Contemplations & Conversations on Creative Leadership: “Too Good” Part 1

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…

Too Good

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.

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

28 comments

  1. I believe another reason that we sabotage our own work that is proven effective is because of Satan, or because we are afraid of the success might bring. We fear that it might actually work and that, as a result, we have to change because that success attracts the people to church who are “not safe” or don’t fit into our beige trousers clique at church.
    If, deep down, the church wants to be a country club to pander to the beige trouser community instead of reaching out to the people in our community who actually NEED Jesus, do us all a favor, and just let us know that is what your church is about. I won’t make a scene I won’t cause disunity in the church. I’ll just quietly sneak out the back door and find a church where I am allowed and encouraged to reach out to people who have tattoo’s, and look like they tripped over a tackle box. Because they NEED Jesus more than some beige photocopier salesman who has been attending church for 15+ years.

  2. I believe another reason that we sabotage our own work that is proven effective is because of Satan, or because we are afraid of the success might bring. We fear that it might actually work and that, as a result, we have to change because that success attracts the people to church who are “not safe” or don’t fit into our beige trousers clique at church.
    If, deep down, the church wants to be a country club to pander to the beige trouser community instead of reaching out to the people in our community who actually NEED Jesus, do us all a favor, and just let us know that is what your church is about. I won’t make a scene I won’t cause disunity in the church. I’ll just quietly sneak out the back door and find a church where I am allowed and encouraged to reach out to people who have tattoo’s, and look like they tripped over a tackle box. Because they NEED Jesus more than some beige photocopier salesman who has been attending church for 15+ years.

  3. I believe another reason that we sabotage our own work that is proven effective is because of Satan, or because we are afraid of the success might bring. We fear that it might actually work and that, as a result, we have to change because that success attracts the people to church who are “not safe” or don’t fit into our beige trousers clique at church.
    If, deep down, the church wants to be a country club to pander to the beige trouser community instead of reaching out to the people in our community who actually NEED Jesus, do us all a favor, and just let us know that is what your church is about. I won’t make a scene I won’t cause disunity in the church. I’ll just quietly sneak out the back door and find a church where I am allowed and encouraged to reach out to people who have tattoo’s, and look like they tripped over a tackle box. Because they NEED Jesus more than some beige photocopier salesman who has been attending church for 15+ years.

  4. I believe another reason that we sabotage our own work that is proven effective is because of Satan, or because we are afraid of the success might bring. We fear that it might actually work and that, as a result, we have to change because that success attracts the people to church who are “not safe” or don’t fit into our beige trousers clique at church.
    If, deep down, the church wants to be a country club to pander to the beige trouser community instead of reaching out to the people in our community who actually NEED Jesus, do us all a favor, and just let us know that is what your church is about. I won’t make a scene I won’t cause disunity in the church. I’ll just quietly sneak out the back door and find a church where I am allowed and encouraged to reach out to people who have tattoo’s, and look like they tripped over a tackle box. Because they NEED Jesus more than some beige photocopier salesman who has been attending church for 15+ years.

  5. First, I think we can learn from that and break the trend as we get older and start training young leaders. It’s all crap and egos.When I think of doing church differently, that’s been my focus lately. It’s got to be more than just style changes. We’ve got to throw down the pride, titles and illusions that we’re somehow better creations because we’re clergy. It’s craziness. I think with that change, there will be less individualism and more team work. It is truly insane to think of telling someone under me not to do such a good job.
    My question is, what do you do if you’re more creative than your leader and your leader wants to be the creative one? I know someone who’s going through this. I’ve even felt this pressure at times. I’ve definitely held back some vision, so to not tread on my leader’s “territory”. It’s unfortunate, but it’s what I feel I have to do to stay loyal.
    Great post, Rich!

