Understanding The Gideon Story
I’ve had the opportunity over the years to win a number of awards for television commercials, music videos, and long form television programming. In most cases, the awards were for various forms of “creativity” and “innovation”.
To succeed in television and motion pictures today requires enormous amounts of creativity, simply because the competition for the minds and hearts of the audience is so keen. However, it doesn’t take much viewing to see that Christian television is remarkably devoid of creativity, often causing me to wonder if Christians even realize how critical this skill really is.
Personally, I don’t believe we are born creative or not-creative. I’m not a psychologist or researcher, but my experience tells me that creativity is a learned skill, and with a little training, anyone (even an accountant) can be creative.
The fact is, the single greatest challenge facing the church today is the way we think. It’s not lack of money, resources, enthusiasm, or even churches and ministries. We are losing the culture war because we’re losing the mental war. Simply put, we have to learn to win back the hearts and minds of the culture around us, and to do that, we have to approach the culture from a creative point of view.
Since God is the ultimate Creator, when I teach creativity, I go to the story of Gideon in Judges Chapter 6. How God dealt with Gideon in a very difficult situation, is an amazing blueprint for how to develop creativity in any area of life.
First, the background: For seven years the Medianites had been pillaging the Israelites, and they were so oppressive, the Israelites fled to mountain caves. The Medianites destroyed crops, animals, took their women, and left the Israelites devastated. Finally – after crying out to God, He sent the Angel of the Lord to a young man named Gideon.
Follow these important steps, and you’ll transform your approach to creativity.
1) Go in the Strength You Have
• ( Verse 14) The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
• (Verse 15) “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
• (Verse 16) The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
God has already given us all the strength we need for any job He gives us. Stop thinking “I’m not creative enough.” Don’t wait for a raise, a better education, or a new position. I learned a long time ago, my dream of directing wasn’t going to come to me – I had to attack it myself. I couldn’t wait for money, or studio help, or distribution – I just had to act.
2) Prepare an Offering
• ( Verse 17) Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18) Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”
• And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”
During that time in history, an offering was often made to mark a place where God met man. The altar was a physical testimony that the encounter was real – God was in that place, and something important happened.
Today we need to do that. We need to “go out on a limb”. Someone once said we need to do something that is so big, without God’s intervention it would fail. Make an offering – build an altar – create a starting point. Practical examples would be to take a class to help you do it better, hire someone, get an insurance policy, get an office, expand for the task, tell people about it, etc
3) Do Some Damage Yourself – Eliminate the Altars of the Past
• ( Verse 25) That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26) Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”
• (Verse 27) So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him.
We have to make a clean break with past ways of thinking. My experience in consulting with networks, ministries, and churches is often that they want to do new and innovative things, but they have very real problems actually breaking away from their old ways of thinking. Re-think the staff, eliminate or change people’s positions, re-structure the schedules. The point?
Fix it so you can’t go back.
4) Gather your Resources
• ( Verse 34) Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35) He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.
Find out the resources you do have. Free interns? Some equipment? A church basement? Networking possibilities like the Inspiration or NRB Conferences? Find others that think the way you do and start to network with them. Radio and TV are collaborative media – we can’t do it alone.
I believe that in order to make an impact in this culture, we’ll have to do projects so big that it will take many Christians working together to make it happen. They solo days of Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, and others is largely over – we have to start working like a team.
5) Don’t Worry about Size
• (Chapter 7, Verse 2) The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, 3) announce now to the people, `Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
I’ve done projects with some of the largest Christian companies and ministries in the world, and I’ve discovered size often gets in the way of their effectiveness. I have a distant relative who is the pilot of an oil tanker. He was brought in to pilot the Exxon Valdez into the port after her accident. He says that to turn an oil tanker, you have to begin 15 miles before the turn. Why? Because it’s so big.
Being small means being nimble, free, and having little or nothing to lose. Some of my largest ministry clients are actually paralyzed by the fear that they will do something to upset their ministry partners. It’s a form of bondage – they don’t take risks, can’t be cutting edge, and are always behind the creative curve – in spite of the fact that they have great financial resources.
6) Use your Wits – Think Creatively and do what Others Don’t Expect. Have Vision
• ( Verse 16) Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.
• (Verse 17) “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18) When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.'”
It was a strange idea – but it scared the wits out of the Medianites. After all – we work in a business where perception is more important than reality – and we can use that to our advantage. But you have to have vision – the big picture.
Farmers cutting rows in the field keep them straight by looking at the horizon. They don’t get so focused on the plow that they never look up. This is one reason we don’t use the media successfully – we don’t see the big picture because we’re so caught up in the immediate work of the ministry. I often have pastors and evangelists who could make an incredible impact nationally, but they are so caught up in small, local problems they don’t make time to address the challenges that would allow them to have a much bigger platform. They don’t have vision.
If you’ll think about these six critical steps the next time you begin a project, I think it will revolutionize your thinking and energize your program. But it’s important that you begin thinking like this every day. Remember the famous advertising agent’s quote: “Creativity is like shaving – if you don’t do it every day, you’re a bum.”