categories: church, communication, community, creativity, leadership, priorities, spiritual development
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May 12th, 2009

by Craig Groeschel

36 comments (+ Add)

The Bible Trumps Creativity

Without question, we at have worked hard to be creative and relevant. We’ve never shied away from having fun in church. But creativity, relevance, and fun should never be the top goals when planning the weekend worship experience.

  • Jesus never said, “You will watch this funny video, and the funny video will set you free.”
  • John the Baptist never said, “Creativity must increase and I must decrease.”
  • Paul never proclaimed, “We should preach relevance and relevance crucified.”

Perhaps some pastors are unintentionally omitting the more important questions.

  • Instead of asking, “What will bring glory to God?” some appear to be asking, “What will bring in a crowd?”
  • Instead of asking, “How do we communicate Scripture accurately?” some are asking, “How can we be creative?”
  • Instead of asking, “How can we truly disciple those in our church?” some are asking, “How can we get people back to church?”

While the second question in each bullet point is not wrong to ask, if we aren’t asking the first questions, we are drifting into dangerous territory.

Thanks for the constructive and respectful discussion yesterday. Let’s do it again.

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  1. 1Dwight Meeks
    May 12, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Being real. That is what people want to see. Being real by showing Christ and not some dull boring legalistic religion. The masses are sick of seeing repeats of ministers from not so godly television. They want someone who has been there and understands what it means to be in a pickle and how to get out of the situation. They don’t need someone standing on a soapbox ready to strike them down for unbelief. Meeting people at their need is the key. Otherwise your nothing put another boring song or boring speech. Talk to the people and meet them at their point of need. I am not saying throw money at someone I am saying show them the biblical priniciples to get out of their situation. We all need help in difficult times. If the church doesn’t arrise to this occasion then the fault will lay at our feet! Meet the people at their need show them the real Jesus!

  2. May 12, 2009 at 6:16 am

    I LOVE THIS!!!!! I am a creative bug by nature and I believe there simply needs to be BALANCE! A few years back I was a part of a church production that spent over $10,000 on just the series set alone that was only 1 week long. This money was used to WOW the crowd and get more in the doors. On the FLIP side, I have also been involved in a dying church body that refused to embrace change and reaching people where they are at TODAY and they would NOT budge or listen to NEEDED change…they did not make it! God gives us gifts for a reason…to reach OUT to others…If we are only focusing on BRINGING PEOPLE IN or KEEPING CHANGE OUT…we are missing the boat! To be fishers of men…we simply have to get out on the Lake! Great POST!!

  3. May 12, 2009 at 7:26 am

    I think if we ask the first questions first, and discover an answer, then the second questions naturally follow. If we feel that something will definitely bring glory to God, we will do everything we can to build a crowd. If we can comm Scripture accurately, we naturally want to creatively communicate its application. If people are definitely being discipled in our church, we work very hard at getting them back, or, getting the rest on board.

    These questions go together. I find it somewhat strange when they’re not. Actually, when only the first question is asked we probably have a church with great doctrine and no new converts. If a problem exists its most likely an issue of a church or leader who wants more to be popular than powerful. We’re all susceptible to that and need to keep pride and popularity in check.

    Something that may help is to allow people a higher level of engagement in church and not so much to be entertained. Be highly creative, Biblically accurate, and give things room to breath. How about ditching the Scripture on the screens and creating a culture where people engage in Scripture? Paper version or digital version. How about communion together? Praying for each other? Getting creative to create an experience for both ‘the church’ and ‘unbeliever’ at the same time. That’s fun stuff.

  4. May 12, 2009 at 7:28 am

    If you study the way Jesus taught in light of the culture in which He lived, I think you find incredible creativity. When He said, “Do you see that farmer over there sowing seeds,” He was really saying, “Check out this video.” When He told a story about families He was really saying, “This drama is really cool, and it will be a great springboard for what I want to talk about today.”

    Jesus spoke the truth in incredibly captivating ways, and we should all seek to model Him in this. Not being cute or creative or cutting-edge just to be hip, but to gain an audience to share biblical truths.

  5. May 12, 2009 at 7:37 am

    [...] Smack… [...]

  6. May 12, 2009 at 7:59 am

    [...] to swerve blog for this little tid-bit.  We’ve had this same conversation at ECC and I couldn’t agree [...]

  7. May 12, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Funny. Was planning a sermon series in July and recently shelved about 100 ideas for humorous intros. Decided instead to come in hard with the beauty of Scripture.

