THE MISSING LINK
JUNE 13, 1999
Week after week, month after month…you know what I am talking about, don’t you? 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 and go to bed. The net effect of this monotony is that large blocks of us feel like we are sort of sleepwalking through life.
Conventional wisdom says that your problem is relational. If you were married to that person, with that look, who had that bank account, things would be different. Conventional wisdom says, “No, no your problem is occupational. If you had that job with that package, if you could office in that place. Whoa! You would have a twinkle in your eye.” Conventional wisdom says that your problem is geographical. If you lived in the mountains or at the beach or in that resort community with that climate, you would have a spring in your step.
If your life has lost its luster, you could be neglecting something, something that I refer to as the missing link. You see what I am talking about is something that bureaucracies kill, systems stifle, public schools rarely talk about, and churches don’t discuss. I am talking about creativity. Creativity.
Now I know what you are thinking. Just the mention of the word bombards our brains with excuses. I have given them and so have you. And we say this sort of stuff to our creative God—“God, I am not creative. I have never had an original thought in my life. I can’t sing, act, or dance. I am just an ordinary person. I am not innovative. Creativity is reserved for those mutations, those artists and composers, those people on the cutting edge, not ordinary, Metroplex me.”
To put it into street language, don’t bring that weak stuff to God. Every time we say something like that to God, every time we throw that stuff up, we are making a mockery of the creative genius of our Lord. After all, God is God and He is our creative Creator. We are made in His image, thus we should create. Sadly, though, somewhere during life, most of us get that creative cramp. Somewhere along life’s journey we trade dreaming for dogma, the artistic for the analytical, laughter for logic, use our imaginations for memorization and we give up.
For many people who we come in contact with it can be said, “Died at 27, buried at 79.” God does not want us to live in prison cells of predictability. God wants us to break out of the box. God wants us to ride on the crest of creativity, but too many of us are content to splash around in our floaties in the shallows of sameness. “Well, this is it for me, God. This is my existence. I am just going to stay here and do some time, and then I will spend eternity with you in heaven forever.” That is why I love the J.B. Phillips paraphrase of Romans 12:2: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Don’t let it happen.
I want to stop and bring up three one-word questions about the missing link, creativity. I believe that if we answer these questions in an honest and authentic way, we will leave The Fellowship Church this morning changed individuals. Now before I go into these three one-word questions, I want you to turn to your neighbor and give him a high-five right now. You might not know your neighbor. Just turn and give him a high-five and say these words. “Neighbor, I am so fortunate to be sitting beside a creative, innovative person like you.” Now give him another high-five.
Let’s talk about the first one-word question that we have got to ask about creativity: Why? It is a great place to start. Why should I be creative? I want to give you a quick theology for creativity. First of all, I am to be creative because God invented it. He thought it up. It was His idea. It is the fifth word of the Bible. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created….” God is creative. Everything He touches is unique. It is one of a kind. There will never be another person who laughs like you, who looks like you, who talks like you, who walks like you, who has your gift mix.
Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God.” This is not optional. This is a command. We are to imitate God. And the word “imitator” comes from the word mimic. We like to mimic people. And when you are creative and I am creative, we are mimicking the mirror of our maker. We are saying to God, I am innovative. And it makes God smile when we do so. So right up front, why am I to be a creative person. Because God invented it.
I am also to be creative because Jesus modeled it. Jesus advertised it. Matthew 13:34, “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” That would be an illustration, a word picture. Jesus never had the same approach. He was always changing. He spoke from hillsides, boat bows and beaches. He drew in the sand, turned over tables, picked up a coin, pointed to a sower, put a child in His lap. Everything was different. Everything was unique. He was and is the master teacher and communicator.
Now check this out. Studies have shown, the higher the predictability, the lower the communication. Yet most of us can look around our country and know before we enter the doors what church is going to be like. What kind of music, what style of message, what the whole drill is going to be. And that is sad. If you ever go to church and are bored, please don’t blame God. Blame the pastor; blame the staff; blame the elders; blame the leaders, because God is creative. And when we are not creative within the context of the church, we are disobeying God and we are spiritually immature. I am to be creative because God invented and Jesus modeled it.
