Art is Risk

I’m not the first person to ever say that, I know I’ve heard it from lots of different people. Because it’s true.

A few days ago I posted the pilot episode of the show I’m developing. Me and a couple dozen amazing people who volunteered their time worked very hard on it. They trusted I had a clue what I was doing. They trusted that when it was all put together it would make sense. That it would be good, and funny.

Jon Acuff wrote a post on his blog about writing. One thing off his list really jumped at me:

“Fear will never tell you that you should write a book. Quit asking it if you’re ready. The only answer fear ever gives is “no.” (This is true of all endeavors, not just book writing.)

The last week of post work on the pilot, I was really battling fear. Was it good enough? Was it funny? Would anyone watch it? Have I wasted all these people’s time? Who do I think I am to produce a TV show?

Two things got me through that.

A few weeks ago I literally made list of the answers to the question; Who am I to do this? I won’t quote that whole list here, but I will tell you what the first and last reasons are. I suspect they apply to anyone who has a dream:

I am made and loved by God.

I am the one God called to do this.

There’s a lot of personal stuff in between on that list that only applies to me and my specific situation. But every person is made a loved by God. And if God has given you a vision, it’s your vision that you are called to do.

The other things I did was to put the movie Flywheel on my iPad. Those of you who don’t know, Flywheel was Sherwood Pictures first film. It was the one before Facing the Giants, which led to Fireproof, and finally Courageous. Like it or n0t, Sherwood pictures and their films have radically changed the expectations of Christian film. It’s pretty easy for people who want to do video and film work to look at Courageous and think they can’t do anything like that with their gear, talent, budget. You have to remember that Sherwood didn’t start there, they started at Flywheel. Watch Courageous and then watch Flywheel.

Please understand two important things. I’m not saying that excellence isn’t important. And I’m not saying that Flywheel wasn’t an excellent movie. But anyone can watch it and see that the later movies have consistently improved, as they should. Excellence is doing the best you can with the time and resources you have available.

So the second thing I did was try to keep perspective. We spent less than $170 total to shoot a pilot. I borrowed thousands of dollars worth of gear. Amazing people volunteered on the crew and cast. The pilot episode was never going to be the Avengers. And that’s OK. I’m not the first person to say this either; Something that’s 90% of what you want it to be and released will impact 100% more people than something that is 99% what you want and still being tweaked.

Last night was the first time I sat in a room with people who had never seen it, and heard them laugh at the jokes. I did not choose to do that, but someone asked to see it, and before you know it, we were all watching it. I was very nervous. These folks have pretty high standards for comedy and media consumption. And they would be perfectly fine with sitting politely through whatever project I’m working on, but they wouldn’t fake amusement. What if no one laughed? This is a comedy for crying out loud! I probably breathed a sigh heard down the street when we all laughed together while watching. They didn’t laugh at every joke. But they did laugh, and seemed to enjoy the show. I’m sure some people won’t like it. That’s part of the deal. But some people do.

Is the pilot amazing? Yes, in many respects, because I know who made it and how it was made. But we ain’t winning an Emmy. Can it be better? Yes! Future episodes will be better. And funnier.

Art is risk. If God has called you to do it, risk it! It’s so much better than wishing you could/would do it. Courage isn’t doing something without fear. It’s doing something through fear.


A Decade

It just dawned on me that I passed the 10th anniversary of employment in full time media ministry a couple of weeks ago. If I take a minute to look back over that time I can see how much I’ve changed, hopefully for the better. The world has changed too.

Back then HD wasn’t really going yet. TV was still analog. I think it was still Internet 1.0 (maybe 1.5?) No social media. It would be a year before My Space launched. We had the iPod, but no smart phones. No video streaming services. Blogs were just coming on. Some people still had pagers, I think. No texting. Communications was very different.

But the message was the same. It’s humbling to think that much of my professional life I have been involved in eternally significant things. Who know what the next decade holds…

The Uzzah Syndrome

The problem with reading the Bible is that God speaks to you through it, and you end up having to change your behavior. It is so much easier to keep doing what you are doing because it is what you know to do. It is comfortable.

