The Art of Easter
April 20, 2014
By Ed Young
At the heart of God is creativity. It just takes a brief look around our world to see the evidence of that creativity. As creatures made in the image of our creative Creator, we can tap into the power of creativity to get the most out of life.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young gives us eight powerful truths about creativity that can change our lives. And when we learn to Cre-8 the way God wants us to, we discover what a life of purpose is all about!
Welcome to Fellowship Church. I don’t know about you but now and then I sort of find myself getting in the same rut, ritual, routine, day in and day out. Maybe you kinda feel the same.
You’re like, “wow, if I lived in that part of the country or in that city, things would be different.” You think your problem is geographical.
I talk to others all the time who are like, “Well, if I were married to this person or if I had those sets of friends or if I was in this crowd or if I had that many followers or whatever, life would be different.” You have this relational yearning and you think it’s all about humanistic relationships and who you’re with. And I would say no. I would say no.
Some people would go, “well, maybe it is corporate. Maybe it’s a corporate situation. If I had that job with that kind of salary, if I could travel there or if I had those clients and that income, a financial type of situation, maybe that would do it.”
So, geographical, relational, financial, you just find yourself seriously in that rut. You might not look like it, but you feel there’s a sameness of life. I understand there’s a sameness, but there is also something that most of us forget about, and it’s one of the major character qualities of God. Creativity. Creativity. I’m talking about art.
God is the God of art. When you say the word heart, I’ve got a heart, you’ve got a heart. The word art is in it. Also, the word He is in it. He-art. My heart, my life, hardwired, made by God. Made in the image of God, thus I’m an artist. I’m unique. The Bible tells me in Psalm 139 that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. In the Hebrew that actually means art. That actually mean I’m like a poem. I’m unique. I’m one of a kind.
For illustrative purposes look at your hand. Specifically your thumb. Everybody has a unique thumbprint. Everybody has a unique laugh. Everybody has a unique walk. Everybody has a unique voice. Everybody has unique gifts and talents and abilities. So for anybody to ever say, “I’m not creative” or “I’m not an artist” is absolutely making a mockery of the creative genius of God.
Maybe your creativity lies in electronics. Maybe your technology is where you find your creativity. Maybe your creativity is in building things. Maybe it’s in speaking, maybe it’s through sports. I don’t know what it is. Everybody, though, is a creative genius.
And I think when we understand that we are art, then things will change. Because if you really think about it, God made us – the Bible says – in his image. We were perfect. Masterpieces. We took the masterpieces and turned them into disaster-pieces because we decided to paint our own painting. We kicked God out of the way and we said, “I’ll take my art supplies. They’re not yours, God, they’re mine. I will paint the picture the way I want to paint it.” And because of that we turned God’s masterpiece into a disaster-piece. And whenever I paint or whenever you paint, we paint ourselves into a corner.
Well at this point, God could have said, “You know what? I’m gonna trash that painting. I’m gonna burn that painting. I’m gonna throw that painting away.” As you study history, you know in Nazi Germany, a lot of the Nazis took some of the most beautiful artwork in the world and totally destroyed it. Can you imagine that?
Well, God could have easily said, “My standards are perfect. I’m holy, I’m pure. Man, you messed up.” He didn’t. What did he do? He sent Jesus Christ to literally become art. To paint perfectly, to live righteously, to die sacrificially, to rise again, thereby offering us an opportunity to turn (by his grace) our disaster-piece into a masterpiece. Once that’s recovered and once that’s redone, and once we transfer our art supplies to him then I believe we discover what creativity is all about.
So don’t ever say, “I’m not creative.” Every single person is a creative genius. Every single person that I’m looking at today or I’m talking to at one of our many different locations is an artist. So just take, just a couple of seconds and turn to your neighbor and say, “Neighbor, you’re an artist. You’re a Picasso. You’re Renoir, a Monet, a Van Gogh.” Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Let’s talk about some things regarding creativity. Now, while I talk about these things with creativity I know behind me you have just a number of pictures of paintings of Jesus. I did these paintings during the many services that we did at Fellowship during the Easter weekend. And we’re gonna auction all of these paintings off and we’re going to take the proceeds and give them to scholarships for our incredible camp, called Allaso Ranch. We have literally thousands of students and children who invade Allaso Ranch every summer. Also we do just some unbelievable things during the school year for so many groups and people so I want you to bid on these and hopefully if they fit in your home or your décor you can do that. I think it’s a cool, cool thing. Because you can’t beat paintings of Jesus.
I do think it’s interesting, though, how each painting is different. You know, I’m a human being. I’m not perfect and I see some things that I would change already about these paintings. I would tweak some things and I might tweak some things while we’re talking if you would just bear with me, but I want you to see the uniqueness of these paintings and also think about the uniqueness in your own life.
Because creativity, I want you to understand this and down load this, #1 initiates with God. I just talked about it. God could have given us the prevailing attitude or character quality as one of boredom or one of predictability, or one of sameness. He didn’t. God’s quality that he painted on our soul is that if outrageous creativity. And when I say creativity, what am I talking about? Creativity, I believe, is something that we stop and then something that we start. It’s the God-given ability to change. That’s creativity. And whenever you have creativity you’re gonna have change. And the Christian life is all about change. Creativity initiates with God. As I’ve written about in my book called “The Creative Leader,” God invented creativity – #1. #2, the Holy Spirit inspires creativity. And #3, Jesus modeled creativity. And you could say #4, people respond to creativity.
All the time people are talking about romance, romance, romance, especially the women who are listening. Romance, guys, simply is creativity. It’s stopping one thing and start another. It’s the God-given ability to change.
Creativity initiates with God. If you don’t think God’s an artist just look around. If you don’t think God has a sense of humor just look around. If you don’t think God loves color just look around. We can’t even replicate the color that we see in the creation. Our great God is indeed an artist. So it initiates with God. And sadly, the church over the last – I don’t know – several centuries or so, we have not ridden the wave of creativity like we should. Back in the day some of the most creative people were in the church performing, but over the last several hundred years we have not been as creative. And what’s so inspirational and what’s so exciting to me is to see this new wave of creativity that I’m seeing right here at Fellowship Church. So let’s just give the creativity at Fellowship a crazy round of applause! It initiates with God. So we’ve been known and we’re known as a creative church. Like, we stand out. Well really that’s ridiculous. Every church should be creative. The churches that should stand out are those who are boring. But just the opposite so often is true. So remember, true creativity begins with God. And I believe the most creative entity in the universe is the local church.
ILLUS: Last night, in fact, Lisa and I were at some friends’ home in our neighborhood and the friends had gone to several of our services this weekend. And they were asking us questions about how Fellowship Church was able to pull off what Fellowship Church was able to pull off.
The chalk drawing of Jesus. That thing was just crazy. If you’ve not seen the chalk drawing, again, go online and you’ll see the largest chalk drawing of Jesus ever rendered. And our team put that together with hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. Absolutely amazing. And what’s so interesting is the media picked it up locally and they covered it, and then it went national and then global. We’ve gotten calls from all over the world regarding chalk Jesus, which was a cool thing. And people say, “well, why did you guys draw Jesus?” Well, is there anyone better to draw? That’s what it’s about. It’s about Jesus. The church is the body of Christ. And I think as people of the church we should wave our flag high and we should be the best at marketing of anybody! Forget some of the companies, whether it be Apple or Nike or whatever. We should be on the bleeding edge of creativity and marketing the church. Because we’re not marketing just the church, we’re marketing the person of Christ, the body of Christ.
And then they were asking, “How in the world did you guys come up with the paintings? And how in the world did you guys merge with what you’re doing in the children’s activities? And how do you pull it off?” And again, I kept going back to it’s a God thing. It’s about creativity, and God initiates creativity. Don’t ever forget that. So I believe the closer we walk with God, the more creativity we’ll have.
