In the past few days, I have heard from three different pastors the same story: my creative team has asked me to do something I’m not comfortable doing. One group had the pastor repelling down from the rafters in a harness before delivering the sermon. But no matter the request, each of the men I talked with ended up arriving at the same conclusion: ultimately, it’s not the creative team that has to preach this message, I do, and I’m not comfortable doing what they have asked me to do or say.
Before you accuse me of being old school and not wanting to try new things, let me tell you I value creativity. My dad is an artist, and I grew up in my parents’ art gallery. The A Group, a business I own, is built on creativity and filled with creatives. And beyond all of that, I consult with pastors on how to make the most of their sermons through a creative outlet. “So what’s your problem?” You might be asking.
Years ago, I developed a creative team for my church that helped our teaching pastor to think of dynamic ways to illustrate a point, create a moment, or bring a new perspective to an age-old question. It was something very new back in the early 90s for a church to have a creative team. Now it’s almost the norm, especially for large churches.
It seems like what started as a helpful tool has become the proverbial tail that wags the dog. More and more, I see creative teams dictating what happens in the service down to the pastor’s illustration and overall direction of the service. Church leaders have somewhat elevated the creative team to a place where they have become the ultimate decision makers on what happens during the weekend services.
Recently, I watched a friend who had conceived a very poignant and timely teaching series having to change his direction and adapt his teaching to something very different because the Arts Pastor of his church had already created all the visuals for the following six weeks according to the team’s vision and not the man who was preaching it.
I still believe creative teams are a great tool to help communicators do a better job. They can help bring perspective and powerful illustrations to a message when they are aligned with the speaker in both style and content. But ultimately, it’s not creativity that wins the day; it’s content. “Powerful” trumps “cool” every time. Pastors, if you don’t feel good about it beforehand, you’ll never feel good about it afterward. And we, those of us in the congregation, do pick up on that right away.
Pastors, be creative. Find the most compelling illustration, song, video, prop that you can to drive your point home so people will understand just the magnitude of the God we worship. But please, don’t let people talk you into something that’s not aligned with your personal style or the message God has put in your heart.