another phone-model into the RAZR ad would be counter-productive. But they also wouldn’t make some generic ad and use it for their whole product-line– it’s not specific enough to push this new Dolce & Gabbana model. Just as the ad will specifically be designed to sell the Dolce & Gabbana RAZR (eliciting a specific response), our designs will naturally reveal their intended responses. We must carefully consider the wisdom from Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Durden in Fight Club: “Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” We call relate to that in some way, perhaps. But apparently if it’s white, has feathers and goes cluck it probably is a chicken – quoting the famous Rickster.
Without getting too carried away now, I’ve been writing poetry since I was thirteen, and (reportedly) drawing from three-and-a-half. And though mom always told me I’d be an architect, I ended up wowing her with The Big GD (careful, now): Graphic Design, and an unofficial emphasis on poetry. But the funny thing is, the more I explore forms of design, the more I find myself being strongly attracted to illustration, product design, furniture design (per the Swedish blood) and even web design! Could it be the Spirit helping me to realise my original design? Or maybe mom’s just been busy ‘binding things in Heaven’. (Mat. 18:18)
As if that wasn’t enough, look at my
fiancé wife Ruth, who grew up reciting Welsh poems to whole-family audiences, winning international debating competitions and dreaming of being on the silver-screen in all its hair-flipping glory. Now that she’s all grown up we find her speaking at large conferences, being an associate pastor at an almost-mega-church while making cameos elsewhere and regularly hosting sets of widely distributed church-resource DVDs and even showing up in the papers! Who knew?..
It seems that some of us are pretty easy to find out our designs, but I begin to recognise a pattern: the things we love are where our hearts are at. And if our hearts are stayed on Christ, we’re probably doing what we should be.
If we are to understand that maybe our job-description of ‘teaching, baptising and discipleship’ isn’t as general as we initially thought, then we must fully grasp the reason for such a shift in our seemingly one-size-fits-all understanding of our calling as The Body of Christ in arts & media.
After Jesus’ resurrection, He met with his disciples and told them “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:19-20)
Understanding these verses within the context of our creative designs brings the Great Commission into a whole new light. It’s interesting to analyse the different roles each apostle played – Jesus using them each to their strengths and sometimes challenging weaknesses, (seemingly in order to build faith) such as Moses’ speaking deficiency (Exo. 4), which things we must bear in mind. It remains that our found-in-Christ and simultaneously unique designs must be realised like discovering a rare jigsaw-puzzle under the gigantic Weight of Generalisation. Let’s take time to balance ourselves from learning about the definitions of being a Christian toward practicing a spirit-sensitive familiarity of our own individual designs. Aspiring to the contemporary description of Being a Christian isn’t enough– we must each be intimately familiar with our own designs.
Once we have a good grasp on our own designs, we can exercise them for response. I think one reason God built us each so differently is to fill the varying needs that make up the Great Commission. For instance, I am very well-suited to ministering to someone who’s interested in poetry, graphic-design or even rollerblading. I can relate to them on their level, and I can understand what they mean when talking because we live in overlapping ‘spheres’. We see thousands of spheres where different people need to be reached, sometimes passing through that vast interweaving net ourselves. Someone who may be designed toward foreign missionary work may not be great at meeting a newcomer on Sunday morning, but they would do well to try. Someone designed toward pastorship may not be the best candidate for chatting with a skater about God, but they would do well to try. We’re familiar with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 regarding the gifts and distributions thereof, maybe re-read it sometime.
Paul commands that “…there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment…” (1 Cor. 1:10) God’s intention for His creation unfolds to reveal that, though we’re designed as unique individuals, we are also designed as a whole to make up the Body of Christ. We see this well at work in the early church of Acts and described in 1 Corinthians 12:18-20 “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.”
I find myself having a hard time pulling my mindset onto some unknown, uber-objective planet where people still wear gecko pants and use pagers and think like Albert Einstein. It just doesn’t seem normal to think of myself as a unique design – even being American, where self-esteem is largely encouraged and equally misunderstood. But one thing I can relate to is the way the Spirit has led me to place my identity in Jesus. Being the basis for my own identity to rest on, I’m startled at the new discoveries and points we cover together. It’s a fun ride, and even though I can understand where Tyler Durden is coming from in saying that “..self-improvement is masturbation”, I consider what things I might not have known about God’s character if I never embarked upon this journey of understanding the way He made me. It makes me wonder why we’re so scared of looking at ourselves sometimes. We’re not perfect, but God is, so we can bank on His designs being worth a second look. We can learn to trust Him with His design-ability. When was the last time you considered what God thinks of you? Thanks, God, that I’m not an indentikit project, but that I’m loved.