Three Reasons Why Creating Something Is So Stinkin’ Draining

Emotionally sapped.

Physically wiped.

Excited.

Disappointed.

Energized.

Fearful.

Quicker to anger.

Longer to grace.

Loss of control.

A little depressed.

A little relieved.

Tired.

I’m not sure what you feel like as you labor through an artistic or creative endeavor, but the phrases above describe me.

It’s crazy, really. These things I get to do every day – creating and dreaming and strategizing and executing – those exact things can become the very things that leave me in the fetal position on the living room floor when I’m finished with my workday.

The things I get to do every day can become the very things that leave me in the fetal position on the living room floor at day’s end.

As I engage in any creative endeavor – any act where I’m pouring the essence of who I am into a void – there are three reasons why that process might just drain the life out of me (which, by the way, isn’t a bad thing – it’s just a thing).

  1. THE DECISIONS THING

If you think about it, anything you create or design requires a series of tiny small decisions, often with the pressure of a hard deadline looming. When I’m cutting together a short-film, I’m making at least 10 decisions a minute. Which clip do I use? Which piece of cutaway? Where should the clip begin? Is the music loud enough? Too loud? Am I pushing the storyline forward, or just spitting out random information? Can I razor that statement and  connect it with another statement? Is the color consistent with the next frame, shot in different lighting on a different camera? How can I make the interviewee more inspiring. Should I try to cut that “‘um” out, or leave it? What will the client want? Does that music work?

If you’re a painter or a lighting technician or a visual worship leader or an entrepreneur or a storyteller or a pastor or a team leader or a blogger, you’ve got your own different set of tiny decisions. They’re different than mine, but that’s not the point. The point is that you’re making a ton of decisions.

And you’re making them hundreds of times every day.

No wonder we end up on the living room floor.  Or angry with the people in our lives who don’t deserve our anger. Or just silent. Or … you can fill in your own blank here.

  1. THE ENDORPHINS THING

The second reason creativity is so draining has to do with endorphins.  Endorphins are small protein molecules that are produced by cells in our nervous systems, and other parts of the body. I know – I’m already bored too, but stay with me. Among other things, these little guys control feelings of stress and frustration (they control a lot more, like chocolate and sexual appetites, and addictive patterns as well).

So when we’re pushing our creative projects into the wee hours of the morning because the deadline is upon us and were crazy-stressed about meeting it, our endorphins essentially become imbalanced. They have to, because we’re stressed. The only way for our endorphins to get back into balance is for the stress to go away.

And here’s the key for our current conversation: The re-balancing mechanism happens automatically 36-48 hours after the stress-provoking event, and involves feelings of depression, lethargy, and criticism. We can’t choose when our endorphins choose to rebalance themselves. It’s entirely up to them. But we’ve been on a high, and we need to come back down.

When I was a pastor, I was always depressed on Tuesday mornings. This was true every week, unless I had taken the prior weekend off.  When I fly somewhere to work 16 hours a day for a week, I’m always great the day after I get home. But it’s the day after the day after that kicks my butt.

  1. THE HOPES AND DREAMS THING

The final reason creativity is so draining has do with our hopes and dreams. There are a variety of hopes and dreams that I carry with every project I involve myself in. You and I aren’t just working our tails off for a paycheck. With every project we carry, there’s something in us that hopes heaven takes one step closer to our ever-groaning earth. That’s why I create short-films. That why we all want to tell great stories. That’s why we push hard into the org-chart redo, or create the product that our audience really needs.

We carry hope with us, and we can’t help it. We were created to carry it.

But when we don’t experience any fulfillment of that hope in some  manner, we get bummed or depressed or anxious or cynical (and the best leaders, by the way, are the ones who show us the hope that we’re blind to). Living long-term with no perceived hopeful outcome is indeed living on the very edge of burnout.

CONCLUSION

A theme in my life is to become more self-aware of who I am, and of how I come across to people. And a huge part of this self-awareness piece is to prayerfully figure out, as I’m lying there bleeding on the ground, what got me there in the first place. Inevitably, it’s related to one of the three things I’ve talked about above.

And it’s a beautiful thing indeed when we begin to recognize what’s happening deep inside of us, and then we express the broken capacity to invite the risen Christ into that exact place – not to become the magic potion for our fixing or our short-term self-medicating.

