BECOMING A CEO
How To Implement Creativity Into Your Life
January 12, 1997
As we begin this series today called “Becoming A CEO,” I thought that we would do some artwork to start off. Who here feels like an artist? Do we have any volunteers? All of a sudden there is no eye contact with me. What is your name right here? Here’s a brave guy. Let’s put our hands together. “What is your name?” “Chad.” “Chad, are you single?” “Yes, I am.” “Are you dating anyone seriously?” “Yes, I am.” “You are, OK. I was trying to help out, you ladies. Chad, have you had any art experience?” “To be honest with you, no.” “And we have never met or talked before this service, have we?” “No, we haven’t.” “Chad, I am going to ask you to do something. Here is a nice piece of art board and I am going to ask you to draw a simple shape in the middle of the page. Not a huge shape, just a simple shape in the middle of the page. This is no joke, this is serious. I could be a circle, a square, a rectangle. Any shape you want.” (Chad draws a circle). “Chad, go ahead and sign your name. All right, Chad, thank you very much. You are a brave soul to stand up here and do that. Thank you, man.” We will get back to Chad’s beautiful artwork in a second.
Do you ever feel that you go through the same ritual, regimen and routine day after day, week after week, and month after month? You wake up, take a shower, go to work, have some lunch, work some more, go home, eat dinner, watch television, go to bed. You wake up, take a shower, go to work, have some lunch, work some more, go home, eat dinner, watch television, go to bed. And if you have children, you wake up—kids, kids, kids, kids—take a shower—kids, kids, kids—work, lunch, work some more, go home—kids, kids, kids, kids, kids—dinner—kids, kids, kids—TV, bed.
The net effect of this monotonous schedule is that scores of us feel like we are sleepwalking through life, looking for vitality and excitement. Because of this, we say to ourselves, “my marriage is in a rut, my career is boring, my surroundings are predictable, and my relationship with Christ is rather routine.” As you look over the past year, you say to yourself that you want to make some changes, some alternations, but you can’t put your finger on what is missing, what you are lacking. Conventional wisdom says that your problem is relational. If you were married to that person, with that look, with that bank account, things would be different. Conventional wisdom says that your problem is occupational. If you had that job with that company, wielding that kind of power, then you would know what you are all about. Conventional wisdom says that your problem is geographical. If you lived in that city, in that state or that resort community, then you would have a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye. Some of us throw up our hands and say to God, “Well, it must be spiritual. If I came from that family, if I had that Christian background, if I had that kind of Bible knowledge, then I would have purpose and a true agenda for my existence.”
If you feel like your life is lacking luster, you could be neglecting one of the most important characteristics in the universe, creativity. Creativity. Just a mention of the word “creativity” bombards our brains with excuses. I have given them and so have you. “I don’t have a creative bone in my body, God. I have never had an original thought. I can’t draw, act, sing or dance. I am not creative.” Those excuses ring hollow to the ears of our creative God. God does not want us to live in the prison of boredom, where we are just doing time. God created us in His image. We are created by the creative creator, thus we should be creative creatures, creating for our creator. Whenever we say that we are not creative, we are making a mockery of God’s creative genius.
All of us are creative. If you don’t believe me, just watch a bunch of kids. Watch them use their imaginations and their creativity. Lisa and I watched our kids a couple of nights ago in the Young den. Our four children used our hearth as a stage and they had the First Annual Young Beauty Pageant. Our ten-year-old daughter, our five-year-old son, and the twin daughters, who are two, did the beauty pageant thing. They would walk across the hearth and turn around. Each one would announce what the other was doing. Believe it or not, we had four winners. Talk about creativity, they used a blanket and draped it across their shoulders and Lisa’s old Miss Sports-a-Rama crown. Then we all sang the song, “There she is…” or “There he is…” We are all creative.
Sadly, though, and it pains me to say this and think about this, somewhere along life’s journey, most of us get a creative cramp. We get a creative cramp, some when we are very young. We move from dreaming to dogma. We move from the artistic to the analytical. We move from using our imaginations to just memorization. That is sad and it saddens the heart of God because we matter so much to God that He cannot stand the thought of people that matter to Him living regimented, routine, same old-same old lives. So, God commands us to be creative. I love J.B. Phillips paraphrase of Romans 12:2, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” In other words, God wants us to ride on the crest of creativity, but too many of us are content to splash around in the shallows of sameness. We say to ourselves that we could never ride on that board, on that wave because we might fall off.
