Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Well I just finished my second last class for my Masters of Divinity in Creative Ministry. I have one class left to do and then I get to jump into the part I have been most looking forward to, writing my thesis. The thing is I don’t want to just write a dry academic piece that no one will read. I want to write something that I can hopefully use to help churches to grow and expand their congregations and their effectiveness by embracing creativity and creative ministry. The title’s been going through my mind for a long time. I’ve done a workshop on it before and I have a lot of ideas for it. But today I am going to get started. I am hoping you’ll join me on the journey.

What I’m hoping to explore is the background and need for imaginative ministry, as well as imaginative preaching, teaching and reaching (evangelism) and of course worship. we’ll also explore how the church can embrace creativity and minister to creative people. Now to be sure I will be writing an academic paper, for the process, but I also want to be sure to create stuff along the way that will be of help to all of you.

It all started a long time ago, when I was invited to speak to a church planting conference on the subject of imagination. I decided to start my study by looking up the word imagination in the Bible. I was surprised to find that almost without exception the word was used in a negative context—namely people imagining things that were not true, dealing with false beliefs. Needless to say that’s not where I’m going. I can almost hear people cringing even as I write the words “imaginative preaching.” I’ve heard some of that recently and to be honest, it angered me to the point where I needed to go into prayer. That’s not where I’m going either. No, instead I want to inspire people to embrace the kind of imagination that makes a childless nonagenarian able to see a nation of people being born from him. Rather than moving to disbelief, Abraham trusted God to be bigger than the seeming impossibility of his situation. We serve the same God. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. I believe He still desires to work through people who will look past the seeming impossibility of our situations and trusting in God to seed our imaginations with infinite possibilities. I invite you to join me in this journey.

Imagine the possibilities.

Right now a lot of my regular readers are likely scratching their heads, and the people from my home church are likely more than a little frustrated so I better explain myself. You don’t have to go to church. For that matter, you don’t have to go to work or school, you don’t have to bathe or eat or drink or sleep. well I suppose the urge to sleep will eventually overtake you in spite or yourself, but the rest are ultimately choices we make. And by the way choosing not to do any of them will be detrimental to your life.

I was listening to Dan Miller’s podcast and he reminded me of what I already know. How we think about things matters. All of these things are choices, and they are also privileges. You don’t have to do them, you get to do them. Going to church is not a have to, it’s a get to. Getting together with other believers to worship the Lord. That’s a privilege. Singing God’s praises, that’s a privilege. Lifting your prayers to the Lord is a privilege. Reading God’s Word and studying it together is a privilege. These are all things that hold huge benefits for our lives and they are all an amazing privilege. You can say, I can do most of these on my own, without entering the church. No respectfully, you can’t. Oh there are times to do all these things personally, on your own, and I am a huge advocate of living a life of worship, but worship was also designed to be done in community. Studying God’s Word was meant to be done in community. Prayer and praise were also meant to be done at least at times in community.

Now I know what you might be thinking. People in the church have done this or that or the other thing. They’re hypocrites. You’re right. Church people sometimes fail to live up to God’s standard and even their own. So do you, am I right? I often compare the church to an airport. Everybody walks through the door dragging their baggage behind them. There are no perfect people anywhere, but when we come together we can build each other up, and lift each other up, and together we can be better together than we are alone.

Bottom line. You don’t have to go to church, you get to go to church. The church needs you, and you need the church.

I’ve been working through the outreach chapter of my new book, The Imaginative Church, when I decided to explore the difficulties we run into when thinking about numbers when related to people. I think this might be helpful for my readers today.

Yes, it is about numbers (at least to some degree)

One of the things I hear far too often is it’s not about numbers and of course it’s true. These are precious children of God to whom we’re reaching out. We’d never want to treat them like numbers. They’re special creations with needs and desires and amazing possibilities, not to mention the fact that God has a unique plan and purpose for their lives. People are not numbers and we need to cherish them as the masterpieces they are. No sir, no ma’am, people are not numbers. But numbers are people. Every person you are used to lead to Christ counts. Every person added to the Kingdom, adds something to Kingdom. Every person that comes into your church brings with them gifts and talents and abilities that can be used to make your imaginative church closer to being the church God imagines. Of course I know and believe what John 6:44 says, that no one come to Christ who isn’t drawn by the Spirit, but obedience to Jesus command to go and make disciples has the wonderful byproduct of expanding the reach of your church for Kingdom purposes.

It is for this reason that churches must be faithful in every aspect of disciple making. In the vast majority of cases, disciple making starts with the “therefore go” part, i.e. evangelism. Outreach is a crucial part of the church’s calling. Now I know some will want to cite “wherever two or more are gathered.” That verse is about church leadership and leadership authority, not an excuse to be lax in our duty to be Christ’s witnesses.

I know some will also want to take me to task with the statements about “quality over quantity.” While I will agree that quality is hugely important, I must ask a question. Who appointed us judge over that? Secondly when did quality and quantity become mutually exclusive. They’re not. We are called to both. For a while in the evangelical movement it almost seemed to be a race. We’d get people all fired up, get them to say the sinners prayer and then move onto the next person without a lot of thought to the follow up. It is for this reason that a reminder is in order. Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not converts. Now to be clear, conversion is part of the equation, it’s just not the end of the equation. That’s why Jesus told us to both go AND make disciples. When he made us fishers of men, he did not expect that the people could come into the boat, cleaned, prepped and “Cry-O-Vac sealed for freshness.” No, we are out there to catch them, right where they are, the cleaning comes as Jesus comes in and makes them new creations and as they are discipled by the church, as they grow into disciple making disciples themselves.

A project that has been on my mind for years, and it’s time. I call it The Imaginative Church. The idea is pretty simple. I want to see the church embrace their imagination to find new ways to communicate the unchanging truth of God’s Word. I already have worked up a lot of this material in various forms, but I am finally going to curate it into a compendium of (hopefully) useful information. Stay tuned, and in the mean time, which cover do you like better?


or B.

Share your vote in the comments.

I know, I know, I’ve posted on this topic many times, but I am considering going for my Masters Degree with a focus on creative ministry and I am leaning toward using this “question” as my thesis. As I think about it, and indeed I am in the early stages of this pursuit, a lot of things are crossing my mind.

I guess the first thing to ask is the simplest question, i.e. Does the church need creativity? Of course, my answer to this question is yes. So much of the world I have done over the last nearly two decades supports that belief. I have seen creativity touch hearts and minds. I have seen the “lightbulb” come on as people’s eyes light up to new possibilities and I have seen a few see their need for Christ or at the very least the need for a greater commitment to Him as I have used my creative tools to communicate the Gospel. Of course, all of that is more about the work of the Spirit than the work of me, but I am pleased to be invited into the process. So yes I believe the church needs creativity. Now more than ever, I have to prove it and I would like to take you, dear reader, along for the journey.

So I believe the church needs creativity. The question is how do I make someone else believe it. This brings forth a multitude of problems. First of these problems is that so many people think they are not creative. I’m not sure what causes this, though I have some theories. First is an education system (and for that matter parents) that seems to funnel people away from the arts and toward things that are “more practical.” Of course, I plan to explore this in much greater detail. Then of course there are those who are resistant to creativity. I’ve heard a few people question the use of visual art, for example, asking whether or not we were in violation of the second commandment, namely that we are making “graven” images. I know this is not the case, but that some caution needs to be taken. Then there are others that question the need for creativity for fear of taking the people toward false teaching as we get creative with Scripture. Again, I am aware that there are possibilities of that here, but what we are doing is not at all about changing Scripture but rather seeking to find ways to take the unchanging message of the Gospel to an ever changing world.

Once over those obstacles, we have to look at our own obstacles. That is the internal things within creativity people that make us suspect to the rest of the world and specifically the church. Things like pride, ego and the artist’s temperament. As stated earlier I do believe the church needs creativity and it needs to encourage and empower creative people. I also believe creative people (like everyone else) need to be under authority and we need to learn how to work with and follow those the Lord has put over us.

