March 19, 2008
People Of The Book: Ortberg
This section of John Ortberg's article from Leadership Magazine spoke to me. To all of the Creatives in my world, may we be People of the Book.
We get so used to the Bible, we miss its edginess. The prophets were the original performance artists. What they did was much more like radical street theater than it was like a church service. Ezekiel spent over a year laying on his left side just to makea point. He ate food that he publicly baked over cow manure. (And it took some bargaining between him and God to avoid even worse fuel.) Jeremiah buried an undergarment till it was putrid and then wore it around to show people what judgment looked like. Hosea married a prostitute to show people how much forgiveness costs a breaking heart. Jesus cursed fig trees and threw tables over in the Temple and took a whip to religious leaders.
I use a flip chart sometimes.
I think, if I'm honest about it, what holds me back is not lack of creativity. It's lack of urgency. I don't think the main force that drove the prophets was creativity for creativity's sake. I think it was spiritual reality. There was such a desperate awareness of the need for God to come fix things up that it drove them to do anything to make space in peoples' awareness for God.
I'm not a performance artist. I know that I work within a "jar of clay," as we all do. I don't want to be creative in a way that draws more attention to the creativity than to the message.
But I also don't just want to drone on while everybody goes to sleep. And I find the teachers I most learn from often find non-verbal ways to drive home what they are teaching: having a potter throwing pots while they are teaching about Jeremiah and the potter's wheel; Nancy Beach bringing an autumn leaf to teach on the beauty of the Creator; Bill Hybels having a bent reed and a snuffed candle and a jar that was used in the ancient world to capture tears while teaching on these images of the comfort of God. I think of Rob Bell with a goat to teach on the freedom of forgiveness.