approval of others

One enemy of things creative, relevant, and breakthrough is they often come from those considered not to be “real” or “serious” at this or that.

Seth Godin writes:

As in, “that’s not a real football team, they don’t play in Division 1” or “That stock isn’t traded on a real exchange” or “Your degree isn’t from a real school.”

Real contains all sorts of normative assumptions and implicit criticisms for those that don’t qualify. Real is just one way to reject the weird.

My problem with the search for the badge of real is that it trades your goals and your happiness for someone else’s. 

This is true in the church world. “He’s not a ‘serious’ scholar.” “That’s not ‘real’ growth.” “She’s not a ‘serious’ minister.” “That’s not a ‘real’ worship song.” Real schmeal.

If you’re starting a new church, breaking new ground, trying something new or controversial within your faith tribe, “real” and “serious” are real and serious weapons on the lips of others. This isn’t to say that some things aren’t more “serious” or “real” than others. I’m sure there are. It’s to say our ascription of those labels to such things should happen after time has tested them–not because of how they “seem” on the surface at the beginning–or because the gatekeepers of “real” or “serious” say it’s so. They might say:

  • Real churches use particular kinds of hymns.
  • Serious preachers dress a particular way.
  • Serious sermons have a particular structure and make real use of the biblical languages.
  • Churches that are “serious” about reaching the lost or the next generation ________________.


I’m not saying certain methods and practices aren’t qualitatively better than others. I’m saying this: Don’t let your vision for yourself or the church be co-opted by the “real” or “serious” of even those you respect.

Of course, it’s OK to listen and do “serious” work. It’s not OK to serve God trying to be “serious.” Ministers or churches that long for the label “real” or “serious” take their eye off the ball: seeking God’s, “Well done.”

God’s, “Well Done,” is “real.”

It’s quite “serious.” However, it isn’t usually spoken over those whose target is the, “Well done,” of those around them. Most of us know to listen for God’s voice in His people from time to time. However, the voice of God’s people is not the same as the voice of God. Great churches are great in part because they have broken free from the imaginative gridlock caused by ecclesiastical peer pressure.

Seek God’s, “Well done.” Let others chase after “real” or “serious.”

When it comes to life or church, God’s, “Well done,” is really all that matters. It’s also a lot more fun and will lead to more God-given innovation.