I love creativity. And today’s church needs all the creativity we can muster.
But for some, creativity has become a frilly idol. It has degenerated into a form of exhibitionism, elitism and cosmetic distraction.
Ministry celebrities promote their creative philosophies and practices in conferences, books and speeches. “The church should be the most creative entity out there,” one said. Has creativity become the goal–rather than a means to the goal?
Creativity is often explained as an antidote for boredom in the church. The experts remind us that a large percentage of Americans say they escape life’s boredom by simply staying away from church. That’s true.
But I’m afraid that exercising creativity to conquer church boredom may focus on the symptom rather than on the disease itself–the lack of an ever-present intimate relationship with the Lord.
Some ministry leaders use creativity to draw attention and create buzz. They create sexy-sounding sermons (“The Naked Pastor,” and “Your Best Sex Ever”). Some build elaborate and costly sets as sermon series backdrops. Yes, these splashes sometimes attract public and media attention. But do they draw people closer to God?
Jesus did creative and spectacular things. But not to be splashy. In fact, he was frustrated with those who merely wanted to see a trick, but quickly fell away from him.
Though it’s possible to draw a crowd with exhibitionism, that’s not what draws people into a real relationship with the Lord.
For some, the pursuit of originality and creativity has become an elite religion. They insist their church must create all of its own original resources, curriculum, music, scripts, video and art. If it’s “not invented here,” it’s not allowed. Elitist “church branding” trumps ministry effectiveness. I’m convinced that some of these church leaders would create their own branded church carpets if they could figure out how.
The Cosmetic Artists
Much of today’s church creativity focuses on painting over the same old worship-hour routines, such as sermons, PowerPoint slides, and musical selections. But these are mere cosmetic coatings to the old Sunday morning formula of half lecture and half singalong.
Today’s stagnant church needs more than cosmetic creativity. It cries for something more significant.
When it comes to spreading the Word, we might compare today’s church to another time of word spreading–the era of the typewriter. This mechanical antique spread words for many years. And yes, in its later years, some manufacturers applied their creativity by adding electric models, correction tape, interchangeable type fonts, and new body colors.
But these were mere tweaks compared to the coming revolution–the advent of the word processor and the personal computer. That’s when word spreading really leaped forward.
Long before that, Jesus too leaped forward. His ministry wasn’t just creative. It was bold and transforming. He took the Word to a whole new level. The Word became flesh.
Today’s church needs your God-given creativity. Here are a few guidelines to empower your creatives juices to make a real difference and bring people closer to Jesus.
1. Don’t pursue ministry as a vehicle to showcase your creativity. Instead, be relentlessly driven to help others grow in their relationship with the living God.
2. Promote creativity within teams. Collaboration produces better results. And it helps to keep individual egos in check.
3. Don’t attempt to be creative just for creativity’s sake. Keep asking, “How can we best let our people experience God?”
4. Honor the work of others. Most creativity–and effectiveness–result from using and mixing ideas others have already pioneered.
5. Creatively challenge old paradigms. Must every contemporary service begin with a standing singalong? Must we always receive a “message” through a 30-minute lecture?
6. Retire the typewriter. Invent the next Word processor.