I love this next one. I am also to be creative because people need it. People need it. I want to draw your attention to a verse that is awesome. 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the spirit of the Lord is…” Let me stop right there. Where the spirit of the Lord is. The moment we make a faith step and receive Christ, the spirit of the Lord is inside our lives. The spirit of the Lord is in this church. “Where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” How in the world can we claim to be believers, can we claim to be maturing, developing Christ followers and be so dad gum boring and stuck in a rut? I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. And it saddens the heart of God.
People need creativity. We beg for it. We yearn for it. We are created in the image of our creative Creator. Thus we have a void if we are not hooked into creativity. And God understood this years and years ago. Just peruse the pages of scripture for a second. Think about how God used things to communicate to human beings. He used a piece of fruit to Adam, salt to Lot, a whale to Jonah, a boat to Noah, a slingshot to David, and ultimately a cross to the world.
When are we going to break out of the box? When are we going to jump out of the rut? When are we going to bend the bars of predictability and ride on the crest of creativity? When are we going to hook together those missing links? When?
That is why I should be creative. God invented it. Jesus modeled it. People need it.
Now, the second one-word question: Where? Where should I be creative? That is a good place to begin. I think right up front, we should be creative on the marital front. Let’s talk about the marital front. I think we need some infusion of creativity into the math of marriage. Here is how marriage goes for a lot of us. The husband and wife have just come off the honeymoon cruise. The wife is thinking in her romantic mind that her husband is now going to help her cruise into deeper and deeper levels of creativity and intimacy and romance. She can’t wait. She is filled with anticipation. Little does she realize that her husband has thrown an anchor overboard into boredom bay.
He is married. The honeymoon is over. It is a done deal. And now he gains 25 or 30 pounds. It doesn’t matter because he has got his woman. And he parks his rear on the La-Z-boy chair and channel surfs and watches ESPN. “Honey, have you got some more of those Doritos please. Well, can Tiger Woods hit that ball. Look at him.”
Husbands, and I am talking to myself too, I have not cracked the code on creativity but, husbands, if we spent just half of the time working on romance and intimacy with our wives as we do working on our golf game, on our company, on one pursuit or another, life would be different concerning our connection with our spouses.
Wives, I am not going to let you off that easy, though. Wives, if you spent half the time being the initiator in the physical domain in a creative manner as you do in being the initiator in the decorating realm of your apartment or house, maybe your husband wouldn’t be sitting there blankly staring at ESPN. Maybe, just maybe, it would be different.
So creativity is a two-way street and we desperately need it in our marriages. We have got to have creativity going and flowing. We have got to be wheeling it and dealing it. We must have it because it is mirroring the image and majesty of our maker.
We also need creativity on the child-rearing front, don’t we? Whoa! Talk about challenging, try parenting. We have so many classes and seminars here based on parenting. Parenting is the most difficult and challenging thing I do. We need creativity. I have found something out. Kids who are creative come from creative families. Hey, Mom, Dad, single parent, what are you doing to increase the creative quotient of your children? It is something that Lisa and I constantly work on.
I will tell you something that we did several days ago that was really good. I thought it was pretty cool. We told our four children that we were going to camp out. On Memorial Day weekend after the ten o’clock service on Sunday, we cruised over to Bass Pro and bought a tent. I am usually kind of tired and grumpy on Sunday afternoons, coming down from the weekend and all that. But we told the kids we would do the KOA thing. So we put up the tent in our backyard. I don’t know if you remember, but I can’t tell you how hot it was, how humid it was. Perspiration was dripping off our noses. Mosquitoes were biting. Our dogs were barking. And the kids wanted to do a campfire. So we built a campfire in our backyard! We did have to get a Duraflame log, though, to do it. We made Smores and we went to bed.