  6. First, I think we can learn from that and break the trend as we get older and start training young leaders. It’s all crap and egos.When I think of doing church differently, that’s been my focus lately. It’s got to be more than just style changes. We’ve got to throw down the pride, titles and illusions that we’re somehow better creations because we’re clergy. It’s craziness. I think with that change, there will be less individualism and more team work. It is truly insane to think of telling someone under me not to do such a good job.
    My question is, what do you do if you’re more creative than your leader and your leader wants to be the creative one? I know someone who’s going through this. I’ve even felt this pressure at times. I’ve definitely held back some vision, so to not tread on my leader’s “territory”. It’s unfortunate, but it’s what I feel I have to do to stay loyal.
    Great post, Rich!

  7. First, I think we can learn from that and break the trend as we get older and start training young leaders. It’s all crap and egos.When I think of doing church differently, that’s been my focus lately. It’s got to be more than just style changes. We’ve got to throw down the pride, titles and illusions that we’re somehow better creations because we’re clergy. It’s craziness. I think with that change, there will be less individualism and more team work. It is truly insane to think of telling someone under me not to do such a good job.
    My question is, what do you do if you’re more creative than your leader and your leader wants to be the creative one? I know someone who’s going through this. I’ve even felt this pressure at times. I’ve definitely held back some vision, so to not tread on my leader’s “territory”. It’s unfortunate, but it’s what I feel I have to do to stay loyal.
    Great post, Rich!

  8. First, I think we can learn from that and break the trend as we get older and start training young leaders. It’s all crap and egos.When I think of doing church differently, that’s been my focus lately. It’s got to be more than just style changes. We’ve got to throw down the pride, titles and illusions that we’re somehow better creations because we’re clergy. It’s craziness. I think with that change, there will be less individualism and more team work. It is truly insane to think of telling someone under me not to do such a good job.
    My question is, what do you do if you’re more creative than your leader and your leader wants to be the creative one? I know someone who’s going through this. I’ve even felt this pressure at times. I’ve definitely held back some vision, so to not tread on my leader’s “territory”. It’s unfortunate, but it’s what I feel I have to do to stay loyal.
    Great post, Rich!

  9. Looking forward to seeing what you say tomorrow as you build on this…but I’ll share a couple thoughts.
    I agree with you, rich, this is a common thing in churches. Most senior-type leaders in churches don’t value the extravagant when it comes to worship. Those who do, usually have that kind of personality to begin with.

    I think it is so key to find out what the value is. Some leaders value the “too good” as you say, others prefer you to build a community and then work on being good.

    In the end though, if a leader isn’t creating a space to have a conversation (a true conversation, back and forth etc) about something like this it will never be a healthy environment because everybody will have different goals and ideas of what success is…and in the end, everyone in the church gets confused. Living with that right now.

    1. Part of learning to lead as an artist-leader in the church is the creation of a language and culture to have this very conversation. Subjective things are hard to measure. Moving targets are hard to pin. The point I made in my sessions last week at worshiptogether.com was your very thought here.
      I love how one leader says that we need to define the “win” in order to be on the same page. Like you say, we need space to have the dialog to get that defined. If you are a worship leader, this is tricky. Is it keeping people happy? Is it being safe? Is it people simply singing out loud?

      I think you might like the other two posts coming Wednesday and Thursday. 🙂

  10. Looking forward to seeing what you say tomorrow as you build on this…but I’ll share a couple thoughts.
    I agree with you, rich, this is a common thing in churches. Most senior-type leaders in churches don’t value the extravagant when it comes to worship. Those who do, usually have that kind of personality to begin with.

    I think it is so key to find out what the value is. Some leaders value the “too good” as you say, others prefer you to build a community and then work on being good.

    In the end though, if a leader isn’t creating a space to have a conversation (a true conversation, back and forth etc) about something like this it will never be a healthy environment because everybody will have different goals and ideas of what success is…and in the end, everyone in the church gets confused. Living with that right now.

