As a creative director and a coach/teacher, I am interested in both the creative product and the process by which it is achieved. This is one of a series of posts outlining sermon series as they are developed at Peachtree. I will post behind the scenes ideas, final creative elements, and some of the process we used in between.
After minor creative work on the existing and first new series following my arrival at Peachtree, this was the first opportunity I had to really make a creative impact in worship. The series ran from September 16 – October 28. Senior pastor Vic Pentz gave me his topic – the seven deadly sins – and free reign on creative angles and applications of it in worship. (Of course he passed off on the final designs.)
For creative and art direction, I wanted to avoid dark and creepy – no Danté. I brainstormed with my contract artist (without a staff person yet in place for art design, I contracted with motion artist Chase Franklin, who did an amazing job). We discussed looks based on Lemony Snicket, Monty Python, and several other visual styles. I liked the idea of an old storybook.
Our process was initially scattershot, but one weekend a few weeks before the series I got inspired to write a poem, which became the focal point of the design. This was completely God’s blessing, because while I am a writer, I am not usually a poet. Here is the poem:
There once was a soul made clean with God.
But, his story had not shalom.
Acquitted, he yearned to start anew
Yet villains still haunted his home.
Seven demons of unruly desire
Sojourned in this saint’s domain;
Their cloaks down, insinuating
Burrowing with smooth refrain.
Pride, the alpha, gave gifts of Self;
Affirmed, the man agreed,
Not knowing it was a cosmic coup
That welcomed wraiths of need.
Sloth brought lethal lethargy
Covering shattered dreams
“Whatever,” became his word of choice
Distrusting in God’s means.
Lust was fun, at least at first
Until dark ends appeared;
Pretty was this kind of poison
And helpless to stop, he feared.
A giant fries and coke were just the thing
Food fast for his day;
Gluttony numbed his deeper needs,
Excess to empty foray.
The man believed in who he was
Still he forgot whence he came;
With each peering eye toward greener grass
Envy set his heart aflame.
As he wandered further from the source
Of patience, goodness, and peace,
Anger hovered behind the trees
Nipping for destructive release.
Exhausted from all this soul combat,
He foraged for what he could hold
And there was Greed, eager to please
A specter, provision cajoled.
Each seditious phantom lured the man
Away from God’s protection
Til he’d wandered far from home
A lost forest of his creation.
We created a set of bookmarks, one for each Sunday of the series, with the poem on one side and questions reflecting on that week’s vice on the other.
Chase made the poem come alive with an opening series animation:
Here is the creative brief for the series.
Subject: Self-examination and practical application of theology to life.
Main Idea: The series is basically countercultural. The culture inflames desire. While the series starts with behavior, it is deeper, and moves us toward sanctification, or the process of being made more like Christ.
Series Metaphor: The seven deadly sins
Audience: People who believe they’re spiritually okay because they got right with God once. This series is for believers, to challenge them to a higher level of commitment and integration between their faith and their life.
Discipleship Need (how this serves the church’s goals): To increase discipleship among cultural Christians at Peachtree.
Goal: To point out the reality of the ways in which we succumb to these sins, and to challenge us to embrace a set of corresponding virtues.
Creative Element: A bookmark for the series listing the seven sins and a verse to deal with each.
Creative Element: “Cut out” treatment / look
Synopsis from Vic’s notes:
Someone has summed up America’s economic and cultural crisis this way: “We face a rising tide of unchecked desire.”
Monks in medieval times gave names to their unruly inner desires—pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. If untamed, these unruly voices can drown out the angels of our better nature.
In fact tradition calls them “the seven deadly sins.” What makes these sins ‘deadly”? Isn’t that a bit extreme? Not at all. First, like gateway drugs, these sins were seen to lead to other sins that destroy the life of grace inside a person. Second, because they are so alluring they tend to slip easily into us and burrow into our souls like a colony of parasites even without our knowing.
