(The following is an excerpt from The Imaginative Church Workbook, coming soon from AMOKBooks.)

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times (and that is only a slight exaggeration)—people lamenting the consumer mindset in the church. I lament it too, but I completely understand it. Before I could preach, before I knew enough to teach, I was a consumer and the reason was simple. There was nothing (or at least very little) for me to do. I wasn’t called to preach yet, teaching was off the radar, and I had no musical skills, either vocally or instrumentally. Preaching, teaching and music, I call them the big three of church involvement, and I had none of them. Further, I wasn’t gifted in any of the mechanical things that needed to be done, I was bad with finance and I didn’t yet have the Spiritual maturity for any type of leadership position. Basically all I felt qualified to do was to show up and try to worship. Now those formative years were crucial to me and I look back on them very fondly, but my involvement was really limited.

I’ve shared my story in several of my other books, and don’t want to belabor it here, beyond to say, I went from the person described above to a pastor/artist/speaker/author who has ministered all over the U.S. and written books and ministry resources that have been used all over the world, largely because someone got imaginative. A pastor found my gift of art and showed me through a very simple project that my gift was useful to the church. Once I knew that, I began to look for and invent ways to serve, because I could see something I already enjoyed and did well was useful to people i really cared about. Everything that I am doing today can be traced back to a single moment and I am convinced I am not unique. People want to know that they matter, and that they’re useful and this is a huge blessing of the imaginative church. You can show people they matter. You can get them involved and you can help them find ways to make a difference.

By the way, there is a really cool side effect from all of this. You will end up with willing fulfilled servants who will find meaning and purpose in the Lord and His service. They will be able to do all kinds of new and different things that will open doors to the church for many and expand the reach of your church in amazing ways. You’ll turn consumers into contributors (in the truest sense of the word), and the Gospel will spread.


You know what’s better than a book? A free book. You know what’s better than a free book? An excellent, life-affirming, God-glorifying book. That’s what this book is. A couple weeks ago, I received an email offering a review copy Jim Cymbala’s new book. Well that was a no-brainer for me. I’ve loved everything of his that I’ve ever read. This book is wonderful. It’s a quick read, I read it in two days, and given my schedule right now, that’s saying something. It is a book full of the testimonies of some people who’ve been rescued, mostly from pretty horrific circumstances, by the love Jesus. This is one of the most encouraging books I have ever read. Story after story shows how the love of Christ overcomes all matter of struggle, then at the end, is a clear presentation of the Gospel along with a final chapter called “Where to go from here” which helps a reader to find and take the next steps in forming a walk with Christ.

On this blog I talk a lot about telling a better story. This is a prime example. Few things testify to the greatness of Christ better than the story of a transformed life. The Rescue will give you seven great stories of people who’ve gone from the darkness into the light of God’s love.

This would be a great book to give to someone who is outside the faith, struggling with faith, or just generally having a hard time. It would also be a great book for a new believer. Do yourself a favor and check out this book.

In today’s second part of this post, I want to look a little bit more of the relationship between risk and trust.

The relationship between risk and trust cannot be overstated. As an example, in my traveling art/speaking ministry, can you guess which speaking opportunities are the easiest to get? Give up? The easiest opportunities are in the places I have already been. The risk of bringing a guest speaker into a church is pretty huge. I make the wrong move or say the wrong thing and the pastor’s phone will start to ring. I made the mistake, but I am gone. He or she has to deal with the fall out. Once they see they can trust me, and they know I will do a good job and bless the people God has given them to serve and entrusted to them, bringing me back is easy. The risk is diminished. We have to deliver and we honor God first, and then the person who took the risk.

That first project is hugely important. It is your chance to prove yourself faithful and if you prove yourself to be faithful, I cannot guarantee thing will go any further, but I can guarantee that if you are not faithful, closed doors are likely to stay closed. Do what you can, offer your gift to God and trust Him. He will make a way. Sometimes humble projects open greater opportunities.

One more thing, be appropriate. Know your audience. There’s a reason all the animals are smiling on the ark in the nursery mural. It’s because the mural is for children. Is it realistic? No, realistic is people clawing at the door of the ark before sinking under for the third time, but children aren’t ready for that. Give your audience appropriate content for the situation and environment you’re in.

One of the key functions of this ministry is helping the church to embrace creatives and creativity. Occasionally though, I feel the need to remind creatives how to end up being embraced. This two-part post from my upcoming book, The Imaginative Church is designed to that end.

He is well known in Christian art circles and he is brilliant, one of the best artists in this realm. He’s worked with international ministries and some of the most influential churches in the U.S. He’s kind of a hero of mine, but on this day I was a little disappointed. He was doing a live-webcast and he started talking negatively about how churches only want to use artists for the obligatory Noah’s Ark Mural in the church. He went on to talk about the ways churches misuse artists and he had some great points. Churches do need to treat their creatives well and value their services and talents, maybe even demonstrating that value financially. (Supplies are expensive, people, and the majority of us as artists are not rolling in cash.) My fundamental disagreement was with the Noah’s Ark Mural comment. Here’s why I think he was wrong, at least on that front.

My first reason was sentimental. My first art “job” in the church was painting a backdrop for Vacation Bible School. While that’s not exactly the same, I believe it’s comparable and the end result of that one project was everything I am doing today. That one little project was transformative, and I have no doubt that God used it to change he course of my entire life.

