Comic Books and Church – Between Frames

Seth Godin had a great post about marketing based upon some ideas from a book about comic books by Scott McCloud.

In comic books, the action takes place “between the frames” and the reader ends up telling the story in his imagination as much or more than the author/illustrator. The reader moves the story from one frame to the next inventing the action as he goes.

Godin goes on to explain that marketing works the same way. Marketers worry about the frames (commercials, print media, customer “touches,” etc.) when the action that really matters takes place between the frames. It’s not the TV ad, but what my neighbor tells me about the product that matters. It’s not when the waitress is at your table; what matters is what you overhear the other employees say behind the counter.

Anyway, I think this applies to the church too. I’ve worked for pastors who believe that the greatest thing a staff person can do is to make your Sunday morning worship experiences exceptional – that the majority of focus should be on what happens on Sunday mornings. I’m not saying a good worship service is bad. It’s just that there’s so much more. A focus on Sunday morning worship is like focusing on the frames. The “action,” the part that matters, takes place between the frames. It’s the conversations in the parking lot after church – or the invitations to lunch. It’s the smiles shared by one church member to another when they see each other in the mall. It’s the informal gatherings of friends in each others homes. It’s the prayers that are lifted up during the week for a hurting friend – the donations given to someone in need. Real marketing isn’t organized and produced, it’s a natural expression of who we are.

How can we infuse churches with this sort of “between the frames” kind of thinking? What does it take to influence a church culture to become a “comic book culture” with it’s members creating the action between the frames?

Anyway, all this is to say. I’m striving to a “between frames” kind of guy. I pray that God (by His Spirit) will lead my imagination and help me create the story which will move the action to the place where He wants the next frame to be.

8 thoughts on “Comic Books and Church – Between Frames

  1. Patty Boston Pierson

    Steve, you can’t be an in between the frames kind of guy if you can’t recognize the importance of the frames. The frames guide you through the in between but to say that the in between is more important than the frame is ridiculous. Without the frames…there is no in between.

    That being said, not everyone is as far along on their spiritual journey as you are and some people don’t have any idea about what they should or could be doing between the frames. All those things you listed as the “action”, the part that matters, happens because of our relationship with God. We are only able to love others because He loves us. Worship is not about what He can do for us but about who He IS to us. When you concentrate on the frames, you become more intentional in pleasing God between the frames. If you aren’t focusing on the frames then you probably aren’t focusing in between.

    1. Steve Corn

      Patty, I love the fight in you, but I think I gotta fight back a little too. (I’m hoping you’ll appreciate it too.)

      I can see your point, but it sounds to me like you’re confining God to the frame too. The worship of WHO HE IS takes place 24-7 in all that we do/don’t do between the frames too. To me it seems ridiculous to say that the 1hr on Sunday morning (frame) is more important than the other 167 hrs in between – especially considering that Romans 12 defines worship as a “living sacrifice.”

      Patty, after reading your thoughts, I think my metaphor probably breaks down if you take the image of the frame as a worship service too far. Sorry.

      Maybe a better metaphor is to think of the frames as reference points that God gives us through His Word. We should strive to define our “in between” times by those frames. Thinking of it in these terms makes the things you said much more clear to me. I will however, still say that too great a focus on the frame without action in between might create Pharisees. I think it takes some sort of balance. Ultimately, I think I still wanna be an “in between” frames kind of guy – cause that means I’m helping (by His Spirit) to move the action from one frame to the next. I wanna be a player in the efforts of God rather than just a spectator.

      I hope I’m making sense and have not offended you.

      1. Patty Boston Pierson

        Steve,
        I do appreciate your fighting back. I would be so disappointed if you didn’t believe enough in what you write to defend it. Also, I assume you post things for all your friends to read and comment on not just the ones that agree with what you wrote!

