Ed Young on Creative Change
Years ago, at the Reach Conference in Dallas, Texas, I had a conversation with Ed Young about creativity. Ed – pastor of Fellowship Church in Dallas, was the featured speaker at the last night of the conference, and as always was on target, innovative, and compelling. After he spoke, I came out and shared the stage for some questions and answers. I asked Ed about his “creative team.” He said the he surrounds himself with a creative team of 8-10 people – all innovative thinkers who feed him stories and illustrations.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor, public speaker, writer, or executive, the principle of the creative team is critical. Surround yourself with people who can feed into you the information you need to create. By the way – don’t be intimidated – hire people smarter than you are. That way, they force you to be better than you could have been alone.
He also talked about the “confusion principle.” When working out, his personal trainer would mix up exercises, and when Ed asked him about it, the trainer described it as “confusing the muscles.” By doing that, the muscles are forced to react differently, and as a result, expand and grow. It’s the same way with your audience. Mix it up, keep them off balance, and give them new and exciting experiences. If it’s a church congregation – get off the dreaded bulletin. If it’s employees, don’t let the workflow become boring and routine. When they don’t necessarily know what to expect, they’ll be forced to grow, expand, and live in a spirit of innovation.
Finally Ed spoke about the anger that drives much creativity. As we look at the history of great art and literature, the creators were often driven by anger. Much of that anger came from alcoholism, drugs, abuse, marriage difficulties, and more, and many artists have wrongly tried to channel that type of anger into their work. But there’s different kind of anger – the kind that fueled everyone from the Reformation’s Martin Luther to his modern day counterpart in the civil rights movement – Dr. Martin Luther King. Allow anger over injustice and evil to drive your work. Ed described it as “being angry at the things God is angry about.”
What drives you nuts? What makes you crazy? Channel your “righteous anger” into the frustration that can drive you to great creative output, and eventually make a difference in the world.
Real creativity isn’t temporary, or the occasional “great idea.” Real creativity and innovation is a lifestyle. It’s changing your perspective to live a life focused on original thinking.
What drives us crazy are critics that think they are experts, but in reality know very little about what they’re talking about. We had one person who thrashed not only our products, but also accused us of not having good spiritual walks based on a press release about a product that they didn’t even try. Wow talk about thin!
We’re ok with it though because it’s expected. If anyone wants to change the way society thinks, their attempts will be met with fierce resistance. But I honestly believe that if they have the wear-with-all to perservere the harsh scrutiny, than their efforts can have a lasting impact on culture. And I think this is what many of us want to do with our films, TV or other forms of faith -based or -influenced entertainment.
Clearly, we’re engaging in a battle for the hearts and minds of people. And I’m positive that Satan isn’t going to let us play around in his backyard without giving us a hard time. So the smart thing to do is be prepared for his distractions and not get "punk’d" by not being ready.
Creating something original and good is very hard, however. It’s easy find problems, but very few find solutions. To be truly innovative you’ll have to find the solutions, but just realize that it may not always be appreciated right away because so few people get it, and some who claim to get it, don’t. So there’s lots of PR work to get the idea to survive long enough to make that impact. But certainly critics surely motivate us to work harder.
On another subject, while we’re on the topic of creativity, I’m curious about what everyone thinks of the "me too" stuff that you see all over christian entertainment media? For example, the subject was raised about a reality christian TV show at an NRB session today. (Let’s just hope that they’d never be foolish enough air a reality show called The Benny Hinn Show…sorry, couldn’t help myself) and there are numerous examples of other material that seems like carbon copies of secular material with christian content or just verses draped over them.
Remember – real change agents take a lot of heat. Often for real change to happen, you have to swing the pendulum a little too far, and then let it settle. It shakes things up, and in the process you’ll have critics, but change happens. I’m also reminded how few critics have actually been in the trenches where you have and understand what you’re going through. So #1 – learn from the criticism if you can, because we all need correction from time to time. And #2 – if it’s really off base, just remember that the dogs may bark, but the train keeps on rolling…
I agree, good criticism is more important and in fact helped us far more than praise. It’s just sad that the way off ones often come from the Christian community. It’s hard enough to break into the mainstream without "our own" cutting us down before we start. We’re gradually getting bolder as we push our more strident ideas out there and we’re glad that there are people such as yourself are telling us to "Go for broke and don’t worry about what other people say." It’s the kick in the pants that we’ve needed for some time. We have some terrific content targeted to the unchurched, but have been gun shy about green-lighting these really innovative projects in fear of evangelical backlash.
Honestly, this is the most encouraging (and freeing) advice that we’ve ever heard from anyone in Christian entertainment. Thanks so much! Keep saying what you’re saying and inspiring others with your advice and experience as you did at the REach and NRB conferences. There are many that we know who need to hear this stuff. I just wish we had heard it years ago!
Very true and in my best southern way “Dog’s don’t bark at parked cars.”