I’ve been doing a chronological Bible reading plan this year. It’s been very interesting. God’s been hammering me on a few things. One is what I’m going to call the Uzzah Syndrome in ministry. Uzzah is mentioned in 2 Samuel 6. Back in 1 Samuel 4 we see that the people of God messed up, and tried to use the Ark as some sort of magic charm in battle. The Philistines defeated them and captured the Ark. The next couple of chapters tell about some very strange stuff that happened to the Philistines while they had the Ark. They got scared, and sent the Ark back, on a cart, with a “guilt” offering for taking it.

So at this point, King David takes 30,000 men to get the Ark. They get a new cart, and have the sons of the man who was keeping the Ark drive it back, Ahio and Uzzah. On the journey back, the oxen stumble. And Uzzah grabs the Ark to keep it from falling.

God strikes him dead.

On its face, that’s not very fair. The guy was just trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling. Now he’s dead. Why would God kill him?

Couple of things you need to know:

The Ark was to be transported a certain way. Exodus 17:3-5 describes the poles that were supposed to be used. It was to be carried by four people. And not just any four people. Numbers 4 describes more about how the Ark was transported. It was covered, and it was carried by the sons of Kohath. And no one was to actually touch the Ark.

The Ark was the representation of God’s presence on the planet. The respect you show it is in direct correlation to the respect you show God. David knew how the Ark was to be transported. Maybe he figured that since the Philistines did it they could use a cart as well. I don’t know, but I do know that ultimately, this was David’s responsibility.

He made a decision. That decision cost a man his life. He was doing a good thing, he just wasn’t doing it right. He knew better. In 1 Chronicles 15 you can see all the preparation he goes to to complete the Ark transportation. Work he didn’t do the first time around.

Leaders, we must count the cost of our decisions. Most of what we do is good. But if we ignore what we know, or should know, about how and when to do these things, we will cause pain and hurt to those who support the work.

There are several ways this might apply, but lets look at labor. Am I working my team so hard that they cannot have a day off? Are the events we are planning hurting the marriages and relationships of those who have to work many hours to support them?

I know, I just stepped on some toes. You may be starting down the path of rationalization. Don’t I know these things are part of the vision God has given you? If the people supporting you, working for you really believed and were really committed they would be glad to serve. Sacrifice is a part of ministry. I’ve thought those same things.

Many of the people who work for me may feel the same way. Things might be going pretty good. The cart is on the path. The work is getting done. But what happens when the oxen stumble?

God doesn’t contradict himself. It’s never God’s will for work to be a seven day week, every week. God is serious about taking a day off every week. See Exodus 35:2. If my understanding of God’s vision requires me or my fellow servants to work without a break on a regular basis, I need to re evaluate my “understanding.”

As I read through Exodus earlier his year I was struck but the number of times God says the punishment for working seven days a week is death. I’m not legalist. I live under grace, not law. But I became convinced that when I ask my team work regularly work without a day off, I am sinning. So, I am taking steps to make sure that my guys get time off for rest and renewal. It’s not easy, when overtime has become a way of life.

I challenge you to take a hard look at what you are doing, at what you are asking your people to do. If your people are overworked, change. Stop doing something. Hire more people. Stop sinning.

Does Uzzah bear any responsibility?

Absolutely. 2 Samuel 6:7 says “God struck him down there because of his error” Uzzah and the rest of the Israelites knew how the Ark was supposed to be handled. Just because the king tells you to do something doesn’t mean you ignore what God has said. As hard as it may be, if those in authority over you ask you to do something that will harm you, it is your decision whether to do it or not. The people that are leading you may not be aware of the ramifications of what they ask. Reach down deep, and respectfully express your concerns. And, if they still want to go forward, you have a choice. It’s not an easy choice, but it is a choice.

I’ve heard too many stories of people working for ministries who are burning out. Whose marriages are failing. Who are suffering from the Uzzah Syndrome. Leaders, take note. Support people, take note. This isn’t right. Make the hard decision to do what God has called you to in the right way.

Do it before the oxen stumble.