I want to challenge you to pose three one-word questions to yourself, the same one-word questions that I asked myself as I prepared for this message on creativity. I believe these questions can make this year the best year ever for you and for me.
Question one: “Why?” Why should I be creative? That’s a great place to start, isn’t it? I should be creative, first of all, because God invented creativity. The book of Genesis, Chapter 1, the fifth word, “In the beginning God created….” And God started this process. He thought it up. He initiated it and has been creating every since. God creates. He is creative.
The Bible says in Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God.” It doesn’t say imitate God in everything but creativity. There are no escape clauses here. It says, in the form of a command, be imitators of God. The word “imitate” means that we are to mimic God. We should be creative because God invented it. Every time that we use an excuse about us not being creative, we are making a mockery of God’s creative genius. Why should I be creative? Because God invented it.
The second reason that I should be creative is because Jesus modeled it. Jesus modeled it. The Bible says in Matthew 13:34, “…he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” Jesus spoke from hillside, boat bows and beaches. He drew in the sand. He turned over tables. He divided fish. He used word pictures and he used visuals. He said, “See the sower there scattering seed…see this child…see the key and the lock…see the ground…see the water…see the bread.” Everything was visual, everything was creative. “See the coin…” Everything was contemporary. “Did you hear about the building that fell over and killed some people…” A current event. Jesus was creative. He modeled creativity.
The third reason we are to be creative is because people need it. People like you and me need it. We yearn for it. We have a capacity for creativity and we are drawn to creative things. Have you thought about how creative God was when He wrote the Bible and how He talked and dealt with people. He used a piece of fruit to communicate with Adam and Eve. He used the knife to communicate with Abraham. He used salt to communicate with Lot. He used a whale to communicate with Jonah. He used a sling to communicate with David. And ultimately, He used a cross to communicate His unfathomable, amazing grace to the world. We need creativity. That is the why. God invented it, Jesus modeled it and we need it.
Now the second one word question we have to ask about creativity is, “Where?” Where do I need creativity? I think that we need creativity relationally, don’t you? We are made for relationships. God is a relational God and we are made in His image. We are to be creative in our relationships. And my mind rushes to marriage. Let’s talk about marriage because all of us here are either married or we are dating to get married or we are coming in contact with married folks. We need to be creative in marriage. All lot of us were creative when we were courting, when we were dating. I mean we were creative, incredible, innovative. We kept the person we were dating on their toes, they didn’t know what to expect. After we walked down the wedding runner and returned from the honeymoon cruise, to Galveston, and we began to live life on the rugged plains of reality, most husbands and wives get that creative cramp. We decide that we can’t be creative any more. Well, God wants to rub the cramp out. God wants to stretch the cramp. God says that we are just beginning the creative process. We sit back on the sofa and channel surf from ESPN and made for television movies while we stuff our faces with Doritos and say, “I used to be creative. But I have this cramp. I am injured, man, I can’t go any more.”
That is why I encourage those who are married to continue to romance and to date their spouse. At lease twice a month you and your spouse should go somewhere to spend time together. And make it creative. Don’t just do the same- old, same-old dinner, movie, home, good night, dinner, movie, home, good night. That’s boring. I have been preparing for this series for awhile and I conducted an informal poll among husbands and wives about creativity. I asked wives this question. “What area do you wish your husband would really show his creativity in?” Here is what they said. “In the intimacy, romantic realm. I want him to be more creative in their conversation. I want him to be emotionally tied in with me.” And I agree, men need to work on that. I think that every man here would say yes, I think I could do a better job. Wouldn’t you agree, ladies? Now, I asked the men this question. “In what area do you wish your wives would be more creative?” Here is what the men said, using the one word answer typical of all men. “Sex.” In the sexual realm. Now I am not talking about anything deviant or pornographic but I am saying that men would like their wives to be more creative in that aspect of marriage. Creativity.
