Steve Jobs once said: “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”
His words have validity, but they also point to a dead end in our current work—and church—happenings.
Between 2005–2012, research indicates that telecommuting rose 79 percent, triggering much discussion surrounding the topic of office productivity and creativity in relation to remote-working conditions.
The listed benefits:
- decreased traffic
- greater opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking
- more flexibility in scheduling
- an enhanced work-life balance
- greater ownership of personal time management
- increased trust and accountability
- and fewer office interruptions.
The disadvantages cited were just as vast.
While greater flexibility in schedule might allow employees the time to exercise and tend to their health, some employees were found to be increasingly sedentary. Communication seemed to suffer from a lack of face-to-face exposure. And digital friendships were found to be harder to craft than when granted in-person opportunities for connection.
Have you struggled with working from home? Churching from home?
What are your greatest challenges?
The one thing you can do to be better at your job
In “Is Working Remotely Sapping Your Creativity?” Jamie Hodari offers: “The research has shown that if you want to increase your engagement and performance at work, there’s one thing to do that trumps almost everything else: make a close friend at the office. People with a best friend in the workplace are seven times as likely to report being engaged in their work. Likewise, people with at least three vital friends at work are 96% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.”
Friendship is key.
Hodari continues: “A creative work life requires social relationships and serendipitous interactions. It requires contending with ideas you don’t agree with. It requires getting up and moving around. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly clear that for many people, working at an office isn’t a relic of a pre-digital age, but a vital element in reaching their creative potential.”
Much of the content surrounding remote working points to connection—creativity and productivity sparked through engagement in friendships, movement, the flow of in-person presence, and interaction.
And while there is certainly space for the remote-working cheerleaders, the problem of connectivity seems to trump many of the benefits argued in defense of a digitized age.
That colleague pop-in that interrupted your creative groove doesn’t seem to be as big of a hindrance as some might think. The friendship you might craft with that particular intruder, and the ideas you might share with them, seem to outweigh the interruption to your project at hand.
Given the realities of our current epidemic, what does all of this mean for the workplace?
It means getting creative. It means finding that sweet spot of connectivity, digitally. And many companies are figuring out what works through avenues like Zoom and Google. There are ways to connect, even when we cannot physically be together. But are they a replacement for true, physical connection?
The question remains to be determined. And researchers are working on an answer.
The communicating church
So what does all of this mean for the church?
It turns out that a digitized worship experience isn’t as novel as this disease. Churches and places of worship have been stretching their creative fingers throughout history.
In “Religion and the COVID-19 Virus in the U.S.,” Frank Newport reminds us: “For almost a century, religious entities have been using ‘new’ methods of communication to reach vast audiences—first radio, then television; and, in recent years, well before the current COVID-19 virus crisis, online technologies.”
Billy Graham is a perfect example, evangelizing through radio and television. And the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association continues his legacy through the use of online broadcasting.
Newport highlights the influence of digitized resources: “Many pastors of Christian megachurches are as renowned for their television ministries as for their in-person worship services.”
And in their present circumstances, churches are finding that “the love of Jesus cannot be quarantined.”
The creative church
In “Has the Church left the building?” Mike Gore points to the insights of several underground Chinese pastors: “When the ‘church’ is forced into homes, people have been waking up as pastors of their own families, learning to share the gospel in their own home. We’ve also seen the gospel reach cities, suburbs and neighbourhoods that never previously had a church.”
Another pastor positioned it like this: “When faith is brought out of our church, it enters the rest of the world.”
Innovation is key.
And we, the church, are the creative body that keeps his vision prominent, center-focused, and shining brightly in a world that needs him now more than ever.
Christ is present whether in a church building, presented on a screen, or broadcasted through the radio. It is our commission to use the creativity he has placed deep within each of us to serve him well.
The late Billy Graham spoke to creativity this way: “Creativity comes from God because He is the Creator. Whether you are a painter, seamstress, designer, musician, or something else, we all have some level of creativity since we are all made in the image of God. Your gifts and abilities are unique to you, and they reflect a God just as extraordinary.”
Seize your creative potential
The overarching theme of the current research, writings, and verbal advice regarding remote working and worship is: connection.
While the world spins on, this disease continues to spread, companies persist, and the church pushes forward, our desire for relationship cannot be ignored.
Whether we find connection in the workplace, amongst colleagues, or between a church family, we are brothers and sisters seeking friendship, laughter, love, and a meaningful conversation (potentially with someone other than the people who reside within our four walls).
Creativity is inspired by connection and enhanced by meaningful contemplation, discovered in the confines of our daily lives. And it is through an intimate relationship with our Creator that we are empowered to discover our greatest creative potential.
We are the result of the master of creativity. We are the offspring of a God who intricately and beautifully crafted us.
Psalm 139:13–14 says: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
What’s your highest priority meeting?
And that same all-powerful, ever-present God—he calls us friend!
If the research is true that suggests friendship in the workplace inspires increased engagement, productivity, and possibly creativity, we can find strength in knowing God is our friend.
The God who created the universe gets down on our level. He wants to sit with us, brainstorm with us, and guide our thoughts and actions.
But we have to be willing to connect with him.
We have to be willing to sit quietly in his presence and absorb all he has for us each day. I agree with Steve Jobs, but with a significant adaptation: we have to have “spontaneous meetings” and “random discussions” with the Father of the universe.
So let’s get creative.
As brothers and sisters in Christ, we too can infuse these digital times with our unique touch. We can brainstorm, ponder, and aspire to create the greatest connection during the darkest of times.
Do you want to be an acquaintance of God, living life in a state of mediocrity?
Or do you want to be his friend?
Do you want to absorb all of the creative spark, connection, and inspiration he has to give?
I’m going for the latter.
Will you join me?