Prodigal Son

Clarity over creativity

The past 7 days in Hawaii have been a blast, but I can’t wait to get back to Ada. I must admit, I miss my kiddos, my church family, and Arbuckle coffee—LOL. While in Hawaii, I have had the opportunity to train a group of missionaries with over 12 hours of lectures on systematic theology. I have lectured on the homousios of the Son with the Father, and the eternal spiration of the Spirit, and we have discussed the sufficiency, inerrancy, and inspiration of the Scriptures, and much more. Although I have spent a lot of time teaching, I have also gleaned a lot while being here.

One thing that stands out comes from the Discipleship Training Director, Cole Flanagin. Throughout the week, I heard Cole use a phrase with his students that really resonated with me. He kept saying “Clarity over creativity.” What a beautifully succinct and meaningful expression, one that I believe I already try to live my life by.

It was so popular in the 90s to make the message of the gospel as creative as possible so that it would be interesting to the audience. However, in all of our efforts to make the gospel palatable, we actually muddied the waters and confused the authentic message in our attempts to be creative. By preaching sermons from movies, starting Christian bands that sound like secular bands, and even wearing clothing that looks like popular brands but, when you get close, reveals Jesus’ name hidden in the logo, we ended up teaching people that the church, and the Christian religion, is out of date and lame. And these brands, artistic styles, and artistic mediums are considered good, cool, and interesting.

We produced an entire generation of people who believed that the church lacked goodness, truth, and beauty because we as a church kept looking outside the four walls for creative ways to communicate goodness, truth, and beauty. We ended up discipling a generation to look more like the world than like Christ, and then we were baffled when 82% of them went of to secular universities and never came back to the church.

This is not to say that Christians are to slack in the space of excellence; rather, the “awe” we generate must be pointed to Christ’s finished work. Christians should be on the front lines of all things that are good, true, and beautiful since we possess the source of all that is good, true, and beautiful. We want faithful hermeneutics, historically tested theological frameworks, and time-tested principles to be what we build the church around. Trendy fads that are culturally relevant but obfuscate the message and mission of the church ought to be sidelined. Clever stunts that cause the listener to remember the preacher rather than Christ’s finished work ought to be kicked to the curb. We are the church of Jesus Christ, the embassy of heaven on earth, the military outpost in a kingdom of darkness. We should never let the church be reduced to a TED talk and Coldplay music. If, as a people, we were to focus on the message of the Gospel, I believe the beauty of the Gospel would begin to shine forth from our canvases, stages, and sermons.

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