A marketing guy at Rocketown Records wrote my first bio. It began:
The first thing you notice about Shaun Groves will probably be his hair. It’s not that it’s particularly wild or strange, but it’s the kind of hair that makes you think, This guy is different, maybe a painter, maybe a musician, but definitely not a furniture salesman.
And in the third paragraph…
Growing up in Tyler, Texas, Groves is a songwriter at heart but has the swagger and look of a rock star (a first for Rocketown!)
I parted ways with Rocketown a few years ago. The label has now shut down. But that bio from eight years ago continues to show up on web sites and in bulletin inserts at churches where I speak and sing. It continues to shape other’s perceptions and expectations of who I am and what I’m all about.
I’m more than a haircut.
I’m not a rock star
I don’t swagger; I’m from Texas and we mosey.
There’s already a perception among many ministers that Christian artists and their music lack any real substance. Cheesy Christian radio morning show hosts and label marketers writing bogus bios don’t help matters.
Speaking of Christian radio morning show hosts, my friend Brant recently wrote an uber-sarcastic post about his perception of Catalyst, based on some marketing language on the conference’s site. The site describes Catalyst as being a gathering of the “doers”, the “cultural architects”, the “influencers”, the “change agents”, the “bold”, the “excellent”, those who are “passionate about something big”, and the “driven” wanting to “reclaim our communities and culture for good.” Brant pointedly pointed out:
It’s just me, based on my understanding of Biblical stories, and how the Kingdom works, but I’d actually be afraid of considering myself a driven, bold, cultural architect, because I think I’d honestly feel like I was disqualifying myself from the work. They’re impressive, sure, but don’t seem the type God chooses, you know, to reclaim our communities and culture for good.
We have an upside-down God for sure, who seems to be biased toward the intimidated (Moses, Thomas, Peter), the unwilling (Moses, Saul, Sarai), the goof-ups (Moses, Abraham, Samson, King David, Mary Magdalene, Rahab), the small (little David, a boy with loaves and fishes, children), the insignificant (fishermen, women, Samaritans, Hebrew slaves). Sure, God loves and uses whoever he wants, but he’s got a track record that’s hard to argue with.
I know several great folks at Catalyst and thankfully one of them – Anne Jackson – showed up to paint a more accurate picture of the conference than the web marketing guys did. In a comment on Brant’s post, she wrote:
Multiple times speakers shared how yes, conferences all over have continued to tell people to be relevant and big and bad and pretty, but they all said how wrong it is, and then challenged us to live out the calling God gave us. That some of us will have “Moses” ministries and that the church isn’t comprised of speakers who get “elevated” to a platform at Catalyst.
She went on to describe, in detail, the many times at Catalyst when the not-famous and not-big and not-highly-influential were championed this year. Then Brant apologized clarified. It was civil, beautiful and enlightening.
What can we learn from all this?
- Marketers create perception.
- We all market ourselves – through blogs, facebook profiles, tweets, resumes, clothing – accurately or inaccurately.
- When marketers lie they make life harder for the “product” and risk turning away “consumers” they may want to attract.
- I am not a rock star who swaggers. Catalyst is better than it’s website says it is. Brant is not an unsubstantive cheesy Christian radio morning show host. Anne is very persuasive.