    Amazing how easy it is to drift the other way though…

  8. May 12, 2009 at 8:12 am

    I have been involved with sermons where people walk out talking more about the funny stuff that was programed into the worship than Jesus. I think that is just wrong and I would consider myself creative but Jesus should be the one being talked about and not how funny the video or illustration or anything else is. I do know of times when something happened that was not intentional created a buzz following a service and I do understand that, but when the buzz is a something programed and not Jesus then I see us on thin ice.

    Just my ramblings on this…and a follow up

    How do you program something fumny/clever/creative and have Jesus be the buzz when the service is over? I am sure that it is possible but how do you do it?

  9. 10Judy
    May 12, 2009 at 8:41 am

    How would you all respond to him?

    Jesus was the most creative of all of us…all of you know when you have preached Jesus, pointed people to Jesus, used all your resources to present Jesus…and all of you know when you have put on a show…I’m just saying…Jesus used everything available to change lives…

  10. May 12, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Instead of asking, “What will bring glory to God?” some appear to be asking, “What will bring in a crowd?”

    I struggle with the “Why am I doing this” part sometimes. I find that because I have an intense self imposed will to be successful it gets easy to blur the line of “Why”. Do I choose to engage someone in the community because of Christ in me and the hope He brings, or do I choose to engage because I want to lead the way inviting new people to be apart of our church so we can grow and therefore justify my existence as pastor. I realize both have to happen, but sometimes, just being honest, I can confuse the “why part” and then I feel a little dirty. The self imposed pressure leaders put on themselves to grow churches has the potential for amazing things to happen or lead to some very dark places.

  11. May 12, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Here is the questions: Do you want to communicate the Gospel in a creative way or do you want a creative church service?

    The buzz will follow the goal.

  12. May 12, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I think that it is easy to get into trouble when the person planning the intention of the experience is also the person who is trying to make it creative. We are blessed at our church to have a creative director. When someone from the staff team needs to bring something creative into the service to help communicate the basic teaching, they turn to the creative director and his team. So the message gets crafted around scripture and the creative team can focus on being creative to supplement the teaching. When I was doing Youth Ministry, I wore both hats. So sometimes when the creative thing came before the scripture it was much harder to package it without losing the meaning. When I was too committed to the video or skit, it didn’t always communicate anything accept that it was fun and cool. It was more effective to come up with the teaching/lesson first and then to dive into it creative process.

  13. May 12, 2009 at 9:25 am

    I always love a post on questions!
    This is so important i think. The questions we ask lead us (intentionally or otherwise) toward the future. Asking the right questions is essential.

    A discipline I’m learning is to stop asking “How?” to quickly. Asking “How?” questions doesn’t create a future different than the past, nor does it create disciples. How? only leads us backwards to our past, because asking “How?” to early in a conversation forces us to rely on the answers we’ve used in the past. “How?” is what we ask when we want to play the victim. I’m guessing in creative and innovative communities like How? isn’t ask as often as What.

    Assumptions never get questioned when we ask “How?”.

    This is important to the topic because the questions we ask also either enable people to be consumers of our programs or disciples. If we ask the wrong questions with them or answer questions for them, we undermine our mission.

    For instance. I regularly consult pastors who say they are struggling to make disciples in their church. They ask, “How do we make disciples? no one seems to respond!”

    Or course answering this question sequestered in an office a part of the “disciples” is part of the problem. but answering questions on behalf of people creates consumers rather than disciples because answering the question for people is to remove the responsibility of discipleship from their shoulders.

    love this stuff Craig and Bobby. Hope you are both well.

  14. May 12, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Wow…what a great conversation over the last two days, thanks Craig for asking honest and tough questions. I once heard a very wise man (Howard Hendricks) say becareful of the “Peril of the Pendulum”. What he meant was whenever we try to move people in one direction or another we often swing to the extreme in an effort to get movement. Why can’t it be a “both, and”. In this effort to build God’s Kingdom there are two observations I agree with. As His representitives we should leverage whatever we can within moral boundries to point people to Jesus (the Bible is full of examples of God’s creativity of speaking to a specific group of people in context to who and where they are). Second, is the Bible tells us that when Jesus spoke he came across with power and authority compared to the pharisees. I really appreciated Craig’s book “It”. There’s an old saying among Christ followers - “you can’t take people farthur than where you’ve been.” Thanks for allowing me to be part of the conversation.

