Good News for Creativity

“What is the good news for the group of people you are reaching?”

In April of this year our staff went to the Exponential Conference for church planting in Orlando, FL, and one of the speakers brought up this question. She talked about the need to learn the language of people and communicate the good news [gospel] of Jesus to them in a way that they will understand in their hearts. Of course, my mind immediately went to what the good news is for those we’re reaching through the Creativity Group at Everyday Church.

The “good” news is a value judgment, so how do we value creativity as a society?

We value creativity as personal expression. Talking to other improvisors, I often ask people why they do it, and the answer I hear often is: “I need a creative outlet.” In other words, they are not able to express fully who they are as a person in their work and daily life. I think that the creative process indeed has a vital role in helping us unearth who we truly are. The person who says, “I have to act. I have to organize. I have to write code.” There is something inside of them that must be expressed for them to be a whole person. The only problem with this is the finiteness of humanity. We are able to express ourselves, but only to the extent of our own lives. And even if by some chance our creative endeavors endure well beyond our lives, life itself will ultimately end with no eternal meaning. The creative process is therefore limited.

The good news of Jesus magnifies this idea to eternal proportions! It says that creativity is something that God himself put into us when he created us. It is part of the image of God. Look at Genesis 1:27:

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Let me highlight that verse in a different way:

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Jesus himself was a creative person. His ministry was filled with illustrations, stories, teachings, and miracles exploding with creativity. We are not just a fleeting people with fleeting creative desires. God has given us each creative potential that he wants us to discover and express. The creative process is part of discovering who God created us to be. And in the end we don’t care so much about what creativity says about us as much as what it says about the eternal creator. This is what we call giving glory to God, the ultimate creator.

We also value creativity as a means to an end. We are able to make money through creativity. It improves our systems, our thinking, and our society. We become more efficient. We’re able to more fully understand abstract ideas as well as one another. We’re able to find new ways of living together (hopefully for the good of all). Finding one’s value in creativity can backfire when it is contingent upon producing something that is judged by others. Now it is not just about expression, but about what we get out of it based on what others think, whether it is money, love, recognition, significance, etc. In doing so, creativity looses its beauty, and becomes limited as only a means to an end.

Again, the good news of Jesus magnifies this to eternal proportions. Creating is something that God has commanded us to do. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. – Genesis 1:28. This requires great creativity. The good news says that creativity is not only a means to an end, but that it will continue throughout eternity. Not only that, but the Jesus says that we are valued far beyond our creative potential. Jesus himself lived the perfect life we could never live, died the death we should have died, and gives us a new life that we don’t deserve. We are therefore free to create, knowing where our true value lies. It is not a means to our being recognized, happy, validated, or fulfilled. We have eternal worth outside of our creative potential. Therefore we are free to be creative to even greater potential!

In the end, the good news of Jesus frees us from the judgment of ourselves and others. He gives us an eternal perspective, and blesses us to create in his image, the ultimate creator.

Advertisements
Good News for Creativity

Apparently I Suck at Vision-Casting

I have been told on several occasions that I will suck at vision-casting. A church planting assessment told me that vision-casting was a weakness, so I would not make a good senior pastor or lead planter. I have taken the tests and scored low. I’m not the charismatic, futurist, idea-person. I thought for years that I must suck at vision-casting.

I recently realized that it’s all BS. In the process of launching a new missional community to champion creativity in our neighborhood, I put together a compelling vision for the group. I met with potential leaders and walked through the vision. Everyone saw the vision, got excited, and joined the cause. I cast vision, and I did a great job!

Here are my thoughts on all this. First of all, you can get better at stuff. When I took evaluations, it was almost totally based on questionnaires and personality instead of actually doing it. Over the past few years I have read books about vision casting, seen others do it well, and tried it out in dozens of small ways. So maybe I am not the charismatic, futurist, idea-person, but I can learn new skills! Second, assessments and gift-tests are helpful and important, but they aren’t everything. Especially if you believe in God! He can empower people with gifts that they normally do not have. God is able to do more through people than they would be able without him.

The next time you take an assessment of your gifts, your skills, you spiritual gifts take them with a grain of salt and remember:
1) They aren’t definitive. You change and grow throughout you life.
2) God can do more than you can imagine in & through you! He can give you new gifts. He can empower weak ones.

