I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings, and in discussions through my years as a church musician, where the importance of music and art was debated. I have observed three types of people in these conversations. The first is the very enthusiastic artist who will passionately speak about the arts in worship in an emotional way but doesn’t always offer any real rationale for the creative arts in worship, except that it makes people feel good. There are others who intuitively know it’s a good idea to include creative arts in worship, or at least appear to say so because that seems like the right choice. If asked to articulate more specifically why the arts are important, they typically struggle for an answer. Then there is the stoic who doesn’t say much because they don’t understand it, but they cannot articulate their point of view beyond the argument that they are not sure it is worth the expense.
I’ve left these kinds of discussions frustrated with my personal inability to clearly articulate in a more compelling and meaningful way my own existence as a creative person serving God. It wasn’t until I began to think about creativity in the context of the work of redemption and God’s creative example found in Genesis 1 that I began to understand my own viewpoint.
I now see that just as the power of creativity needs no explanation when an artist stands in front of a blank canvas, or sits poised with pen in hand over blank manuscript paper, that it is at that moment that he or she knows they can rewrite their story; they can begin anew. They know that mistakes and circumstances of their past do not have to be their story anymore. To have the ability to fill that blank canvas of tomorrow with a new song is a powerful tool that is indeed a gift from God; and it is what creative people reveal with their art.
The ability to bring light out of darkness is something that God demonstrated to us in the creation story. I believe that is why Christians cling to and protect this story so passionately. In whatever way you understand the details of the creation story, we all comprehend that if God can create light from
darkness, something from nothing, then we know that our tomorrow can be different from our yesterday. The story of creation becomes part of the foundation of our hope in God.
There is an organization in Southwest Florida called Creative Storytellers. One of their missions is to bring the arts to the lost and hopeless. One of the activities they engage in is to give modeling clay to people who are in a rehab facility. These are people desperate to change their lives and start anew. They are asked to create something with the clay that has meaning to them. To watch people’s eyes open as they create something with meaning from nothing and understand that God can do the same thing in their lives is deeply emotional for me. It is this kind of inspired revelation that I hope God does with my life as I serve Him.
We respond emotionally and are inspired by art when it causes us to view things in a new way. When a worshipper hears a familiar text set in a new way that reveals something about the truth of God they did not understand before, that is a moment of creation in that person. When the beauty of a stained-glass window, a banner, a dance, a choral piece, a work of art reveals more of who God is to us, it is then that we experience the power of creativity.
Creative artists provide tangible examples of the life changing power of God’s redeeming grace. Without the ability to escape the past, we would be a people without hope. God has shown us through the redeeming sacrifice of his Son that we are no longer enslaved in sin. Christ’s death and resurrection created a Way that did not exist before. The benefit of God’s constant work of creation is available to each of us whether we are professional artists or not. Those of us who serve as artists serve God as a way of thanking Him for changing our lives. Artists believe that through the Spirit, the creative work we do will open hearts and minds to God even more and will offer hope to the hopeless.
May we sing a NEW song to the Lord every day!
Grace and Peace,