God is the great Creative.
His designs are dazzling, yet functional; subtle, yet bold; durable, yet delicate. From the resplendent grandeur of a mountain sunrise, to the exquisite geometry of a bumble-bee’s wing, God designs every detail of our existence.
What’s more, God’s creativity is multi-functional. The Pentateuch is likely the last place we’d seek creative versatility, but God’s thoughts are not ours. Within those 613 commandments, God intersperses wardrobe design for sacred officers (Ex. 39), interior decoration for His tabernacle (Ex. 35-38), hymnody to comfort His people (Deut. 31:19f), and event planning for national worship (Lev. 23). The Old Testament is a panorama of literary genius—God the Poet (Psalms) and Playwright (Song of Solomon), composes a pretty mean romantic drama (Ruth). Oh, and God’s irony is sublime—Haman never saw it coming (Esther 6:6-12). What’s more, the great story of redemption was written before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-6; 1 Pet. 1:20-21).
God’s people display a Spirit-aided creativity that stands the test of time. Miriam’s song, triumphant and spontaneous, delighted God and His servants (Exodus 15:20f). The Spirit provided Bezalel and Oholiab the skills to create every detail of the Tabernacle complex (Ex. 35:30-35; cf. Rom. 8:1-14). David, of course, was the quintessential creative: he wrote 78 Psalms and organized each Temple aesthetic, ranging from blueprints to choral organization (1 Chron. 25- 28).
The New Testament doesn’t emphasize creative grandeur like the Old Testament does, possibly because a confluence of factors: the church was under constant persecution, the NT was written in a shorter time period and had a more limited literary genre. Either way, Jesus was a master story teller; the book of Revelation is a feast of creativity; NT believers are indwelt by the same Spirit of divine creativity.
Post-Reformation believers, in particular, have enriched God’s people. J.S. Bach’s compositions resonate with glory and majesty of God. The English Pastor, George Herbert, died at 39, but inspired a generation of poets like William Cowper. The enduring enrichments of Wren’s architecture, Bunyan’s allegory, Crosby’s verse, Rembrandt’s paintbrush, and Lewis’s fiction benefit us still today.
Christian designers, poets, artists, musicians, composers, et al stand in the richest artistic tradition, for they serve the Ancient of Days, the Creator and Designer of all.
I truly believe that the church is going to rely more and more on creative people, especially as our culture embraces digital communication. Creative people can help us preachers articulate the gospel in the lingua franca of our generation. Sometimes, when a creative believer hits a homerun with his or presentation, I simply stand in awe at the attention to detail, the careful planning, and the talent displayed.
Yet, the question remains—how should we maximize (enable, motivate, energize, etc) these amazingly gifted people?
That’s a tougher question than you might think. And it’s an even tougher question to answer without casting blame or sounding like a know-it-all.
So, after a lot of thought (and several re-writes of this post), I have to admit a little defeat: I have nothing creative to offer creative people. My best ideas are pretty bland. And with that admission, I’ll share them, but feel free to add your ideas in the comments (they don’t even have to be creative).
First, plan ahead. Collaboration means giving creatives the time they need to work their magic. Second, articulate vision. I’ve been guilty of throwing half-baked ideas at creatives while asking, “You’re gonna make this awesome, right?” No, creative people need both time and clearly defined goals/parameters. (Confession: I’ve not very good at either of these.) Third, invest in creative talent. If, for example, my children develop creative abilities, private instruction will be money well spent. Or, as was suggested in my church (which I found personally convicting), believers should consider purchasing the work of Christian artists. It’s more than buying decoration; it’s an investment in the Kingdom.
I have no agenda in writing this piece other than to encourage creative Christians to keep creating for God’s glory. Your Spirit-enabled talents not only honor God but benefit the church.
If you’re a creative, would you allow me four bits of unsolicited advice? I know you haven’t asked for it, but perhaps some pastoral insight will enhance your ministry. None of these are problems that need solving, just food for thought.
First, find a Christian mentor who challenges your creativity and your walk with the Lord. Yes, this will require humble submission to a mature Christ-follower. But, despite what the world has told you, rebellion is not necessary for bold artistic expression. Submission to a godly mentor demonstrates “reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Second, keep creating for God’s people even if you’ve turned your talents into a career path. Your creativity, used in a ministry setting, can enrich your church’s aesthetic while enabling it to steward carefully budgeted resources. I won’t speak for other churches, but our finances are usually stretched quite thin. Yes, art is a worthy expense. But very often more pressing needs (like a roof repair) take priority. My heart rejoices when creative people in my congregation use what’s available to transform functional to graceful.
Third, if your church has yet to acknowledge your creative talents, that’s okay. Waiting on the Lord is an essential Christian virtue (Psalm 27:14). I’m sure if you were talk to other Christian artists, you’d find out that it’s not uncommon to wait several years before your artistic abilities are identified by others.
Fourth, and most important, learn theology. Too many Christian films rely on sentimentality, mushy theology, or benign moralism. Modern hymns too often employ imprecise (or even incorrect) terms that communicate wrong theological ideas. Ground your creative work in robust Biblical theology; combine technical merit and theological precision.
God is the great Creative. And for those who’ve been equipped creatively, they are most godly when they’re creating for His glory.