Friday, December 5, 2008

THoughts on Biblical Creative process

The way I see it the Biblical process for creativity in preaching is developed when the text, the culture, and the application of the text come together in an imaginative fashion.

In a diagram in might look like this:

(Culture)= (Creative Moment)

Each of the three areas have their particular constraints. The text as it was originally written is limited by the original intent of the author towards those who read it. We are limited by the culture the same way a fish is limited by water. Then the application presents constrints by remaining concrete is it's delivery.

These three constraints is what gives us the ability to be creative in our preaching. Text with application is dull and boring. Text and Culture is fun but like cotton candy, fun to eat but full of hot air. Culture with Application has no foundation to build on. You need all three to create an effective creative moment or message.


How does this work with creative techniques?
What role does the human imagination have in this diagram?
What role does the Holy Spirit have?
How is creativity defined in this diagram?

Doctrine and Creativity, Part 2

Robert Smith illustrates in his book how we need to use modern metaphors for traditional theological words.

original Sin = addiction or sinner = hostage.

Jesus took the ancient text of the OT and used common terminology of his day to re-explain it.

Sheep, managers, housewife, rich people, poor people, religous people, and many more. Perhaps a creative exercise would be to compare theological words to common objects and see what we get. Compare these two lists.

Scantification Car
Justification Sears Tower
Sotierology (sp?) Child rearing
Pneumatology Internet

Perhaps if we allow our doctrine inform our metaphors and analogies we might explain God's word more effectively.

Creativity and Doctrinal Preaching, Part 1

These next few blogs will be comparing the creativity with Robert Smith's book, Doctrine That Dances.

One of the ideas in the book is that doctrine enforces and informs the truth boundaries to waht we preach. We can't just preach anything. We must preach truth. This can seem restraining to creativity at first becasue tobe creative you must think outside the box. At least tht's how the conventional thinking goes.

Actually, constraints play a large role in creativity. For example, Cirque de Soliel would not seem all that creative without the constraint of gravity during their performance. Another example would be sports. Sports haas all kinds of rules and regulations, and yet we see all kinds of creativity and expression during a sports event.

Doctrine works in the same manner with creativity. it's very existience it what helps us be creative. It gives us the truth to communicate and provides the constraints so creativity can exist. After all, it's hard to think outside the box without the box!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Creative Words, Part 3

Again, I will be sharing some thought from Darius Slater's book, "Preaching as Art," then I will give some practical applications based on his material.

The word "relevant" comes fromthe latin word, "relevare" and it means "to lift up again." This would imply that we would lift up again something that is familiar to us. For most Americans theology is not familiar to them unless it is attached to something familiar like Starbucks. Don't you love Len Sweet's book, "The Gospel According to Starbucks." THis is exactly what he is attempting to do.

What is familiar to all people is not the latest hip trend but the very details of life. Life is worked out in details and routines and preaching must intersect those details and routines to be effective. You can be all creative, but if it doesn't connect where people live in everyday life then it's just a fancy painting on a wall.

Good preaching takes life as is and leads the auditor how life could be and should be.

Many times our words are just fancy and not relevant. Paul said I did not come to you with fancy words but with the plain Gospel of Christ. Too many times we mistake creativity with fancy word smithing, and that simply isn't the case.

Your words must be relevant. You can't have the fire without wood. They must have substance, movement, and grace. Without substance our words will be wash over people and not quench their thirst. In a sense you can call it spiritual water boarding, and that's torture.

How can our words be more relevant?

I use a tool I came up with called an identification grid. It is a conglomeration of many different ideas being smashed together. I cannot recall where they all came from. The more I work with it the more I edit it. It has proved helpful in making my words more relevant.

How do people handle the issue emotionally?
What does our culture teach/react to this topic?

Questions people in each stage of life tend to be asking themselves or working through. How does your scriptural intersect with each life stage? What relevant words could you put into that intersection?

