The local church is about to undergo a major paradigm shift. Church as we know it may soon no longer exist. “Why?” you might ask. Because God is always doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? God’s very nature is creative. Look at our world. Why do we have so many different types and kinds of animals, trees, fish, bugs, and people? Consider, if you dare, the vast expanse of our universe. Are all those stars and planets and galaxies really necessary for our survival? Why do we have such unfathomable diversity and beauty all around us? It is painfully obvious that our Heavenly Father just loves to create.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Rom 1:20
His fingerprints are literally everywhere we look. It’s like He can’t help himself. Something new is constantly exuding from who He is. Therefore, we have no excuse for missing or denying the certainty of the divine creator’s existence. Likewise, we have no excuse for lacking in creativity ourselves. As a believer, His nature is in us. So it stands to reason that creative thoughts, ideas, and plans should be pouring out of us in like manner. Sometimes all it takes is a handful of people or even just one person’s innovative actions to change the course of human history. Most historians would attribute the transition from the middle ages to the modern era primarily to two men. Da Vinci and Michelangelo radically affected the world as we know it simply by being unreservedly creative. These guys somehow tapped into their inner creativity in such a powerful way that the artistic and scientific realms still echo with the after effects of their contributions. How is it that people like Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, The Beetles, and Bill Gates seem to be able access and function out of their creative / entrepreneurial mojo so effectively that it radically transforms the culture they live in? On the other hand, why has so much of the local church become so characteristically irrelevant and predictably boring? Dare I say it? Dead.
It could be because we have been pursuing “revival” rather than reformation and renaissance. According to Webster to “revive” means,
: to return to consciousness or life :
: to restore from a depressed, inactive, or unused state : to bring back (from the dead)
Really? Are we sure we want revival? No wonder the church more closely resembles Frankenstein than his bride. The point is that it’s high time that we learn to go with the new and let the old die off like it’s supposed to. Why do we keep trying to bring back to life something that is dead or nearly dead? Our God is perfectly capable of initiating new life… and so are we! The first reformation was a much needed rejection of established doctrine and practice. I pray that the next reformation will look more like a Renaissance. In essence, a “new birth”.
Since the early days of our ministry, we have been consistently attracted to the “right brain” creative contingent of the church. Even now, we tend to gravitate toward those with an artistic bent… painters, dancers, dramatists, musicians and the like. For many years, my primary means of discipleship was to start a rock group. More often than not, my band of disciples was just that, a band. Our walls are covered with original works of art. At least partly because it’s become more and more difficult for us to enjoy all the copies and reproductions (art, music, books, and otherwise) that the Christian culture has been churning out. When art becomes a business, that’s when it tends to lose its authenticity and soul. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Thank God for Willow Creek. They were one of the first churches to step forward and scream, “Hey Christians! It’s OK to be creative again!” Say what you want about the whole seeker friendly movement, we need more churches to take these kinds of departures from the established norms. And to keep doing it until we get free from the emaciated state of religious bondage we’ve been in on Sunday morning… and the rest of the week. A release of creativity is coming… because it has to. Shift happens.
If you’re sitting out there among the faceless masses in the “congregation” merely putting in your time, maybe the season has come for you to GET UP AND BREAK OUT! Do something you know you’ll get in trouble for. Let passion be your motivation like it was before you got sterilized and became a full fledged member of the walking dead. Our Father made each of us with a unique calling and ministry. We have to resist the tendency of allowing ourselves to get homogenized into the mix and to lose our true flavor. God loves your flavor, he was very intentional in making it that way. He’s not apologetic about it, so why should you be? Now’s the time to stand up for who you really are and be an original, a one of a kind believer intent on being the best “you” you can be. I’m not Mother Teresa and neither are you. Only she was supposed to be Mother Teresa. Personally, I think all the bad food and the relentless heat of Calcutta would have killed me anyway.
The reality is that one day we will all stand before the Lord and give an account of what we did with our time here on earth. None of us will be able to excuse ourselves by saying, “but Lord, my pastor wouldn’t let me” or “but Lord, they hurt me and I never got over it… that’s why I couldn’t get it done”. Or perhaps for the leaders, “but Lord, those people you gave me were a bunch of knuckleheads.. What the heck was I supposed to do?” The only way we’re ever going to here “well done my good and faithful servant” is if somewhere along the way we get comfortable being the real us and realize that this is enough. What we’re called, gifted, and anointed to do will naturally flow out of who we are, that’s the way it works. No one has to work hard at being themselves. It’s easy. His yoke is easy. Comparing ourselves to anyone else will always be a bad idea. The local church will experience a shocking metamorphosis when diversity and individual creativity are once again prized instead of feared. Shift happens.
My dear brothers and sisters, we have to keep moving forward. We can do it. We must do it. The church’s future depends on it. We have to keep creating and initiating and birthing new ideas and strategies and methods for accomplishing that which we’ve been left here to do. If we’re a church leader, for God’s sake let’s set the people we’re leading free! We have to start genuinely encouraging them when they come up to us with a new idea or ministry. So what if it doesn’t fit into our old structure or way of doing things. We must let the new wine flow, if for no other reason than the fact that we need it so desperately. Religion is always marked by the absence of creativity. OK, so our church finally got rid of its pipe organ. Congratulations, now we’re only a few hundred years behind our culture instead of a thousand. Keep in mind, Lot’s wife literally became a monument to the past because she was unwilling to turn away from all that was behind her and fix her gaze ahead. Change is a necessary inevitability. Shift happens.
We can act like everything’s peachy if we want to, but there is a paradigm shift coming to the church. Uniformity will no longer be enforced or even valued. We won’t need to look the same, act the same, or even believe exactly the same to get the job done. Our God is a multidimensional, multifaceted being with unlimited creative initiative. We are made in His image and bare his likeness. We are creative in the deepest parts of our inner being. We are entrepreneurial. We are world changers by nature. We must not stop trying and we must not give up. We will fail… and then we will try again because we have to. As the local church environment begins to morph into something that seems a bit unfamiliar, we will need to change with it. “Go with the new” is the word for this season. If we feel like anything we’re doing has to be kept alive by artificial means… let’s go ahead and pull the plug on it. New life will come with the next reformation. It cannot be stopped, it will prevail. Shift happens.
Lord, please release a spirit of creativity on your church. Forgive us for being lulled to sleep by our religious routines. We want the new wine, new vision, new hope for our future. Give us the discernment to know what we need to let die. Give us the courage to let it go so that we can move on to the new. Show us what’s next for us. Release your renaissance, your reformation, your creative nature in us Lord. Amen