Thursday, May 10, 2012

Creativity Through Ignorance?

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I when I first started writing my book on a new approach to church services, I stopped reading other books about new ways of doing church. Why? To be really honest, I was afraid I’d find out someone had already written my book. I wanted my book to be my original ideas, even if it was an unknowing copy.

A common understanding of creativity and insight is that you have a "eureka" moment--a sudden creative flash that's mysterious and wonderful. (It offers great stories and makes the creator look awesome.) I wanted to be that creative thinker who went off on his own and came back with a great idea.

But creativity doesn't actually work that way. And what's most embarrassing is that I knew that.

See, profound books loaded with big questions got me thinking differently about church in the first place.  I didn’t create my ideas in a vacuum. Beyond thought-provoking books (i.e. A New Kind of Christian, The Present Future, etc.), it was through hearing stories from my Dad, Fred Wozniak, about his incredible experiences with the Jesus People (fascinating Christian movement in the 70's), it was through many four-hour lunches and late night conversations with a friend, Scott Ringo, that my ideas moved from vague principles to tangible practices. The member-driven church model wasn’t all original to me anyway!

Creativity doesn’t come out of the blue, despite popular opinion. Actually, those who are experts in their field make the biggest breakthroughs (Einstein had a PhD in physics, Picasso had professionally painted for decades--before they had their breakthroughs). The more ideas hanging on our “creative tool belt” the more creative choices we can make.

After enough prompting from the Holy Spirit (persistent, isn’t He?) I decided to read more books about new ways of doing church. Not because I ceased to be afraid I wasn't an original thinker—not at first. It was hard to let go of the idea that writing an original book would validate me as a thinker/leader. In the end, I had to care about the quality of the ideas more than my own reputation.

Now, after coming through this character test, I’m not sure if I’m glad or not that I still haven't found any books saying the same thing as mine. (To be clear, there are many parts of the member-driven church model mentioned here or there.) But I do know that I adjusted how I said several things in my book thanks to what I read. And, eventually,  I was able to let go of my selfish ambition for the book.

I now wish I’d read even more while I was writing the book. I would have been more creative as a writer AND as a pastor. Well, I can't change the past, and I'm reading now.

Where do you need to be more creative? Where can you get more ideas to add to your "creative tool belt"?


  1. I agree with you... People, in general, are searching for some way to be significant in this world...some way to stand out from the crowd and be noticed. I find a similar situation in my classroom from week to week. During introductions, when I ask each student to share why they have come to this school or why they are pursuing their chosen degree plan, often what I hear is a vision for a career or ministry that they feel is unique and never been done before...except to find that there will be about a dozen others in that very class who have the same vision. Yet, instead of embracing one another and trying to work together to accomplish a God-given dream/vision/career, we try to do it all on our own. Often what I hear from my students goes something like this..."Well, in MY non-profit organization, I'm going to do a lot like the person who spoke before, only MINE will have______." Fill in the blank! If those dozen folks would try to team up and put this vision together, they might actually be able to accomplish this vision, for GOD! But because it seems that most of them are likely seeking some sort of self glory out of being the leader/boss/creative genius, those dreams may never come to fruition. Which is sad. And though their hearts were focused on a need or a brokenness in our society that they would like to help, they've also, somewhere along the way, gotten caught up in receiving some type of glory for creating this wonderful thing... when really, all glory should be only given to the Father, the giver of the dream.

    1. Well said, and sadly true. I have a theory about that, actually. I think the way the history books are written emphasizes those who did something new and different--the first person to do something. Our culture hugely honors those who did something first.

      And, as I know myself, our personal ambitions to be noticed and be honored can easily make us defensive against others, rather than collaborative.