Part 3: To the Elders
I am a firm believer in the delegated authority of God to his church: Christ is the head, we are his body, and in the process of carrying out his will he calls individual men and women to positions of authority for the purposes of leading, protecting, caring, and nurturing. I spend a lot of time working with church leaders of different denominations and traditions, and I pray for them, their families, and their ministries. I serve as the lead pastor of a church, and I know the stresses, strains, and struggles of church leadership—I do anything I can to encourage my brothers and sisters in any area of ministry.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that churches tend to adopt a lot of their leadership’s personality. This seems self-obvious, but it bears saying because we aren’t always aware of how deep this goes. Part of what makes the Body of Christ so beautiful is the diversity it encompasses in terms of people’s interests and abilities, which we often refer to as “gifts.” Any leader I’ve ever met certainly wants to embrace, encourage, and utilize the gifts of the people they lead as a general principle, but when those gifts are different from our own it can be hard to know how to do that.
There are definite personality types and traits that function more effectively in positions of authority than others. This becomes more pronounced in larger areas of authority. While creativity and imagination are not incompatible with authority (they are, in fact, great assets), they are not entirely necessary in large amounts either, particularly in the management dimension of authority. To put it another way, there are qualities that I find in every effective leader, such as organizational skills and a high tolerance for conflict, but an artistic propensity is not one of them.
For those of us who are not “artsy” types it can be difficult to know how to relate to them effectively. The first thing to realize is that we all have aesthetic preferences and creative abilities to some degree. If you write sermons or devotionals you are by definition a writer. I’m willing to bet you dressed yourself this morning with clothes you felt looked “good,” or at the least “okay.” You may not feel like you have the ability to paint the Sistine Chapel, compose a symphony, or write a novel, but you have some creative ability nevertheless.
The other thing to realize is that art has value beyond doctrinal presentation. While it can be a valuable tool for communicating truth, it has immense value even if it does not do that in an obvious way, nor is that actually its chief function. Art connects people. It does this across impossible distances of time and space, and in ways that touch places in our hearts, minds, and souls that are otherwise inaccessible to people. Art created by humans is by definition an expression of our humanity, and in connecting with it we are invited into the shared dance of humanity’s creator.
That being said, I am aware that art is neutral: It can communicate things in line with God’s revealed truth and things that are not. I’m not advocating we endorse art which contains messages contra to God’s character (I personally will not publish anything I deem inconsistent with a Christian Worldview), but that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate the art of others. I read self-proclaimed LGBTQ literature, and although I recognize the underlying beliefs about sexuality and identity as incorrect, my soul can still resonate with the reality of their life experience. This actually helps me to minister to them in ways they receive because simply telling them “you’re wrong” is disastrously ineffective since it only addresses their behavior and not their heart.
If you are in any position of church leadership I promise you there are creative people within your area of responsibility who are potential powerhouses in God’s Kingdom. Art touches and moves us in ways that other things simply cannot. That begin said, please do not treat them as “people who can do something valuable” (a tendency I must often combat), but people made in the image of God. Treat their creative gifts as part of who they are, neither an add-on nor the entirety of their being. One of the problems artists struggle with is that we so easily attach our value to the reception of our work. Please don’t be a contributor to that problem. Use our work as a point of entry into our interior life where, just like you, we need the presence of God to dwell.
Pastor, Author, Nerd – Bill Beck serves as the lead pastor at Spring City Fellowship. He is the author of I Needed More and the children’s picture book The Clockwork Man.Bill also owns and operates Endless Press, a small, independent publishing company, and serves as the president of the Spring-Ford Pastors Association. He lives in Spring City, Pennsylvania with his wife, Krisie, their six children, and assorted pets.
He can be reached at: [email protected]