In my last post, I talked about needing to have a compelling vision and plan before a passion can become reality. Below is the vision that I shared to launch the Everyday Creativity Group:


The Vision
I envision a group of people at Everyday Church who champion creativity for the glory of God whether it be in our neighborhood, our schools, our church, or our city. They believe that creativity lies within everyone, and they want to draw it out. All of us are created in the image of God, the ultimate creator. Therefore all of us have creative potential just waiting to be discovered to bring glory to God. Humanity has always been in the business of creating – culture, art, music, family, poetry, organization, dance, you name it.

Why “Creativity” Group?
It’s not just about art or artists; it’s about creativity. When we say “art” I think it makes us think of “my art” or “your art” or “the arts.” Those things are all included, but it’s not about just those things. It’s about creativity, however that might look (I also like how creativity is a long word with lots of syllables that makes you slow down and think about it).

Why start this (what will it look like)?
1) To reach artists who move uptown & don’t know anyone
–  I named  a few people who had already experienced this at Everyday, including me!
2) To reach Christian artists who have no Christian community with other artists
–  Again, I named a few people who had already experienced this at Everyday.
3) To reach people who are artists but have no outlet or medium for their art (adults or kids)
–  Art workshops for in local schools
–  Photo walks in the neighborhood
–  Art galleries
4) To help artists give back to their community (beautification)
–  Paint a mural in the neighborhood
–  Benefit concerts/shows for local schools, organizations, ministries
5) To champion creativity within Everyday Church
–  Teaching service elements (videos, props, music, décor, etc)
–  Having Everyday people get involved with our events

(At this point, people usually started sharing more and more and more ideas)

Why now?
If we don’t start this group now, I believe that eventually a group similar will emerge formally or informally. Our church is full of creative people looking for a community. The main reason we’re doing it now is because I believe that God is calling me to do it.

What will be done to get it started?
It will start with the leadership team. Our meetings will be focused on discipleship and practicing the mission of championing creativity together (living it out). We will steadily draw others to join us in our mission and eventually grow to launch as an Everyday Group.


I shared this vision along with a tentative timeline with a number of people and asked them to be a part of a leadership team to launch the new group. Six people said yes. The seven of us met to dream, pray & plan for four months. We learned to listen to God’s voice, pray for our friends to get involved, and lead this new group. This past Sunday we launched the Everyday Creativity Group with over twenty people in the mix. I’m excited to see where God will take us. But none of it would have been possible if I had not refined and cast a compelling vision. Passion isn’t enough. Mission isn’t enough. You have to cast a compelling vision.

Apparently I Suck at Vision-Casting

All I Have is a Mission

In a few weeks, I’ll be launching a new Everyday Group (missional community) at Everyday Church. When I felt like God was first calling me to start this a few months ago, it’s clear that passion was not the only ingredient I needed. I wrote the following on January 25th:

A few weeks ago I realized that a mission is all I have. I’ve been dreaming about a new Everyday Group in Inwood/Washington Heights that would be focused on artists for months. I’ve mentioned it to a few people with mostly the response of, “that sounds cool!” and not much else. I even intentionally focused my life to be more on mission and connect with artists. After a while I got pretty discouraged that no one else was really rallying around what I was doing. Mission is hard to accomplish all by yourself! How was an Everyday Group of 20+ people focused on a mission together ever going to form from this?!?

Today as confronted to brutal facts, I realized that all I have is a mission. A mission by itself is not enough to build community. What I’m missing is a compelling picture of what the new Everyday Group could be. This involves vision (a picture of the future) as well as a plan (a pathway for how to get to the vision).

Anyone can be passionate about something on the hearts, or even that God has called them to do. Having a compelling vision coupled with a plan to make it happen is a completely different experience. Have you ever had a passionate dream to start something, but eventually realized that you lacked either vision or a plan?

All I Have is a Mission

Launching with a Leadership Team

It’s the invisible necessity of missional communities. It’s a pipeline for current and future leaders. It’s what makes missional communities possible.

It’s a small group of  leaders (4-8) being discipled together by their huddle leader, usually as they lead a missional community together. “Huddle” is the term that 3DM uses, but I just call it a leadership team. It is a safe place where leaders can be challenged in their walk with Jesus. It’s is where leaders are poured into. I didn’t say that this is where I do leadership development. I do that. But it’s about helping them become closer followers of Jesus, not just leaders.

