Posts Tagged ‘dave weiss’

(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.


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.

for my Masterpiece paint parties that is… I just came up with a new floral design to teach at the parties. I call this one A Pop of Spring. What do you think?

I spent 16 years publishing and editing a magazine. Nearly a third of my professional life has been spent looking for typos and it’s sort of a force of habit by now. I can spot a typo heading down the road, out of the corner of my eye at 55+ miles an hour. I’m notorious for it at times, but there is one writer who can always get them by me, every single time no matter how often I look at their work. That writer is me. Now if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you are probably not surprised and at times autocorrect has not been my friend, but I am continually amazed how often I just plain miss things.

Case in point—I’m currently reading my own book, Enough. Now I have read this thing backwards, forwards and sideways, before I hit publish and I thought I had it pretty tight, and for the record, it is pretty tight, but it’s not flawless, and that drives me crazy and leaves me scratching my head and asking the age old question:

How did I miss that?

I know what you might be thinking, “Why didn’t you hire an editor?” Well the reality is the profit margin on a self-published books is relatively small (often non-existent), and editing fees would most definitely take the project way into the red, and besides “I edited for 16 years…” (I say to myself somewhat overconfidently). Still I ask myself, with all that experience, “How could I miss it these annoying little typos?” Let me see if I can answer my own question.

Have you ever met a child whose behavior is atrocious? Have you noticed the only one who doesn’t seem to notice is his parent? Why don’t they see it? I mean after all they have no problem seeing problems with other people’s kids. The reason is simple. They’re too close to it. They’re too familiar and so it is with our writing. We know what we’re trying to say so editing our own work is really hard. It’s easy to miss the flaws in something you’re really invested in.

So what can we do about it? Well maybe rather than paying an editor, you can find another author and d a swap. You read their book, they read yours. At least this will make your glaring errors stand out. Of course, in the publishing world, if you get a company to publish your book they will assign an editor or maybe even a team of editors to you, so that may be the way to go. Of course the issue with that is, you have to decide you’re okay with waiting to be picked, and that got old all the way back in my freelance days.

Now to be clear, the few thing I found are not horrendous, and the book is still really readable and probably the best thing I have ever written, the flaws are just annoying. I do hope you’ll read it. When I finish reading, I will probably take another run at editing. The nice thing about self-publishing is you can always make things better.

One last thought, nobody’s perfect (except Jesus), and I’d rather release and re-edit than withholding it until I achieve an unattainable perfection.

As we consider the imaginative church, and the creativity associate with it, one of the first thing we might need to do is ask a question:

Is it important?

We might also follow that with the questions, “Is it necessary?” followed close behind by “Is it allowed?”

Let’s start with the last one. The answer is absolutely yes. I do understand the objection. I have seen far too many people in this day and age getting a little too creative with the Scriptures, specifically with interpretation. There are a lot of people out there, even in the church who are (whether intentionally or unintentionally) trying to make the Bible mean what it does not mean. This is not what I mean when I speak of the imaginative church. So let’s be clear. We are talking about taking the unchanging message of the Gospel to an ever changing world, and in that aspect, creativity and imagination is not only allowed, not only necessary but of the utmost importance and, dare I say, essential.

Let’s face it, people in our world are bombarded by thousands and thousands of messages every day. Consider all the media, the billboards, email, texts, ads, books, television, movies, and on and on and on. We are absolutely bombarded. Have you ever been to Times Square? The media saturation in that place is beyond belief. People are confronted on all sides by a relentless barrage of messages. Now consider this, one of these messages is the one Christ’s church has been entrusted with. We believers know it’s the most important one, the only one with eternal significance, but to the rest of the world, the ones we are called to reach, it’s just one of the thousands. Now before I go further, I acknowledge that the Gospel is empowered by the Spirit, and I am not taking that lightly, not by a long shot. I will also acknowledge that there is a reason that God gifted us with creativity, and I believe that it is attached to the great commission. God made us creative (like Him) on purpose, and at least part of that purpose is to take the Gospel to “Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Creativity is a gift, given by God. As in the parable of the talents, the master has invested some of His wealth, “talents” of great value in His servants for the purpose of investing them for the good of His kingdom. The choice that is before us is simple. Will we obediently invest what the master has given or will we bury His investment? Our gifts and our talents are His investment in us. If this is the case, and it is, then, if you have creativity, and everyone does, obedience dictates that we get creative for the Kingdom.

Creativity in the church is not just important, or necessary, or allowed, it’s mandatory.

How will you invest what you have been given? Let’s get creative.

In my new book, Enough., one of the things I dealt with is the subject of having enough. For today’s post I thought I would build on that. This is not an excerpt, it’s an expansion.This is a frequent struggle for creatives, especially. We get ideas or feel a calling or maybe even a commission and we feel the need to pass because we feel we don’t have enough, whether it be resources, talent or whatever. I confess I have struggled here too, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s pointless for us to do that to ourselves. I mean sure there is a time to count the cost, but for the most part that’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re selling ourselves short. So whenever I hear someone lamenting whether or not they have enough, I will usually ask a follow up question.

What do you have right now?

The reason I ask this is simple. If we focus on what we don’t have, we’ll never start and we’ll forget to be grateful for what we already have. Forget for a second having all you need to finish something. What do you need to start? Starting builds momentum and momentum keeps things moving. This is especially true in the realm of talent. People will make the fatal flaw of comparing their abilities with others. Do you know how that person who you think is better than you got to that place? The started and kept going. some people are naturally gifted, but no one starts off great. Rather they did what you need to do. Start where you are, with what you have and build on it. Every great creation started as raw material. The ones who do the work are the ones who get the finished product, so I’ll ask again.

What do you have right now?

Start with that.