These are just the beginning of my thoughts on the subject. Where we go from here is in God’s hands, but I look forward to the pursuit. The church does need creativity, noin me in proving why.

PRAY FOR THE CHURCHsmIt was the question that stopped me in my tracks. Not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I sort of thought the person asking would think I was making it up as I go. It happened at my interview. I had started as the interim pastor. My intention was to come in, stay a few months and help the church keep going while they found their permanent pastor. Then I would put them in that pastor’s capable hands and back out on the road I would go. My job wasn’t to change things or impose my vision, it was to prepare them to receive the next person’s vision and run with it. But something happened. We both (the congregation and I) began to realize that I was the next person. Frankly I was very happy.

From there the question was how to proceed. The congregation already knew me, so how would the interview process go? How could we get everyone on board? While some would say I was just continuing on, the role had actually changed pretty substantially. All of the sudden my vision mattered. All of the sudden the question became “How would I lead this 150 year old church into the next phase of its life?” We decided to have a night where the congregation could ask me their questions. And that’s when I got the question:

What’s Your Vision for This Church?

My answer was the same as it is on this blog, well, okay not exactly. This space is more arts and creativity focused, but the principle remains the same. My vision is to help other people find and use their talents to live out their vision. I know to some “my vision is to help you live your vision” sounds a lot like a cop out. Here’s why it’s not:

If it’s just my vision, then it’s all my idea, and you will only get as excited about it as I can make you. The idea, the continuing ideas needed to implement it and motivating you to bring the idea to fruition, all of that depends on me. You might be saying, “That’s leadership.” and to a degree you would be right, but I see something better.

If it’s your vision, then it’s your idea. You’re already passionate about it and there is an excitement, maybe even a desperation to bring it to reality. Now I can come along side you and help you and find the people that can help you. I can look at all the gifts of the church and work with you, encourage you and build you up. Imagine a church where people were living their dreams, seeing the great things in their hearts and minds happening. If that’s not a contagious church, I don’t know what is. That’s why it’s a big part of my vision.

About now, some of you are seeing the problem. There is a name, two names actually, missing from this post. I did that intentionally to bring us to this point. Those names, of course, are God and Jesus. If it’s my vision, it all depends on me. That load is too heavy for me to bear alone. If it’s your vision then I can help you bear the load and work with you to make it happen. But what if it’s God’s vision? What if you were seeking God and He laid something on your heart? What if God’s vision becomes your vision? Now all of the sudden the Spirit of God is giving the passion. Now the Spirit of God is your encourager. Now the Spirit of God is your provider and now when you come to the end of yourself and your abilities, you can watch in awe as the Creator of the Universe comes in and does something amazing to bring His vision, the one He laid on your heart, to fruition. Now it doesn’t all depend on me, and it doesn’t all depend on you and me. Now it all depends on the One on whom it ACTUALLY all depends, God.

Now imagine that that was happening in the lives of believer after believer after believer. As people are coming together to live out God sized dreams in the church, the neighborhood, the nation, maybe even the world. Can you imagine what a church like that could do? Neither can I but I love to try.

That’s my vision for the church. What’s your vision?

Okay, Church, I’m frustrated. It’s happening once again. A dear fried of mine is being ousted from his ministry position after moving his family for hundreds of miles, not because of wrongdoing, or negligence, or incompetence, or a host of other things but merely because his church has decided to do something different, taking a different approach. I know what you might be thinking, businesses do that all the time. And you’re right, they do. It’s still not okay.

Here’s the thing. We’re not a business, we’re a body, the Body of Christ. Relationships are at the very core of our structure. Our Lord and master said “they will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another.” This is a pretty funny of showing love, dropping people who you called to build relationships with people in your congregation at the drop of a hat. What message does this show to the flock? People are expendable? Pretty sure Jesus feels differently.

