Archives For Creativity

Tim Challies has had a neat series on his blog called Visual Theology. The series includes infographics communicating various elements relating to the Christian life. I’ve posted two thumbnails below, The Fruit of the Spirit and the Attributes of God. All of Challies’ graphics are downloadable at high-resolution to print out or use as desktop wallpaper. You can also purchase prints framed or not framed here.

Peter Sims, whose latest book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries, has written an insightful post on what Google can learn from Pixar. Some of Sims’ observations are worth noting, specifically as they relate to what we all can learn from Pixar:

Pixar is as close to a constant learning organization as there is, with a proven ability to reinvent and a genuine cultural humility. Google’s founders could learn from Pixar’s founder and president Ed Catmull’s prolonged and determined efforts to counter the natural human reactions to success by aspiring to proactively (and honestly) seek-out and solve new problems constantly, recognizing that he doesn’t have all the answers on his own.

Despite an unbroken string of 11 blockbuster films, Catmull regularly says, “Success hides problems.” It’s an insight Google should acknowledge and act on. Google’s leadership admirably tolerates failure on side-projects (and big projects as well), but what Pixar has that Google does not is a culture where the fear of complacency is a strong motivator, where new problems are identified, discussed, and addressed openly and honestly, all of which requires humility.

No church, no individual is exempt from this wise caution. Success hides problems. The Bible warns of something similar, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes…” (Prov. 21:2). May it be said of us that we are well aware of our tendency towards complacency and seek to learn from everyone and everything.

Hovercrafts, mini-trampolines, beach balls, knife throwing, 10-foot unicycle stunts, balloon punching and popping, violins with beatboxing, a human cannonball, and a superbowl commercial: welcome to the tension-revealing activities of Cataylst 2010.

Catalyst East 2010 will be a time I’ll remember for the rest of my life – obviously the tension activities will be ingrained, if nothing else!  Altogether, Catalyst was a power-packed experience.

Day 1 was full of humor and surprises.  We started things off with a solo violinist.  A man playing base beats on an iPad then came to the stage.  The next second, the conference DJ jumped on stage beatboxing in sync with the violinist and base beat.  A choir surfaced with a solo-rapper.  Pretty soon all of the musicians and vocalists were playing and singing an epic song about the conference theme (“The Tension Is Good”).  It was quite an introduction!

Andy Stanley then delivered the first, and in my opinion, the best, talk of Catalyst 2010.  Stanley’s point was clear: every leader has internal tensions that rage.  The question is, will you be dominated by your appetites and take advantage of opportunities you were never meant to take?  The Biblical picture of this is found in Genesis 25:29-34 when Esau sells his birthright to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of stew.  Now, the birthright was a big deal offering rule and authority over other members of the family, a double-portion of the father’s inheritance (a massive amount of money), and spiritual advantages such as invoking the blessing of Abraham and being the heir of the promised blessing.  The story begs the question, why would Esau be so stupid as to trade in his birthright for a bowl of stew?!  Unfortunately, stories like Esau’s happen all of the time in ministry.  Senior leaders and pastors trade in their marriages, ministries, and movements for cheap thrills, big numbers, and selfish gain.  Internal appetities are not framed correctly, so leaders take advantage of opportunties they were never meant to engage in.

Stanley concluded, “So, what’s your bowl of stew?  What are you doing that’s not neccessarily illegal or immoral, but you would be upset if people found out about it?” We need to reframe our appetities so we can restrain ourselves with opportunities we were never meant to take.  I loved Andy’s final prayer, “God, may we miss and miss shiny, but not miss You.”

Countdown To CAT 2010 Kick-Off

Trampolines Leading Up To CAT 2010 Entrace

Today was the kick-off for Catalyst East 2010!  The day included an opening session followed by four “lab” sessions (the standard conference equivalent of a “break-out seminar”).  At each time slot there were four different speakers communicating at four different locations at the Gwinnett Convention Center.  The day was a fantastic jump-start for me.  The day included Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson), Tim Elmore (Founder of Growing Leaders), Jonathan Acuff (Author & Blogger at, and Alan and Debra Hirsch (Authors of a number of books, including their recent release, Untamed).

Michael Hyatt spoke on Platform: What it is, Why you need it, and How you build it.  Hyatt’s premise was that great leaders influence their audience.  Thus, appropriate, efficient, and developed platform-usage is a necessity!  The platform, regardless of the medium, isn’t a pedestal – a chance to make yourself known.  Rather, it’s a connective opportunity to engage people and influence them where they’re at.  Hyatt provided three steps to growing a platform:

  1. Establish a command center: Use a website or a blog to deliver a concentrated message that you can control.  Use compelling content to attract traffic, not design tweeks.  Popular services include: WordPress, TypePad, Blogger…and I might add Squarespace, my provider of choice.
  2. Set up embassies: Utilize Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and similar services to promote material.  These assist the command center, but should never replace it.
  3. Develop an intelligence agency: This allows you to know what people are saying about you, your product, or congregation.  The most popular free service is Google Alerts.