  15. May 12, 2009 at 10:09 am

    This has been great stuff the past couple of days - glad I have had the time to join in. When it comes to communicating in a way that reaches your audience we need look no further than Jesus himself. He told stories, used riddles and conundrums, drew in the sand - all to communicate his message. I do however hear the caution above that when the story becomes more important than the reason for the story then, ‘Houston, we have a problem!’

    Even when we set aside the technology and the ‘new communication tools’, when we set aside all the gimmicks we need to come to the bottom line - Jesus. I believe that if you want Jesus to be talked about after your service then you make him the focus. You lead people to the throne room of God in worship, you point people to the cross through your words and you love them like Christ loved the church through your actions.

    Jesus chose fishermen to be his disciples because He wanted us to remember that the Good News should be simple to understand. Maybe it is time to simplify our services so we can glorify Jesus more and more.

  16. 17Carrie
    May 12, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Chris W.- I like your point of coming up with the teaching point before the creative process. That’s what we do in our kids ministry here at and I’d say it’s essential. Especially for someone like me who is the creative type. I’ve found that this method keeps me in check when writing and I might add stretches me to be even more creative. Why? Because anyone can write a good storyline or illustration but to combine it with the truth and power of God’s word…that’s where true creativity begins.

  17. May 12, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Thank you for always asking the right questions and following God’s lead. Great thoughts!

  18. May 12, 2009 at 11:24 am

    This is great for me to hear. I love your points everyone! I think Carl’s point really answers a lot of questions everyone is asking! What is your goal? Maybe you need to redefine and clarify…I know I do. I’ll be the first to admit it

    In the Love!

  19. 20Jesiah Hansen
    May 12, 2009 at 11:52 am

    This past week two different pastors told me my youth group was the same as all of the rest. Well knowing they didn’t mean it as a bad thing it really depressed me. I don’t know, what if in while I’m trying to disciple people I’m not relevant or creative.
    I guess I really got hurt and it also got me thinking that my way isn’t radical… Sorry I know I saw the other side of what your talking about.

  20. 21Manu Reyes
    May 12, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Jesus was a creative relevant genius! But it was the expression of what was at the very core of his heart-the lost. That’s what came in first.

    I’m a creative junkie too. I almost fell into the trap of focusing on what font best expressed the amazing title I came up with rather than keeping a sensitivity to the beating of God’s heart for his church that time… Praise God! He shook me out of it.

    What I learnt was real creativity in ministry was about being able to see and define the needs of the community and be able to become a vessel of God’s movement to answering that need.

    The Gospel is a sure shot proven succesful product! The Word is powerful on it’s own! It does not need repackaging and rebranding!

  21. May 12, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I serve on a teaching team that spans a spectrum as wide as our church membership. I tend to be the team member who uses visual and audio media to enhance my messages, both in our tradition and more contemporary worship services. As I do this, I try to ensure I’m enhancing my message, not detracting from it. One tool that I’ve used is reaching out to members of the congregation to talk about the action they’ve taken in response to the message. This pretty quickly lets me know if they heard the message or just were entertained by the media.

  22. 23Jared B
    May 12, 2009 at 2:04 pm


    Use what you felt for good! Fight to make it unique…continuing the goal to preach the gospel of Christ!

  23. May 12, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    This has been an incredibly open and helpful discussion. As I have stated before, I was raised as a pastor in an age of somber, relatively conservative approaches to communication (I am 56). Nothing trumps the expository sermon era. Play down the music. Play down the offering. Play down everything (except communion). I still believe strongly in good preaching that is researched over time and not thrown together on a Saturday night (Unless God tells you to change it). I still believe in meaningful worship. I still cringe at the “feel good” messages some call preaching today because it draws a crowd. But I also realize that what worked years ago doesn’t work now. A former staff person was against using any type of “hype” or creativity to draw people. I was for it and so we did clash. I see nothing wrong with creativity as long as it has a point-somehow helping illuminate the message of Christ dying on the cross. I seem to remember some Great Teacher once saying (and I paraphrase) “Unless you fill an empty spot with something fulfilling the last state will be worse than the first.” Take away something from them but give them something fulfilling back. If it takes creativity to draw them into a worship experience then go for it! Now…I can’t wait until tomorrow’s discussion question.

  24. 25John Ireland
    May 12, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for these convicting words, Craig! Encouraging to hear them “spoken”. :)

  25. May 12, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I think creativity is good as long as it is not taken too far, because then it becomes the focus of attention above other compontents of the church service that are more important. But creativity can be very effecitive if it is used as a visual aid, a teaching aid, or illuminates some truth in a clearer manner.

