Creative Thinking and Ministry
A few weeks ago my wife, our two best friends and I were in New England. On the way back home we stayed in Lancaster, PA. We stayed in a new motel by the Hilton group called “TRU Hilton.” It is intentionally designed to cater to the “millennial” age group. Attached is a picture of the lobby. The walls are multi-colored, the free breakfast is very ‘healthy’, there is a huge 55 inch TV in each room, there is no wood furniture, long tubes of shampoo and soap were attached to the bathroom wall (versus free small bottles) and wood floors (versus carpeted floors). To an old geezer like me, it was shocking and to be honest, it was a bit uncomfortable. My wife said it felt cold and industrial. I must give the folks at Hilton some credit: they are creative in their attempts to reach a younger generation of consumers.
I mention this experience for several reasons one of which is that some congregations of the church are no longer creative. Unfortunately, some of us have lost our creativity and some of us will mark anyone who exerts any creativity as progressive or a trouble-maker. We are not creative in reaching the younger generations for example. We are competing with the world which spends billions in being creative in promoting their products and philosophies. We’ve got to rethink how we do things. Doing the average or just getting by will not get it done.
One of the most helpful books that I’ve read in recent days is Howard Hendricks’ Color Outside the Lines. Most of us know him as a conservative commentator, but he is also a genius on the topic of creativity.
In the closing chapter of his book, he lists the three stages of discipleship: (1)Learning, (2) following and (3) sharing. Many Christians I know are stuck in the first step and have been there since the day they were baptized into Christ. Few have moved to actually emulating the Christ and sharing Him with lost friends and family.
Why is this? I think the answer is simple: we have not been creative in showing how we are to emulate Christ and share Him. We have equated Biblical learning (alone) with soundness. However, if you closely study the lives of such folks as Jesus, Peter and Paul, you will see their creativity. They were sound, but also creative in maturing Christians.
Our ministries should be creative in recruiting and training participants. We need ministries that have been created and based upon real needs. We should encourage creative thinking among ministry leaders and members. It is rather obvious that those who promote the use of
alcohol and other products (harmful or otherwise) are very creative. It is past time for God’s children to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves, and we can be as learn to be creative. Our Lord can do beyond what we ask or think; He is the ultimate in creativity. Look at His stories, parables, miracles, questions, the visuals that He uses (e.g. the Lord’s Supper is one of the most visual things He uses for our good), the very creation of everything, the variety is creation and the list goes on.
I strongly recommend, that each church and ministry leader read Howard Hendricks’ book and start to promote forward/creative thinking. The payoff, in my estimation, will be continued spiritual and numerical growth. I am not advocating changing the gospel. However, I AM advocating changing much of our methodology in teaching the gospel and actually promoting following Christ (as disciples) and showing our brethren how to share the gospel with the lost. It starts with elders and deacons who must learn to “color outside the lines” by being creative in their thinking. Travis Irwin, Athens, TN
Note: Steve Cummings of Tusculum church of Christ, Nashville, just recommended these two books: