Friday, August 29, 2008

Visuals, Part 3: Visuals in the Bible

In my first two blogs I gave examples of being visual from our culture. In this blog I'd like to build in some Biblical thought into why we need to be more visual images in our preaching.We would be preaching more Biblically is we preached visually. I'm just hypothesizing but it seems the preaching in the enlightenment/modern age followed the track of Paul and Hellinism. Ideas and proposals are what was highlighted and preaching thus followed this model. Three points and a poem please.

It's not that this model is wrong, it's in the Bible, but it isn't the dominant model in the Bible. When you look at the preaching of the prophets and of Jesus you see God speaking through a wide range of visuals. Isaiah speaks of the stump of Jesse's tree. Ezekiel talks about bones coming to life. Darius Slater in his excellent book, Preaching as Art, points out the Bible is overflowing in visual truth. We need to take advantage of this treasure.

In 1 Kings 14 King Rehoboam replaced the stolen gold sheilds with sheilds of brass. This was an image used to convey the idea of settling for less. Haddon Robinson uses the snake in the wilderness that was raised as a symbol for whatever is used as idolatry in our day. Hosea says Israel is a harlot. Joel's message is urgency but never uses the word. Instead he he says to blow a trumpet and sound the alarm. Amos does not say it's time for a test. Instead he says God is going to set a plumb line against his people. Jesus said "I am the bread of life," and constantly spoke in parabolic pictures.

Slater notes, "Imaginative speech moves an idea from tacit understanding to tactile comprehension." Creative sermons should give people something to hold. Visuals are what give people something to hold.

Bible preachers used everyday common pictures to convey truth. What everyday visuals might we use to convey the truth of what we preach?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Creativity in Non-Creative Places

I have discovered that the most creative places in the world most people the most uncreative places in the world.

If I were to ask you what were some of the most creative places in the world are you might mention Walt Disney World, some movie studio, or a record label. You might mention an arts school of some kind. Those are all great creative places, but they are not where you can be the most creative. In those places you just see the results of creativity. You do not see the work of creativity. You might even mention a church or two if you are a minister of some kind.

The work of creaivity is in the humdrum places, the ordinary places that you visit on a weekly, if not daily basis.

For example, one of the best places for me to get a creative spark is the grocery store, especially one that has a wide variety of products. All you do is take a stroll through the store, slowly. As you stroll through the store you take the topic or problem and start comparing and contrasting with the products on the shelves. What insights could you get from the butcher concerning the sacrifacial system in the Old Testament? How is Jesus, the bread of life, like the different kinds of breads in the store? What character traits of Jesus do they reveal? How is ice cream like heaven? How do the spices relate to the beattitudes in Matthew 5?

You can do this at different stores as well. I have found Lowes, Home Depot, Peebles, and even the library to be useful. Check out the magazines. Not Time or Rolling Stone but the niche ones, Quilters Today, Hunting, and the like. You would be amazed at the fresh insights that can come from paging through some unfamiliar territory.

So take a stroll through the grocery store. Just be sure you're not hungry!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ideas from the Olympics

This post could actually be called "Visuals, pt 2." In a very imaginative way way the Chinese told the history of their nation through iconocography, showmanship, and even a speech. If you haven't seen it go to to watch it. It is fantastic. I was wondering how we could use some of thier methods and ideas in a weekly sermons. here are some thoughts that I came up with.

1. The use of icons. They used icons from the three major streams of philosophy in China (Daoism, Confuscianism, and buddhism) to convey the foundations of thier culture. How could we use the icons of our faith to inspire and to help people know the fear of the Lord?

2. Anticipation. They used a simple countdown in an effective way to provide anticipation into the ceremony. They used clored drum sets in sychrinization to build the drama. This made think of the pregnant moment just before we speak to our congregation. How could we use that moment to heighten interest so that when we speak people's ears are truly ready to hear the word?

3. Part of Chinese narrative is using light and dark, loud and soft, opposites used in contrast to bring a rythym to their presentation. How can this narrative technique be used in preaching? How can we take the opposites in the Bible, light and dark for instance, and use that to enhance our message?

I'm just aksing questions today but that is part of creativity. You ask questions. you bring odd ideas together and see how they might play out. The lesson... take the time to play with ideas and techniques. Swish them around and see what flavors you get. You might be surprised by the insights you gain!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Creative Ways to Understand Our Culture

Creative thinker, Roger von Oech, teaches you can use four roles to help you be more creative. In his book A Kick in the Seat of the Pants he writes that the hallmark of creative people is thier mental flexibility. Creative people are able to shift in out of different mental gears to examine an issue effectively. To help you gain this mental skill Roger advocates looking at a problem, or a scripture, a lesson, or whatever with four unique roles. The roles he describes are explorer, artist, judge, and warrior. I'll let you read the book to know more about what he's talking about.

What if we plussed his idea? What if, if we are looking at a scripture, we took the time to write a short paragrapgh how the different Bible characters would look at the text? Issuing the little details we discover into the message can enliven your presentation. Take, for example, the story of the feeding of the 5000. How would the spontaneous Peter react? Or the thunderous James and John? How would the redeemed Matthew react to such a feat?

In order to be successful at this method you will need to take some time to understand a Bible character's personality, or you'll just interject your personality. So you'll have to do some homework to make this method work. This method could help you exegete the scripture with fresh insight.

What about cultural exegesis? If you preach you probably do this to some extent already when you think about pray about the people you are preaching too. To plus what you are already doing take some of the people you know well in your congregation and place them in the story. How would John, the chairmen of the elders, react when Noah said he needs to build a boat? How would the frenzied single Dad react to Jesus when Jesus let the children come unto him? This could help you bridge the gap between the Bible's culture and our culture and make the Bible real to your audience.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Creativity is Hard Work

Once in a sermon series I painted these huge banners based on the 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. Each banner was a persona demonstrating each act of love mentioned in the chapter. I had a total 8 banners that I was putting up all over the church hall.

It was a creative idea and the simple paintings really helped cement the sermon series visually, but they were a lot of work! Each banner was about 4-5 feet tall and took several hours to complete. It was also very tedious work. That doesn't include the research and time it took to design each banner. I spent just about as much time doing the exegesis as I did the creative part.

And that's the rub. Creativity can seem like a whole lot of work for a small amount of concrete material or effect. Most of the time people do not realize how much time and energy goes into creating a creative experience. It seems time could be better spent doing more productive activities, like studying the Bible, and then doling out the information.

Simply put, creativity is hard work. It's not easy. Most messages are boring becasuse the speaker is not willing to put the hard work into being creative with their message. It's easier just to pass out the information in a simple form each week.

Last thought. One reason creativity is hard work is your message's purpose is not to be creative. The purpose of your message is to persuade your audience to do something. Creativity wrongly applied can get in the way of that purpose. It takes hard work to tweak the creativity just right so the purpose of your message is enhanced, and not covered in bunch of fluff.

Creativity is hard work.