The Power of Creative Tension

There is a proper place for tension. Knowing how and when to use it is an art. Executing the moment is the final piece to give it maximum impact. This past weekend we kicked off our Encounter series which consists of a week by week journey through the book of Mark. Thematically we will be tackling the identity and purpose of Jesus. The undertone from our communication team is that we make “no assumptions” of people’s correct, biblical knowledge of Christ’s life and what it means for us.

As we began the series, we landed on a subtle, but powerful idea. We enlisted our Production Director (also a gifted artist), David Quiroz to create a caricature of Jesus. After a few trials runs, we landed on the final concept. We needed it to reflect the comical enough so as not to communicate, “we’re just doing bad art here”. It also needed to move people towards the edge of offense without throwing them over the abyss.


The plan was to live draw the caricature during the first 2/3 of the message onstage. The key was then bringing our Lead Pastor, Shane, completely into the loop so that he was:

  1. Comfortable with the live art happening behind him as he taught
  2. Comfortable with the tension being created
  3. Comfortable landing the application by using the completed drawing

The application ending of the message was designed for Shane to then walk over, pick up the drawing and use it as a reference point to the fact we all “make our own images of Jesus, pick and choose what we want, and enhance or downplay elements of him to fit our needs”.   He was on board.

Side note: Later in the week of our prep, Shane decided he wanted to actually tear the drawing in half as he concluded his message.  Not usually one prone to a flair for the dramatic, this, however, seemed appropriate to make a complete statement.



The feedback we got was on point. Just the right amount of “I’m not sure I like what he is doing”.  “I don’t understand why he is drawing Jesus that way”.  “Is there a point to all this?”. And then the Ahh Ha moment as the message ended and the drawing was torn.


Some Learnings from our Process:

  • Tension is more powerful than you know.
  • Commit to entire process and don’t give into the temptation to give too much away before the tension packs the right amount of punch
  • Subtle is effective.
  • Trust your audience to take the emotional journey with you. Don’t cheat them from actually feeling what they need to feel in order to react appropriately.


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