And talking about dating and being creative, I have to give my wife a high five for this one. A couple of months ago she called me at work. She told me that we were going to do something special that night for our date night. I told her that I would be looking forward to that. I got fired up. She told me to stand outside my office and that she would pick me up. I thought that was cool. That late afternoon I stood out there, she slowed the truck down and I jumped in. We were going somewhere. I looked around and in the back of my truck was a picnic basket. I thought that was interesting, a picnic and the sun was going down. Then we drive to a little lake in Irving and Lisa takes a coupon out of her wallet. She had arranged to rent us a boat, which she motored to the middle of the lake. So we had a picnic dinner on the lake just as the sun was setting. Now that is creative! And people tell me this weak stuff. They say that it takes a lot of money to be creative. That creative episode cost us $5.00 plus a babysitter. So you don’t have to have money to be creative. That is a joke.
We also need to be creative relationally with our children. Talk about something that will stretch your creativity. Your children are different. You see yourselves in your children. Laurie and Landra are our twins. This morning before church we had a pancake breakfast. Landra is like me. She is loud and wild and eats like a shark in a feeding frenzy. She had syrup everywhere, in her hair, dripping down her fingers. Laurie will not even touch syrup, she eats just the plain pancakes. Pray for my creativity as I try to rear these twins.
Children are not as creative these days as they once were. We let them park themselves in front of the video screens, playing Nintendo. I talked to a child the other day and asked him if he noticed how cold it had gotten. He replied that he hadn’t been outside in three years. (kidding, kidding) When I was a kid I would come home. “Hello, Mom, I’m home.” “Go outside, Ed.” And I would go outside. I had to make up my own creative stuff. So parents and would-be parents, have a creative box in your house with crayons and markers and scissors and get into that. Show them things about God’s creation and creativity. A couple of weeks ago we were wearing shorts and tank tops and today it is freezing. The change of seasons. The diversity of nature. So many parents are neat freaks. “Oh, don’t spill anything on the floor. Oh, no.” Now, I am all for keeping a neat house but if you want to create a creative climate you have got to let kids be kids. I don’t mean they have to paint color on the walls, but you hear what I am saying to you.
I like this, too, about creativity. Before you buy a toy, ask yourself this question. Can he or she do more than one thing with the toy? Get involved in projects with them. Help them to start little businesses and things like that. It all helps make them creative people. One day we are going to be held accountable for our creativity and how we helped others and inspired others to be creative.
We also need creativity vocationally. We have all types of people coming to our church, from secretaries to professional athletes, from real estate tycoons to people who work in oil and gas, you name it, we have it. What are you doing in the creative aspects of your career? I am talking about in the market place. It could be a creative way to stack paper. It could be a creative way to deal with your team or your management or the board. What are you doing? You see you have got to do some things in different ways because usually when you do that you can experience growth.
I have a friend of mine who is a body builder. I see him at the gym where I work out. A couple of weeks ago he asked me what I was doing for my workout. You can tell I am really into weights! I described to him my workout. Then he asked how long I have been doing the same workout and I told him about a year. He told me that if I stayed with the same workout, I would not make any gains in the strength area or the cardiovascular area. He asked if I had heard about the confusion principle. He said that you need to change your workout every four weeks so that you can confuse your muscles. When that happens you will experience an increase in strength. Change it, confuse your muscles once a month. That will preach, won’t it? Confuse your spouse. Confuse your children. Confuse your boss. The confusion principle. It is creativity.
We also need creativity in another area. We need it spiritually, don’t we? Whenever you have your time of prayer and Bible reading, do the confusion principle there. Sometimes I sing to God. I won’t sing now. Sometimes I write my prayers out. Sometimes I have my time with God in the office, other times at home, other times while I am driving. Make a difference. Make it unique. It will cause you to grow when you begin to be creative spiritually. I think the most creative place in the world should be the church. What is so funny is that our church has received national attention because of our creativity. That is great but it also saddens my heart. This should not be something unique, that a church is creative. Every church should be creative. What should be unique is that a church is boring. But most churches are boring. And don’t ever blame the Bible or God for being boring, blame the people who are communicating and the people who are in the church. Don’t blame God. We have got to be creative. We serve a creative God. And when we know Him personally and when we are open to Him, we should be the most creative people in the world. Christians should be writing those books on creativity and excellence, not the secular people.
