4 Steps to Artistic Pastoring

v3 2016 pastoring is art

Recently, a designer friend of mine and I started a creative collective called The [un]Commons.

Through various conversations and connections, there seemed to be this common desire amongst creatives in our city to have a shared space to process the creative and artistic life, so we created this space as the premier space for this collective desire to be fulfilled, and to explore the heart and soul of the creative process.

Ultimately, this is about people being inspired and encouraged, and about them knowing in the depths of their soul that they have to keep going. So to my courageous church planting friends and pastors, I believe you are artists. I believe you are some of the most important creatives on this planet, and I want to offer you the same encouragement through an adapted version of the four topics we recently explored in our time together at the first [un]Commons.

I. Find the Purpose

The brilliant rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “There is happiness in the love of labor, there is misery in the love of gain.”

A part of what Heschel is getting at in this statement is how the real joy is actually in the work that you do. In creative work, it isn’t just the product, it’s the process. Before results, before impact, before influence, before any of the outcomes of the work, the enlightened artist is one that connects deeply with and lives faithfully into the process of the work itself.

You get to craft sermons.

You get to imagine different ways to shape the minds, hearts, and souls of real people into Christlikeness. You get to stand in solidarity with and guide people forward in life through prayer. You get to love people through the long lost art of listening.

Its not just about the life that others experience through what you make, its about the life you experience as you make it.

II. Hone the Process

There are times in your life as a creative when your work and calling feel like a gift, and there are times when they feel like a burden.

And whether you are aware of it or not, in your decision making process, you can live from a place where you treat your creative offering as a gift, but you can also live from a place where you treat it as a burden.

When treated as a gift, you ask the questions: Who am I? What do I want to create? When treated as a burden, you ask the questions: What do people want? Is this going to work? The gift gives you a great sense of joy and flow, but the burden creates anxiety.

The gift makes you feel weightless, while the burden actually places weight on you. In the gift you give yourself fully to this, in the burden you have moments where you just want to get through this. And as a pastor and/or church planter, you are going to be making decisions from one of these places every single day.

The gift of your creative life flows out of freedom, while the burden flows out of fear.

III. Understanding the Pain

Despite how magical the creative life seems from a distance, there is the inevitability of pain that you will be confronted with.

Creating involves risk, risk involves vulnerability, vulnerability leaves you open, exposed, and on display. You are going to be criticized. You are going to be misunderstood and misrepresented. People are going to betray you. The people you counted on are not going to come through. People are going to leave you. You are going to be hurt.

And when all of these things happen (and they will), you are going to be tempted to stop living this kind of life. You are going to want to quit, retreat, give up, and go back to simpler times.

But you have to keep going.

The 5th Century mercenary, Telamon of Arcadia said, “It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior’s life.” When you embrace this kind of life, you are living the warrior’s life.

You are the brave and the courageous, the ones who do not choose comfort over creativity, the ones who pour themselves out as an offering despite how people receive it, the ones who refuse to betray the sacredness of their God-given creative energies.

IV. Enjoying the Poetry

There is this powerful moment inside the tank in one of the last scenes from the movie Fury.

A group of people that had been through countless battles together, struggled together, suffered together, and been through hell together are facing what seems to be their last battle. And in this collective awareness of exactly where they were in life, they take turns taking a drink of whisky out of the bottle, and as each one does so, they sit back and say, “Best job I ever had.”

So, may you be re-grounded in the purpose of this and the life the creative process creates in you. May you be aware of the process, and would you freely embrace your calling as the gift that it is.

In the midst of the pain may you have the courage and faith to take it all into you, and still find the Divine energy to keep going. And would you share moments with friends and co-laborers in the faith, sit back, and toast to the best job you ever had.

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Kevin Sweeney
Kevin Sweeney is a pastor of Imagine—an urban church in Honolulu that is truly welcoming of all people, sees imagination as the key to the future, chooses authenticity over performance, substance over hype, and quality over quantity. He holds a Masters Degrees in Theology and Intercultural Studies. Kevin is fascinated with and committed to creating environments for creativity, cultural innovation, social healing, communal cohesiveness, and personal transformation.
Kevin Sweeney

2 Comments

  1. Jay Cookingham Apr 7, 2016 Reply

    Kevin, awesome post brother! Since I am both a pastor and an artist, this really resonated with my heart, thanks for sharing!

  2. Bruce Pittman Jun 26, 2017 Reply

    Thanks Kevin! Just read this today. Great question: What is it you want to create? Food for thought as I lead the church. The challenge for me is: What do they want to create?

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