Is the Creative Team Killing Good Preaching?


In the past few days I have heard from three different pastors the same story: my creative team has asked me to do something I’m not comfortable doing. One group had the Pastor repelling down from the rafters in a harness before delivering the sermon. But no matter the request, each of the men I talked with ended up arriving at the same conclusion: ultimately it’s not the creative team that has to preach this message, I am, and I’m not comfortable doing what they have asked me to do or say.

Before you accuse me of being old school and not wanting to try new things, let me tell you I value creativity. My dad is an artist and I grew up in my parents’ art gallery. The A Group, a business I own, is built on creativity and filled with creatives. And beyond all of that, I consult with pastors on how to make the most of their sermons through a creative outlet. “So what’s your problem?” You might be asking.

Years ago I developed a creative team for my church that helped our teaching pastor to think of dynamic ways to illustrate a point, create a moment or bring a new perspective to an-age old question. It was something very new back in the early 90s for a church to have a creative team. Now it’s almost the norm, specially for large churches.

It seems like what started as an helpful tool, has become the proverbial tale that wags the dog. More and more I see creative teams dictating what happens in the service down to the Pastor’s illustration and overall direction of the service. Church leaders have somewhat elevated the creative team to the place they have become the ultimate decision makers on what happens during the weekend services.

Recently I watched a friend who had conceived a very poignant and timely teaching series having to change his direction and adapt his teaching to something very different because the Arts Pastor of his church had already created all the visuals for the following six weeks according to the team’s vision and not the man who was preaching it.

I still believe creative teams are a great tool to help communicators do a better job. They can help bring perspective and powerful illustrations to a message when they are aligned with the speaker in both style and content. But ultimately, it’s not creativity that wins the day; it’s content. “Powerful” trumps “cool” every time. Pastors, if you don’t feel good about it beforehand, you’ll never feel good about it afterward. And we, those of us in the congregation, do pick up on that right away.

Ultimately, it’s not creativity that wins the day; it’s content. “Powerful” trumps “cool” every time.

Pastors, be creative. Find the most compelling illustration, song, video, prop that you can to drive you point home so people will understand just the magnitude of the God we worship. But please, don’t let people talk you into something that’s not aligned with your personal style or the message God has put in your heart.

  • Anonymous

    Maurilio,I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone describe our services as "cool" but seldom, powerful and impactful. Great insight

  • Lucy Grieves

    That explains a lot! Thank you for the post.

  • I think there's a sense in which you get what you ask for. The fact that we're all using some version of a "creative team" indicates that we're asking for creativity. It seems unfair to knock the creatives for delivering it.

    Should we be asking for something else?

  • J. Phillips

    I think to understand the goal of what we are attempting to do is one thing and just doing something for effect is another. However, to do something with a goal in mind with effect in my opinion shows we are attempting to present our message in a way that connects with our audience. I just wish the church would attempt to be aware that if we are wanting to reach the world we may have to upset some in the church. And that "some" could be us. Just a thought. Thanks for the post! And the comments.

  • Maurilio,Great thoughts. We have quickly forgotten that creativity is good and needed in the church, but you shouldn't preach a series because you have a good title or a great illustration you want to use. Ultimately, what is taught should be inspired and led by God to the speaker, then creativity should be wrapped around that — not the other way around. Good stuff…Erik

  • Lawrence, I agree with you. If we're asking for help and they give us, then we should not criticize the help. And I'm a proponent of the creative team. My issue is when the creative team and their ideas supersede that of the Pastor and that this role reversal usually hurts everyone. That usually leads to teachers who are not authentic because they are asked to dress, talk or preached something they are not necessarily passionate about.I don't fault the creative teams on this one. It's usually a slow creep that happens when teaching pastors walk away from creative team meetings or don't give them enough direction to plan and execute a service.

  • J,The problem of make "comfortable" Christians mad is a huge one. We all talk about reaching out to a lost world, but when it comes to put our comfort aside, we have a tough time accepting chance. My main point on this post is one of alignment. I want pastors to make sure they are preaching and using creative elements that complement their teaching style and personality and not doing some goofy stunt because someone that it would be cool.

  • I just began my own creative team after reading Rick Blackwood's book on multi-sensory preaching and teaching. We've only done three messages together.

    Already, I've discovered that it is possible for the tail to wag the dog. I don't want the illustrations to overwhelm the message. They are servants, not masters. I met with my team last night to tell them this.

    They agreed.

    I have corresponded with another pastor who also has a creative team. He told me that he has ultimate "veto power" over what goes into a sermon.

    Another thought I have the on the use of creative visuals, etc., is that when I take the stage, I almost feel like an actor on a stage, as opposed to a preacher on a platform. As such, the message feels like a monologue instead of a message. I haven't found a way to address this.

    I am certainly open to advice.

  • Anonymous

    I'd love to comment but I can't in fear that my creative team might punish me.

    Pastor X

  • HI Maurilio. Interesting article and perspective. I think pastors have an an 'anointing' to preach that non preachers do not have. Let's not forget that preaching is supernatural ability in action, while 'talent' is natural ability in action. Take preaching away and we have entertainers and no power in the house.Creativity is a matter of gifting but should never interfere with preaching. Preaching is 'foolishness' to the unbeliever but it takes good preaching to convert those who are hard harted and unbelieving (1 Cor 1:23,35)Long live powerful preaching. Long live creativity both are needed but for two different purposes.Enjoyed your article and thanks for provoking thought.See you on TwitterPaul.

  • Maurilio,I am a creative. I live for creativity. You are right…creativity is the icing, not the cake. if the content is not solid, the meat of the message not in place, creative become just a show. If the content is in place, the creative can help push it over the finish line. Great post.

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