But for Him to reach out His hand, and help us stand again.

Because the next deadline is on the horizon, and because these feelings aren’t bad things. They’re just things, after all.

 

This article originally appeared on GaryMo.com. Used with permission.

The Least Preached Subject

In a church of 100 people, 20 people will likely experience depression or an anxiety disorder at some stage in their life. If you are in a church of that size, there are probably 5-10 people struggling with depression right now. If you add in the family, friends, and employers of sufferers, something approaching 25% of an average congregation will be impacted to some degree. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the US among people aged 15-44, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in the same age group.

But when was the last time you preached or heard a sermon on depression, or any mental health issue for that matter? Given its prevalence, why is it so rarely even mentioned?

Rare preaching

One reason is that there is so much ignorance and misunderstanding around mental health issues. Many pastors simply do not feel equipped to address the subject. Their seminaries did not train them and they have not pursued further training to help them understand and minister to people with such problems.

Many pastors are also unaware of just how common the problem is. Perhaps fearing a lack of sympathy or understanding, Christians with depression will often seek help from outside the church. The result is that there can be many depressed people in a church but the pastor does not know about it.

Other pastors may have decided that it’s entirely a medical problem and therefore something to be left to the medical profession. For these and other reasons, depression is rarely addressed in sermons and the effect is that depressed people feel isolated and ignored, exacerbating the problem.

Damaging Preaching

 But even worse than neglecting the subject is insensitive preaching that unintentionally makes the suffering even worse. From counseling depressed Christians, I’ve discovered that these types of sermon actually harm more than help:

– Sermons that over-stress the moral evils of the day. They are anxious enough through hearing the daily news without every church service ramping up the “we’re doomed” rhetoric. A steady diet of gloomy sermons, or graphic descriptions of violence, persecution, and other moral evils, is not going to lift up the head or heart of the cast down.

– Sermons that extol constant happiness as the only valid and virtuous Christian experience. The deep pain of depression is multiplied when a depressed person is repeatedly told that all sadness is a sin.

– Sermons that question the faith of anyone who doubts. A lack of assurance is not necessarily a lack of faith. Believers who hang on to God despite feeling no assurance sometimes have the greatest faith.

– Sermons that demand, demand, and demand. The depressed person already feels like an inadequate failure. To be regularly berated for not doing this ministry, or failing to engage in that Christian service, only crushes what’s left of their spirit.

I’m not suggesting that these themes should never be preached but I am calling preachers for greater sensitivity towards the depressed and anxious in their sermons.

Helpful Preaching

 If that’s what harms, what kind of sermons can help depressed people? One of the simplest and best things a preacher can do is preach sermons that at least mention depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional disorders. Just to have such suffering publicly acknowledged can minister deeply to sufferers. It can help them to come out of the shadows and into the open, to sense that this is a safe place to share, and to believe that it’s okay not to be okay. It can also be helpful for the preacher to mention statistics that show how common the problem is, how this is a normal abnormality in an abnormal world.

The preacher may also demonstrate from the Bible that true believers often suffer with depression (e.g. Elijah, Jeremiah, David, Job). The Psalms are an excellent vehicle for showing believers the dark depths that believers can fall into (e.g. Ps. 88) and also give hope of recovery showing that there is a way out (e.g. Ps. 77). Sermons on Job should not just focus on the passages of triumph but also the passages of despair. Idealism must be tempered with realism. Other examples from throughout church history might also be added. For example, even the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon endured long periods of depression.

Sermons should also promote a holistic approach to mental health struggles. It’s very easy for preachers to take a simplistic approach – it’s all physical, or it’s all spiritual, or it’s all cognitive, etc. However, it’s very rarely that simple. There’s usually a complex mix of issues – the physical, the situational, the relational, the financial, the spiritual, the emotional, the mental, etc. This is true not just in terms of tracing causes but also in suggesting cures. One size does not fit all. Those relying on just meds should be encouraged to explore other dimensions of the problem. Same with those who are fixated exclusively on finding a sin to repent of.

Preachers with a tendency to preach on the more subjective side of Christian life should remember that depressed people need to focus most on the objective facts of Christianity, the historic doctrines of the faith. Facts first and feelings follow. There’s a place for careful self-examination, but remember Robert Murray McCheyne’s rule: “For every look inside, take ten looks to Christ.”

