5 Ways Creativity is Part of a Healthy Church

We may be engineers or computer geeks or consultants or housewives or academics, but when we create, we become artists, each in our own way.Think Like a Five Year Old

My favorite image of the Body of Christ is a symphony orchestra. In Christ’s Body, each of us has a part to play, and our conductor is God’s Holy Spirit. The trick is to find your part. When you choose the right instrument, develop your skills, and contribute your talents to the common score, and everyone else does the same, the result is pure beauty. A finely-tuned symphony is like a healthy church. Here are five ways creativity, and the art of playing a part, are key.

The Main Points

  • 01

    Unhealthy churches consume. Healthy churches create.

  • 02

    Unhealthy churches are stuck on the same songs. Healthy churches develop new ones.

  • 03

    Our job is to understand our part and help others with theirs.

  • 04

    When we play out of our gifts and passions, the art we make benefits others.

  • 04

    The result of our mutually crafted and shared gifts is koinonia, which is the expression of the Body of Christ.

Learn More About How to Assemble a Creative Culture at Your Church.

The new book by Robert Schnase, Just Say Yes: Unleashing People for Ministry, is dedicated to getting past the voices of No and helping people reclaim their creative gifts. Download the introduction at the bottom of this page.

1. God intends for us to rediscover the set of good things for which we have been created.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:17

Since we’re made in God’s image, we’re made to create. Our brokenness however, leads us to do the opposite, which is to consume. One way to see the great struggle of life on this planet is to recognize the opposing forces of creativity and consumption. The more we consume, the worse off we are.

Today, our society, including our churches, are burdened with runaway consumption. One study revealed that 75 percent of American garages are so filled with clutter that they have no room to store an automobile. Garages were once metaphors for creativity and innovation. Now, most have become final resting places for the artifacts of our consumption.

In churches, as in every institution and facet of society, consumption steals and destroys, while creativity gives and assembles. Consuming churches are unhealthy churches; its members take from and tear down the community. Creating churches are healthy churches; its members give to and build up the community.

The road to recovery begins with Christ Jesus, in whom we are recreated – made a new creation. Through the cross we are free to rediscover who God made us to be, which means we’re free to rediscover our creative power.

Creativity is about listening to, and living out of, the voice in your inner being—your heart, mind, soul, and strength; in other words, creativity is about being attentive to and acting in response to the combination of ideas and reactions and preferences that form your view of the world. This perspective, this unique form of expression, is the identity given to you by God and the origin of your creativity. We come with it preloaded. We’re each born an artist. We’re made to be creative.Think Like a Five Year Old

When each of us in Christ Jesus individually rediscovers our image as a creative and a creating person, we begin to shed our consumeristic tendencies and rediscover the power of a Creative God’s Spirit living inside us.

Take away: It is Christ Jesus in whom we shed our destructive, consumeristic tendencies and relearn what it means to create.

2. Unhealthy churches are stuck on the same songs. Healthy churches develop new ones.

In the beginning, we are each given, as part of the warranty of being human, a harmonic calling, the melody of a set of good things to do with our lives. As an image or representation of God, when we create, we reflect the character of God and the glory of God. Our God-given creative passion is our unique art and the source of our fulfillment. Think Like a Five Year Old
In his sermon The One Thing Needful, John Wesley notes that our primary task in life is the restoration, through God’s grace, of the marred image of God that resides inside each of us.

Rediscovering your creativity is a lifelong process. Over months and years, people gradually learn to shed consumeristic ways and begin to once again, as they perhaps last did when they were very young, create with freedom and confidence.

A healthy church aids people in this vital life reclamation project by empowering them to discover their set of God-given gifts.

As believers, we are each part of a royal priesthood. Our relationship with God isn’t mediated by another; through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can each experience the wonder of an intimate relationship with God. One consequence of this restored relationship is a growing impulse to make something, do something, or build something.

We’re creative people, and there are things we’re designed to do with our lives. Each of us has the gifting, the ability and the calling to create something great. A healthy church leader sees him or herself not as a practitioner or professional in charge of the work of ministry but as an equipper for the everyday ministry that comes through each person’s creative voice. The church needs less professionals and more equippers.

Takeaway: Encourage people to take the StrengthsFinder assessment, which helps brings clarity to personal gifts and passions.

3. Our job is to know our own creative Gifts and help others reclaim theirs.

Part of the what drives us to be consumers rather than creators is fear. It starts with what educators call the “fourth-grade slump” and just gets worse as we age. Eventually we lose track of our creative gifts because we keep making choices to service our security.

Recent research in neuroscience suggests that the fear of judgment runs much deeper and has more far-reaching implications than we ever imagined.Susan Cain

Even if we manage to get off the couch of our dreams, it can take time to figure out the set of good things God has designed for our lives. In her book Quiet, Susan Cain recommends three ways to identify what she calls “core personal projects.” (Her belief, and I agree, is that introverts cannot sustain themselves doing something for which they have no passion.) They are good questions to ask ourselves and one another as we seek to once again become creators:

  • Think back to what you loved to do as a child.