In a few weeks, we’ll be launching a new Everyday Group (or EG, our name for Missional Communities) that is focused on championing creativity in our neighborhood. As the future group leader, I started by recruiting a special leadership team. We have been meeting about every other week for the past 4 months to grow as disciples, clarify the vision, and try out the mission before inviting others to join us. Once we launch and invite others to join us as a legit Everyday Group, we’ll have a number of leaders ready to lead and disciple the group. When I think of trying to launch a group with 20 people on board (the minimum amount of people needed to start EG), I don’t know how I would have done it without starting with a leadership team.
(Actually, all of this sounds exactly like what you do when you plant a church: Find a planter, build the launch team, pour the vision into them, make sure all of the bases are covered, and launch a public service)

Here are the halmarks of a leadership team for me:

1) Relationship. The EG leader recruits everyone personally. There is an on-going relationship that will deepen as the team grows together. We share deep, often personal stuff with one another, so committed relationship is key.

2) Intentionality.  The team focuses both on launching/leading an Everyday Group as leaders and on each person’s walk with Jesus. Both of these must have equal weight. It is easy to fall into just one, but both are desperately needed. (This way of thinking is known as “invitation and challenge.” 3Dm has a great article where can learn more about it here)

3) Community. The team is leading together. As a team, they can share celebrations and challenges together that they wouldn’t be able to share with others in their group. These celebrations/challenges could be focused on leadership or on discipleship.

4) Process. The team provides a place where leaders can process both what God is doing in their personal lives and what God is doing in the MC they lead. The MC is the place where anyone in the church can receive training, “trying out” living for Jesus. The primary questions we ask in our leadership team meetings is: What is God saying to you right now? and What are you going to do about it? Both of those questions deal with leadership & discipleship issues and deserve a space for processing.

If launching a new Everyday Group were all up to me, it would mostly likely fail. But with a solid leadership teamin place, I am extremely expectant to what God will do through us. And beyond this group, I look forward to when those who are on the team today will be leading their own teams to launch their own EGs in the future.

Launching with a Leadership Team

Planting With a Balanced Team

Finding the right lead planter is extremely important. But it’s not everything.

Community Christian Church planted by two brothers, Dave and Jon Ferguson. Both of them could probably have planted their own churches individually and been successful. Instead they planted CCC together, and it has become a church that is changing thousands of lives in the Chicagoland area and has great influence in the church planting world. Dave & Jon are different kind of people, and I think it was a huge part of why they were so successful.

Having a balanced team is key. There’s a wealth of information out there, but here are few things I think about:

1) Spiritual Gifting. We often make sure to have a lead/teaching pastor, arts pastor, children’s pastor & community life pastor. However, these are roles, not spiritual gifts. Instead I would point toward the gift of leadership and the gifts specified in Ephesians 4 (APEPT).

2) Introvert/Extrovert. I have been the lone introvert on a team before. It was painful personally and productively. Most church planting teams are heavy on extroverts. Make sure you have introverts who will slow extroverts down and extroverts who will push introverts ahead.

3) Builder/Maintainer. There are couple of dynamics with this. Some love to almost always build while others love to almost always maintain. However, some maintainers love short seasons of building and some builders love short seasons of maintaining. The builder/maintainer mentality often fits with introvert/extrovert, but not all the time. Finding the dynamics of those on your team will help them work at their best.

4) Shared Vision. From my experience, church planting teams are often assembled to accomplish the lead pastor’s vision. If you’re the lead planter you should be the champion of the vision, don’t just hire employees, hire team members who can have a real say in the vision. Here’s where I think the value of a shared vision breaks down – we need to get things done! And the easiest way to do so is to make a hire for a position without making sure they share the vision.

You may even find a leader who shares the vision, but doesn’t fit into any position you have available. That’s what happened to me at Everyday Church. The rest of the team recognized that I was a gifted leader who shared the vision, but I didn’t exactly fit the needed position of worship pastor. Now, I had never led worship before, but I had built and led teams before. And I happen to play decent rhythm guitar. So, even though it wasn’t my biggest passion, I built a small worship team. We never had a drum set, electric guitar, bass, or laser lights. We had a guitar, some singers and maybe a piano or small drum. It was simple. Eventually, a leader who both shared the vision AND is musically trained came along. Currently, we’re creating a great worship band together.

Here’s what could have happened: I was passed over, because I didn’t exactly fit the needed position. A gifted worship leader was hired who didn’t necessarily share the vision. When the worship service started, it immediately had an awesome worship band. But after a year, the worship leader became extremely disgruntled with the vision of the church and decided to leave. Now the church is back to needing a worship leader, except now there’s a whole team to lead and an expectation for the church to have an awesome band.

Take your time. Instead of quickly having an amazing children’s program, you may need to pay someone a stipend to lead a simple program for a while. Instead of having an awesome worship band right away, go with a guy/gal and a guitar or piano. Wait until you have the right leader who shares the vision and can eventually build a great ministry. Beyond just sharing the vision, they need to be able to speak into the vision, but that’s a topic for another post!