And that really brings me to the best way to preach to the depressed, and that’s to preach Christ. Preach his suffering and sympathizing humanity. Preach his gentle and tender dealings with trembling and timid sinners. Preach his gracious and merciful words. Preach his beautiful meekness. Preach his miracles to demonstrate his power to heal. Preach his finished work on Calvary. Preach his offer of rest to the weary. Preach the power of his resurrection-life. Preach his precious promise: “A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench” (Isa. 42:3)

Preach Christ! Preach him winningly and winsomely. Preach him near and ready to help. Preach him from the heart to the heart. Preach him again, and again, and again. Until the day dawn and the shadows flee away.

 

Bio

Dr. David Murray is a pastor and a professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology. He is the author of a number of books including Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. He blogs at HeadHeartHand.org and you can follow him on Twitter @davidpmurray.

 

 

 

 

 

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture is a book for us. We move at a blistering pace day in and day out. We may take a vacation once a year, but is that really what it’s going to take to allow us to sustain a break-neck pace for the rest of our lives? This book confronts us with the sobering fact that if we do not slow down, if we do not reset our focus, then the constant red-lining could turn to engine failure. Check out this book and come back to a sustainable pace of life that God has called us to live.

 

Volunteers – How to Find Them, Train Them, and…

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”
– Ephesians 4:11
Certain gifts have been given to equip others for the work of ministry. The load of “doing ministry” does not, and should not, fall on the vocational pastor. Their job is to equip others for the work of ministry.

One way people can do the work of ministry is by volunteering on the local church level. They can identify their gifts, and then serve in order to bless others. It’s a terrific model that just makes sense. Allow the pastor to focus on his role as equipper, while the vast majority of saints take the lead in ministering to the church and the community.

I think we can all agree, however, that this is not what it always looks like. When I look at churches, I see the equippers doing most of the ministering, and I see the saints doing a lot of the receiving. Can you think of any ministries where it seems downright impossible to get regular, consistent, faithful volunteers? Nursery duty, anyone? This is not exactly the model set up for us in the New Testament. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely equippers who don’t like to let go of tasks or projects; they hold on tight and want to take care of everything themselves. Wouldn’t you agree that they would have a greater impact if they were to let go, equip others, and focus on their calling?

Why does it look this way? Well, I’m not 100% sure, but I do know there are strategies that we can all consider on how to raise up volunteers who love to operate within their gifts and bless others. Here are a few strategies for us to consider:

1. Find Them

Volunteers are out there. They are everywhere. But something is keeping them from serving. What are the barriers that are keeping people from stepping up to serve? Here are a couple to consider:

– Fear

This barrier can take so many different shapes. One is a feeling of inadequacy. Take someone who has a great heart for Jesus, a sound theology, and an amazing voice. They think they could use their gifts on the worship team, but they may compare themselves to the people on stage thinking they could never do that. Another could be a fear of rejection. They want to step up, but are afraid that they will be turned down. This barrier can be dealt with from the pulpit. A specific message could be preached on this topic, but I think an overall tone from the lead pastor can truly help nullify this fear.

– Apathy

Some people just don’t see why this is important. They may think that someone else can take care of the needs of the church. It’s not that they necessarily have a bad attitude, it may just be that they do not fully understand why God created them. Helping people recognize the truth behind these verses goes a long way.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
– Ephesians 2:10
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:11-12
A solid understanding of these verses will help people overcome the barrier of apathy.

2. Train Them

Once you knock those barriers out of the way, it’s time for leaders to step aside and build opportunities for people to serve. It may be time for you to give up control of a certain area and allow others to step up and serve. Examples include a larger welcome team (always a good idea to have people dedicated to seeking out new people to welcome them and combat any cliques that may form within a church), a parking team, or a “have a great day team” that tells everyone goodbye as they leave. You name it; create opportunities for people to serve.

– Job Description

When you do create these opportunities, you also need to create job descriptions. Yes, even for volunteers. Especially for volunteers. Each job description will serve as a set of guidelines and expectations for the new people. This will help hold everyone to a certain standard, and it will allow you to evaluate their various gifts and talents.

