Is Church Life Stifling Your Creativity?

I really enjoyed this post from Donald Miller‘s blog so i decided to re-post it.  I hope it makes you think.

Is Church Life Stifling Your Creativity? (by Donald Miller)

When Solomon wrote Song of Songs, a dramatic opera about a young, poor woman who fell in love with a Shepherd king, do you think he had “the voice of the church” in his head? Do you think he was worried about what a group of people might think? Of course the evangelical church didn’t exist, then, and neither did the collective evangelical consciousness, but what I mean by that question is that if Solomon were writing today, and were writing an Opera for young kids about the ways of love, he would no doubt be attacked. My guess is the criticisms would be listed as such:

1. His opera does not mention God. Why wouldn’t he use this opportunity to bring people to God? He’s a Godless man.

2. His opera is erotic, filled with sexual imagery and even sexual instruction. It’s unfitting for any person to read, much less young couples.

3. It’s confusing. We don’t know where the acts begin. It isn’t structured. It’s amature.

4. He never mentions sex should be saved till marriage, so he must be endorsing pre-marital sex.

5. There seems to be no point to the work. If he’s trying to teach something, you can’t figure out what it is, and if he isn’t trying to teach something, what’s the point of reading it or listening to it as an opera?

And so on and so on.

Here’s the point of this blog post: There is a difference between what “the church” wants you to do and what God wants you to do. Do what God wants you to do. Go and create, even as you were made to create.

  1. .Match said:

    Great reblog, John. Lets be creative!

  2. AddyB said:

    Incredible! Thank you for sharing this!

  3. eva said:

    I needed to hear this before writing today…thank you so much!

  4. JJ Surma said:

    “There is a difference between what “the church” wants you to do and what God wants you to do.” I wholeheartedly support Godly creativity, even that which may be controversial…but what a blanket statement! There are plenty of churches that encourage boldness and provocative thought as it relates to communicating Godly wisdom and our mission to spread the Gospel. I will strongly disagree with you, but in love as you are my brother in Christ.

    I think it’s important to note that Song of Songs is a part of the Holy Bible, the indisputable word of God. Where it may be confusing and unclear we can depend on the Holy Spirit to interpret for us if we submit ourselves to God and seek understanding only the Spirit provides. This book speaks to us in a way that no other art, now matter how anointed, can. With this truth in mind all other art exists on a level below the Word. Further, there are no promises in the scriptures that the Lord will grant us the ability to understand and interpret other works of creativity. So…as much as I love and appreciate books, music and visual art made by saints in and out of the church they are subordinate to what’s in the holy text. That means that if some guy in suburban Maryland who is a writer like me tries to create something that is in some ways Godly but is also ambiguous, confusing and overtly sexual…I can’t claim that because God put it in my heart that everyone has to accept it. I’m not on par with a writer of scripture. God used ordinary men who were sinners for sure, he used specific ones at specific times for his specific purposes. I hope this makes sense.

    I’m in no way trying to tear your down. I have tickets to your DC show, have turned friends on to your music and am bringing them along. But I feel a spirit of bitterness in your blog posts (and that of some of my other favorite artists) that concerns me. Not because I want you to fall in line…but because I care about you, I care about the truth and I long for the unity of the Bride. I encourage you and others to work through the church as best we can to accomplish the great commission and share the seeds of creativity that the creator has planted within us.

    Love you brother…praying for you!


  5. Doug said:


  6. @JJ

    I don’t think what Donald said was a blanket statement. He didn’t say that “what God wants you to do” and “what ‘the church’ wants you to do do” are always apposed to one another. His point is that hey aren’t necessarily the same thing.

    And I understand what you’re saying but Donald isn’t trying to say that our art should be on the level of scripture. He is simply saying that if scripture is our example (like the Apostle Paule said it should be) then the way we conduct much of our modern worship is based more out of our Christian culture than scripture itself. I think his point is that when our culture has no room for the kind of art that the Bible celebrates, then something is wrong.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. Ashley said:

    what a humbling post. rather than blanket over anything— i feel like this post hits a very sensitive spot with Christians. oh how easy it can be to swept up in the politics and glaring eye of the “church”– all the while being totally deaf to the calling of God and urging of the Holy Spirit. As a body of sinful people– it’s always important to remember that, while an important aspect of a Christian walk, the church does not have the final say– God does. And as He works through me and my life experiences– I’ll let Him be the judge of all I do.

    Thanks for sharing, John!

    Coming down to Fort Wayne, IN from Detroit for your show April 7! Super excited!

  8. Kevin said:

    It seems through the blog that the church is related to as an organization instead of a body. A living organisms.
    If we belong to Christ we are the church. As a Christian do we not have the mind of Christ? I tend to agree with J.J. there seems to be some hurts
    that have not been healed with the writer.

  9. littleraven said:

    “We do not write in order to be understood;we write in order to understand.”(Cecil day Lewis). I find beauty in the artful expressions that reach deep on our insides…..jostling conformity….nudging religion….shaking up status quo. Folks these daze are aching for a rugged truth not our tightly packaged perception shrink wrapped on the factory line. There’s just somethin’ bout the guy who writes raw on the grease stained napkin and unfolds it for all the world to see.

  10. @ JJ Surma
    @ John Mark McMillan

    As a 3rd party evaluating both sides of the blog and both responses to it and to each other: I would agree with both sides; however I believe that you may be coming from two different places. Perception wise that is, I believe I understand both of where the loving concern is directed from and possibly the perception as well. Please, correct me if I am wrong-

    @ JJ Surma –
    You do not want young souls to fall under the impression that Godly creations are above the Word. Understandable, completely. How ever I would like to state that “the church ” (Lovers of God) consist of humans that- fall short-again & again. So this is why it is different. Humans can not fully understand God completely – Or grasp the power of GOD, truly and purely. Even *If* we had this power, every soul has a different relationship with God and I can tell that you understand this. It shows in your statement – “I can’t claim that because God put it in my heart that everyone has to accept it.” – This is a beautiful truth!! GOD is SO PERSONAL!!!! It also helps us with judgments!!

