The Death of Creativity
The very beginning of the Bible teaches us that everything we can see (and everything we can’t see) was CREATED by God – God is a CREATOR.
Then it tells us something else, that this Creator, who created all things, did something very unusual with us humans – God CREATED us “in his image and likeness”.
However you imagine the process of creation (an instant work, or a gradual and long-term project) the fact is that we are told that WE – yes, us humans – have been created to be like God – to be CREATORS ourselves!
And so we are. I am sitting in a chair, at a desk, working on a computer, in an office, which is part of a large building, which is illuminated by electric lights and heated by an HVAC system – all of which were dreamed up, invented, designed, and built by humans – everything I am using right now was CREATED by humans, the most creative species on the planet, those created “in the image and likeness of God”.
Now, the truth is, not everyone is very creative. Lots of people do realize a huge amount of creativity in their lives – they create homes, families, businesses, books, paintings, jobs, money, and so on. There are some people that seem to be able to come up with ingenious approaches to things, new takes on old ideas, and new ways of achieving results better and more efficiency. But there are other people who (how can I say this without sounding too judgmental?), well, they are just plain boring. They don’t have new ideas and they DON’T LIKE NEW IDEAS! And they will try to stamp out and subdue any and every new idea. It’s like they think all the best ideas have already been discovered, and their job is now to put a stop to all these meddlers and fanatics who are coming up with fresh ideas. And some of the worst people I have come across for that are religious people.
Think about the religious leaders in Jesus day. They thought they had everything worked out, and then along came this upstart, Jesus, who had fresh ideas and new approaches to faith and to people. He mixed with prostitutes (how many churches would allow their pastor to do that?) and lepers and tax collectors and “sinners”. He didn’t tell them that they had to stifle their God-given unique personality and become a false play-actor (thats what hypocrite means) like the religious leaders – he was glad that they weren’t like the religious leaders – they were genuine, authentic, dysfunctional, beautiful, sinful, loveable human beings. And he accepted them – just as they were. He forgave them – just as they were.
At one time, Christians were behind the best and most creative art, music, science and economics in the world – then we began to withdraw from anything creative. Some churches got rid of their art and stained glass and icons; others got rid of their musical instruments; some even got rid of their hymns in favour of psalms only; others began to oppose scientific discovery under the assumption that everything had already been discovered. Small minds took over and small lives were the result. Thankfully, we live in a generation where things are changing – churches are not yet leading (we are still playing catch-up) but at least we are beginning to use creative ideas once again – with music, stage designs, lighting, media, sound, etc.
However, there seems to be one area where creativity is still opposed (I mean opposed strongly, so strongly that actual persecution and opposition arises against it from our very own brothers & sisters). What I am talking about is creativity with the gift of teaching. First of all, I have to be honest and say that I have listened to way more than my fair share of non-gifted public speakers who shouldn’t be speaking anyway. It is clearly not what God has called them to do. It is a travesty, when someone can take the most fascinating piece of literature ever written and bore people to sleep with it. That takes a real anti-skill! The one thing that it seems must never be tampered with or infected with creativity is the churches teaching ministry. It seems that there is only way way to teach a message, deliver a sermon or preach the gospel. If you get too creative – if you attempt to engage the whole person (their emotions, their longings and dreams, their imagination, their curiosity, stir their desire for answers, if you use quotes or video from non-Christians, or illustrations from “sinful secular culture”) then be prepared to be attacked – usually by other “teachers”. They will say that your attempt to be creative in your communication techniques is making your message unclear (read: not plain vanilla enough) and they will especially become upset and let their insecurities manifest if they discover that some of their members secretly listen to your messages! Insecurity abounds in the Christian church – the very people God constantly challenges with “let us go on to maturity”.
Actually, I will be honest. It’s not just a problem in the church, but in schools and many other teaching environments. How many of you were bored to death at school? Did you know that there are 7 different “learning types” and school (and most churches) are only geared to reach 2 of them? Thats why most people are bored. They aren’t even being spoken to. If people are bored. If people aren’t learning. If people are dropping out. If they are not growing and flourishing as people. Then, maybe the style of communication they are sitting under is so non-creative and non-stimulating that it simply isn’t their fault – its the fault of the system.
I have decided that, no matter how many times I am misunderstood to be “tickling ears” or “watering down the gospel” or being “too seeker friendly” or whatever, I will continue to find creative ways to reach people that boring sermons don’t reach, to help people learn to THINK FOR THEMSELVES rather than being told that “we have already done all your thinking for you, and we have decided that THIS is what you should think”. Creativity stirs up our imagination and curiosity, and that makes us want to learn.
Here is a fantastic TED video of Sir Ken Robinson, talking about education. I urge you – please listen to it – it is mind expanding: