Creative Leadership

Don’t Change the World – Change Yourself

One of the things I’ve learned at the Sundance Film Festival is that people screen films that cost millions, and others screen films that cost hundreds. We watched a full length feature film once that cost $1,500 to produce – it happened because of the time and commitment of a very creative and driven team.

The point isn’t the budget. The point is that if you have talent, drive, and commitment, anything could happen. In my work with religious organizations and non-profits, I find they have plenty of vision, but they haven’t created the kind of creative, innovative culture that can make that vision happen.

Too many people want to change the world, and not enough want to change themselves. Standing in line for a screening, someone handed me a promotional card for another movie, and on the front, it had this quote:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman).

I know pastors who have a great vision, but are miserable. Ministry leaders that labor under the pressure of fundraising until they nearly crack. Organizations that cultivate an atmosphere or fear and intimidation. They may have a great vision, but are they making a difference? Hardly.

What is it that makes you come alive? What were you born to do?

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  1. The Howard Thurman quote is a powerful one. And the two closing questions are two of the most fearful, yet freeing questions a person could ever be asked. If that person can honestly wrestle with and answer these questions, than anything is possible. I think a fear people have is getting “it” wrong. What if they focus on the wrong thing? What if they make a mistake? What if God’s not pleased? It’s easy to allow the fear to keep us from truly living – cause us to play things safe and stick with the “normal” status quo routine of daily existence. Now that I’ve said that… let me answer these two questions: What makes me come alive? Writing stories, teaching Scripture, drawing, preaching/speaking to groups, dreaming, producing short films, creating music. What am I born to do? Use all of my gifts/talents to creatively glorify God – and help others do the same. Matthew 5:16 sums it up for me: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” I’d add a third closing question to the other two: “What are you doing about it?”

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  2. If we could change ourselves we would not need Jesus Christ. If we knew the way and how to stay on the right path we would not need the Holy Spirit. Having a great vision is one thing, being able to fulfil it is another thing – especially the way that the Heavenly Father wants it to be done. The reason we struggle so hard in ministry or business as believers is that we behave like people who have no Father and we cease or limit our relationship with Him. We won’t listen to the Lord daily and draw close to Him and so we think that with our labourious efforts and toil(Cain attitude – the way of the world) that we can impress God as if that is what makes Him just love us even more. Just listen to what He says and then do it. Our private lifestyles with God greatly determine how we relate to people publicly about God and ourselves. How can we become believers and then do our thing – disconnect from the vine and then expect to have productivity & profitability [fruit]? Recently a bill that we owed was cleared off by the company simply because they felt they owed it to us for providing a bad service. The bill was worth $2,000.00 What makes it crazy was they refused to take the cheque we had to pay it, because they were investigating a former manager with them. 6 months later (and we had already used their services anyway despite what happened) they came back and said there were internal issues and they will no longer accept the money as responsibility for a bad service – they had not done this before. This is one of several financial turnarounds in our company because we realised that we were in business for God and not ourselves and therefore we take instructions from Him on a daily basis. We need to be humble before God that we do not know anything and that without Him we can do nothing and that is not in theory.

  3. I think you make a good point.  As Christians there should be something different about us and how we approach these things.  I think there is a question though as well as to degree.

    God has given us some power toward self-determination which we can exercise in the areas of education, training, effort etc.

    I think as Christians humility and humbleness are important and we must never imagine that our feeble efforts and skills rise above our need for His direction.  There's a time for waiting.  There's also a time for doing after that look to God for guidance and direction in which we are to use all the resources and tools at our disposal.

    Digging a hole with a spoon may seem to some to be more spiritual, but I'd prefer to use a shovel where I can.

  4. Lucifer tried to change himself and he became – Satan. I think the key is that we are not to change anyone until God has changed I. We are only to lead others to the place of change but we cannot change anyone not even ourselves and that is humbling and difficult for many of us to accept. I think in Christian media we are too quick to give answers that we forget we once had to solve the problems that lead to the answers. The vision came because someone finally realised the need to go forward. Change happens because we discover (and finally accept)there is a better way to do things than what we are currently used to.