    Jesus was creative… and He was a creative communicator. He used illustrations, told stories and parables to communicate the deep truths of God. He spoke in plain language that everone could understand; using such terms as vineyards, wells, plows, planting, farming, birds, etc., and other common everyday objects that people could relate to. Once when a crowd gathered to hear Him speak, He had Peter push the two of them out in a boat a little ways from the bank so that the surface of the water and the hill in the background could serve as a natural amphitheater (they didn’t have microphones in those days). Pretty creative, I’d say. But on the other hand, He never offered anyone a free camel ride if they would come to the Jordan River and get baptized!

    At the church I pastor, we have a simple meat-and-potatoes kind of church service each week, and it works very well for us. The main two compentents are the music and teaching of God’s Word. Of course we have modern aids such as projectors and screens, sound system, etc. But we don’t go overboard with graphics, cool videos, or cheesy contests. We don’t do drama, and have neve had a cantata. Our atmosphere is casual, relaxed, and revrent. We are in-touch with our community, but we don’t market ourselves as being the “coolest church in town.” I think that approach has run its course.

    We simply offer a meat-and-potatoes kind of service… and it feels real to us.

  26. May 12, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Ah, Craig commented on what Jim asked, How do you program something funny/clever/creative and have Jesus be the buzz when the service is over? I am sure that it is possible but how do you do it?”

    You can not unless it is God Centered and not being done to tickle their ears and give em a show.People say the “religious” churches are bad or boring, but for example those churches are God honoring, and the services have nothing to do with the people inside. Also the church is not used as an evangelism tool, the members are. So now you are left with believers who need to be weaned off milk to meat.

    Also we are too self centered!
    I do not mean to be rude. But most people leaving are walking out in their flip flops thinking about where they are going to eat, or what “they” got out of the service, when the worship was for God and the reading and honoring was for Him, the edifying was to grow us closer to Him. We should be asking Him what He thought of the service! God-Centered, no lights, no smoke. A pulpit/stool :), Pastor, Bible and some chairs God can fill.

    You know this may be too much, but I even think the worship band should be off to the side and not in front to keep focus on God.

    And I just turned 27 yesterday, so Im not old!

  27. May 12, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I say Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, CJ Mahaney, John Piper, John Macarthur, even ol Chuck Smiths Calvary Chapels are gowing strong, with just the preaching of the Word. The only one that may stand out as more relevant in this list is Mark Driscoll. His church is an example of Relevance and Meaty Theological Preaching. He is only gritty in his speech sometimes. But John Piper rebuked him on some of that.

  28. May 12, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    PS I love these posts Craig! Brother from another mother, but we got the same Father!

  29. May 12, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    [...] Link to original article in Uncategorized. Feed for this Entry Trackback Address [...]

  30. May 12, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    It’s interesting that this article on the subject showed up this evening on WSJ Online:

  31. May 12, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Great discussion!

    I joined LifeChurch five years ago when what ya’ll were doing was so different from anything else I’d seen. It was the first Warrior series where I turned my life over to Christ. Craig, your messages are always relevant, engaging and often life changing. I can’t think of a single thing you should do to change that part of it. In fact, I’d be disappointed if you did. As far as weekend service, everything else is more or less window dressing.

    Here’s where LifeChurch and churches like it are lacking; Discipleship, leadership training and personal relationships. If the church doesn’t enter my life the other 6 days and 23 hours, the act of going to church, very simply, becomes a weekend chore. Craig, you’ve brought me in and built me up. Now train me and send me out. I think that’s where much of your attrition comes from. Folks reach a point in their walk with Christ and then move on. There’s simply no avenue to reach that next level.

  32. May 13, 2009 at 12:03 am

    [...] The Bible Trumps Creativity by Craig Groeschel. [...]

  33. May 14, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Craig, thanks for your great words here. This is something a lot of worship and music people need to hear. We especially need to be aware of how we can present the gospel more clearly through the music in our services.

  34. May 14, 2009 at 8:57 am

    [...] The Bible Trumps Creativity [...]

  35. 36Aliza
    Jan 19, 2010 at 3:22 am

    Greetings in precious name of Lord Jesus!
    Hello dear in Christ,
    I visited your site and I am so impressed by your teachings well I am interested to translate your ministerial literature so with this literature our Pakistani Church will be also blessed and we can win the lost souls through this awesome and precious work of Lord. I will wait to hear from you.
    In Jesus,