#2 – Something about creativity, not only does it initiate with God, it illuminates our uniqueness. Every single one of us; that’s right, every single one of us is totally and completely different. As I’ve said so often, and as I want you to know, all of us have unique things that we can do in the body of Christ. And we’ll never reach the level of creativity that God desires for our lives until we make his house our home.
And I’ve got to ask you, are you living that out? Are you doing that in your life? Because creativity, and of course creativity comes from God, shows people that we’re not comparing ourselves with others, we’re not copying others. We’re learning from others, but we’re taking this uniqueness from God and putting it through our creative saying, and understanding and being the kind of person that God desires us to be.
And even for me, in my life it’s something that I struggled with and thought about for a long, long time. That’s why I’m so passionate talking about creativity. Because when I began as a pastor, I mean I didn’t really know who I was. I didn’t really know what kind of style, and I tried to listen to different people and maybe speak like a certain person or even lead like a certain person. And it hasn’t really been until, I don’t know, maybe a decade ago that one day I woke up and I said, “You know, I’ve learned from all these people and it’s great but I’ve gotta be who God has wired me to be.”
And I feel more comfortable now as a leader, more comfortable as a husband and a father, more comfortable when I speak and just more comfortable. So I really believe once you get freed up in this realm of creativity you’re not gonna compare yourself with others. Because when I compare myself with others I’m really slapping God in the face, because God made me utterly unique. So for me to compare myself with someone else is like limiting what God has done in my life. And hopefully that makes sense to everybody.
OK, here’s something else creativity does. Yes, it initiates with God. Yes, it illuminates our uniqueness. But also it communicates at the table. Fellowship Church is a church about the table. Now, the table is one of the metaphors that we have built our church around. And the reason we have chosen that is because the table is used throughout the Scriptures – the table. You know, the psalmist talks about the table. And Jesus talked about the table. And ultimately we know, those of us who are in Christ, we’ll eat with other brothers and sisters at the table. In the Lord’s Supper we come to the table, the table, the table. Well, the table really is a true metaphor of the church. Because Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” So if you think about the table, and the church is a table, this table that I want you to think about basically has four chairs.
The first chair, the chair at the head of the table, is the person who is the lead pastor. He is the dude with the food.
The first chair to his right or her right (the dudette with the foodette) would be the person who is far away from God, the person who does not know Christ. I think a third of your church, or a third of our church, should be those who are far away from God.
The second chair would be those whose faith is fresh. They’re brand new believers. And the third chair would be those who are full-court followers of Christ. So if the church is serving the food in a creative and compelling way, which it should. Again, I will go back to if you’re ever bored at church don’t blame God. Blame the pastor or blame the worship leader, but don’t blame God. God’s not boring. So if the person is serving the food in a creative and compelling way, what’s happening?
Those who are in chair 3, the coast-to-coast followers of Christ, are inviting their friends. They’re leading them to Christ and you have this beautiful ecosystem going on. Creativity communicates at the table.
In my conversation with our friends last night I said, “You know, we do a lot of Fellowship Church that I would not necessarily do.” Let me say that again. We do a lot of different things at Fellowship Church that I would not necessarily do. Whether it be the style of even the way I speak now and then, some of the songs, some of the activities, it kinda gets me out of my comfort zone.
But I discovered that when Jesus said to become fishers of men, great fisherman get out of their comfort zone. Jesus got out of his comfort zone, for example, as he touched the likes of Zacchaeus. He took his eyes off the religious people and put them on Zacchaeus. Jesus was always getting out and challenging people to get out of their comfort zone. And too many churches, I believe, are too comfortable. We want to be comfortable but we want to be comfortably uncomfortable.
And that’s at the table, isn’t it? The table is a place of comfort but also it’s a place of discomfort. We don’t sit at the table for the rest of our lives. We get nourished, we push away from the table, and then that gives us the calories to get up and do what God desires us to do, which is creativity.