It was so hot we couldn’t even get in the sleeping bags. During the middle of the night the kids were having nightmares because I had told some kind of bear story. Lisa looked at me and asked if I could believe what we were doing. I told her I really couldn’t. Then she said, “Ed, we are making memories. This is creativity.” And three days later, after I recovered from this excursion, I looked back on it and it was a great thing. That was something out of the ordinary. Something different. Something our kids really loved because it was a time of creativity. We do need creativity on the child rearing front.
We also need creativity on the career front. A lot of us are thinking that we have got to find the system and that once we do, we will stay with it and ride it until the end of life. “I will do that flow chart and do this deal.” “I will talk to him because he has got a Harvard MBA.” “The system is the deal.” No, it’s not. No, it’s not.
I am all for systems and all for organization. The Bible says that we should do all things in an organized and fitting manner, but we have got to change. We have got to be creative. I ask you. What creative idea have you given your client lately? What creative idea have you brought to your practice lately? What creative idea have you displayed in the classroom or in the locker room? What? “Well I am just going to do it this way because it has always been done this way. This is the only way. This is the system. You have got to stay with the system. That’s the way it is.” No, it is not. You are creative. You are innovative. You are one of a kind. You are made in the image of God. You are fearfully and wonderfully fashioned. Create. Create. Create.
We also need creativity on the church front. The church should be the most creative entity in the universe. I sincerely believe that when Christians are together within the context of a biblically-functioning community, the most creative ideas should be exchanged. Christians should be the ones doing the creative tapes and seminars and books. Why? How can we claim to be connected to an innovative God and be so boring?
Several years ago a friend of mine walked up to me after one of the services. “Hey, Ed. I know you like sports a lot. Have you ever been to a professional boxing match?” I told him no, but I liked boxing. (This is when Mike Tyson was really big. When he was out of prison.) He told me that he wanted to take me to the next championship match. I thought, “Sure,” just like, “We’ll do lunch.” Or, “I’ll take you fishing. See you next week.” We say those kind of things all the time but don’t really back them up. But this guy was a good friend. Several weeks later he told me he had tickets for us to see Tyson-Holyfield. (That was the first fight, not the ear bite one.) He told me it was Saturday night and I realized that I would have to miss delivering the Saturday night message. I decided to have Preston pitch hit for me Saturday and my friend assured me that he could have us flown back on an all night flight for Sunday services. I said I would do it.
So we flew into Las Vegas. Las Vegas is an intriguing place, isn’t it? How many of you have ever been to Las Vegas. Lift your hand. Well, when I was walking around with my friend before the fight, something struck me. Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps, knows signage, doesn’t it. The place is incredible. Blinking signs. Flashing signs. Big signs. Little signs. Signage. I said to myself, you know, Las Vegas does not have much to say, but they know how to say it. Then I thought about the local church. We have everything to say, but we don’t know how to say it. We don’t.
Because of your creativity, because of your leadership, and ultimately, because of the grace of God, our church has received national recognition because we’re creative.
Please be in prayer for me tomorrow morning. Right after this service, I am flying out to Atlanta to speak at the Georgia Dome in front of 12,000 to 15,000 pastors about innovation. Now that is great. I am going to tell them what God is doing in our church through you. But in a way it is sad. To me, all churches should be creative, and the ones that are boring should stand out. People should say, “Wow, that is a boring church.” Incredible. Yet, we come to church with presuppositions. We say to ourselves, “I have got to be bored. Surely, something is wrong if I am laughing or I am listening or watching a drama or a video. Surely, something is wrong.” Well, something is right. The deeper the commitment, the deeper the maturity, the greater the creativity. How can we talk about this unique Book without talking about it in unique ways? I don’t know. But we need creativity within the local church.
