Releasing Creativity: The 4 Es
When a person speaks or writes or sings or paints about breathtaking truth in a boring way, it is probably a sin. John Piper
As the Church, it’s a tragedy that we can take the most exciting, explosive, overwhelming, mind-blowing story of a God who has come to love and save, and turn it into something that is stale and mundane. As people full of the Holy Spirit, alive in the fullness of life that Jesus has come to bring, we should be the most creative, innovative, imaginative, and joyful people on the face of the earth. There should be a diversity and richness in our worship that breaks through the four walls of the church to reach a world in desperate need. Not least because it is in God’s nature to create. In Genesis 1:1, the Bible begins with these words: “In the beginning, God created ….” He is the great divine Artist.
So how can we grow in releasing creativity and avoid boring and predictable gatherings? Here are four brief practical steps:
Great artists, designers, wordsmiths, and songwriters are prepared to explore; to inquire, to wonder and question; to devote themselves to the process of creativity. But this exploration by its very nature is time consuming. It is often said that creativity is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice and study in order to become exceptional in your field.
We all know how tempting it is to rush the process of creativity or to hurriedly pull together a set list. We can be eager to finish off our masterpiece and so cut corners or settle for mediocre results, rather than pushing the boundaries and our personal limits to produce something really special.
Great art is full of passionate, heartfelt expression. The Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “Only the heart knows how to find what is precious.”
Creativity must be honest, real, and raw. We search for the authentic articulation of our thoughts, feelings, hopes; we unveil our deepest emotions and our yearning for transformation. When we lead in this way we allow people to join us in a heartfelt expression of worship.
Next, we must have the courage to experiment. It was Albert Einstein who said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” As creative people we must always embrace new ideas and ways of working. Only then will we stumble across profound and fresh new ideas. We need to force ourselves out of our comfort zones and encourage an attitude of dangerous, risk-taking creativity. If we don’t think outside the box and try new ideas then we will never truly develop in our work and pretty quickly things will become stale.
Creativity is not only about generating ideas; it involves making judgments and decisions about them. Almost all creative work will invariably need to undergo a rigorous process of editing, developing, and tweaking before it can be considered a finished work. The French novelist Émile Zola once said, “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work.” With all great creativity there needs to be an evaluation process—what worked and what could be improved.
How great would it be if every local church became a cathedral of creativity, producing incredible new art for the glory of God? How wonderful would it be if we were producing art that reflected the work of the Holy Spirit among us in creative ways that stopped people in their tracks? How good would it be to return to the days when people flocked into the church just because they wanted to glimpse something of God’s glory reflected in our creativity? That’s the dream and that’s a vision worth living for!
Tim Hughes is the Writer of songs such as “Here I Am to Worship,” “Happy Day,” and “The Cross Stands.” He co-founded and leads Worship Central, an international worship training and resource center (worshipcentral.com).