We discourage the nomination of one’s spouse, boss or in-law as a poster child for any of these! We do encourage honest dialogue with our nearest and dearest as we take on these villians. We especially hope these messages inspire repentance and prayer that a counterinsurgency of the opposite virtue will take over and rule in us.
Some have suggested that in today’s context we need two more deadly sins: cruelty and dishonesty, which are especially damaging today. Both will be addressed this year.
Week 1. Pride: The Cosmic Coup
Key Concept: Humility
Scripture: Genesis 3:1 – 7; Philippians 2
Metaphor: A mirror, polishing a big “ME” text
Felt Need: Being affirmed or validated; you don’t care about me. (People turn a healthy sense of self into self-fulfillment.)
Main Idea: Sin is the placement of self first, and the root of all of these. The move toward Christ – sanctification – is a move away from self.
Take Away: Self-examination about the ways in which we place self first.
- Series Promo / Lead-in for LOC
- Self-assessment examination of pride in bulletin for people to fill out in LOC: For example, “Do you sometimes feel like you’re the smartest person in the room?”
- Bookmark with seven sins and verses for each
Week 2. Sloth: Lethal Lethargy
Key Concept: Passion
Scripture: Proverbs 6:6-11; Peter (for all of his issues, you can work with a guy with enthusiasm)
Metaphor: Couch potato watching TV with a thought balloon saying, “whatever”
Felt Need: Shattered dreams
Main Idea: Sin is not just prideful overreaching, but an underachieving, or a failure to live a fully human life. Pride and sloth, also known as apathy or despair, are both expressions of distrust in God. Our challenge is to find and embrace a lifelong calling / purpose. This never ends.
Take Away: Take the next step in your faith (new members and adult baptisms)
- Chuck Roberts video: getting up at 4:30a for devotion
- The 2 cynical, curmudgeon Muppet guys
- “Waiting on the world to change,” John Mayer (only used the Chuck video this weekend.)
Week 3. Lust: Pretty Poison
Key Concept: Healthy relationships, intimacy
Scripture: Matthew 5:27 – 30
Metaphor: 50s pinup style girl
Felt Need: Being known; desire.
Main Idea: Lust is the “planning to take.”
Take Away: Discern / develop a better self-awareness
- Perspectives Video: Emily Boedecker story on Covenant House (consequences of unchecked lust; homeless youth)
Week 4. Gluttony: Food Fast
Key Concept: Health
Scripture: Genesis 25:24-34, John 6:27
Metaphor: giant fries and a coke
Main Idea: Possibly the female counterpart to male lust, gluttony is excess that distracts and numbs us to deeper concerns.
Take Away: Learn a “practical theology of eating,” which includes fasting, or deprivation for the purpose of focusing on God.
Creative Ideas / Angles:
- World Communion Sunday
- Use a bag of rice from Africa – the average daily meal
- Exercise, body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, fasting
- Tell an anorexia story
Week 5. Envy: Greener Grass
Key Concept: Believing in who God made you, your calling and destiny.
Scripture: Genesis 37 (Joseph)
Metaphor: Neighbor peeking over fence – maybe make him green
Felt Need: Security / acceptance?
Main Idea: (People brag about some vices, but not this one.)
Creative Ideas / Angles:
- Clip from Toy Story, with Woody’s envy of Buzz Lightyear’s attention
- A prayer for those who envy
Week 6. Anger: Nip It
Key Concept: Patience, Honesty, Confronting the source
Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-32
Metaphor: smoke out of a guy’s ears? Examples of a bad day
Felt Need: fear and or hurt. Mostly hurt.
Main Idea: Anger is natural and not inherently sinful. But Christians get freaked out by anger. How do we respond in a healthy way?
Take Away: Learn a healthy response to anger.
- “In Praise of Anger,” Rosa Parks
- Perspectives Video: La Amistad (righteous anger angle / helping)
Week 7. Greed: Successful Failure
Key Concept: Generosity, a perceptive mind
Scripture: Luke 12:13-21
Metaphor: giant pile of money
Felt Need: Provision, Security. Being taken care of.
- Greed is Good clip with Michael Douglas (we didn’t use this.)