        I do agree that the worship of who He is is supposed to be a 24-7 thing and I never said that the hour of Sunday morning worship is MORE important than the rest of the hours in a week, likewise, I never meant to imply that God should be contained within that hour or any other frame of your choice. Yes, I can understand the metaphor of the frames as reference points that God gives us through His Word, but that’s not the discussion we’re having right now. You can’t change metaphors in mid-discussion! You original said,” A focus on Sunday morning worship is like focusing on the frames” (a simile, btw) and all I was pointing out is that you can’t have a “between the frames” without the frames as reference points; that stands true no matter what metaphor or simile you use for the frames.
        Obviously, since we spend more time out of worship service than in it, it’s pretty important that we learn how to worship Him 24-7 but not everyone is there yet, and not everyone worships the same way as you do. LEARN is the operative word there. People can’t be a living sacrifice unless they learn, grow in His love. As a minister, you have to realize that the hour or 2 on Sunday morning may be the only opportunity you have to reach some people. Maybe that’s why those pastors you’ve worked for want you to focus on that hour. I don’t think they meant for you to neglect the other hours of the week. However, I also don’t think it’s your(on any minister’s) responsibility to make the worship experience an exceptional one for me, but that’s another conversation all together. The irony is that the things you list as “the part that matters” are things that happen because people are open to and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them. They probably learned about God and allowing Him to work through them in church on Sunday morning. You can’t have a conversation in the parking lot after church unless you are at church, you can’t smile at another member of the church in the mall unless you go to church and get to know the members, you can’t recognize someone’s emotional and spiritual needs unless you get to know that person. All those things you listed come from being in church. That’s all I was trying to say. That you grow will more spiritual, more open to the Holy Spirit by spending time with God. Of course, it’s possible to spend time in church on Sunday and not worship Him the other 167 hours in the week but for those people, that 1 hour is a beginning. Then, hopefully, they see the natural expression of who we are. They spend time in God’s house, get to know Him, and then invite Him to their house, invite Him into their lives.

        Funny you should use the word balance since I used that word recently!

        And I’m not sure that too much focusing on the frames is bad, whichever frame metaphor you use. What I do believe is that the closer, more intimate, our relationship with God becomes the less likely it will be that we go without action in between.
        Be a “between the frames kind of guy” just don’t undervalue the frames. And, remember, the fact that you want to be a player means you have to play the position He gives you.

        Btw, you did not offend me. I can disagree with someone I care about and still care about them, even though I’m not sure we’re disagreeing here. I hope you can, too!

    2. Steve Corn Post author

      Yeah – I don’t think we’re really disagreeing either.

      Here’s a quote from you:
      All those things you listed come from being in church. That’s all I was trying to say. That you grow will more spiritual, more open to the Holy Spirit by spending time with God.

      While I certainly agree that the outward expressions that I described as “mattering” are learned as you say “by spending time with God.” I cannot say that they necessarily come from “being in church” as your 1st sentence states. “Being in church” doesn’t necessarily mean that one has spent time with God.

      This is why I tried to change metaphor. (I love that you called me out on changing it too) I just don’t necessarily equate “church” with “time with God.” Certainly one can spend time with God in church, but “time with God” can be much broader than that too.

      I’m not sure we’re even discussing “frames” anymore. How’d we get here? Thanks for the spirited discussion Patty.

      1. Patty Boston Pierson

        I’m sorry that you don’t equate church to time with God. I know that is not the only place to connect with Him but for me, I had to learn to not let people keep me from spending time with Him. I miss church when I don’t go. It was very traumatic for me during the months after leaving staff that I was so uncomfortable while I was there that I couldn’t go regularly. With God’s help I resolved my differences and now I make a conscious effort to be in the right attitude to be with God when I am there. I always feel His presence there, I close my eyes and ask Him to make His presence known to me, to touch me and I always feel Him. It’s like His arms are around me and I get chill bumps. In that moment I know I am exactly where He wants me to be and I feel He is happy that I am there, that he is pleased with me. Of course I seek His presence in other places but there’s just something about power and intensity of it when I’m in His house.

        Thanks for discussion.

    3. Steve Corn

      Patty, when I leave staff, I don’t think I’m gonna have the kind of feelings that you’ve described – that’s not where my argument is coming from. (Gosh – that’s definitely not what I intended – I don’t need any rumors starting because of this conversation.) For me – it’s really more about the fact that “time with God” is just more than “church” alone.

      I appreciate the conversation too. I’ve always loved your heart and thank you for your openness/honesty about your struggles too. You’re a real blessing Patty. Thanks for your friendship.

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