So at Fellowship Church you’ll see change, which is creativity, and with change there’s gonna be some conflict. “Oh, why don’t we do this or that? I don’t understand this or that?” You stay with change, you negotiate through the conflict, and you’re always gonna have growth on the other side. Change, conflict, growth. So let’s give a crazy round of applause for change! So we change just to change! If it ain’t broke, break it! Like one of the books that I read. So, creativity communicates at the table.
Creativity also culminates in work. It culminates in work. Again, picking up on the conversation I had last night with some friends I began to tell them about the work ethic of the team here at Fellowship Church.
You know, Fellowship Church is one of the largest churches in America, yet for our size we have a very small, very lean staff. That forces us to get people involved. We have thousands of volunteers who make Fellowship Church go and grow. The mantra on our staff is we will do anything, everything, or nothing. So we had this idea for the chalk Jesus like a couple of days before we could even start promoting it. Had we not started immediately, had we planned too much, had we dissected it too much, it would have never happened. Brilliant thing!
One of the staff members texted me that unbelievable story that I’d used years ago, on my way to Klyde Warren Park about the painting of the handicapped child. If you’ve not seen that, go to FellowshipChurch.com, it’s one of the most powerful stories you’ll ever, ever hear.
So what I’m saying is creativity doesn’t happen on the fly. It doesn’t happen when you’re just casual. It doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. No. It happens with unbelievable work. And again, I will put our staff’s work ethic up against anybody. And that’s why a lot of people, quite frankly, cannot make it on Fellowship’s staff. You might go, “Well I wonder why they’re not here any more?” They just couldn’t make it. That’s OK! Our environment is unique. It is brutiful. There’s a brutal side to it, and a beautiful side to it.
But the reason that I believe we’re the church we are is that #1, God. But #2, work. And our staff does such a great job they make it look easy. So I want you to pat our staff on the back, give them a high five! Congratulate them. Thank them. Also, all of the volunteers that our staff works with, that our staff gets involved in the ministry of this church. That also means there are a bunch of you who are sitting there and you’re not serving. If you’re not serving you’re swerving. And I’ll say it again. You’ll never reach your creativity, you’ll never reach your fulfillment until you begin to do that. So again, it culminates in work.
Also, too, #5, it elevates in a team. It elevates in a team. And I think you already understand that. You can look in the Bible and you can see teams of people that did creative stuff. You think about Moses, it wasn’t just Moses. He had a team of people that helped him. He was the leader, no doubt about that, but he had teams of people that helped him.
You think about Nehemiah, what Nehemiah did? Teams of people.
You think about Daniel, that great man. You think about teams of people.
You think about David, teams of people.
And then you segue into Jesus. Teams of people, teams of people. Creativity elevates with a team. So you’ve got to be open enough to receive critique not in a mean-spirited way, but in an honest way, and then you’ve got to say “OK, I’m gonna make those changes.” And then move on.
ILLUS: For example, at Fellowship we might have someone do, let’s say on the worship side of it, a song or whatever. They might have worked on it all week and we hear it on Saturday. It doesn’t gel with the weekend service and we say, “You know what, we’re not gonna have you do it on Sunday because it didn’t really work.” Now we don’t have tears, we don’t have drama or trauma. People who do that, they don’t make it at Fellowship. Because they know very soon they’ll get another chance to do it again, and again, and again, and again.
So make sure you lean into a team in your creativity. Whether you’re married, whether you have a family, whether you’re a coach in a Little League, whatever you’re doing, there’s genius in team. And I get so many brilliant ideas through team members and through even team members on social media, etc. So it elevates in a team.
#6 – Creativity excavates (and this is huge) the negative. Whenever you’re creative, whenever you have this art, whenever you exalt Jesus you’re gonna see who’s got your back. Now some of these expressions of Jesus are peaceful, some of them are contemplative, some of them are stern. And some people who have seen this are like, “Oh, I don’t know about that Jesus. He looks pretty tough.” You think Jesus was not tough? “I’m not sure about that because he looks kinda mean…” Well, he turned over the tables, got the money changers out. You’re not some wimpy person who does that. They were gonna push him off of this cliff, he just walked right though the crowd. He’s tough and he can look tough! “Choose this day who you’ll serve…” I mean the hard sayings of Jesus. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, I did this and that…’ “Depart from me, I never knew you.’” That’s Jesus.
