Creativity vs Vulnerability

‘If we are not prepared to make mistakes, we will never make anything new.’

Sir Ken Robinson said this in what has become the most viewed TED talk ever called ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ (see below). It is one of my favourite presentations because it talks about how we are all made differently and how we need to equip and release young people into what they were made to be.

Especially in creativity.

As a creative my challenge is always to be vulnerable and open. Not just in the process but in the sharing as well. This is where creativity can be most painful.

This week I was leading worship at a conference. This year they have come up with a new tag line of ‘Live for more’ and I was set the challenge of writing a song to help communicate this. Usually songwriting involves an expression of whatever is in my head or heart at the time, however on this occasion it was for a specific group and with a set theme.

Their theme.

I had to find a way of expressing their voice. I had to dig deep and get into their heart.

One of the things I find really hard is finishing a song. I struggle to think it’s good enough or even finished. The most painful part is the first time I have to let it be heard by anyone else.

This week there was no escape or getting around it, this is their song and it was time for them to hear it for the first time. It was the most vulnerable I have felt for a long time. This was my best effort at what I felt their voice sounded like, and now was the moment of truth.

‘What if no one likes it?’.
‘What if I make a mistake?’.
‘What if it’s too complicated or not good enough?’.

Fear can paralyse us and make us hide. It can lead us to becoming safe and never actually release the gifts and skills that God has put within us. But vulnerability gives us the chance to grow.

If we aren’t prepared to make mistakes, we will never make anything new.
If I’m not prepared to get things wrong, then i’ll never take enough risks to be great.
If if I’m not prepared to be criticised, then praise has no meaning.

Creativity is not vs vulnerability. Creativity is the result of vulnerability

So…. choosing to be vulnerable. Here is a demo of the song.

They loved it.

Here is Ken Robinson’s TED talk.

Consumerism & Worship

Black Friday & Cyber Monday; the scenes on TV of shoppers fighting to grab the best deal are frankly ugly.  It’s all about attracting the consumer with appealing special offers; the cost is low, really low, you can choose just what appeals to you personally, and you can get what you want, when you want it.

I sometimes fear we have been infected with a similar mind-set when it comes to worship.  We become consumers of the ‘worship experience’; expecting to be supplied with this ‘worship thing’ that suites our personal tastes.  There’s often little cost to us, little demand of us, just the requirement that we show up at the ‘event’ and if we don’t get what pleases us this week, well there’s next week’s ‘special offer’.

And if we regularly don’t get the worship product that ‘meets our needs’, well we can always check out the alternative store down the road…or the online ‘worship’ experience (that demands even less; we don’t even have to show up, and our ‘virtual participation’ can be as little as we feel like).

And worship leaders can perhaps feel under pressure to ‘sell’ people what they want: everyone likes this hymn, that version of the song, this mix of musicians & that blend of instruments.  This volume (or not); these visuals (or not), this reflective set or that exuberant style.  So we’d better supply what the consumer wants.  Now clearly it’s not helpful to make things difficult for our worshipping congregations by insisting that we only use those elements that people struggle with.  But surely our role as worship leaders is not to supply what the congregation want to consume but to facilitate what the congregation want to offer.

Somehow we have to teach our people (& remind ourselves) that worship is mainly about what we offer. What we receive as worshipper is precious but is a bye-product; it’s what we give that is fundamental.

And worship is not meant to be a ‘lowest cost’ thing for us.  As King David said (1 Chron 21:24) “I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing.” At the very least it demands that we take our eyes off ourselves and gaze on another, which can require effort when we are so often so self-obsessed. Our consumer culture has shaped us, even as we worship.

Somehow we have to challenge this false mid-set.  By teaching (repeatedly), by inspiring (with our focus on the greatness and grace of God) and by ourselves modelling wholehearted self-giving.  And we have to help people to understand what they can offer: mental appreciation (loving God with our minds) and emotional attraction (loving God with our hearts).  And every type expression; verbal, material, financial, and – perhaps especially – physical – for biblical worship constantly affirms that as physical creatures in God’s physical creation we offer worship with our physical bodies.


So…when we get up to lead and you sense that the congregation are wrapped up in themselves and not really engaging in worship…how do we help them take their eyes off themselves a bring a sincere offering of worship to the King?

If worship is about what we offer more than what we consumer, what can we do to challenge this consumer mind-set?

TeachingInspiring and Modelling:

In our various settings how would we go about these things?
Any other ways we can help break the wrong mind-set?

Thinking about what sorts of things can we encourage our people to ‘offer’, to ‘cast before the Lord’, how do we practically go about stimulating each of the areas below?

  • Mental (appreciation)
  • Emotional (attraction)
  • Verbal (expression)
  • Physical (expression)
  • Material (expression)

Which ones are we strong in and where are we weak?

How do we ourselves resists the gravitational pull of being self-absorbed & self-focussed in worship?  What do we do when we feel dull & uninspired ourselves… (either when part of the congregation or as the worship leader!)