  5. Lucifer moved away from God.

    We're not impassive lumps waiting for God to put the wind-up key in our backs and turn it.  For good or for bad, God has given us, as part of our creation in His image, the ability to initiate change and to create.  Granted, it is a poor reflection compared to Him and we'd be remiss to place that element of ourselves above our need to wait upon and follow God.

    We cannot change another person.  That is the job of the Holy Spirit.  We DO however have the ability to create a motivating environment in which a decision or change is challenged.

    God gave us the Great Commission.  There's some freedom and choice in the midst of it as to how we go about it.  I agree with your first thoughts that far too often we start with our knowledge and try to do it on our own.  Prayer, meditation and reliance upon God are far too often neglected. 

    I think it's moving too far in the opposite direction to imagine however, that God simply will drop the knowledge into our waiting minds while we do nothing to prepare.   Education, training and the application of the same are important factors that render us more able to respond and follow the voice of God.  They are not competitors against being Spirit-lead.  They are tools to be used in submission to God in accomplishing His directives.

  6. Perhaps the Apostle Paul's missionary journeys are apropos for this discussion. On a number of occasions Paul endeavored to visit and encourage believers in specific parts of the Roman Empire. "I have longed to visit you…" But God corrected Paul's steps. It seems clear from the Pauline Epistles that Paul was on the move, headed out to a territory, pointed in what he believed was the right direction…but God corrected his steps and pointed him elsewhere. Put another way: Paul raised his sails, God filled those sails with wind that drove Paul. The apostle didn't sit in the boat wondering if God was going to tell him it was a great day to go out sailing.

    Yes, there are times to sit, wait and listen for God's wisdom. But I get the sense from reading the Word that God wants us to make our plans (get out there and DO something) and he'll correct our steps along the way. An inert Church or Ministry is a dead Church or Ministry. Same saying applies to anyone in the creative arts or media. Do something. If you're going to fail, fail SPECTACULARLY. And least Peter got out of the boat.

  7. i wish i could say I came up with this, but i didn't. i heard this last night in a class on Galatians. Success is not getting to the destination God has for you, it's "doing" or moving towards where God wants you to be–that defines success. Too many times we think we are a failure because we can't see ourselves being what we are to be in God's eyes. So we sit until we get "a word", a vision, or a feeling.

    It was 17 years before Paul was out in the forefront and preaching to the Gentiles. Did that mean he was not doing what God wanted for 17 years? Did it mean Paul sat until it was his turn to get into the game? No, God was getting the Pharisee out of Paul and equipping him during that long time between verses in Galatians. i can only imagine how mundane and boring it must have looked to an outsider. Paul–just doing what he knew to do, and learning a whole facet of God he never knew.

    Go do what you know to do, but PLEASE don't just sit and wait for the destination to get to you…you'll never get there.

  8. Besides who do you think really initiates change? When is change truly initiated? Is at inspiration or manifestation? Whose idea is it that we even think about change, transformation or movemement? But people you are making good points.

  9. Fear.

    It's easy to become controlled through fear. If you're afraid to think uncomfortable thoughts in pursuit of truth, others will tell you what to believe. You'll be comfortable, but it's just the bliss of ignorance.

    If you're afraid to ask yourself who you are, you'll become what you think you should be. Depending on how chicken you are, you could even become what you're told you should be.

    Where's the Joy? (Y'know, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self Control?) 'Cause Joy matters, God says so!

    Whatever part of the Body of Christ you are, you'll recognize it by the Joy you feel in performing the function. IMHO.

    Joy isn't happiness, it's that experience beyond happiness that makes hard things easy and pain insignificant. The world does need people who are wholly alive. The world does need people who reflect the Spirit in HOW they do what they do.

    Soap box surrendered!

  10. The thing is, the idea of saving/changing/redeeming the world did not orginate with human beings in the first place- it was God’s idea. Isn’t it amazing that before we go out and tell somebody about Jesus – He has to first be real to us? The thing is, the relationship has to be renewed everyday to be relevant first of all to the vessel before it is served to others. You cannot give to others what you have not first of all received. Unfortunately many of us believers especially in the Western World are very familiar with God to the point that it is simply history. We have plenty of options to choose from before we seek God – infact God is probably number 10 on our list before it occurs to us to talk to Him. Men can lead you to the shores but Jesus will walk with you on the water.

  11. I think there’s been some great conversation about change so far. But I would like to bring things back to the Howard Thurman quote and the last two questions from Phil’s post. Ultimately God is the initiator of change, but change will only come in a person’s life to the level they are able to wrestle with who they think they are, who God says they are, what their abilities are and how God wants to use them to impact others. In my mind, submission to God’s will is a given for this to really work in our lives. So… if anyone would like to answer, from what you already know about your identity in Christ, “What has God placed in you, that when you do it, you come alive?” “What do you think God has created you to do with what makes you come alive?” “What do you think Howard Thurman’s quote means?” Thanks.
    Allen Paul Weaver III
    author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  12. Thanks for that last comment, because I was starting to think some of the responses completely missed my point. I’m not arguing Calvinist theology about who makes the change happen – us or God, or if we’re so depraved we can’t do anything without God’s grace. Good topic, but another discussion. I’m talking about people who spend time wondering about needs, when they should be looking for something that excites them – something that they feel totally born for/called to/ready to tackle. Too many pastors and ministry leaders spend time thinking about needs (and that’s not a terrible thing), but then they shape their ministries around something that fills a need but doesn’t really resonate with them. I think God has designed us for something, and he’s wired our DNA to do that thing. Look at Billy Graham or Mother Theresa. They often worked in tough situations, but they loved it because it was an expression of who they were. I’m saying let’s spend a little more time trying to figure out what that thing is, because I can tell you from experience, when we find that place and we’re in the zone, amazing things can happen.

  13. I think God works by callings not jobs. Yes, He gives us jobs but at the end it's all about our calling. 

    There is a blog I wrote yesterday about how we should feel privileged God gave us the opportunity to serve Him. I think it is relevant to this entry; If we are driven by fame or success or money and not by a higher calling I think we've missed it. 

    The blog is here <a href="">THEUCLV.COM</a&gt; if you have time to read it. 


  14. I think you're right.

    Maybe part of the reason we as Christians fail to hit that zone of living in the midst of what God created us to be is that we worry too much about things that Jesus would care for themselves.

    Innovation is a buzz word in corporate psychology currently.  There's a lot of money, effort and thought going into what leads to those ideas that just take off with a seeming life of their own and impact the world around them.

    It's come to the point where IBM is running a series of commercials now, lampooning how far corporations have gone to try and foster this process through gimmicks.

    I spent a lot of time looking at the relationship between the innovation and knowledge management in some thesis work a while back.

    I don't think there is a formula.  We can promote it perhaps through different environments.  As a Christian of course, we have to see it in terms of the Holy Spirit at work as well and so elements of prayer, meditation and allowing those things the opportunity to embed and work through us are key.

    Edison said most of what he did was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  I bet he loved what he did with a passion though.

    For me, that zone is in writing, researching and learning.

  15. I was born to fall and to be picked up only to fall again. To do this repeatedely until I learned how to bounce. Then having learnt how to bounce I bounced myself into quagmire, and started to sink. But someone pulled me out by my hair when I was up to my nose in it. So I deflatted myself, and became blobby and learnt how to wriggle out of shit when it happens. Then I went to university and had lots of shit dumped onto me and stoped moving. I became a diffuse lump of matter being pulled this way and that by external forces beyond my control until I became totally dissociated.
    The moral of the story is that the 2nd law of thermodynamics cannot be overcome by a Zen Bhudist like Kojans. People who give crap advice like this are just like bubbles in the bath tub. They think that they are rissing above all the shit in the world by their own means when infact they are just fermented gas.
    The only thing that prevents this world from heat death is that passerby, who instead of meditating upon your state of being gives you another chance and rescues you from certain death.
    Personally I think that God created Entropy just to give himself something do. So in answer to your question there is only one thing that can give me life…It’s the Spiritus Santus, Dominum et vivificatem.

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