February 9, 2003
The character quality I am going to talk about today does not make most character quality lists. In fact, go on the Internet. Jump on a search engine, like Google. Type in “character traits.” You are not going to find this on most of the lists. The reason is because a lot of us are intimidated and frightened by it. A lot of us don’t realize that this is a major player in the whole “character” thing. I’m talking about the character quality of creativity.
Creativity is intrinsically woven into the very fabric and framework of who God is. It doesn’t make most of our character quality lists, but it is foundational in the life of a follower of Christ. Every time I say the word “creativity,” I know what happens. Most of you are bombarded with excuses as to why you don’t have any creativity. Your brains are bombarded, and you turn these excuses over and over on the rotisserie grills of your minds. “I’m not creative. I’ve never had an original thought. I can’t sing, dance or do video. I’m just not creative.”
That line of thinking is false. When you or I say that, we are making a mockery of God’s artistic genius because the Bible says that we are all innovative individuals. So, let’s get freed up right now. Turn to your neighbor and say, “Neighbor, I am sitting beside the most innovative and creative person I have ever seen.”
A lot of you need to own that and download that, because for far too long, we have thought that creativity is reserved for those human mutations, designers, divas, and artists of the world. If you look at our lives, a giant paradigm shift takes place that is pretty scary. All of us are born creative geniuses, yet somewhere along life’s path, this paradigm shift takes place. We move from the artistic to the analytical. We move from using laughter to using logic. We move from using our imaginations to using memorizations. Most of us end up doing life in the rut, same old-same old ritual, and same old routine.
We say, “That’s just the way it is. I just live my life in a prison cell of predictability. I’ll just splash around in the shallows of sameness with my little floaties on.” God says, “Hey, I want you to ride on the crest of creativity. I want you to be cutting edge. I want you to go for it in your marriage, in your career, with your family, and with your friends. I want you to mimic my character, which is creativity.”
We are in a series called “Character Tour.” We have been touring character. We’ve talked about endurance, discipline, vision, and courage. We have to have creativity to apply all of these things. We don’t have to look very far to run into creativity in the Bible. Just look at the first book of the Bible, the first chapter of the Bible, the fifth word. Check it out in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created….”
God kick-started the creative process, and He has been creating ever since. God is all about creativity. It is stamped onto his identity. Because it is stamped in God’s identity, it is stamped in your life and in mine.
Look at Genesis 1:26. God is speaking, “Let us make man….” Wait a minute, us? Is there a misprint? God is speaking “let us?” Well, it says, “Let us make man in our…”—Our? That’s weird—“our image, according to our likeness.” That seems strange. Our? Us? The trinity…remember? God in three persons: Three in one, one in three; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that something? We have the team thing going on. We have the creative trinity creating. God the Father invented creativity. He thought it up. He kick-started it. God knew, and knows, what we are just discovering that most of us yearn to be communicated to in a creative way.
Just look through the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. You’ll see stuff like God using a piece of fruit to communicate something to Adam and Eve. You will see God using hair to communicate to someone like Samson. You will see God using a boat to communicate to someone like Noah. You will see him using a slingshot (we talked about that with David). Ultimately, you will see God using a cross to communicate something to the world. God is using visuals. He is using things that we can connect with. The Father invented creativity.
Notice this. The Son modeled, and models still, creativity. Jesus modeled creativity. He preached from beaches and boat bows. He drew in the sand. He picked up a seed. He pointed to a building. He picked up a coin. He said, “Look at this child.” He pointed to the sower. In one of his great teachings, he turned H20 into Merlot. For you Baptists, that is water into wine. I know it is early. Jesus was always creating. He is the master teacher.
If you read the book of Matthew, for example, Matthew 13:34, it says, “He (being Jesus) did not say anything to them without using a parable.” A parable is a story, an example, an illustration, or a word picture that is contemporary to its culture. Fellowship Church is basically doing the same thing. We are taking Christ’s model, and we have brought it into 2003. We are teaching the same theology but we are changing the methodology. Week in and week out we communicate this unchanging message using changing methodology.
So, the Father invented creativity. The Son modeled it. But also, the Holy Spirit empowers it. Remember that in this series we have been talking about character. Character happens from the inside. It’s an outward reflection of an inward connection. Once I meet Christ personally, the king of creativity is in my life. He places the Holy Spirit in my life. When I defer to him, then I will reach my creative potential.
2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is bondage, there is limitations…” is that what it says? “There is incarceration? There is a prison cell of predictability?” No. It says, “There is freedom.”
Have you ever asked yourself this question about creativity, “How can I be more creative?” I’ve asked that before. You have to. Maybe right now, you are saying, “I wonder how I can be more creative.” If you are asking that question, and I have asked it before, it’s the wrong question to ask. When it comes to creativity, you have got to ask yourself the right question. The right question is this: “God, what is keeping me from creativity? What’s keeping me from riding on the crest of it?”