The second reason is even more important. I see this even more clearly now that I have lived on both the artist and the pastor sides of the aisle. The arts (especially the non-musical arts) in the church is a risky thing for the pastor. He is taking a risk and that risk could be substantial. The reason why is pretty simple. There are a lot of people with a lot of strong opinions in a church and the arts are subjective. When the pastor wants to empower you to use your gift to serve the church, he is taking a risk with the rest of the congregation. This is why that entry level project is so important and how we handle it matters.

Chances are, your first project will be one with less risk. Often this will be found in the children’s area. Most children’s ministry resources are visual based and artistic, so to use images and stories is a little safer there. The pastor is walking a bit of a line here. He or she is opening a door for you and giving you a chance. He or she is giving you his/her endorsement to the rest of the congregation an that is no small thing. The best thing we can do is look the project over carefully and count the cost. Does it fall within your skill set and can you accomplish what is set before you? Now, to be clear, it may not be exactly what you want to do, or the most fulfilling thing you’ve ever done, but understand it is an open door and it may lead to more opportunity, and the opportunity to do more of what you want to do.

So let’s say you decide to take the pastor up on the offer. The next step is to deliver. Remember Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, 24because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving… This is key and crucial. There is no such thing as “good enough for the church” as in “Well it’s not my best, but it’s good enough for the church.” Remember, we always are supposed to offer our best to God. While you’re at it, remember the risk your pastor is taking on your behalf. If you’ve ever over-delivered, now is the time. Also, deliver on time. Meet your deadline or “die” trying. Take care of the building, keep the mess to a minimum and make the most of the opportunity.

Further remember the risk your pastor is taking on your behalf and listen to them. You don’t know the pressure they might be under, so give them what they ask for. Your pastor is in authority over the church for a reason and when we work within the context of the church, we need to come under that authority. We give them what they ask for and if you have a different idea, run it by them before your start. The general rule is earn their trust, get more creative freedom on the next project. Even better do something so amazing that the congregation gets excited about your work.

If you are a person of faith who lives in the culture, read this book.
If you are not a person of faith who lives in the culture, read this book.
If you are a person who is unsure about faith, but lives in the culture, read this book.
and if you are a person who is diametrically opposed to faith but who lives in the culture, read this book.

What can I say? This is a phenomenal book. It’s formatted as a devotional, a reading a day for 15 weeks, with an essay each day from some of the greatest thinkers in the arts, academia and the sciences, writing on matters of faith and culture. I chose to read more quickly. These writings are some of the most thought provoking things I have ever read on either topic, and I read a lot on faith and culture. This is a book I will reference often in various aspects of my life and work. Given the level of scholarship behind many of these essays, the book is surprisingly easy to read and comprehend. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Read this book

I went to check Facebook this morning and I found this photo from nine years ago, from one of the highlights of my ministry life.

This was one of the many times in my life when I scratched my head and asked myself the question. “How did I get here?”

You might recognize me standing there, just behind Michael W. Smith. I had just ministered to the youth at his church near Nashville, along with the rest of the people all around me, my friends from the Interlinc Write Group. Interlinc is a youth ministry resource that uses Christian contemporary/rock music as the jumping off point for Bible lessons. I was one of their writers. I still write for them from time to time and it is a great resource and they put me into quite a few “How did I get here?” moments. Easting dinner in a Vietnamese Restaurant with Steve Taylor, interviewing Michael Tait at Creation, in the recording studio with Toby Mac, and on and on. It was awesome.

How did I get there? Well, the day I got my call to ministry, a plan was hatched to take a group of kids from the church I was attending to the Creation Festival. I knew I had a call, but I really wasn’t sure how it was all going to come together. I just knew I liked kids and rock music, so I thought it would be a good way to test the waters. Since I thought I might like working with youth, I went the youth leader training sessions every day at Creation. They were led by Ken McCoy, who is also in the above picture. When I became the youth leader at the church, that fall I subscribed to Interlinc’ Youth Leaders Only Resource and my kids loved it. I’d get this big box of CDs and videos and we’d do the lessons, but I was also listening to the CDs on my own and wishing the writer would have written on a different song. I decided to start writing my own lessons base on their format. When I had written a couple, I contacted Interlinc about writing for them and they gave me a shot. Before long I was writing for all the issues and then one day I got the invite to join this group. It was awesome. One of those guys has written books that are all over the Youth Specialties catalog, another was the youth pastor at the Crystal Cathedral, some were running national ministries, others were youth guys at large churches, Some had written books, they were all experts and then there was me, Dave Weiss who ministered at a small church in the middle of a cornfield. Looking back at all of our times together, I often found myself wondering “How did I get here?”

Today I want to give you the answer and this is the point for all of you creatives. I put myself out there. I decided to stop questioning my qualifications, do the work, submit it and see what happens. Too many people sell themselves short and there have been many times when I have been one of them. Don’t do that to yourself. Take a shot, show what you have to offer and see what happens. The worst that can happen is someone will say no and the best. You’ll wind up in a place that is more than you could have imagined, asking, “How did I get here?”

As you may or may not know, in addition to all the art and creative work that I do, I am a pastor at a church here in Pennsylvania. As such this is one of the busiest times of the year, working through the Lenten season coming up to Easter. This year in addition to the Biblical teaching I am doing, I am creating short videos for my congregation (and the rest of the world, via YouTube) about the traditions around the holiday. I thought I would share this with you as well.