Church, we are called to a higher standard. It’s not enough to be like the rest of the world as a matter of fact that is the exact opposite of what we are supposed to be. We are supposed to be better than the world. We are supposed to be role models to the world.

I’ve seen this far too often. Something has to change.

Not long ago, I overheard a person talking about their church. I have to admit I was taken aback. As this person spoke, they related how no one preaches at the church and there are times where they just sit in silence for a whole service. “No one tells us what to do or what to believe.” They seemed to think this was Panacea, almost paradise. The faith is a fairly old tradition, but I have to tell you the truth… I don’t get it.

See I know my own tendency to go my own way. “There’s a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.” That’s what Scripture says, and I’m pretty sure I have demonstrated it in my own life. Left to my own devices, even after all these years as a Christian, it’s still pretty easy for me to talk myself into doing what I want to do and putting God’s seal of approval on it. Thankfully I have a few things that help me to stay on the right path.

First I have God’s Word. I have the Bible, I can look at it, read it, study it and take it to heart. I read the Word and the Holy Spirit convicts me to stay on the right path.

Next I have the church. When I come together with other believers around the Word of God, I receive the blessing of conviction and accountability. If I am honest enough to be open about what I am thinking, someone will take me to task and take me back to the Word of God and show me the error of my ways.

Finally I have a pastor. He comes and preaches the Word of God to me. He studies the Word. He prays and He brings messages that are often exactly what I need to hear. Not always what I want to hear, but what I need to hear. He declares the Word of God. He does tell me what to believe and sometimes even what to do, based not on his whim but on what the Word of God says. His messages sometimes step on my toes. That is a blessing, called conviction that God gives us to turn us around before we make things much worse. No one telling us what to do or what to believe may sound like a wonderful thing… but it isn’t. In the grand scheme of things, if the Scriptures are true, and by the way, THEY ARE, then someone who doesn’t tell you what to do or what to believe is showing you they don’t care about you at all.

I think it is far better for someone to go to the Word, seek the Lord and preach it, speaking the truth in love and saying…

Thus sayeth the Lord…

From there the choice is mine, but at least I’ve heard the truth. What I do with that is up to me.

1990IstAghiaSofiaChrisPantMosaicNo discussion of the Creator/creation/Potter/clay would be complete without looking at a mosaic. Hundreds of broken pieces, shattered seemingly beyond repair brought together to make something beautiful. It’s a nearly perfect image of the church. Sin wreaks havoc on our world and shatters our lives and then something wonderful happens. We come to Christ and He welcomes us and makes us a part of something bigger than ourselves, something beautiful. A beautiful mosaic called the Church. He brings us together and tasks us with being His body, His ambassadors, a beautiful image of Christ for the world to see.

Mosaics are tough. Lots of rough edges, lots of brokenness, lots of things that would make most people wonder if it is worthwhile. Why not just throw it away and start over with something new? A lot of people feel that way about the church too, and many throw it away. In the process they miss the point. All those broken pieces, submitted to the hands of a master artist, become wonderful. He painstakingly smooths the edges or makes them fit until they become exactly what he intended. He works with the pieces and restores them, uniting them not just in wholeness but in beauty. That’s what Jesus does for His church. He makes the broken whole and beautiful as part of something much bigger than anyone of us could be on our own.

Hebrews 10:25 says (Let us) not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Bring your brokenness to the local church and to the Master artist and become part of something big and beautiful.

On May 3, AMOKArts will be hosting it’s first Creative Arts Workshop at Ephrata Church of the Brethren, Ephrata, PA at 9:00 a.m.

We will be covering a variety of topics for church leaders and creatives related to creative arts ministry and helping the church use all its God-given gifts to advance it’s God-given mission as well as doing some hands-on activities. After May 3, I will be looking for other churches who want to host this workshop. So if you’re planning on being in the Ephrata, PA area on May 3, we’d love to see you or if you think the churches in your community could benefit from this type of workshop, please contact Dave Weiss.