– Train

Once the opportunity is created, and the job description is in place, call people to step up, then train them. Don’t just hand over the reigns to a qualified person and say, “You got this”. No way. Take the time to train these new volunteers. Let them see how you want things done at a level of excellence and commitment. This is a prime opportunity to disciple and replicate your “ministry DNA” into someone else.
The 4 stages of training are:

[box]1. I do, you watch
This allows them to see exactly what it is you are looking for
2. We do together
Teamwork
3. You do, I watch
We don’t just want to drop them in the deep end without us being there
4. You do, I coach
Now, we don’t have to be together. You’ve entrusted the ministry to them and now you can meet on a regular basis to talk about successes and opportunities for growth[/box]

3. Keep Them

This is an important part of this process. Celebrate your volunteers. Don’t let them go unnoticed. Recognize them. It’s okay to publicly thank those who are giving their time and energy to serve the local church. Don’t be afraid to have a big dinner one night for all the volunteers in your church. Showing your appreciation will go a long way in maintaining volunteers and enticing new ones to step up to the plate.

Hopefully by implementing these strategies, you will see people step up and serve your church in ways you could only imagine.

Leadership Principles We Live By


As I sit to write this post, I really had to think, what are the principles we live by? Haha. But it didn’t take long. My business partner and I don’t have these things written down somewhere, but we do talk about these things frequently. There are many more I’m sure that have shaped who we are, but here are 3 things we live by and hopefully will help you.

Excellence

I think this has become somewhat of a buzzword in the church world. And depending on who you talk to, it can mean a myriad of different things. To some, it means spending money, to others it’s meeting one person’s expectations. In reality, excellence is simply doing the best with what you have. That’s what we strive for. We don’t have unlimited budgets or time. Our objective is to put out the best products we can with what we have!

Reflection

The past can help us predict the future. We have a document on Google Drive called, “A Look Back.” In this document we track the numbers from years past. We track what it cost to make a certain piece, what advertisements we purchased, as well as how many it sold and the dollars associated with it. This helps us in a couple ways.

It helps us know the impact we’re having for the kingdom of God. This is something we try to keep in front of our team so it doesn’t just become cranking out videos or design pieces. We have the honor of making an eternal impact on people’s lives!

It helps us predict the future. We notice trends. We notice what types of marketing/advertising work well for us and what doesn’t. We’re able to forecast better because of this document. We know you can never truly predict what will happen in the future, but this spreadsheet has helped us a ton in where we’re heading!

Generosity

This one may come across as a little bit bragadocious, and I certainly don’t mean it that way. We just believe in people. Scripture is very clear that when you give, it’s given back to you with the same measure you use. Southwest Airlines believes strongly in Employee Satisfaction, not customer satisfaction. They believe if they take great care of their employees, their employees, in turn, will take care of the customer. We have a similar mindset. We don’t have a huge staff. In fact, it’s just me and Roman. However, we work with a bunch of contractors. We look for ways to give bonuses (yes to contractors), we’ve thrown big Christmas parties for our contractors! Our objective is to take great care of them so they want to work with us and turn out great work for our customers!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how we run our company, this is a few brief thoughts. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and got a few things right. We’d love to hear from you.

How are you leading your team? Or if you’d like more info on any of the above or if we can help you in any way, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email, jared@creativesheep.org, I would love to hear from you!

 

Jared Hogue is a co-owner of Creative Sheep. Creative Sheep exists to communicate God’s love through excellent content. Check out Creative Sheep’s media for churches.

How to Shepherd Your Flock in a Politically Charged…

Everything gets politicized these days. It’s never been easier for churches to also get caught up in waves of political enthusiasm and social activism.

So, what should a pastor do when their fellow church members see needs and want to meet them, see injustice and want to stop it, or see a good cause and want to support it?

First, we should rejoice! When a church does a good job equipping people to think and live as Christians in a fallen world, the people become like rivers overflowing the banks of the church gathered (the lake). The landscape changes when there are lakes and rivers. But not all lakes need to be rivers.

So what do you do when one person wants their passion to be the primary passion for the whole church?

There are no easy answers to this question because every church and every community and every activist is a different mix of personalities and passions. But here are some principles to keep in mind.