    Think back to what you loved to do as a child. Maybe you wanted to be a fireman. While the specific idea may not be correct, the impulse may be instructive. If you wanted to be a fireman, why? Perhaps you love the thrill seeking of fighting fires, or the idea of being a hero, or the simpler passion to help people.

  • Pay attention to the work you gravitate to.

    In your current work, what parts of the job light you up? What parts shut you down?

  • Pay attention to what you envy.

    Envy is a key to what you desire. The challenge is to separate an unhealthy envy for another’s fame and fortune with a healthy indicator for someone else’s passions and work life.

As we process these questions over time, and it can take months or years, we may come to deep discoveries about what we’re to do with our lives. This exercise isn’t just for fun; it’s meant to help us make choices with our life, and to help others do the same.

Real community demonstrates collaboration, a spirit of mutual respect, support and labor as we share gifts with one another. This doesn’t just exist in the sweat but in the introspection that precedes it.

Takeaway: Using the simple three questions above, write out things you’d love to do with your life. Help others think through the same questions.

4. When we create out of our gifts and passions, the good things we make benefit the community.

I have heard some people describe creativity as a personal or even narcissistic activity – an artist’s vanity project. Perhaps some of us have known “creatives” who pursue pet projects as a hobby or for personal validation. But this isn’t creativity.

Creativity includes personal expression, joy, problem solving, and even fulfillment, but ultimately it’s not about the needs of the one doing the creating. Creativity is for the benefit of others. Like raising a child, it’s difficult and time consuming and it takes something from us that perhaps we never get back. There is a utility or value that grows beyond personal satisfaction.

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.Sir Ken Robinson

One way to measure the value of your creative value is this: Who does it benefit? If it is esoteric or self-serving, it’s not what you’re looking for. God designed us to live in community, which means that our labor is for the benefit of the community in which we live.

Creativity isn’t necessarily religious. Often, it’s not. As Romans 1 points out, all of creation points to the glory of God. In other words, creativity can be those things Robinson and Torrance said—new ideas and solved problems. It can be a new look to a designer, a better solution to an engineer, an alternate strategy to an executive, a more organized calendar for a mom, or “adding value” to a business plan. Creativity builds, not destroys. It answers a question, helps someone, or expresses an idea. In all of these activities, when we create, we make wonder, to ourselves and to others who benefit from our work.Think Like a Five Year Old

Now this sounds purely utilitarian, and I don’t mean that, and sometimes an idea doesn’t immediately reveal its use to others. Further, sometimes a piece of art isn’t “useful,” in the sense that it is a tool. But eventually every form of creative expression helps the community.

Sadly, I see many congregations in which there’s little relationship between the needs of the community and the individual gifts and talents of its people, both inside and outside of the walls of the church. A sure sign of a declining church is a church in which the membership (and it’s usually “members”, kind of like members of a country club) come to a building to consume a variety of spiritual goods and services. A sure sign of a healthy church is a church in which the people who participate are discovering and using their unique sets of gifts and passions to serve the community.

Takeaway: Encourage conversation in your community to discuss creative ideas and needs. Look for ways to support ideas that benefit both those in the community and those throughout the country and around the world.

5. The result Of Our Shared Gifts is Koinonia, the Expression of the Body of Christ

The Apostle Paul’s setup for his soliloquy on the church as the body of Christ makes it clear that God a) supplies every creative gift; b) gives different gifts to different people; and c) does it all for the sake of the common good.

If we truly understand and believe this, as members of Christ’s body, then our ministry focus needs to shift from the distinctions of professional vs. layperson, from producer vs. consumer, from anointed vs. average, to mutual support and encouragement to reclaim, develop and use the creative gifts God has given each person in the body.

My mentor and former boss Michael Slaughter says,

There are no superstars in the Body of Christ. Not one of us has all the gifts. We are meant to function in interdependent relationships with one another, as the Spirit works through us. Each of us has a different function in the Body. One function is not more important than another. When the Bishop placed his hands upon me and ordained me to the ministry of word, sacrament and order, it did not give me more of the Spirit an elevated calling over the “non-ordained.” God has set each of us apart and consecrated us for his purpose in the Body of Christ. For the Body to function according to God’s purpose, each member must be encouraged to function as God’s priest. The church must intentionally help people identify God’s call. Equipping the saints for the work of the church—this is the business of the church!

Takeaway: How can you shift your congregation’s focus to a mutual, interdependent discovery and development of each individual’s creative gifts?

Learn More About How to Assemble a Creative Culture at Your Church.

The new book by Robert Schnase, Just Say Yes: Unleashing People for Ministry, is dedicated to getting past the voices of No and helping people reclaim their creative gifts. Download the introduction free:


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About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).