A little more substance, a little less style please

I just finished reading an e-mail from my friend Reeta.  It’s her version of a ministry newsletter.

Reeta is a 60+ year old medical doctor, native of her foreign country, body riddled with rheumatoid arthritis, who I met over 20 years ago after hearing her present her tiny start-up ministry.  She left her medical practice in the major city to move to a dump to start a medical clinic.  Low and behold, that wasn’t all that was needed, so she started a school, one grade at a time, adding one each year, a small loan program for women to start businesses, small business training, its grown quite a bit over the years.

And without a web site, facebook page or even consistent newsletter.  In fact, until 2 years ago, she hand wrote these update letters.

She presents her work so matter-of-factly.  “Women needed loans, so we gave loans, one wanted to learn how to sew, so we started a class for her and others”.  When I first heard her present her school and her ideas for future ministries, I remember thinking, I could have saved myself some grad school tuition and gone to sit at her feet for 3 years and learned everything about what the textbook says “is the right way”. 

Over these years, I’ve continued to support her and the ministry, probably more because of the substance of her and the substance of what they are doing, its certainly not for the “style” of how its being communicated.  Today, that’s a one page e-mail of prayer requests about what each kid is struggling with at home, what health training she’s going to do to stop the outbreak of this or that.  Stories and substance.

In this world full of expensive branding consultants, expensive web site overhauls, 24-hour tweets, making rock stars out of ministry leaders, I’m wondering if we’ve completely confused style for substance.  The One we claim to follow could have achieved “rock star” status during His, instead He chose a peculiar way, He chose the substance of deep relationship with a small group…. And THEY told His story.  And the world was forever changed.

For me, I’ve learned to tune out the glossy newsletter, the latest “buzz words”, the overly hyped stats about how a community would shrivel up and die without us, or even what great leader our program produced (gasp).  In our effort to tell our story, in such a way that this media noisy world will take notice and buy our product / give to our agency, are we missing His story, embedded in that small, handwritten prayer request letter?

 One story at a time, focused on substance, told with integrity.  And trust God to put the ears that need to hear it in the vicinity.


About Dr. Beth A. Birmingham

Follower of Jesus, peculiar at times, but not always in the good biblical sense of the word, professor of leadership and international development, walking with people and organizations who end poverty, fight injustice and stand with the vulnerable... a rockin' good group of people!

Posted on June 5, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Excellent! Thank you for sharing this wise perspective. “One story at a time, focused on substance, told with integrity.” None of it should be glamorous, but it is glorious. 🙂

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