    ” we can depend on the Holy Spirit to interpret for us if we submit ourselves to God and seek understanding only the Spirit provides.”- SO true Brother!!

    I also would like to state that I do not believe that it is meant by John or Donald to give off the message that we are on the level of writers of the scripture- yet intended to encourage worship – a giving back to God – an offering from the heart- genuine and unique- showing Love for His Love Mercy, Grace, Beauty, for His Shining Royal Purity and so much more than we fully fathom<33333

    "God used ordinary men who were sinners for sure, he used specific ones at specific times for his specific purposes." – exactly Brother.

    @ John Mark Mcmillan –
    I believe you reposted this to encourage people to recognize the difference between the wants of humans and God. I have honestly been trying to break the bounds of the "the voice of the church” in my mind. It holds me back and keeps my heart, soul, and mind from truly expressing to God my Love for Him. I achieve this great success when I humble my self and break through the looks and sounds of judgement; whether in my mind or from the people around me. Some times I stand in the back of the church face the wall and sing my own song of Love to His Majesty! Humbling. This is a huge sacrifice for me. A huge part of my testimony is my reputation. I was the kind of guy that "every body" talked about and pretended to know, I shamefully and humbly admit- because of the reasoning of this. I give my reputation now. This is why I understand this blog and perceive it to be this way, and this is why it is encouraging – I still struggle and take back. PLEASE PRAY THAT GOD HELPS ME WITH THIS. I want them now to look at me and realize God is the One who has given me everything I have and the reason why I do what I do- I want them to see where my joy and success comes from truly. People from the "Before Me" (if you know what I mean) go to my church now so please pray for my continuance in giving my reputation and life to God. Please pray that my testimony feed their souls and helps them grow whether they experienced some it/part of it/ more of it…or none of it. P.S. I'm selfish for prayer haha as we all should be lol

    "I think his point is that when our culture has no room for the kind of art that the Bible celebrates, then something is wrong." – yes like singing out in the open to God- which makes people look at you or walk away or what ever lol Rock Harbor was talking about this like two weeks ago- just openly and passionately expressing your genuine Love to God with out caring about the judgement of the people ..really powerful. Here's a link

    "I can’t stop thinking about how easy it is for Christians to think our adoration of God can fit into a weekly 2-hour church service. Adoring God can be added to the “Good Christian” checklist alongside reading the Bible and praying everyday.
    In reality, I believe God wants our adoration all the time—in all its shapes.." – Quoted from Uncommon-Adoration blog by Rock Harbor.

    Honestly and with Love,

    Jeremy Havlan

  11. dave said:

    The word “if” would have made it more clear. “If there is a difference…” But the point is well taken. If we limit our creativity and what we deem “acceptable” to the confines of what the button down evangelicals (who I am deeply committed to as a pastor) deem acceptable (more en masse than as individuals), we would have to eliminate big portions of the Bible and we would grossly limit the ability of artists to express truth, which is happening in the church these days, it seems to me. But I’ve also experienced situations with believers who had a very rebellious spirit about all of this, who looked down their noses with disdain on what they consider to be the provincial attitudes of others. From whichever perspective one might have, we need to humbly deal with a weaker brother (or sister) in a way that is loving as well as honoring to God and his Kingdom.

  12. mr. jason barrows said:


    I am so pumped someone sent me this post, I have been writing a ton lately, and it is super easy to get pigeon holed as a songwriter into the collective, “what it supposed to look like”… And even some of the best songwriters I know have adopted this cynical attitude to things that sound unfamiliar to them.
    I read “the shack” this past week and was totally undone by how much wisdom there is in that book, considering that it’s a work of fiction. After reading it I was like “wow” …so refreshing and so i jumped online just to look at reviews since I had some book club lady friends who were die hard about me reading it. (gotta love the book clubbers).
    And man I was blown away by how this dude Paul Young got totally railed on by the church! It was nuts! I mean talk about a brilliant use of your mind and heart, that deals with some of the deepest pains in people’s lives and pushes the reader to that point of jealousy asking the question” man, what is he really like” … and it sucks, not even the worst of reviews had any good criticism about it, just completely bashing this dude’s creativity… So you know this guy is doing something right,, when there is that much conflict.
    Anyways, I have been working like 55 hours a week from 8pm-6am and I am getting cut loose tomorrow and am way pumped to come to Fort Wayne and get rowdy!
    I hope you boys are ready to tear the roof off that joint…

  13. scotterickson said:

    @jj and whoever else

    The “church” can never risk cause it’s an organization that needs to pay it’s huge mortgage and doesn’t want to risk anything that would disrupt with that.
    if you don’t believe it, travel around and say something from Jeremiah other than 29:11.

    we need to be obedient to Jesus. He didn’t have any problem rubbing religious establishments the wrong way.

    artists, stop looking to an organization for your approval like the dad who never told you he was proud of you.

    Your real Father is the one you should be looking too.

    my two cents


  14. Donna earnhardt said:

    I think many times we can get Into a “herd mentality” way of thinking. We stop relying on God and His Word for our instruction and instead rely on the latest book on worship or the loudest voice on the radio. This post does something important…if nothing else, it is making me think deep!

  15. Dan Clement said:

    love. humility. Romans 2:1 & 1 Corinthians 13:1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: