The theme title is ambiguous: Is creativity independent of the Spirit? Whose Spirit? What is creativity anyway? In our retreat context I would like us to think of creativity as an act of thinking and acting outside of our normal mold. We all operate within certain cultural constraints and I don’t think we deliberately want to upset our cultural guardians. Some of us might like to work in an open building with all offices integrated and inter-connected but our SIL and WBT cultures assume independent closed working stations. Unless everyone in the culture agreed, such a change would be hard to come by. So creativity and creative thinking have certain boundaries that we must recognize.

On the other hand, we do have certain areas of flexibility. Our budget may have an administrative “cap”, but the way we administer the budget and how we relate it to our activities within AA is up for negotiation. For example, the Executive Director will probably not tar and feather us if we decide to work with a consolidated budget. Initiating a new personnel assignment process might in fact endear us to other Sections who are looking for solutions to personnel assignment priorities. There are plenty of ways to be creative.

How can our creativity honor the Spirit of God living within us? How can be know if what we are doing is the best way to do it, or that what we are doing honors God? Just because we are sincere or conscientious does not seem to be the answer. Somehow we need to know that the Holy Spirit within us is in agreement with our human spirit, theologically that our spirit is in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. In the Bible either spirit or mind can refer to the same aspect of our being in some contexts. We are to worship God with our body, soul, spirit and (in some Gospels) strength.

In working in Academic Affairs (AA) I am conscious that my decisions may not be the best ones. That is why I need to rely on others for input and feedback on various matters. And that is why all of us need to work as a team in AA: We definitely need the help of other people if we are to arrive at decisions that are more likely to demonstrate God’s participation in the decision or action.

The Good News Bible editors have given the title of “Life in God’s Service” to the 12th chapter of Romans. We are exhorted to not think of ourselves more highly than we should (not particularly helpful when considered alone) and to judge ourselves according to the amount of faith that God has given us. But how do we know how much faith we have or what we can do?

There follows a list (obviously not complete) of the different gifts that we use in accordance with the grace that God has given us. We may speak God’s message, serve, teach, encourage, share, have authority, and show kindness and love. These are often compared wit the spiritual gifts that are listed in 1Cor. 12.4-11: speaking or giving messages of God’s wisdom or knowledge, showing faith, having power to heal or work miracles, speaking or interpreting tongues, and discerning the gifts (of ourselves and others).

Paul’s conclusion is that there are various kinds of gifts, but only one Spirit, different abilities, but one God who gives tem, different ways of serving but one Lord to be served. The analogy to the body follows: There is one body (Christ), but many parts. There is one Spirit who unites us in Christ, but there are many denominations and activities representing the Spirit. There are many individual minds and creative ideas, but it is the same Lord that we want to serve. There are different Coordinators, but there is one mission. There are many programs but there is one Kingdom. I have been trying to emphasize that in AA there are many players but one team.

Churches worship and minister in various ways. Let me recount some of them that I have participated in:

  • My own country Bible Protestant church in Pennsylvania which finds security in the KJV and the old hymns, a particular order to the service, approved SS books, and so on. The pastor was often combative in his approach.
  • My mother’s Methodist church where good works were a priority, social times were important, and “amens” could be heard from the congregation. The pastor was a peacemaker.
  • The Baptist church of my wife which focussed on missionary work and local outreach. The pastor was an organizer and teacher.
  • The interdenominational College Chapel I attended. The pastor was loud.
  • The Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. Conservative and helpful, praying people.
  • The Bible College church in Ithaca at Cornell. Good teaching and lively discussions.
  • The Baptist church in Australia. Traditional and boring.
  • The Anglican church in Australia. No room for deviation from the prayer book.
  • The Pressie church in Australia. Good doctrine, nice people, dead.
  • The Catholic church in PNG. Openness to experimentation up to a point.
  • The Lutheran church in PNG. Formalized around a set of expectations.
  • The Bible church in PNG. Conservative in dress and doctrine.
  • The Brethren churches in Australia and NZ. Focus on communion and upon a certain staged spontaneity. Certain brethren more appropriate than others.
  • The Vineyard churches in California. Dress down and live it up.
  • The Crystal Cathedral. Inspirational and motivational. Little doctrine.
  • Mega-churches in general. Staged productions. Careful lighting, sound, and control in all areas. Charismatic preachers.
  • Village churches in general. Poorly organized and with weak teaching. Spontaneous.
  • Ukarumpa church (SIL). Revolving openly around a Neo-Baptist tradition. Some injections from other backgrounds upon occasion. Focus on teaching.
  • Dallas Center. The veterans’ service. Traditional and warm.


All of these churches attempt to allow the H.S. to work among them, at least this is their claim. The Spirit is not controlled by the form of the service—there is always room for creativity but we don’t create the Spirit. Like the wind, the Spirit blows where it will.


[From a devotional given at an SIL retreat in September 2005]