I thank God that I grew up in a family that was creative. My father, as some of you know, is a pastor. I consider him a creative guy. But had I not grown up in that family, had I not been connected to my father, I am not sure that I would have gone into the ministry. Maybe—
because God led me into it. But the other pastors that I have talked to and rubbed shoulders with, the people that I hung out with and watched in seminary were living corpses. I remember saying to myself that if that is what being a pastor is all about, I don’t want any part of it. I want to head for the hills. I want to get out of Dodge. Call me a taxi. I don’t want that.
I do the opposite, many times, from what I was taught in seminary, the polar opposite. Not theologically, not biblically, but from a methodological standpoint. And one of the things that saddens my heart is that I see fewer and fewer men and women going into the ministry. Do you know why? Because people in the ministry are so boring, so lifeless. Churches are so dull. What did Jesus say in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life….” LIFE. LIFE. LIFE. Not death, death, death. There are a growing number of churches in America now where there is life in the ministry, on the staff, in the pews or theater seats. And these churches are attracting hundreds into the ministry. But on a national scale, it is not happening.
Why should I be creative? Where should I be creative? Now let’s talk about the last one-word question: How? How? “OK, Ed, I understand the theology behind it. I understand what the Bible says about it. How?” I want to talk to you about several things that we all need to download into our lives if we are going to be the kind of creative creatures that God wants us to become.
First, listen to God’s cheer. Did you know that God is cheering for you? Do you know that God is on your team? Do you know that God is motivating you, encouraging you, wants the best for you? That is the kind of God we serve.
I will never forget what happened a couple of years ago. I walked into a dingy gym to watch one of the best high school teams in the country play basketball. These guys were phenomenal players, high school kids flying through the air like Toby Bryant. Doing the crossover move like Allen Eiberson. I enjoyed watching the players, but the thing I remember the most about the game was the cheerleaders. You know why? It was the cheer they were doing. I will never forget the cheer. God used the cheer in a great way in my life at that time. Here is the cheer. “You’ve got it; now use it. You’ve got it; now use it. You’ve got it; now use it.” The team had it and they were using it. They beat the other team by about 45 points.
Hear God’s cheer. You’ve got it; now use it. You’ve got creativity; now use it. Creativity is not something that we search for. “Oh, I have got to find it. Let me look.” No, you’ve got it if you are connected with God. Now He is saying, “Use it.” Well, how do you use it? You use it through prayer. I want to challenge you to pray a high octane prayer. “God, enhance my creativity.” Whoa. Be ready. Be ready.
A while back I was looking at my prayer journal. I have been journaling my prayers for 17 years now. I was staggered at how many times I have asked God to enhance my creativity.
Also, if we are going to listen to God’s cheer and respond to it, we have got to connect with creative people. Who is mentoring you in your marriage? Who is mentoring you as far as child-rearing challenges go? Who is mentoring you in your career? Who? It had better be creative people. If they are boring, ask God to put into your life some creative people so you can learn and glean some real stuff from them. Listen to God’s cheer. You’ve got it; now use it.
Another thing we have got to download into our lives, we need to go through labor and delivery. There is an inseparable link between labor and creativity. Genesis Chapters 1, 2, and 3. Think about it. Read it. God created. He worked. He worked. He created. There is nothing in my opinion as demanding as thinking and strategizing in a creative fashion.
When you have a baby—my wife and I have had four—there is a process. There is the conception, then the pregnancy, then the labor and delivery. Guys, we couldn’t even begin to go through labor and delivery. We couldn’t make it. Talk about tough. Talk to a woman who has had a baby. Creativity is the same way. We have the conception, the pregnancy, then the labor and delivery.
Most of us just conceive creative ideas. “Oh, I had a creative idea. Whoa! Here is another one. Another one. Another one.” And we stop there because the pregnancy and especially the labor and delivery is too tough. It is too difficult. It is too taxing. We want to run from it.