Now others are more contemplative, others are softer. So we have the perfect balance of Jesus. He performed perfectly, lived righteously, tackled temptation. So that’s why Jesus has been there and we serve someone who is a sympathetic Savior.
Jesus dealt with negativity. The most creative, for example, communicator in the history of the world, he dealt with people who didn’t dig him. We call them haters today. People didn’t like him. And we’ve seen in this series I did recently, “I’m a Big Hypocrite,” we saw a lot of examples of that and ultimately that is what led to his arrest, his death on the cross. Haters, negative people.
When you have creativity going, think about Christ’s life. You’re gonna have negative. Whenever we walk in creativity, whenever we make the hard calls, whenever we have to step up and work, whenever there is a creative wave or thought some people just don’t dig it. That’s OK.
There are other churches who do the same thing in the same way every week expecting unique results but they’re not gonna have it. Fellowship Church is a place – I will say it again – where we’re comforted by Christ but we’re uncomfortable for him. If you’re creative, and very rarely do people talk about creativity in the Christian life. For some reason Christianity is thought about in a boring, predictable way. Just the opposite should happen. We’re comforted by Christ but we’re uncomfortable for Christ. So I want every one, we want everyone at Fellowship, to have a low-grade level of discomfort.
If you’re seeking, if you’re checking out Christianity this is a very comfortable environment. We, though, are gonna challenge you because Jesus challenged others. I pray that you accept this challenge. That you discover the brilliance of creativity. Because you have a choice, I have a choice in life. I can either splash around in the shallows of sameness with my floaties on, or I can ride the wave of creativity.
So it shows us, whenever we’re creative, who the players are and who the posers are. Who the people are who understand it, and who the people are who just don’t want to get it. And that’s OK. That’s all right.
Creativity also replicates our influence. It replicates our influence. You want to influence children, your children, walk in creativity. You want to influence others with your marriage, walk in creativity, which is romance. You want to really make a difference in this world, you get involved in the most creative entity in the world, the local church, and you will have influence. Fellowship Church, because of Jesus, has influenced churches, unique churches around the world. We did not plan on it, we didn’t think about it, we didn’t orchestrate it, it just happened in our 24-year history. We get bombarded with emails and letters and texts and videos with people saying thank you for fighting the fight of creativity. Creativity does not happen in a vacuum. It happens because we’re willing to do unique things in a unique way for a great, great God.
And the last thing, cre-8? Get it? Create. Cre-8! Really say it from your heart. Cre-8! Right? Because art is in your heart. It interrogates with questions. You show me somebody who is creative and I’ll show you somebody who asks questions. The moment you stop asking questions you have stopped humbling yourself before God and others. Because you have to humble yourself to ask questions. You can learn, I can learn from everybody. Everybody is a genius in certain areas. So whenever you ask someone questions think about three things.
#1 – When I’m asking you a question, what should I cancel? What should I stop doing in my life?
#2 – What does this confirm? That’s another question. What does this confirm in my life?
#3 – What can I copy from you? My uncle used to tell me, “God gave you eyes, plagiarize.” Copy from others. I don’t mean specifically like every t, every i. I mean take what they’re doing, if it works, put it in your life, in your context and go for it. That’s creativity.
You might be saying, “Well, Ed, I feel dull. I feel like I’m in this rut, in this ritual, in this routine. Same old, same old. Get up, go to work, come back home, watch some TV, go to bed, whatever. Blah-blah-blah-blah.” Your problem is not geographical. It’s not because you’re not married to the right person or the family. It’s not financial, if you had more money. It’s not. It’s all about God. It’s spiritual. Everything is spiritual. Everything is creative once we give our paint supplies to God.
So, are you going to keep painting yourself and painting yourself into a corner? And making this disaster-piece out of your life or are you gonna give the paint supplies to Jesus and let him take the brush and paint a masterpiece? That is what art is all about.