Now the third one word question: “How?” How can I be creative right now. What can I do. Three things very quickly. Number one, ask God to enhance your creativity. Don’t ask God to give you creativity, you already have it. Ask Him to enhance it. God revealed this to me as I was preparing for this message this prayer. I was looking back over my prayer journal and I couldn’t believe all the entries last year when I prayed for God to enhance my creativity. I asked God to help me be creative as I communicate the message. God has never failed me. He will enhance your creativity. Pray for it. And God will encourage you to rub shoulders with creative people. Creativity breeds creativity. I hang around a lot with creative people. We bounce ideas off each other in think tanks and team meetings, over and over again. The more you are around creative people, the more creative you will become.
Number two, take action to unleash your creativity. Ask God to enhance it and then take action to unleash it. In Genesis, Chapter 1, God created. And in the creative process, God worked. Creativity really hits the ultimate when you have work behind it. So I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to take creativity and strap it to a work ethic, with commitment to see it through and then rev up the engine and watch what happens.
So many creative ideas die at birth because they are never put into action. Creation is like a birth. You have got conception, you have got pregnancy, you have got labor and delivery. Most of our creative thoughts stop at conception. God says don’t let those ideas stop at conception. What if God, who had the most creative idea of all time when He saw our sin problem and thought of sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay for those sins, just stopped at the conception idea? God didn’t stop and don’t you stop. He went ahead. Jesus lived a life on this planet with ridicule and insult. Then He died on the cross and now we can be born again because of that action. See your ideas through. People tell me that our Music Pastor, Stan Durham, is a creative genius. And I will agree that God has blessed us by giving us Stan Durham. But a lot of you have as many creative thoughts as he does. Many of you do. The difference is, Stan has a work ethic like few people I know. Not only does Stan have the idea, he takes it through the pregnancy, the labor and the delivery. It takes hours and hours and hours to put together all the music, the drama, the lights, etc. Work. And most of us are afraid of work. I am talking about old-fashioned, roll up your sleeves, dirt on your fingernails, perspiration everywhere, seeing an idea through. Nothing that I do is as demanding as creativity. Nothing.
A third suggestion. Plan for progress. You will progress when you ask God to enhance your creativity and when you take action to unleash it. You will have progress when the ideas are born and when you see how it has changed the company or a church or a relationship or a parent child thing. You say to yourself, way to go, thank you God. Also and this is fun, you are going to fail. You are going to mess up, you are going to wipe out, you are going to fail. When you fail, make sure that you fail going forward. Fail forward. We have had some dumb ideas here at this church, some failures. One of the top failures happened when we tried to do simulcast services. We scheduled me to speak at one service while across the street we would put on the music. Then we would change and I would go and preach when the music was finished and the music would follow me. It didn’t work. But it was a great idea because we learned a lot. It didn’t work. We learned because we failed. You learn when you fail and you learn when you succeed. You have got to be willing to fail. Don’t be afraid of failure. Get back up and try again.
Every time we change in our lives, we don’t like it, do we? Change produces conflict; but if we stay with the change, the conflict, and work through it in love, it always produces growth.
Let’s go back to the masterpiece that Chad drew for us. “Chad, this is a good circle. This circle is complete. It is a black circle on white art board. I like where you positioned it. It works.” Let’s give another round of applause for Chad. Say Chad asks God to enhance his creativity, and takes action to unleash that creativity and plans for progress. I want to take the position of God for a second and show you what can happen. God can take a cool circle and…. (Ed begins drawing; the circle becomes the eye in a drawing of a young man). See how God is enhancing this? That is what God can do. I am a mere human being and I can draw something like that quite quickly, and you can tell it looks like a man. Just think of what our Lord can do when He takes our creativity and He enhances and unleashes it and progresses us. How about it folks? Isn’t it about time that you gave God the brush or the marker? Isn’t it about time that you gave God your creativity? Pray to Him, “Make me into the kind of creative creature that You and only You have created.”