1. Demote the political sphere while encouraging your politically active members.

For too many in our society, politics is everything. In This Is Our Time, I write about the politicization of everything, where politics has become a religion. Our country is still faith-filled; it is just that today our faith is misplaced. Too often, it’s directed toward government, not God. And many of our frustrations come when we realize government can’t ultimately save us. It was never meant to. Peggy Noonan writes: “When politics becomes a religion, then simple disagreements become apostasies, heresies. And you know what we do with heretics.”

All around us are people who believe the myth that politics is the only real place where you can effect change or transform the world. When you think that laws are the most important factor in changing the world, then every battle must be fought to the end. Otherwise, you’re sacrificing the cause!

The gospel challenges that myth. It tells us that the political sphere is just one area in which change can take place. It helps us put the political in a broader context, to realize that it is not everything. All gains are temporary, but so are all setbacks. Even if we lose a political cause, we can still be faithful. We are called always to witness, not always to win.

With all of this in mind, pastors should demote politics to its proper place, while simultaneously encouraging Christians who are active in their community. Understanding that the political sphere is not ultimate does not mean we should retreat. We cannot be indifferent, hoping to enter our houses of worship or our closets for prayer, as if holiness is all personal and private. No, the apostle Peter calls us to holiness and honor as a way of being on mission in this world. “Holiness is not supposed to be cloaked in the chambers of pious hearts,” says theologian Vince Bacote, “but displayed in the public domains of home, school, culture, and politics.”

2. Be aware of how quickly the uniting factor of a congregation can become a cause rather than the cross.

Once you have demoted the political sphere to its proper place and encouraged your church members to remain active, you should keep an eye on what is at the center of your preaching and teaching. It is easy for the unifying factor of a church to become what we do for others instead of what Christ has done for us.

A church’s unity for a cause can eventually displace the cross. The gospel is still there, but it’s no longer in the center. Something else is uniting the church – a political cause, social work, a community ministry.

Why does this matter? Because we want long-term fruitfulness in our communities.

When you put the gospel at the center, various ministry opportunities will come alongside as demonstrations of the power of Christ’s work on the cross. But when you put a cause at the center, various ministry opportunities may flourish for a time but then wither away, because they are no longer connected to the source of life that can sustain such activism.

3. Guard the platform of your church.

As a pastor, you’ve probably received multiple self-invitations to take “just a few minutes” of precious platform time to give a report or make a congregation aware of a need. Whether it’s people spreading Bibles around the world, missionaries coming home from furlough, medical missionaries providing essential healthcare or pro-life opportunities… everyone wants just a few minutes. Except for the congregation. They expect you to say “no” and protect them from the countless ministry opportunities that could be presented every week.

Do your congregation a favor and guard the platform of your church. Only put activities in the bulletin that correspond to your church’s mission and presence in the community. You can’t be a megaphone for every single thing people in your church want to promote.

4. Observe your church’s particular gifts and passions, and provide opportunities for community involvement.

Right now, our church is involved with tutoring elementary school students down the street. We’re helping plant a church in Cincinnati. We’ve celebrated when families have adopted children from overseas, and we’ve hosted fundraisers to help them offset the cost. We’re assisting refugees being resettled in our area.

These are ways that our church is ministering to the community. Enough people in the congregation were involved in the need for the church to realize it could help facilitate some of this good ministry.

J. D. Greear lays out three approaches to individual ministries – Own, Catalyze, and Bless. He explains it this way:

To “own” a ministry means we staff and resource it directly.

Those we “bless” are those we know our members are engaged in, but as an institution we have little interaction with them other than the occasional encouragement.

But the third category, “catalyze,” is where we put most of our energy. When we catalyze something, we identify members with ideas and ask them to lead us. We come alongside them, adding our resources, networking power, etc. We serve them. And that means sometimes they don’t do things exactly the way I would prefer. But in the long run, an empowered church catalyzed to do ministry will do more gospel-good in the community than if the church owns and staffs all its own ministries.

5. Publicly affirm and bless the kind of activism you want to see.

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Lift up examples of people who are the kind of activists you want to see.

When you hear of people in your congregation doing good in the community, don’t be shy in letting the rest of the church know. What you celebrate, you become.

 

Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources and publisher for the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Translation. A former missionary to Romania and current pastor, Trevin hosts a blog at The Gospel Coalition and his latest book is This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in the Light of the Gospel (March 2017, B&H Publishing).