> People in 20’s
What makes me different from my family and the people around me?
In what direction am I going to point my life in order to pay for my life?
Am I loveable and am I capable of loving?
Around what will I center my life?
> People in 30's
How can I get done for all these I am responsible?
Why do I have so many self-doubts?
Why is my spiritual center so confused?
Why haven’t I resolved my sin problems?
Why is there so little time for friendships?
> People in 40’s
Why are some of my peers doing better than me?
Why am I so often disappointed in myself and others?
Why isn’t my faith deeper?
Why is my marriage less than dazzling?
Why do I learn to go back to the carefree days of youth?
Should I scale back some of my dreams?
Why do I no longer feel attractive?
> People in 50’s
Do these young people think I’m obsolete?
Why is my body becoming increasingly unreliable?
What do my spouse and I have in common now that the children are leaving?
Does this marriage of mine offer any intimacy at all?
Are the best years of my life over?
Do I have anything of value to give anymore?
> People in 60’s
How long can I keep doing the things that define me?
Why do my peers look so much older than me?
What does it mean to grow old?
How do I deal with angers and resentments that I’ve never resolved?
Why do my friends and I talk so much about death and dying?
> People in 70’s
Does anybody around here once know who I was?
How do I cope with all this increasing weakness around me?
How many years do I have left?
How long can I keep my independence and dignity?
When I die, how will it happen?
What about all of those things I intended to do and be and never got around to it?

What I have found as I have moved through my thirties and twenties and as I enter my forties is I am accutley aware of my own life stage and I can easily forget where other people's life stages. This grid helps my sermon's consider applications and concerns outside of my age range. It helps make my sermons more relevant after meditating my scriptural point of the messsage through this grid.

Excellent Article on Creativity

I just read an excellent article on creativity. Catch it at this address:


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Creative Words, Part 2: Empathy

A second way our language can be creative is by using empathetic speech. we are created in God's image, and that image includes emotions. The Bible displays God rejoicing, dancing, feircly angry, and sad. As Darius Slater says, "God's character remains unchanging, but his emotions don't!" He also notes that one of the primary characteristics of the prophets is they displayed a divine empathy with God. Their emotions in delivery, and even in life, mirrored that of God's. Hence Jeremiah is the weeping prophet, and so on.

Empathetic words travel with feeling. They have passion, sadness, excitement, and fear. Words produced in preaching are not to be the stale words of the university lecture hall. Does not God ask, "Is not my word like fire?" Is it not like a hammer that shatters a rock?

So, how do you preach with more empathy?

1. Put yourself in the text. This can be dangerous because you do not want to go out of context with your empathy. Nevertheless, ask yourself how you might feel if you were Peter after Jesus called you Satan. How did Matthew feel when Jesus called him to be a disciple? What feelings went through John when he saw Jesus in Revelation 4?

2. Immerse yourself into the text. What I mean is you need to allow God to move you through the text. your point of the sermon needs to speak you. You need to be excited about what you are talking about. Let the message and burn into your soul until there is a fire in you. Allow that passion from studying the text show through in your presentation.

3. Become immensly familiar with the text. Study it. Know it inside and out. Get in between the lines, the words, the very sylables of the words. Let it breathe into your psyche. This takes time and determination. I mean a study beyond the exegesis. Study the arc of the passage. Know the narrative. Know the emotions and back story of each of the characters. What do they look ike? How do they dress? Was the day sunny or cloudy? What time of year did the text take place? Was it harvest time? All these details breathe life into the story the author is telling you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Creative Words, Part 1

Let's talk about the obvious in preaching- spoken words. How can the words you use be more creative?

Darius Salter notes preachers need to use graphic speech. The Bible uses real life situations rather than give you how-to manuals. The Bible does not give propositions (per se) to listeners. It shocks, scares, awakens, and scares them with real life. God uses images of fire, smoke, stones, swords, brides, prostitutes, gardens, gates, snakes, and bones. It has illicit affairs, battles, scars, and heated bloody battles that would get an easy R rating.

A sermon should not just be heard, but be felt in the stomachs of the psyche of your audience. Moralisms like "Do not lust" and "Don't be jealous" fall flat without David and Bathsheba and Jacob and Esau. In short we need to stay away from sanitized words that whitewash the rawness of emotion. Don't be shy to shock and awe your audience with the battles of Joshua or he wrath of God. David's lust was just as much with his eyes as it was with his groin. Granted, this is not about offending for the sake of offending. But we must offer up God's word graphically, as it presents itself, to the world. Don't let God's word run through the censor of your church culture. let it stand for what it is; God's Word!

How can you use more graphic speech in your messages?

1. Don't settle for generalities, be specific in your descriptions of the scene and of people. You can use too much detail. Give just enough detail to make the scene or person come alive.
2. Every passage of the Bible has a story with people. Be sure to involve their story into the preaching of your passage. I'm thinking particularly in the texts of Paul.
3. Know your text. Many times the Greek language is much stronger or weaker in tone than the english text suggests. Bring out the graphic description of these texts in your message.