Tag Archives: church leaders

The beauty and the curse of the creative drought

I’ve been in a creative drought for a while. Last Spring, I diverted my creative energies towards PLGRM and hopped off the blogging bandwagon for a while.

In some ways this has been detrimental to my creative output.

Creativity is like a muscle: if you use it, it will stay strong; if not, it will wither.

While the process of conceiving of and publishing PLGRM has been wonderful, the result is that I have neglected my own process of writing. I’ve lost a bit of my edge.

In other ways, this has strengthened my creativity.

Parameters are vital to artists. Yes, we revere those who break boundaries and do new things, but when you examine those artists you find that they were working within a set of parameters all along. It may have been a deadline. It may have been a form. It may have been the reception that they assumed they would receive. But, in every case, they were not running hog wild. They were creating within a set of boundaries.

My creative drought has served this function for me. It has forced me to ask some very tough questions about what I assume my role in the world to be, and how best to live into that role. Because “my job is getting in the way of my hobbies” I’ve been forced to pare down and whittle away, and discern how best to use the small set of talents and passions God has given me.

As Church People, we all are forced to wrestle with the fact that we work and create within a set of boundaries. We are not free to do just any old thing we want.

But this has always been the path to innovation. Innovative work is always “adjacent possible” work. Take what you’ve got and make a small move in the direction you’ve been called.

The New Evangelism

Last night I found a pretty cool docu as I was cruising Vimeo. It’s called Influencers: How Trends and Creativity Become Contagious.

Here it is:

As I watched, my mind naturally went to the idea of “pastors as influencers,” mostly because, well, I self-identify as a pastor. But the more and more I thought of it, the more I realized that I had an opportunity here to explore an area I feel compelled to gain a depth of knowledge and wisdom in: EVANGELISM.

Confession: I have a visceral reaction to the word and idea of “evangelism.” I am not joking. It makes my skin crawl, and I start to feel a little sick. I am not joking.

In the Fundegelical culture I grew up in, evangelism was the thing you were taught to do. Youth Group was like sales and marketing school. You learned to defend your faith and you learned to, quite honestly, push it on people. Ostensibly, evangelism is “proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ,” but I experienced it more as selling insurance policies. I know, I know. It’s a tried and tired cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason.

Recently, however, I have been compelled to reconsider what evangelism is and what it looks like. It can’t and shouldn’t be the Salvation Road Show of my youth, but neither can it be just a “commitment to welcoming those who walk through our doors and helping them find a place in the life of this congregation” (honest to God, that was the definition the evangelism committee of one Mainline church I attended had as an official statement). Do I believe that the freedom offered in Jesus Christ is transformative and worth giving my life to? Yes? Then, shouldn’t I freely give what I have freely received? Shouldn’t I offer this marvelous thing far and wide? Yes, and yes. Given how I understand the work of God in Christ, to not do so is to say that no one needs this thing I’ve found. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Ephesians 4 says that God gave the church certain gifts, and that among them were “evangelists.” Can we think of evangelists as “influencers”? Well, here’s what the film says about this kind of person (with a bit of my own commentary thrown in):

Influencers are:

  • Confident. They know they are doing the right thing and they are comfortable doing it. They are not shy when the “slings and arrows” come.
  • Creative. They have a different way of thinking and expressing themselves. They realize that the answers given yesterday do not answer the questions asked today.
  • Early Adopters. They see the possibilities on the horizon long before others do. They are willing to take risks and experiment.
  • Well respected. It’s not necessarily that people “like” them. It is that they have a good track record of naming the truth of the situation. When they speak, people listen.
  • Translators. They have an ability to bring an idea into the mainstream consciousness. They can translate from one discipline to another, and draw connections where others see only dichotomies.
  • Practice Embodiment. They do not merely speak, but they live in a new way. They demonstrate the new by the way they move through their lives.
  • Self-Aware. They are concerned with the ways they come of to the ones they seek to influence. This is not to suggest that they “go by the pols” but they are strategic in the way they present themselves.
  • Rooted. They are not iconoclasts. They are a part of a community, they are accountable to others, and they know where they came from.
  • Mentors. They do not believe that it is all about them and their success. They seek out others and mentor them to do what they have done.

One significant theme that ran through the film was the reality that most influencers are a part of the “young creative class.” Part of what was named is the reality that most younger persons cannot afford to be a part of the system and are not willing to “sell out” to become so. As a result, they tend to establish an almost entirely separate network and work around the establishment. Their influence is a direct result of trying to figure out how to express themselves given their limitations.

To me, this feels like a good place to start in looking for a new understanding of evangelism.

Chapter 1 Rough Draft – “The Open Source Church”

Weighing in at just over 10,000 words (seriously – did I just puke all over the page or what?) here is a very rough first draft of Chapter 1 – The Open Source Church.

Please spread the news about the link.  Feel free to leave comments here or send them to landon@landonville.com.