Creative or Clever

Creative - resulting from originality of thought. expression, etc.

Clever -
mentally bright; having sharp or quick intelligence; able.

Steve Jobs once said that,
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
When we look at people or movements that have made an impact, they generally have been innovators. They've created a new way to think and broadened our minds beyond our own
subjective mentality.
So, for me, when I think of innovators, I think of creativity more than I do cleverness. I saw a great tweet not too long ago by a Mac enthusiast that said, "Hi, I'm Steve Jobs, and Windows 7 was my idea." I'm sure that Microsoft has done it's share of innovation, but it's becoming clear
that Apple is leading the way in changing the way we think and use computers.

This post isn't about PC vs. Macs, though. It's about creativity.

I'm very much a creative thinker. I love graphic design, video editing, and I generally love innovating. I thrive off of it. If I feel deprived or restricted creatively, it actually affects my mood and outlook on life in the present. I need to vent creatively, which is the main reason I started
blogging. It's been a great outlet.

I know people who are very clever. They are usually really witty and quick to expound and bounce off existing ideas or scenerios.

I also know creative people. These are people who are looking beyond what currently exists and they bring something completely new and fresh to the table. These people can also irritate status-quo peeps to no end.

That being said, as a creative thinker, I'm prone to get frustrated with cleverness sometimes. It seems that some movements try to be clever instead of creative.

For instance...

...and I'm sure you've seen a million more like these, as have I.

Now, I am not attacking these t-shirts or the makers, because God can use anything. I am simply identifying these as clever, rather than creative. They're a spoof of something that someone very creative came up with, and it impacted culture.

Recently, it came out that the growing movement called International House of Prayer (IHOP) is being sued by, you guessed it, International House of Pancakes (the original IHOP) for trademark infringement. Click here to read the full story. The house of prayer is an amazing place, and God is doing great, creative things in their midst, but.............if they could've only stayed away from using that acronym, which I have to think they knew would bring attention to them....which is clever.

I'm not calling for a total expulsion of all "play-on words" ideas, because sometimes clever is effective. What I'm saying is that, creativity gives birth to innovation and progress towards becoming better. As Christian leaders of the church, we can choose creativity or cleverness when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel. All you have to do is drive and read most church marquee's to see the lack of creativity and over-abundance of cleverness that the Church is generally using.

Things like...

"It's hot outside, but our church is prayer-conditioned."

....or the very popular...

"CH CH is not the same if U R not in it."

These are clever, but I'm afraid cleverness is not going to attract our present society into the church, especially if the best we can do is 30-40 year old slogans.

Creativity brings fresh, new life into dead, boring environments. Creativity birthed by creative people can do a lot of great things. As church leaders, we have the ultimate creative juice of the Holy Spirit. The most creative ideas I've had were not my ideas, but God's. They are beyond clever. They are new and mind-blowing. Far greater than anything we could imagine. God's ideas are better and brighter, because they come from a place that we have only seen in-part, but one day we will see the full radiance of the ultimate Creator: GOD.

When we're innovating for the Kingdom, let's be more creative and less clever.

What's the most creative thing you've seen lately for the Kingdom?


Luke said...

Good words, my friend!

Anonymous said...


Ryan Egan said...

You are so spot on with this post. I think the church especially has gotten really good at regurgitating art and calling it "creative." The church use to drive culture and art, but now culture is driving the church's art. It's sad, but as you said, God can still use these things.

One of the most creative things I've seen in a long time is charity:water. Not sure if you've heard of them, but Scott Harrison is doing some amazing things with the charity, including truly creative art and marketing, campaigns, and ways to help create sources of clean water for people who desperately need it.

Thanks for your thoughts - this is something I've been a little frustrated with lately as well.

Malachi and Melissa said...

I agree. We need to tap into that creativity that is inside of each and every one of us. Unfortunately that creativity is something that isn't nurtured in most people. That is something we need to figure out how to change.

Anonymous said...


That's great insight. I wish I were more creative, but I see that I'm sometime clever, and even sometimes just a duplicator. Do you think you can learn to be more creative, or is just something you're born with?

Barry Westman

Gary Durbin said...

thanks everybody.

Barry, I think there are some that are creative and some that are not. Great leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. If you are not creative, great leadership and humility says to empower someone that is. That ensures it's not about you doing it all, but it's about teamwork. I think it's best to specialize on areas that come easy to you and let others do the same.

Fred McKinnon said...

Bring it, Gary

Matt W. said...

Good post, I would agree with that. Of course, being clever isn't a bad thing in and of itself. Not all creative ideas are born at their best, and could stand some improvement, so it's good to have people around who, while maybe not coming up with much truly original stuff on their own, can always see how to take something good and make it even better. That would be a really good way to go. Of course, all to often we see a rush to cleverness, kind of a need to play off of everything, and apparently some people will stop at nothing, even sacrificing good Biblical Theology, in order to have their cleverness. I've seen this many times, but you provided a perfect example in the Home Depot rip off, "You can do it, He can help" ???? Seriously!?!?! Not according to the Bible. I know, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." But that's not the same thing at all.

I also agree that spouting off slogans that made our parents and grandparents roll their eyes back in the day isn't going to reach anyone. Certainly we should be looking to do creative things, being careful to remain Biblical, and sometimes clever things are OK too, as long as we guard ourselves to remain both Biblical and not be silly.

But what if you're not creative or clever? Or what if you are creative or clever but struggling to come up with something right now? Either way, that's OK, we all need to not be afraid to proclaim the Gospel just as it is on the pages of Scripture, and you can do that without being clever or creative at all.

Unknown said...

Great stuff. We can complain about culture and fight it, we can copy culture and use it OR we can CREATE culture. Creativity is far better in the long run, I think.

Gary Durbin said...

True Matt. I guess you could say that it takes love to be courageous and proclaim the Gospel, and love is possibly the most creative thing God came up with.

Anonymous said...


It's funny this post should come up just now. Even in the last two weeks, I've been talking to people in our who I know are creatives, and trying to get them to join our planning team, knowing that I'm not the most creative person. This just confirms that thought.

I'm hoping that together as a team we can come with a lot of creative ideas, and then also have people who can help flesh out those ideas and see them through.


Gary Durbin said...

That's awesome Barry. Teamwork!