The God of Christianity is a God of creativity.
You only need to look around to see his handiwork. Trees, stars, mountains and oceans are all products of his creativity. There is nothing in creation you can set your eyes on that was not created by God. John 1:3 states, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Humans are also a product of God’s creativity. Genesis 2:7 paints a picture of how it happened. “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” From something as uninspiring as dust, God created, perhaps, the greatest creation of all.
God Made Humans to Be Creative
Not only did God create humans, but He gave humans creative ability. The creative God created a creative creation. We can find examples of creative people in the Bible.
Exodus 35:30-35 mentions two men who were specially gifted in creativity:
Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.”
Creativity in people of faith didn’t end with Bezalel and Oholiab. Art has played a role in Christianity throughout its history. In the late 15th century, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint The Last Supper as part of a plan to renovate a church. Today, it’s one of the most recognizable paintings in the world.
Music, too, was developed right alongside the church. The celebrated Johann Sebastian Bach began and ended his career in the employment of a church. In his later years, he was musical director of St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzig , Germany. While in Leipzig, there was a period of time when he was composing a cantata (piece of music for voices with instrumental accompaniment) every week. These cantatas were always closely tied to scripture. Bach’s devotion to God was so evident in his work that he came to be known as the “fifth evangelist.”
Creativity in the Church Today
Creative works continue to be a part of the community of faith. The media teams who design graphics for promotional material are creatively drawing others to Christ. The musicians on worship teams creatively lead the congregation in worship. The preachers who preach engaging sermons creatively spread the Gospel. Creativity is even showing up in churches in less traditional ways. Live painting has found a place in many church services.
A painter(s) will begin with a large, blank canvas at the beginning of a service and paint throughout the worship time, sometimes through the sermon and even through multiple services. The painter (or other visual artist) is considered a worship leader, and often stands alongside the other members of the worship team. The content of the painting is often related to the theme of the worship or message, and the painting is characterized by some sense of spontaneity, experimentation, discovery, and artistic virtuosity.
Art is a powerful influencer. Art has the ability to stir up emotion. It has the ability to bring joy or bring people to tears. As noted by Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher (1653-1716), “If a man were permitted to make all the ballads he need not care who should make the laws of a nation, and we find that most of the ancient legislators thought that they could not well reform the manners of any city without the help of a lyric, and sometimes of a dramatic poet.”
Ancient legislators thought that art was necessary to reform cities. That is some influence! Being that art is such a powerful force, the people of God must employ it to be a positive force of reformation for those inside and outside the church. However, you can’t have art without artists. If the church desires the value that art provides, then the church must value Christian artists.
The Assemblies of God (AG) denomination demonstrates how it values artists through its Fine Arts Festival. The AG describes the festival as “a discipleship tool of AG Youth Ministries designed to help students discover, develop and deploy their ministry gifts.” Tens of thousands of students submit or perform their art to a panel of evaluators. The festival covers a wide variety of art with “75 categories offered in 9 main divisions: Art, Communication, Dance, Drama, Enterprise, Exhibition, Instrumental, Vocal, and Writing.”
The 2018 Fine Arts Festival Rulebook offers this insight into the purpose of evaluation:
Through Fine Arts Festival, students are given the opportunity to have their skills evaluated by qualified ministers, industry professionals, and educators who encourage excellence, offer ideas for improvement, and inspire students to use their gifts in the local church, community, and around the world in ministry or secular vocation. Scores are not as important as lessons learned, experience gained, and skills developed.
I have personally participated in the music categories of the Fine Arts Festival. I remember practicing for hours with bandmates, trying to polish our presentation. Our motivation to improve our skills, in part, came from the festival. Not only that, but evaluators provided valuable feedback to help us grow as artists. In that aspect, the festival fulfilled its purpose in helping students to develop their artistic gifts. Christian artists need more support of the same magnitude as the Fine Arts Festival.
The Purpose of Creativity
The point of developing and supporting creativity in the church is not just talented artists and great art. It’s not just a piece of art that we look at and say, “Oh, that’s pretty.” If that’s not it, then what is the purpose?
We have to look at the purpose of God’s creative work. Romans 1:20 tells us, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Creation entices our curiosity to know the identity of the creator. God’s creativity draws us to himself. The creative works of Christian artists must do the same; draw people to the creator God.
I don’t mean to limit the uses of art. I’m not saying all art must be centered on evangelism. The work of Christian artists can express a variety of ideas and all kinds of emotions. I am saying that ultimately the life and work of Christian artists should point to God.
The Fine Arts Festival Rulebook explains it perfectly:
Fine Arts is ultimately about spreading the gospel, because whether you sing, play an instrument, dance, design, act, or speak, you can be Gospel-Centered, Spirit-Empowered, and Personally-Responsible for the mission of God. There are people all around us who need Christ. They may be in the audience as you sing, act, or preach; they may be in your dance studio; they may be in an art gallery viewing your designs. As these people interact with students using their ministry gifts, they are actually interacting with an ambassador for Christ.
My main purpose in writing these things is to inspire creative people of faith. Use the gift of creativity that God has given you to the fullest extent. Don’t stop creating. Don’t stop putting in the hard work of developing your skills. The community of faith and the world needs creative Christians to inspire, move, entertain, comfort and teach us with your creative works.