That’s the question. Basically, a lack of understanding keeps most of us in this prison cell of predictability. Most of us don’t understand the fact that creativity has been stamped onto our spirit and soul by God himself. Secondly, most of us don’t understand that we will never reach our creative potential until we sync up with Jesus Christ. It won’t happen until we invite the king of creativity into our lives. Only then we will reach our creative potentials. We have a lack of understanding—but it goes deeper.
For years, I have been teaching on creativity. I have always wondered this, “Why is it so difficult to think in a creative way? Why is it so difficult to have creative relationships, creative marriages, creative families, and creative careers? Why? Why is it so difficult to have a creative church? What’s up with that?”
In a coffee shop several days ago, I was praying and studying the Scripture and God just showed me the answer. Do you know why creativity is so difficult? Because creativity is a cosmic conflict. It’s a war. It’s a battle. We have got to understand that and own that. Here is what I am saying. Read the Bible. Every time God creates, what does Satan do? Satan contradicts the creation. He counterfeits it. So, God creates and Satan counterfeits.
God wants you to have a creative marriage. He wants your marriage to reflect Christ’s relationship to the church because, the Bible says, the husband is like Jesus and the wife is like the church. Husbands are to love our wives in a self-sacrificial way. The Evil One does not want that to happen because it takes creativity to do that. He is going to bust it so we have a routine marriage—a same-old-same-old marriage, and a boring marriage. Satan does not want your family to soar so he comes after the family. The family is the building block of our culture. The same is true in your career and the same is true in the church. Every time God creates, Satan contradicts. Every time God creates, Satan has a counterfeit. It’s everywhere. Creativity is a battle. It’s a spiritual battle.
I want you to notice something else. When I say this, it’s going to seem like a disconnect. But I will tie it back at the end, I promise you. When you think about creativity, it soars as individuals show it, right? Yes. But it really hits on all cylinders when it’s done in a team—when it’s a team thing. You will not believe what will happen to your life when you understand team creativity.
In Genesis 1:26, the team, the trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—was creating. Then you have got Moses trying to do it all by himself. Jethro—not Bodine, but Moses’ father-in-law—saying, “Moses, this is wheels off, man. You have got to delegate.” There were Jesus’ disciples. There are teams of people throughout the Bible being creative. Team creativity is where it is happening. I know this from personal experience.
Fellowship Church is thirteen years old next weekend. During the first seven to eight years, I pretty much did all of the creativity work for the weekend message. I was it. I would spend around thirty-five hours by myself, alone, cranking out message after message. Preaching and teaching like I do, you have to basically write a term paper, dissect it, memorize it, and then present it. It’s got to be Biblical. It’s got to be relevant. It’s got to be humorous to keep people’s attention. It’s a highly stressful process. It’s God using my vocal chords as he does with other people, but it’s highly stressful, especially when you start having four and five services every weekend.
The weekends were like waves hitting me. The tidal waves were taking their toll on me. I experienced some health problems. I experienced some major stress in my life. So, I talked to some close friends. Then I talked to a Christian counselor who said, “Ed, you are going to have to change the way you are doing this stuff. You can’t do the work like you are doing it. Because the work the way you are doing it is destroying the work that God is doing in your life.”
So, I began to study the scriptures and talk to some people. I began to go back to text like Genesis 1:26, and began to see how teams of people in the Bible joined together and were very innovative. I began to look at people on our staff and say to myself, “Wait a minute. I have been teaching on creativity. I’ve been teaching that everybody is a creative genius. Ed, are you utilizing the creative genius of others on the staff at Fellowship Church?” God began to show me and lead me into team creativity.
Team creativity. It’s amazing because when people show up to churches and when they come in contact with creativity, so often, they do the “push back.” Its like, “Wow! That’s innovation?! That’s creativity at church?!” The church should be the most creative entity in the universe because we are worshipping, we are serving our creative creator. Sadly, this is not the case. I could name you different denominations—Catholic, the Lutheran, the Presbyterian, the Assembly of God, the Southern Baptist, the Pentecostal—and I can tell you right now, with 99.9% accuracy, the design of their current services. I could tell you before you even show up what 99.9% of the services will be like. They are predictable. They are rut-like and they are boring. That’s why people aren’t showing up anymore.
If church is boring, don’t ever blame God. God is exciting. Blame the leaders who are communicating the stuff. But I am here to tell you, when you go to church, you should be uncomfortable. When you go to church, you should be stimulated. When you go to church, you should be in contact with creativity. If you are not, then you are going to a church that is not preaching the full counsel of God. You are not.
Entertainment is a great word to use here. The word “entertainment” simply means to capture and hold someone’s attention for an extended period of time. When people say to me, “Wow, Fellowship Church is entertaining,” I say, “Give me a high five, baby, I love that!”
What did Jesus do? He held audiences spellbound. He captured and held people’s attention for an extended period of time. That’s what Jesus did. The masses listened. They pressed in because of his creative communication. That’s all we are doing here at Fellowship Church. What is so exciting about Fellowship Church is that we are just simply doing what God wants us to do. It’s a God thing, and God is doing the creative thing here at Fellowship Church. A thrilling thing about Fellowship Church is seeing the impact that we are having now, across North America and even the world. Two weeks ago we had a Creative Church Conference. We had over 2,000 leaders converge on Fellowship from 650 different churches, representing 40 different denominations. They all wanted to hear about creativity and innovation. I want you to hear what God is doing in their lives.
