Myths of the Creative Church
It’s amazing just how much the church has shifted in the last decade.
Think about it. Just a few short years ago, most churches didn’t have any sort of “creative” team working to craft every moment of every weekend. There were no fancy lights, no inspiring set designs, and no soaring worship tunes. We sang “Jehovah Jireh”.
When I started working at Church on the Move seventeen years ago, nothing about the church at large was even approaching “creative” territory from a design perspective. Back then, if your church logo didn’t include a dove, a flame, a globe, a Bible, a sword, and a cross – or at least four out of the six – you were considered to be dancing on the edge of hell itself. Every design I saw – if you could even call it that – was ridiculously overdone. Modern design and culture had almost no influence on the church at all.
And yet here we are.
Today, many of our churches employ filmmakers, songwriters, creative thinkers, musicians, and graphic designers – just to name a few. You can now attend a church-based arts conference every month and swap design ideas anytime, day or night, with artists all around the world via any number of church-based design sites. Churches are creating and sharing resources like never before, and many churches (ours included) have their services posted online for all to see.
No, it’s official, after a long, tenuous dating period, the Church and the Arts have tied the knot and something really great is in the making for sure.
But here’s the pitfall.
In our mad scramble to be creative every single weekend, with our nifty videos and our clever openers and stunning set designs, have we become obsessed with making “something” rather than something that makes a difference? Are we worship widget-makers or are we truly impacting people?
Here’s a piece of advice: Make less art in order to make better art.
At Church on the Move, week in and week out, our services are relatively the same. We start with announcements, followed by three or four songs, followed by a message bumper, followed by a message, followed by an offering. That’s it. Nothing special, no epic opener, no amazing videos and yet, people from all over consider us to be a “creative” church. Why? Because we’ve shifted our focus from tweaking what we do every weekend, to tweaking how we do it. And that’s a huge shift.
It’s about impact.
What if half the projects on your to-do list suddenly disappeared? What would you be able to focus on? What areas within the sphere of your control could you work to improve?
This is the power of focus. We deny the things that are less important in order make the most impact with the most important things. This is precisely why we don’t make a new video every week (we might make ten a year) or why we don’t design a new stage set for every series (in fact, we’ll probably keep the one we have right now for close to a year). It’s because we want the projects that we do choose to work on to count for something. We want them to have impact.
Our philosophy has been to improve the stuff we do every weekend. For example, worship, stage design, lighting, IMAG, and announcements all get a lot of regular and thorough evaluation to make sure they’re hitting the mark. So rather than putting time, energy, and resources into making new stuff, we spend that same time, energy, and resources making what we do every week better. Less is more.
God is in the details.
Art that impacts is all about the details. Your favorite movies weren’t just thrown together, they were the product of intense scrutiny and focus. The best music isn’t the product of a momentary infilling of inspiration, it comes from a relentless focus on the details. Surely we don’t think the basic rules of creativity and art don’t apply to us because we work for the Lord, do we? After all, didn’t He make the rules up in the first place?
The bottom line is this: If you want excellence, the details matter and if you want to focus on the details, you have to make time for it. It won’t just happen.
This is why we put an extraordinary amount of time into the “every week” stuff at Church on the Move.
Our worship rehearsals last a minimum of four hours every week. When a video isn’t feeling quite right, we pull it. When a singer or musician doesn’t consistently bring their “A” game we stop using them. Why? Because we want to get it right more than we want to get it done. In reality, it’s not our reputation that’s on the line. It’s our church’s and our Lord’s. So we guard it fiercely.
No two churches are the exact same. I realize that. So process what I’m saying within the context and culture you find yourself in. I also realize that our church’s values won’t necessarily translate to your church’s values. But in the end, if I can help get the Church to take a step toward excellence as we continue to move toward creativity, I’ll be a happy, happy guy.