Category Archives: creativity

Church blueprint

Vision Don’t Kill People, Instructions Do

Back in April 2013 a few of us were sent on a visit to the Woodlands Church communities in Bristol. They have 11 communal houses across Bristol with about 150 people living in community (and growing). We stayed at one of their community houses on the Friday evening and joined them for a whole day conference about community the day after.

They impressed me at how they’ve kept both fresh and focused over the last twenty years. Their focus is on one stable and simply defined vision. From this vision come their practices and principles which have been kept flexible in order to stay true to their vision, their calling. Calling & vision is like the wine for which principles and practices are a wineskin.

Pondering this some more I came up with this list of primary and secondary things in church life:

Primary things
(Must be remembered & protected)
> Secondary things
(Must be kept fresh & flexible to be true to what’s primary)
Vision & values
Outworking of calling
Practices & principles
Skeleton, structure

Now, in the church it can be tempting for us to insist people follow a blueprint, this seems safer. A blueprint is everything in the right hand list.

However no one gets as inspired about a blueprint as much as a vision. People will sacrifice greatly for a vision but not for a blueprint. James Normal recently said “People will sacrifice a great deal for a pioneering vision; less to maintain a status quo; hardly anything just because they’re told to.” And a vision can grow into so much more than any rigid blueprint.

All these primary things can produce these secondary things, but secondary things can’t produce primary things. Primary things are from God and secondary things are generally more man-made.

Regarding “vision mentality” over “blueprint mentality” Neil Cole commented:

“When we start putting together systems to make sure that future generations obey, what we end up doing is building an institution that conforms people to a pattern. They don’t have their own faith, they’re living off the residue of faith of a previous generation.”

To a degree today’s radical Christian should look different to a radical Christian twenty years ago. Radicality is relative. Same heart, new expressions.

If you’ve got to the end of this article and you’re thinking “yes, but…” or even a “no, because…” write your “yes but” or “no because” in the comments below.

Our Art Isn’t Confusing Enough

Faith is a great percolator of creativity. I’m passionate about Christians being confident and free in using their talents to express who Jesus is, to blazon the Kingdom of heaven with broad, colourful strokes for the world to see.
That’s why the Colourful Church blog exists.


But I have a problem; Christian art can be the worst around. And I don’t just mean the clichéd airbrushed images of doll in manger surrounded by dopey looking animals and naked flying babies.

Creativity isn’t always artistic, which is ok, but art isn’t always creative, which is not ok.

Art should be creative, it should lead us somewhere. If art makes statements, even important statements, but doesn’t tell a story bigger than itself that invites or provokes a response then it doesn’t create anything, so isn’t creative.

Simplicity is a good thing, but Christian art can sometimes fall into a trap of being too formulaic and too explained. Too set-conclusion, too told-what-to-believe, too one-dimensional.

We follow a God who’s immensely creative, that’s obvious. He is the Word who created the universe so His nature is firstly perfect love and secondly immense creativity. God, the original Artist, created everything to draw us all into an un-robotic free will relationship, a communion, a loving dialogue. Our art must be the same. It’s ok for art to be driven by a clear and stated message but dogmatism robs art of its impact. By all means make it clear what it is we’re interpreting, but please don’t tell us how to interpret it! We need something fresh.

So what’s our example for creative open-endedness? For any Christian Jesus is a good place to start.

For the three years before his death in which he walked our trails in flesh and blood his big mission was to paint a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven and invite commoners into it (“What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?…” Luke 13:18-20). He was a great parable-teller.

Now, about parables. There’s a common misconception that a parable is a simple story that illustrates a principle. They’re more than that, and the meaning of a true parable isn’t always immediately obvious.

In fact, Jesus said he deliberately told parables to bury the deep truths of the Kingdom inside a yarn, so only those to whom the ‘secret of the Kingdom had been given’ would understand. Only those whose hearts were open to his call to the Kingdom of Heaven would see below the top layers of their culturally influenced interpretation of his stories to the beautifully revolutionary message and pattern of life he was expressing (see Mark 4:10-12).

Don’t get me wrong, I know we have a message to communicate. I know that art is only as powerful as it is purposeful. Yes, faith is a great percolator of creativity, but please paint a picture that makes me ask questions.

After all, aren’t we attempting to express a God so incomprehensibly vast and a Kingdom so rich and deep that the best we can do is to paint a picture and get people asking questions?

I love Rembrandt’s art. He paints with wild, bold, dark strokes snippets of stories that are equally wild, puzzling and compelling. Paul, sitting in prison in front of the sword of his martyrdom, pondering what to write to churches. Bartholomew with his execution knife, Simon with a large cross saw, the disciples struggling against the perfect storm, while Jesus sleeps! “Jesus why are you sleeping?” I ask. “Jesus how are you still sleeping?!” I wonder.

I will leave you with a work of beauty. A parable like this, rich and deep with layers of truth and beauty, is a rare thing. One of the best Christian videos I have seen in a long time:

Read the full transcript on the Colourful Church blog –
The Great Divorce – A Parable In Film.

What do you think? Have I just confused you? Leave a comment.

Seasons – Life in Community

Life has seasons. Joy follows pain just as spring succeeds the waning winter.

This uplifting video featured at our recent End of Year Celebration, celebrating and remembering the life of the New Creation Christian Community, a deeply shared lifestyle.

We’ve decided to give away some seasonal wallpapers to remind us all of the message of the video – that throughout the best and the worst, living to be a people of one heart for Jesus is worth the cost. God is faithful whatever the weather.

Click the pictures above to download them for a widescreen monitor or for standard aspect monitors click the links below:
Spring Summer Autumn Winter 

Orange Candles

This is cool. You can make a candle out of an orange and some cooking oil.

All you have to do is cut the fruit in half and remove the segments, leaving the central stem for a wick. Top up the skin with oil, leaving a bit of wick free for you to light. You can also use a grapefruit or a lemon, but here’s one I made out of a tangerine-

Scoop out the other half to make a glowing lantern

It smells nice too.
Thanks to Lifehacker.

The Power of Socks

We were up at 5:30am last Saturday morning to film a friend of ours, Sid, on the streets of Northampton. What were we doing up at that so-unsociable hour on a lie-in day?

We’re making a short film. It tells Sid’s story, his journey from a well-off deputy head of a private school and devout atheist, through alcohol induced messy homlessness and into faith and freedom.

Anyway, the film’s called ‘Socks’, and that’s the interesting part. The video starts with Sid’s intro: “Hi, I’m Sid, and this is how socks changed my life!”

The story centres around how little acts of kindness at the Northampton Jesus Centre impressed Sid and gave him hope, and made him want to get out of his desperate situation. It was some of the most ‘unamazing’ day to day charitable services that he received at the Jesus Centre that spoke the most to him. In particular, one time Sid says he was almost moved to tears because of the way that someone who handed him a pair of socks which he’d asked for had so carefully folded them! Strange but true.

We’re excited about this project as it’s a bit of a blank canvas. We’ve been inspired by the relaxed, interesting style of Rob Bell’s Nooma videos, and we’re getting plenty of inspiration from calm atmospheric music videos. Watch this space.

Read Sid’s story as it appeared in Jesus Life (free magazine).

P.S – you may have noticed this Blog’s been strangely silent for a while. A month ago I decided to find some silence by cutting out online entertainment and social networking, which of course included posting to this Blog. Cutting back on helped me to really enjoy friendships & get perspective. It’s been good to be away, and it’s good to be back.