From Creation to Creativity

Where Are God's Big Ideas in Your Ministry?

by Cal LeMon

The iPad, GE’s Reveal CFL light bulb, Garden Cheddar Goldfish snacks, Godiva’s Truffle-inspired coffees, Duracell’s “D” battery with a visual gauge on the side indicating the remaining charge, American Greetings’ digital slide show greeting card, Belkin’s Bluetooth music recorder that can play music wirelessly from an iPhone, and Landis+Gyr’s ecoMeter P250 that wirelessly monitor’s home electric use all are new, big commercial ideas in the last 2 years.

What have been God’s big ideas to grow His kingdom in your ministry in the past 2 years? This is a fair question.

The world we speed through every day is constantly heaving with heady creations of the profit-possessed. The church, at the same time, often seems to be mumbling from the curb, “1953 … now that was the year God was doing a new thing among us … what happened to the altar services, camp meetings and CA rallies?”

Poking through the fragile, discolored pages of our past spiritual journeys may be inspiring and instructive, but we cannot camp in the comfort of our chronicles. It is time to renew our Pentecostal heritage and rummage through our reformed theology that screams, “God, through His Spirit, is past, present, and very future.”

The Covenant of Creativity

The confluence of God’s creativity through His Holy Spirit cascaded into Genesis 1 and will spill into the thunderous choruses of Revelation 19.

It was God’s Spirit (Genesis 1:2) that “hovered over” the primordial waters of our planet’s birth canal and created a new spinning home.

It was God’s Spirit, ruach (the breath) that breathed new life into a motionless human being (Genesis 2:7).

It was God’s Spirit who made living by the rules a new, realistic expectation (Ezekiel 36:27).

It was God’s Spirit that blew into an Upper Room and fashioned a new corporation of the called: the Church (Acts 2).

The covenant community of Christ, especially for Pentecostals, should be a ripe environment for God, the Creator of the universe, to billboard His creativity. Doing “a new thing” is normative for the Spirit-infused expression of the body of Christ.

The Process of Creativity

Creativity does just happen. A fabulous new ministry idea lights up your cranium at 2 a.m. and ends up on the back of an envelope at breakfast. But most creative ideas are the result of purposeful, hard work.

In the world of commerce, creative ideas producing millions of customers and billions of dollars are often not accidents. Below you will find a visual paradigm I created for my corporate clients when they want to birth and nurture a new idea into a wildly successful new business opportunity. I have edited “The Y Factor” for a ministry setting.

The process begins with asking two important questions: “Why have we always used this methodology in our ministry?” and “Why not use a different methodology in our ministry?”

Here is the challenge. Look carefully at the word risk nestled between each question. The first risk is the homesteaders in your ministry who were probably the originators of your present paradigms and will emotionally have a problem tampering with the past. They may ask, “Why are you fooling around with my (or “God’s”) idea?”

The second risk is someone in the ministry stoically stating, “Excuse me, God did not call us here to play around with the future of this ministry. If this worked in our past, it will survive tomorrow. This is serious business.”

The eureka only takes place when we ask both questions at the same time. It is the confluence of questioning the safety of history and celebrating the future that provides a launching pad for God’s big new ideas.

After the eureka moment, due diligence is essential. Refining the ministry methodology, running a beta test (trying the new methodology for a specified period of time), and evaluating the change based on sound data will offer credibility to this Spirit-lead new approach.

The Peril of Creativity

New Coke, Microsoft Web TV, and Apple Newton were all colossal failures. While these are all a corporate embarrassment to this day, at one time they were all new, promising, creative ideas.

Our worst fear, especially in the ministry, is failure. And failure happens even to the cheerleader of the saints.

To fail when providing ministry carries heavy psychological and spiritual baggage. Many believe that people who handle holy things should be close to perfect.

I want all error-free spiritual leaders to stand. If you are standing, I have another column for you, devoted to the spiritual practice of humility.

When we honestly track our poverty of piety, we rediscover grace. Every creative idea drags behind it the noisy potential of failure, and failure does not intimidate the spiritual leader. When we fail, we can accumulate emotional hurt, physical exhaustion, vast quantities of frustration, and even confusion, but not intimidation.

I regularly observe how failure in business destroys some. All of their eggs were in one basket, and when the new product rollout, new customer service initiative, or new department went bust, so did they.

The peril of a failed creative idea for the spiritual leader is erased in the continuous Pauline mantra, “I die daily.” If I am continually realigning my self-image with how my Lord sees me, the threat of failure loses its ability to intimidate me. I will persevere — for the cause of the gospel and building the kingdom of God — to profusely populate my mind and ministry with His new big ideas. My ministry initiatives may fail, but I am not a failure.

One practical way to mitigate the effects of failure becoming personally destructive is to make creative brainstorming and decision making in, and with, a spiritual community. When everyone in the community of faith shares responsibility for the new direction, everyone also shares the responsibility when the new crashes and burns.

The Payoff of Creativity

Five positive consequences result for actively practicing spiritual creativity. First, a creative, new idea keeps everyone in a spiritual organization from spiraling down into mediocrity.

The worst adjective to slap in front of an expression of the body of Christ is, mediocre. To stand on the outside and observe an inert community of faith is akin to chewing 3-day old oatmeal at a church supper in Laodicea. The gravity of John the Revelator’s words, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16) is a graphic physiology of divine disgust.

I am convinced it is better to be exhausted and excited tracking God’s big ideas than slowly dying an agonizing death by religious boredom.

Second, creative problem solving in a ministry is a safe way of openly confronting what everyone knows is not working. Instead of open warfare between competing forces in the church, how about blurting out, “Wow, I have a new approach to our entire Christian education program that will keep people engaged and spiritually growing.”

Third, when a church is mobilized to be creative with new ideas generated from prayer and discussion, the saints become engaged. In other words, the larger the context for creativity to flow up, down, across and inward, the more the adherents care about the status of the ministry in their immediate community.

When was the last time your ministry aggressively taught, fostered, and collected creative spiritual ideas for the future? Do you think those who were sitting in creative brainstorming sessions on Wednesday night would worship differently on Sunday?

Fourth, the payoff for creativity is the liberation of spiritual gifts. Our theology honors the priesthood of the believer. It recognizes that the responsibility of the Holy Spirit is to breathe divine life into words written on an electronic screen, to give us the patience to sit in a hospital room waiting for both birth and death, the time to prepare a meal to defeat hunger, and the ability to declare God’s Word with power and grace. Creative believers are people who regularly stir and rediscover their gifts for their King and His kingdom.

The final payoff is the sublime ecstasy when someone realizes God, the Creator of the universe, just planted one of His big ideas between this person’s ears.