Pick up an object close to your screen. Now, think of five alternate uses for this object (aside from its intended use). The ability to think of alternate uses, otherwise known as divergent thinking, is a common test for creativity, and a way many define what can be an abstract concept.
How do you define creativity? The researcher Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as “having original ideas with value.” My five year old defines it as “having fun and making stuff.”
Regardless how you think about the subject, it’s clear that the creativity is a big deal. Creativity is the topic of the #1 all-time most viewed TED Talk. It’s also #1 on the list of most desired business traits. People long to be more creative. More and more people are exploring the generative power of creativity, including in church life.
Consider these 5 reasons creativity can benefit your church.
1. Creativity leads to new life.
Instead of ignoring or even abdicating creative desire to the world, why not invite people to discover the relationship of their creativity to faith in God?
God isn’t a past-tense Creator God, but a constantly forming, Creating God. As images of a creating God, we are creating people. God made us to be co-creators.
“To deny our creative nature is to choose a life where we are less and thus responsible for less. We see ourselves as created beings, so we choose to survive. When we see ourselves as creative beings, we must instead create.”Erwin McManus, The Artisan Soul
Our sin and brokenness mars our God-image and compels us to survival behaviors of consumption. We consume to distract us from our emptiness; absent something new to do or watch or eat or wear, we can be overwhelmed with loneliness and despair. So, a lonely and broken world fills up with the artifacts of consumerism.
Jesus promises us an abundant life, found not in acquiring things but in the process of simultaneously being made new and making something new. Faith in Christ calls us from a life of consumption to a life of creation. The act of creating draws us back to how we were made in the beginning. We return to the scene found in the garden, when God invited us to co-create. And as with any creative act, the work draws the workers together.
One of our primary jobs as church leaders is to help people learn how to create. This isn’t an abstract or esoteric proposition; it’s a real world practical strategy for discovering new life.
The power of creativity to help us know and experience God more intimately is a core theme of my book, Think Like a Five Year Old.
2. Creativity widens and deepens the experience of worship.
The Creator pleasures in his creation. God made us to be in relationship with, and co-create with, God. The intimacy of this communion, this creative partnership, is the highest love and the purest existence we can know.
When Jesus quotes Deuteronomy by saying the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, Jesus is fleshing out the expressions of this love relationship. He is naming the four parts of the creative life, which together describe the activity of love and, as God is love, the essence of a creating God.
When we create, we do it through our heart, mind, soul, and our strength. In this way, creating is a love act, and when we do it for God’s glory, it’s worship, whether in church buildings, in offices or on the streets.
In addition to being an act of worship in itself, creativity can benefit corporate worship in two ways.
One, when we invite people to rediscover their creativity, we are inviting them to reclaim expressions of their humanity as made by God. The more people understand their own creativity, the more they understand the Creator God.
Two, to use Robinson’s definition, when we have original ideas with value and bring creative energy to the planning and execution of worship, we help birth new ways for people to experience God’s presence and offer God our glory.
3. Creativity forms community.
Contrary to the myth of the lone genius with a eureka moment, lasting innovation rarely happens in isolation. Creativity is a team sport.
Whether it’s redesigning a sanctuary, finding solutions to a vexing administrative problem, or dreaming new ways to love and serve the city, creative thinking is joyful and compelling. It creates enthusiasm and builds community.
Creativity does more than just create good will, though. Think of your lasting professional associations. If you’re like me, they are the people with whom you have shared a common struggle. Tackling a problem together bonds us together.
As we create together over time, we leave behind isolating, consumeristic tendencies and learn what it means to live in community. We learn our own best gifts, we find affinity groups, we empower one another, and we discover the heart of the biblical word koinonia.
4. Creativity teaches truth in unique and compelling ways.
“The deep places in our lives—places of resistance and embrace—are not ultimately reached by instruction.”Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet
According to brain researcher Iain McGilchrist, people learn first and last through the sensory experience of the right hemisphere. It is in the in-between that we utilize the filing and categorizing mechanisms of the left hemisphere.
Most of the time, though, we do church with the left-brain. When we present the truth of the gospel in the same fashion as a scientist presenting propositions with supporting evidence, we reduce the power of the gospel story to a hypothesis to be accepted or rejected, but in either case detached from the realities of our daily life. This is a problem not just in church, but in education, business and throughout society.
In a world of left-brain categorization and reduction, creativity is both the first sensory experience and the unifying gestalt. It is the precursor and the final word to the map of our analysis, the pre- and post-dissection that gives us the deep wisdom to do more than clarify, but to know.
Creative teaching helps people discover what it means to follow Jesus.
5. Creativity invites us to mission, helping people discover the set of good things to do with their lives.
Good mission is by definition creative.
The church doesn’t have mission, it is on mission, and not just provide goods and services, but to help us discover who we are in Christ and help us live out the set of good works we were given in the beginning. Effective mission compels people to grow physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. It equips us with the means to not just survive, but thrive, according to the unique designs God has given us for our lives.
Creative expression makes the world a better place. It encourages people to work out of a unique set of passions and gifts, not as obligation but as a true vocational calling. This kind of work is purposeful and valuable. It builds society and in so doing fulfills the mission of the church, which is to be a reflection of the Missio Dei, or the God who sends us out and brings us home.
For more on the reclaiming your creativity, download the free Preface and Chapter 1 to my book, Think Like a Five Year Old. In four coming posts I am going to dig into 5 specific strategies for using creativity in each of these areas of church life – worship, community, teaching, and mission.
This article first appeared at lenwilson.us.