I have discovered something about creative people, for example, our very own Stan Durham. Stan is highly, highly creative. People think he is creative, gets his ideas, and just does it. Let me tell you something about that. Creative people make it look easy because of their tireless work ethic. The easier it looks, the harder they have worked. The process is highly, highly difficult, to take something complex and make it simple. It would be easy for me to take this complex and mysterious book, the Bible, and keep it complex and mysterious. That is a lay up, a bank shot, a crib shot, a slam dunk. No big deal. But start taking stuff from a mysterious and complex domain and begin to go through the pregnancy, the labor, and the delivery and make it simple, wow. And that is what Stan does.
Let me say something to you about our staff. Take me out of it for a second. Any time you lock eyes with a man or woman here on staff, you are locking eyes with people who work like you have never seen before. You might think you know, but you don’t know. I cannot tell you how great our staff is. So when you see a staff member—
not me, since I get enough of it—say, “Man, thank you for carrying the ball. Thank you for scoring goals. Thank you for hitting three point shots for the Fellowship Church.”
We have a highly creative and highly innovative leadership team who will work. I am talking about grit under their fingernails, rolled up sleeves, overall-type work. Most of us don’t want to pay the price for creativity because it is too tough. But I am going to tell you something. It is worth it. It is worth it. When we are creative, it will heighten our gifts, cause incredible growth, and make God smile. Go through labor and delivery.
Let’s think about God for a second. What would have happened if God would have just conceived a creative idea? What if when He saw our sinfulness—this cosmic chasm separating mankind from Him—He got the idea of sending Jesus to die on the cross? But what if God had just stopped with the idea? What if God had just stopped with the conception? We would all bust hell wide open. He didn’t, though, did He? He didn’t stop with just a thought. He conceived it and followed it all they way through delivery and now we can have life, and know it abundantly.
There is one more thing that I want to touch on that we have to download into our lives. We need to install the confusion principle. The confusion principle is a weight training term invented by Joe Weider. Joe Weider is probably the gray-haired boy of bodybuilding.
I have a good friend who is a personal trainer. He has always encouraged me to change my workout. He said if my muscles get accustomed to a given workout, they won’t grow. He said they are not shocked any more and they remain stagnant. He said if I want to grow in strength and posture and bone structure and muscularity, I have to constantly change my workout, confuse my muscles. Confuse my biceps. Confuse my quads. Confuse them.
Hey, husbands, apply the confusion principle in your marriage. Just confuse her. Get off the La-Z-boy, put down the Doritos, pick up the phone, call a babysitter, take her out for a night on the town. Hey, tomorrow morning in the sales meeting, confuse them. Share your creative and innovative ideas with your children. Go to Bass Pro Shop and buy a tent or whatever. I don’t know what it would be for you. But confuse, confuse, confuse. I am not talking about chaos, but confusion.
When something is Biblical, when it is of God, you always have the change going on because creativity and change go hand in hand. And after you have the change going on, usually there is some conflict. Because none of us like to change. If you go with the change, there is conflict and after conflict there is growth. Change, conflict. Conflict, growth.
People ask about our church. We have people in our church who are ready to change. We have changed so much—locations, our name, the order of worship, the bulletin. And we are going to change some more. Our church will not look like this church or act like this church or necessarily have the style of this church five years from now. We will still be teaching the Bible in an uncompromising way. But we will be different. If we are not, we will not be doing what God wants us to do. Confuse them. Confuse them.
Maybe you are saying that you are ready to start this journey. If you are ready, really serious about it, pray this prayer with me right now. Bow your heads. Maybe God has brought up a certain area where you need an infusion of creativity. I don’t know where it is but God has told you.
Pray this prayer silently as I pray it: God, I want to listen and respond to your cheer. You’ve got it, now use it, that is what You are telling me. Help me, God, to connect with creative people. Help me, God, to be willing to pay the price to go through labor and delivery. Help me, assist me, to install the confusion principle. I pray now, Lord, that creativity transcends every venue of my existence. Thank You for inventing it, for modeling it and for making us as people who need it. For Christ’s sake we pray. Amen.