I am breaking blogging rules and am posting some longer posts in a series I am calling “Contemplations & Conversations on Creative Leadership” with a three part section titled “Too Good”. I hope if you are a creative leader that this dialog will challenge and encourage you.
This is Part 1 of 4 in a series…
As a very young worship assistant, I enjoyed working for a large, organized and successful church in northern California. The impressive nature of the organization still is a benchmark to me today for how well a church can plan, execute and deliver its ministry goals. But, with all good things, there is a dark side.
As member of the arts team, our department pastor noticed I had a knack for graphic layout. Well, I owned one of those early Macs. We did a simple three column layout with photos and the latest laser printers back then were light years ahead with the ability to actually print in 300 dpi.
My boss was happy with the newsletter. It was good. But, little did I know it would be too good. That’s right. Too good. After the second edition was printed, I got the news.
Deflated, my boss informed me that the woman who does the main church newsletter might be offended by how good our arts department newsletter is so the lead pastor decided to kill it. Case closed. Gasp!
In another ministry setting, my lead pastor came to me and the team I led with similar news. “The music is too good”, he said. “My pastor friends who visit and sit with me in the front row all say its excellent.” As I picked up my jaw from the floor, he continued to undress me and my team about how there were some issues we were not good at and that the music was too good.
As a creative and an artist type the dream is to be good–but, too good? Really, the artist’s call is to do your best work once in your life if possible as the chef says in the film Babbette’s Feast. The call of a creative is not to the “good enough” but to the best. So, the words “too good” just does not compute.
These two stories were a revelation to my life’s experience, however, more often than not you will never get the brutal truth from the “good enough” people–they do not really want you to be the best. They really do not value things that make mediocrity a sickly comparison to something done with passion, sacrifice and flair.
So, you get buried. Your hopes and dreams are crushed under the feet of those who while they may be decent people are abusive in their attempt to keep things safe–or just ”good enough.” And, there is no worse place at times than to be a creative in your local church trying to create something great. Those of us who lead worship, design art or even craft messages know exactly how this feels. Too good?
Being sour and dour is spiritual…NOT!
I believe that there are several reasons for the idea of things being “too good” and propose that one of the main culprits in the local church is an emotional asceticism that says we are vain if moved by beauty, challenged by art and questioned in a way that detracts us from our suburban evangelical bubble. We wrongly believe it is spiritual to be sour. So, the joy in creating something amazing just does not fit. Like Darth Vader, the church systems we live within tower over things that are simply seen as “too good”.
This “emotional asceticism” means we deny joy. I understand the concept of godly sorrow when we need to get right with God about specific issues in our lives, but why is it that we get angry when other people are passionately creating, expressing their ministry? Like King David’s wife’s seething tone as she saw his disrobed state march in celebration the air around us is thick with humid oppression.
Joy is a fruit of the spirit but because you might be “too good” and make others feel bad or left out some have to use a light saber and vanquish and extinguish creativity. Simply, we are afraid to be “too good” because it might feel too good. And, that is bad…apparently.