There’s a lot that could be said about having a balanced team. If your team is out of balance, name it and deal with it! What has been your experience on a church planting team? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Planting With a Balanced Team

Church Planting Drop

I often hear about new church plants in the city, and I remember a plant I visited in the East Village that unfortunately only lasted about a year and a half. The planter had recently moved from the midwest and had only been in the city for a few months before launching a weekly worship service. They had a great theater space, and I went to their launch service. As I listened to the sermon, it was clear that something was “off” about it. The bulk of it was a story of the planter and his wife when they first visited New York City. They had a powerful conversation with a homeless woman on the train whose faith amazed them, and it gave them a desire to plant the church. As he told the story, it was like he had never seen a homeless person before. If you live in NYC, you know that it’s almost a daily experience. It quickly became apparent that this planter had moved to New York, but his cultural context had not.

Usually I am not a big fan of the dumbo-drop of a church planter into a new context with a short timeline for starting a church. I’m not saying that some planters shouldn’t do it or won’t be successful. I’m just saying I’m not a huge fan.

When you think about it, here is a general expectation often put upon church planters:

1) Raise about $1 million (for an urban setting in a 3-5 year plan toward financial independence. This usually includes talking to everyone you’ve ever met, family, friends, churches and asking them for money – no pressure if the church plant fails)

2) Move to a new city (moving is always stressful; and it’s more difficult when moving to a urban setting; it’s even more difficult if you have children)

3) Live in a new culture (many planters I’m familiar with are from the midwest & move to a city to plant. The scope of learning a new culture can be underestimated, since we’re still in the United States. But if a missionary is going overseas, we assume that they will have to spend some time leaning the culture)

4) Start a new organization from the ground up (find office space/work from home, hire staff, purchase equipment, build functional systems, build teams, develop leaders, make a discipleship plan etc.)

5) Launch weekly worship services, weekly small groups, and service opportunities (all three of these by themselves are more difficult in an urban setting and a suburban one. Finding a meeting space is always a struggle. Storage and transportation is a constant issue. Don’t even get me started on the cost of all these things. People also have smaller homes/apartments).

So, here’s my plea: slow down. Spend time just getting to know the culture. Don’t multitask. Learn the culture first and then plant the church. If you try to do both at the same time, both could suffer. It might mean waiting a year or two before you start the process of planting. You may have to get a job outside of church, or be on staff at an established church in the city. It will take humility and patience. My experience was being an intern for 3 years before being on staff at a church in NYC. However, when I was hired, my NYC experience was a huge asset (to ready more about my story, click here). Here are a couple examples I know of others who have done this:

Chris Travis moved to NYC and taught middle school math at a public school for two years before starting Everyday Church.

Pete Armstrong moved to NYC and spent time as an Associate Pastor at City Grace Church before planting Dwell Church.

Recently I’ve been hearing about more and more churches that are equipping planters by allowing them to be “church planters in residence.” I hope this trend continues and grows.

Were you a planter that moved to a new city to plant a church? What was your experience?

Church Planting Drop

The Language of Spiritual Balance

Live like Jesus.

I never realized it before, but every church has their own way of saying the same thing about spiritual balance – living like Jesus. When I started making a list, I was shocked!

Up, In, Out (3DM)
With Jesus, In Community, On Mission (Southland Christian)
Trust God, Love People, Serve the World (Forefront NYC)
Faith, Love, Hope (Mosaic CA)
Celebrate, Connect, Contribute (Community Christian)
Discover, Connect, Serve (Trader’s Point Christian)
Love God, Love People (many churches)UpInOutTriangle
Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk humbly (Micah 6:8)

Every church is saying the same thing. They just use different language. I like to think of each aspect as a relationship. The key is finding the right balance in all three.

We must constantly ask of our church, our ministry, and our lives: “Which relationship needs attention?” We will always have seasons where we need  to focus on one relationship over the others. When churches are not intentional about evaluating their ministry by all three relationships, they almost always default to doing well with two:
– A church that cares for insiders and has strong teaching, but where outsiders are not as welcomed.
– A church that is evangelistic and loving, but with shallow theology.
– A church that has strong teaching and focuses on evangelism, but has a hard time building true community.

Currently Everyday Church is in the process of starting to use “Up, In, & Out” to help us find balance. I also really like the sound of living “With Jesus, In Community, On Mission.”

How does your church say it, and what are some ways you keep balance?

The Language of Spiritual Balance