C. S. Lewis in “The World’s Last Night” said:
“For my own part I hate and distrust reactions not only in religion but in everything. Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left.”
Life if full of tensions. In every aspect of church and life we see one way of doing things and we overreact. We do exactly what Lewis is describing we see something we don’t like in the bible, in church, or in life. Rather than holding onto both reigns and moving forward. Like a drunk rider we fall off one side only to get back up and fall off the other.
One of the questions I get asked often and find myself asking myself as I get older is “What would I do different if I could go back in time and tell young Sam something. I started doing ministry right out of bible college I went to four years of bible college and was thrown into ministry at the ripe age of 21. I helped a few of my friends from bible college re-start our youth ministry and took over the existing kids ministry. I was young, full of energy and stupid. If I could go back in time I would tell myself lots of things. If I had to tell myself only one thing it would be
“What you win them with is what you win them to.”
The struggle that every pastor has is relevance. Deep down we all want to be relevant. That’s because we are pastors and we want to meet real needs not perceived needs. The problem is not in the desire to be relevant but how we define relevance and who we elevate as the mentor, leader, prophets that help us understand what relevance means.
“Creativity is not coming up with new things but finding new ways to communicate old things”
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
The older I get and the longer I do ministry the more I realize that creativity is not coming up with something new. It’s reintroducing the old in a new way. One of the primary problems with the lack of creativity in any setting is due to what C.S. Lewis calls chronological snobbery.
“Barfield never made me an Anthroposophist, but his counterattacks destroyed forever two elements in my own thought. In the first place he made short work of what I have called my “chronological snobbery,” the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.”
What Lewis is getting at is we have a tendency to prefer new over old. Rather than really wrestling something to the ground and understanding it we tend to echo what already is poplar because we want to like more than we want to be effective. Creativity is copying what is already out there. Creativity is taking old ideas and making them new. It’s contextualizing things that are ancient and helping people see the value of what has always been valuable.
Our ability to create for the future is connected to the past. How well do we remember and understand the past will determine how effective we will be in the present and future. This sounds counter intuitive I know. Let me give you an example. Walt Disney. He is remembered for his creative vision of the future. While this is part of his creative legacy the reality is that he built the empire that we see today on a modern retelling of old Fairy Tales. If there was no Hans Christian Andersen there would likely be no Disney World, at least not the Disney we know and love.
Creativity works best when it is repackaging old things in such a way that you maintain what is core to the old truth and change the delivery mechanism. The more I read old books the more I realize that modern success is foundational dependent on past truth. So in our quest for creativity let not throw out the foundational things that allow us to build truth in creative ways. Part of the reason we fail to see the value of old things in creativity is because we look at creation in Genesis and see a God who made something from nothing. What we fail to do is looking to Revelation 21 where we see a God who makes old things new both are creativity. The later is what I believe we are called to as stewards of what God has made. We are called to make old things new.
As a pastor one of the concerns I have surrounds what songs we sing in church and why we sing those songs in our churches. Most of the things we say about the songs we sing are founded in style. The songs we like or dislike is most often an issue of personal style. The problem with this way of approaching the songs we sing is we make the wrong things the major things. The songs we sing in church and in kids church can to often be based around the style preferences of the Sr. Pastor or Worship Pastor. There is nothing wrong with style but if what we sing and why we sing doesn’t transcend our own personal sense of style we limit the very purpose singing songs in church is intended to have.
I would like to offer this disclaimer. I have written very few worship songs. I do however pastor at a local church. I have been in the same church for 18 years and have seen the results of people and movements who based their lives on preference over substance. Given that here are my 4 questions that every worship song needs to answer.
1. Is it God directed – This is not a preference thing for me. If the song you are sing is more about you than the God who made you it’s not worship. It’s something else but not worship. The songs we need sing need to be filled with wording about who God is and what he has done. Is there songs of lament and petition in the bible? Yes. Those songs are based on an understanding of that everything begins and ends with God. It’s about what he’s doing more than how I’m feeling.
Albert Tate – God is enough
Jonah – God was enough but not really – Jonah stopped and listened and moved but failed to trust – God was something but not enough.
God said go. So he went but not to where he was called to go.
Jonah saying me overboard is not about saving anyone it was about Jonah controlling things. He was saying I would rather die than do what God wanted him to do.
When people leave we freak out because our identity is tied to their presence.
Jonah gave up on God but God never gave up on Jonah. Jonah tried to end things on his terms but God said I’m sovereign.
Chapter 2 in Jonah is about how rude God is because he has a grace that interrupts us. He sovereignly over-rights our story.