[Video of interviews with the C3 pastors and attendees]
As creativity is catching on in so many churches around this area, we find—after talking to church leaders and pastors—that people often do the “push-back” thing. They push back because creativity is a demanding responsibility. God has not called us to an easy task. He has called us to a demanding responsibility. The good news, though, is that we have Christ, the King of Creativity, in our lives. Once we defer to him and allow him to work from the inside out, then we can be creative—first individually and then collectively. So often, though, a spouse looks at his or her marriage and says, “I see the creativity I need. I see the creative work I need. But, I’m going to do the push back because it’s just too much effort. It’s too much of a demanding responsibility.” A single parent may say, “I see my kids and see that I’ve got to be a creative parent and discipline them in a creative way and all that. But it’s just too much work, so I better do the push back.” Someone at work may say, “I see what I need to do in my career and I need to be innovative there, but if I chase that, it might be too much work. So, I’ll go ahead and do the pushback.”
Why are we pushing back? Why are we in a rut? Why is it same-old, same-old? Why is there no change? Why is there no creativity? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s a demanding responsibility. It takes effort. It takes work. Plus, the evil one doesn’t want it to happen.
Let’s bring it down to earth. Let’s bring it down to where we can connect with it. I want to talk to you about some areas where we need some creativity right now. First of all, how about in a creative marriage? As I said earlier, your marriage and my marriage should reflect Christ’s relationship to the church. The Evil One does not want that. You and your spouse are a team. Have you ever sat down as a team and shared a creative wish list with one another? Next weekend is Valentine’s. We are creative then, aren’t we? Valentine’s. Here are the flowers and the candy and special stuff. Why not adopt the Valentine’s mentality about once a month in your marriage? That’s a little creativity homework.
How about with your family? Have you ever sat down with your family and said, “How can we create as a family? We have a team here. How can we be innovative?” The problem in our families is that we just park our kids in front of the television set, and the kids haven’t been outside in two or three years. They have just been playing video games and channel surfing. We need to change that. We need to have creative families.
How about in your career? “Well, Ed, all I’m doing is teaching 20 or 30 students. All I am doing is filing. All I’m doing is answering the phone.” What about creativity? Have you ever stepped back and said, “God, how can I be creative in this? God, unleash the creativity. Show me angles. Show me avenues. Show me paths I should take to make this exciting.” God has you where you are for a reason.
Once we reflect creativity, we are reflecting the character and nature of God, and guess what? People are attracted to creativity. Why do you think that Fellowship Church has grown from 150 people showing up to over 16,000 in 13 years? I’ll tell you why. It’s a God thing. And because creativity is a God thing, people are coming in droves. I tell churches, leaders, and individuals, “If you want your life and your church and your business to explode, then you need to create.” What’s keeping you from it? You are a genius. You are a piece of art. What’s keeping you from it?
I’m going to challenge you to do something. I’m going to get right in your face right now—between you and your makeup. I’m going to smell your cologne right quick. Here’s the challenge. Make a high risk, high yield investment. Hit your knees and say, “God, unleash the creativity in my life.” Maybe you need creativity in your marriage. Maybe you need it in your family, your career, your recreational life, or in a friendship.
Here’s another challenge. Carve out some creativity time. Are you building time in your life just to think in a creative way? Find out that thing that inspires creative thoughts. Maybe it’s sitting in a coffee shop. Maybe it’s listening to music. Maybe it’s on the golf course. I don’t know where it is. I don’t know what you need to do, but have that thing operative. The staff here at Fellowship Church, we spend hours just in creative planning—just creating.
Also, build a creative team around you. “Ed, I don’t know any creative people. I don’t know any people who are creative.” Yes, you do. They are sitting around you. They are in your family. They are next to you in your cubicle at the office. They are next to you in your classroom. Build a creative team. That’s why we are so big around here on Home Teams. We have small groups that meet at least once a month in homes, apartment complexes and condominiums all around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Those can be your creative teams. Creativity is all about change, because when you have change, you are always going to have growth.
If you do any weightlifting, you know you make a serious mistake when you stay with the same workout for over a month. Because if you stay with the same workout for over a month, you are not going to gain any more strength. Your muscles will plateau. There was something invented a long time ago called the confusion principle. You need to change your workout about once a month because when you change it, it confuses your muscles. Your biceps go, “Wow, dude, what are you doing?” Your traps go, “This is weird.” Your pecs go, “Wow!” With change, you have growth. Why not apply the confusion principle to your marriage. Just confuse your wife. Why not apply the confusion principle in your home. Just confuse your family. Confuse people at work. Then, there will be growth.
Do a search on the Internet. You will not find creativity on very many character quality lists. But you search this book [Ed holds up his Bible]; there is creativity from the beginning to the end. It’s not optional—it’s foundational. Creativity—God invented it, Jesus modeled it, The Holy Spirit empowers it, and people desperately need it. People like you and me.