Overall, I realized the talk was an introductory talk to utilizing social mediums, but it was helpful nonetheless!  You can access Hyatt’s presentation here.

The next talk – and my favorite talk of the day – was by Dr. Tim Elmore on Generation iY.  Generation Y is expected to be the largest generation that America has ever seen at 100 million strong.  This generation must be reached, trained, and developed in order to see society transformed.  To begin, Elmore differentiated Gen Y from iY.  Generation Y (those born predominantly in the 80’s) are activistic, compassionate, view technology as a tool, are ambitious about the future, and experience accelerate growth.  Gen iY (born in the 90’s), so called because they have been impacted by all of the “i” products (iPads, iPhones, iPods, iChat, etc.), are slacktivistic (they want to care about a lot without any commitment), lack empathy, view technology as an appendage (they can’t go anywhere without it), are ambiguous concerning their future (have 20 different options), and experience postponed maturation.  Elmore emphasized that postponed maturation concerns him more than any of the forementioned points.  He cited one surveyor that said, “26 is the new 18.”  This is what Elmore diagnosed as the “Neverland Syndrome:” a disease that plagues the minds of most Gen iYers.  It’s the idea that entirely rejects growing up.

Now, a number of things contribute to delayed maturity, but the one that stood out to me was the effects of media technology.  It’s ironic that the most social generation to live is also the least relational generation.  Technology has dabilitated and atrophied the relational muscles of Gen iYers.  These digital natives spend their lives before screens rather than people.  Their emotional intelligence is handicapped because they only interact with those of their own kind.  Overall, they are prone to postponed maturation unless Godly leaders step in and take initiative to raise them in active, Biblical, and responsible homes.

Elmore suggested that Gen iYers greatest needs are emotional intelligence, character development, and leadership perspective.  The best way to equip them is through EPIC means:

E – Experienctial

P – Participatory

I – Image-rich

C – Connected

Elmore summarized this as using images and visuals that lead to conversations that lead to experiences (or ice).

Michael Hyatt at Catalyst 2010Jon Acuff at Catalyst 2010

The 3:00pm session I attended was Jonathan Acuff on when a story intersects with a community.  Acuff, a hilarious communicator, completely embodies this subject at his blog, Stuff Christians Like.  Acuff’s gave seven things a community and a story need:

  1. Space – enough space to have others tell their stories.
  2. Bridges – good stories unite all of the elements of the story really well (the elements of the story such as the intro, body, and supporting points are not clearly identifiable).
  3. Surprise – people are receiving enough messages every day and filing them mindlessly into familiar categories.  Get creative and shake things up.  Surprise is different than shock.  Shock is offensive.  Surprising gets people engaged.
  4. Honesty – honesty is more important than talent.  As media mediums increase and talent becomes more visible, honesty needs to increase in presence.
  5. Patience – time needs to be treated well.  The essential question to ask here is, “How do I give more of me to more of them well?”
  6. Compassion – there’s a world’s difference between mockery and sattire.  Sattire seeds conversations for great ideas, mockery chums the water for sharks.  Mockery allows for quick laughs, but makes it hard to be loving later.
  7. Meaning – There’s a difference between community and viral.  Viral may be popular, but only for a moment.  Community develops long-term meaning.

Acuff concluded on a serious note about looking to make yourself known.  “Fame,” observed Acuff, “is a drug wrecking ministry.”  Acuff boldly pleaded for believers to live in the most significant acceptance they’ll ever have – before an Almighty God.  The ending became clear: “Don’t trade your story for fame.”

The last session I attended – unfortunately my least favorite session – was headed by Alan and Debra Hirsch.  I don’t know if the Hirsch’s were informed or not, but there session was only 45 minutes and they spent the first 15 minutes outlining their new book.  Nevertheless, they eventually arrived at some solid points on missional discipleship.  Consumerism, noted Debra, is one of the most plaguing religions around today.  It provides what rival religions provide: identity, meaning, purpose, and belonging.  This consumerism drives the church today and treats the church like a service where people come to pay (tithing) in exchange for something they desire (to be entertained).  Rather, the people of God need to come to be empowered and sent out to reach others.

My favorite part of the session was a parable Debra gave to conclude the talk.  She drew two pictures: a square on one side and a circle on the other.  She pointed to the square and likened it to a fence to box the sheep in.  This is how most people keep their sheep reigned in.  However, this method only looks at externals, and not the internals.  Hirsch pointed at the circle and said that this was a well.  One doesn’t have to worry about the sheep going far because they know where the water is.  In the same way, we should be more concerned about presenting Jesus to people, not getting them to conform to behavioral norms.

Whew!  Things have just begun…