    1. Part of learning to lead as an artist-leader in the church is the creation of a language and culture to have this very conversation. Subjective things are hard to measure. Moving targets are hard to pin. The point I made in my sessions last week at worshiptogether.com was your very thought here.
      I love how one leader says that we need to define the “win” in order to be on the same page. Like you say, we need space to have the dialog to get that defined. If you are a worship leader, this is tricky. Is it keeping people happy? Is it being safe? Is it people simply singing out loud?

      I think you might like the other two posts coming Wednesday and Thursday. 🙂

  11. Looking forward to seeing what you say tomorrow as you build on this…but I’ll share a couple thoughts.
    I agree with you, rich, this is a common thing in churches. Most senior-type leaders in churches don’t value the extravagant when it comes to worship. Those who do, usually have that kind of personality to begin with.

    I think it is so key to find out what the value is. Some leaders value the “too good” as you say, others prefer you to build a community and then work on being good.

    In the end though, if a leader isn’t creating a space to have a conversation (a true conversation, back and forth etc) about something like this it will never be a healthy environment because everybody will have different goals and ideas of what success is…and in the end, everyone in the church gets confused. Living with that right now.

    1. Part of learning to lead as an artist-leader in the church is the creation of a language and culture to have this very conversation. Subjective things are hard to measure. Moving targets are hard to pin. The point I made in my sessions last week at worshiptogether.com was your very thought here.
      I love how one leader says that we need to define the “win” in order to be on the same page. Like you say, we need space to have the dialog to get that defined. If you are a worship leader, this is tricky. Is it keeping people happy? Is it being safe? Is it people simply singing out loud?

      I think you might like the other two posts coming Wednesday and Thursday. 🙂

  12. Looking forward to seeing what you say tomorrow as you build on this…but I’ll share a couple thoughts.
    I agree with you, rich, this is a common thing in churches. Most senior-type leaders in churches don’t value the extravagant when it comes to worship. Those who do, usually have that kind of personality to begin with.

    I think it is so key to find out what the value is. Some leaders value the “too good” as you say, others prefer you to build a community and then work on being good.

    In the end though, if a leader isn’t creating a space to have a conversation (a true conversation, back and forth etc) about something like this it will never be a healthy environment because everybody will have different goals and ideas of what success is…and in the end, everyone in the church gets confused. Living with that right now.

    1. Part of learning to lead as an artist-leader in the church is the creation of a language and culture to have this very conversation. Subjective things are hard to measure. Moving targets are hard to pin. The point I made in my sessions last week at worshiptogether.com was your very thought here.
      I love how one leader says that we need to define the “win” in order to be on the same page. Like you say, we need space to have the dialog to get that defined. If you are a worship leader, this is tricky. Is it keeping people happy? Is it being safe? Is it people simply singing out loud?

      I think you might like the other two posts coming Wednesday and Thursday. 🙂

  13. […] This is Part 2 in a series…. Read Part 1 here […]

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  16. […] This is Part 2 in a series…. Read Part 1 here […]

  17. There is never any good reason to give God your second best. Ever. Even if it is offensive to somebody.
    If somebody is offended by your offering because you are too good, then their attitude is no different from Cain’s.

  18. There is never any good reason to give God your second best. Ever. Even if it is offensive to somebody.
    If somebody is offended by your offering because you are too good, then their attitude is no different from Cain’s.

  19. There is never any good reason to give God your second best. Ever. Even if it is offensive to somebody.
    If somebody is offended by your offering because you are too good, then their attitude is no different from Cain’s.

  20. There is never any good reason to give God your second best. Ever. Even if it is offensive to somebody.
    If somebody is offended by your offering because you are too good, then their attitude is no different from Cain’s.

  21. […] is Part 4 in a series… Read Part 1 here – Read Part 2 here – Read Part 3 […]

  22. […] is Part 4 in a series… Read Part 1 here – Read Part 2 here – Read Part 3 […]

  23. […] is Part 4 in a series… Read Part 1 here – Read Part 2 here – Read Part 3 […]

  24. […] is Part 4 in a series… Read Part 1 here – Read Part 2 here – Read Part 3 […]

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