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Why Your Unique Creative Expression Matters

Why Your Unique Creative Expression Matters

There’s a popular narrative among leadership circles that talks about “replacing yourself”. The concept is good; we should raise people up to lead when we’re ready to move onto the next thing. But it’s more nuanced, and understanding those nuances addresses a human-history-long miss. That nuance: No one can do what you’re created to do the way you’re uniquely gifted to do it.

No one can do what you’re created to do the way you’re uniquely gifted to do it.

We can trace this concept of replication to the very fiber of human society. The concept of “the good old days.” A longing for the way things were — when we had all the say and things were done our way. And we see the disdain from one generation to the next in phrases like, “kids these days” or talk of those “entitled millennials.” There’s a sense of “they’re just not doing it the right way.”

But what if the problem is with our understanding of “the right way”? What if the problem is that when we talk about “the right way” what we really mean is “my way”?

And in the same way this mentality permeates much of the culture at large – same thing with our churches. Do you remember those conversations in the 90’s about drums in the sanctuary and the volume of the music? We laugh at them now, but these conversations are rooted in the “that’s just not the way we do it” mindset. And there are probably some things we’re holding onto that mirror that same my-way mentality.

What does that my-way mindset bring? When a generation isn’t proactively platformed to express their unique voice, the only alternative is rebellion.

When a generation isn’t proactively platformed to express their unique voice, the only alternative is rebellion.

But here’s the beautiful thing. When a generation is proactively platformed, the previous generation’s ceiling becomes the next generation’s floor.

So what does platforming the next generation mean? It does not mean giving them an opportunity to do your job and expecting them to do it the way you do it. What it means is passing on what you’ve learned, helping them find their voice, and then freeing them with the expectation that things will change. Because if there is no change, there is no growth.

Is it risky? Absolutely. There are no guarantees of success. But the only alternative is to dwindle into disconnected irrelevance.

And as this mentality takes root in our leadership, it trickles down to all the people within our organizations.

Think about an assembly line. Assembly lines work by taking something through the same process and expecting it to come out the other end looking just like all the things around it. Are our churches like assembly lines? Are we busy creating programs that run people through them with the expectation of spitting them all out the other side hoping they’ll all look, feel, and sound the same?

So what’s the alternative? What’s the paradigm shift?

While religiosity tends toward sameness, true redemption and reconciliation leads people into discovering their unique identity and purpose.

True redemption and reconciliation leads people into discovering their unique identity and purpose.

Redemption means valuing every aspect of a person’s story, personality, experience, history, gifting, and perspective as an opportunity to see the unique expression of the image of God revealed in us. This is scary. We like things that are just like us, and we tend to avoid things that aren’t like us. But the kingdom of heaven is a picture of diversity. And the very image of God is revealed in the unique components of each redeemed bit of us and those around us.

So there are two ways to process these ideas for you.

  1. As a leader, are you replicating yourself or working to draw out people’s unique voices and identities?
  2. In your own life, are you embracing and championing your own unique voice?

All of this is connected to my own story. My word for 2017 is “exposed.” When I tell people that they usually respond with some kind of salacious sound. And I get it. Being exposed — like being naked — can be uncomfortable, scandalous. But that’s the point. As a creative person, many of the Christian voices in my past, growing up, sought to edit my creativity with a set of acceptable standards. I wasn’t encouraged to explore my unique voice. I was told what to do and what not to do, and most of those rules were built on “that’s just the way things are done.”

As a leader, I’m pretty good at encouraging and challenging people to find and express their unique voice. But I have a long way to go when it comes to embracing that second question — embracing and championing my own unique voice.

Join me in 2017 in exposing your own uniqueness and the uniqueness of everyone around you. When we do, it won’t be easy, but we’ll see more of God.

About The Author

Cole NeSmith

Cole is the Creative Director and co-pastor of City Beautiful Church in Orlando, FL. His new book, Spiritual Innovation, helps us move from the need for control to a new level of exploration, expectation, discovery, and creativity in our faith and lives. He also creates interactive and reflective art and worship experiences through his company, Uncover The Color. He blogs at colenesmith.com and is on Twitter @ColeNeSmith.

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