Creativity and the Arts
By David Ruis
"For by Him, all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him" (Col. 1:16).
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:26-27).
One of the main animators from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast is a Christian. He prayed and prayed over the last scene in the movie where the beast turns into a man. He wrestled with how to illustrate this ending. Through prayer, he felt led to use a light coming down from heaven, which changes the beast from the inside out! In the hands of a craftsman who loved God, his interpretation was founded on his godly principles and understandings. And he is a part of us, the church!
Art, creativity, and expression are all valid in the eyes of the Lord. There has been a chasm created between the artistic community and church leadership that needs to be bridged. Both sides need to lay down their defenses and come together to talk, pray, and search the scriptures in order to create an arena of safety. When there is safety, nurturing can take place. As a parent, I need to let my children know that they are safe so that I can nurture and raise them in the ways of the Lord. So it is with our artists.
Creation itself is an expression of Godís most awesome characteristic: his creativity. If we are created in Godís image, and God is creative, then we too have the potential to be creative beings. Human creativity reflects the divine. When we begin to reflect his creativity, people will begin to understand something of their Creator and will respond with worship.
In the church, there is tension between those who want to express themselves artistically and those who feel the need to exert control and order in this area. This struggle is most common between a pastor and worship leader or dance team. The leadership of the church and those involved with the arts must work together rather than struggle against one another. Zechariah 12 speaks of Godís desire to have a healthy relationship between Jerusalem, "the center of the Word," and Judah, a city whose very name means "praise."
Pastor to Pastor: Expressing Worship Safely and Wisely
To those who have a pastoral role, I want to encourage you to begin creating a safe place for those involved in the arts, whatever they might be. As a pastor, I realize the difficulty that some of us experience when we try to pastor artists. The response of some pastors is to shut this area out of church life, mostly out of fear or from a lack of understanding of the arts and/or the artist. People need a safe place to express themselves.
At the same time, artists must be willing to receive correction when it comes. Communication is a must. Iím shocked and amazed by the number of artists and creative people who have been wounded and torn when theyíve attempted to express their creativity. We as the church need to provide a safe place for the arts. We must go beyond tolerating the arts Ė we are responsible to cultivate them.
The Price for Missed Creativity Can Be Costly and Painful
While I was in Michigan recently, I prayed for a man who has been involved with church ministry for years. As he began to tell me his story, he started to cry like a baby. He told me that as a young boy, he had a propensity towards graphic art and drawing. On one occasion he remembers drawing a picture of sheep. He drew the sheep in all different colors Ė orange, red, and purple. His parents and some relatives who were visiting at the time began to mock him: "You stupid kid! Sheep arenít red, theyíre white; they arenít orange, theyíre whiteÖ"etc. They were not able to see the creativity bubbling inside the young boy.
His familyís mocking of his art wounded him deeply. He is now in his mid-thirties. He is a tremendous artist, and continues to be healed, but he keeps all of his work hidden. He stuffs his pictures in the bottom of drawers. Over the years he has had many experiences like the incident with his parents, and still needs more time to heal.
Many people have had similar experiences. The brother of a friend of mine is an incredibly artistic person. Growing up, he wanted to dance rather than play sports. He never was real gifted in playing football or any other contact sport. His father wanted him to be involved in sports, and gave him a hard time for wanting to dance. To his dad, that was sissy stuff. The young boy went through all kinds of ridicule which has permanently wounded his spirit.
There are an incredible amount of artists and creative people across the nation and the world. Everywhere I go, even areas that arenít westernized, I see wounding and tearing in the artistic community. Art is so subjective, and this often causes friction.
In addition, there is so much fear surrounding the arts. Yet if we look at history carefully, we see that music and sound have always been prevalent in any type of spiritual stirring or renewing. You cannot touch the spirit of God and the life of God without experiencing that dynamic. The Lord wants to create an environment where itís safe for the artistic community to worship Him. That doesnít mean that everyone is free to do whatever they want. It does mean that leadership should be able to give insight, help, and caring. Leadership should provide safe places where the arts can be nurtured, cultivated, and expressed. The church can provide healing for many whose artistic abilities have been stifled or criticized.
U2 Creative for the Church?
Thereís a well-known rock band named U2. The lead singer, Bono, was part of a Bible study led by a good friend of mine many years ago. My friend told me that he has yet to meet someone with as much passion for God as Bono. U2 came from the church, but at the time they started, the church didnít know what to do with them. In their biographies, they talk about how they contemplated splitting up the band because they felt like they couldnít play their music and still be called Christians. Their passion and their talent is incredible, but what we as the church didnít know was where to place them.
They ended up playing secular gigs, and have become one of the hottest bands in the world, easily filling up stadiums wherever they play. But they were never given the blessing that they wanted from the church. Itís a tragedy that they couldnít find a place in the church for their kind of artistic expression. "Iíd join the movement, if there was one I could believe in, I would break the bread and the drink the wine if there was a church I could be received in, because I need it now."
This song went to the top of the charts! Another song, entitled "One" says: "You say loveís the temple, loveís the higher law, you ask me to enter, then you make me crawl, I canít keep hanging on to what youíve got, if all youíve got is hurt. One love, one blood, weíve got to carry each other." Whoís he talking to? The church!
I am in no way endorsing the band memberís lifestyles, or their decision to step out of the church. What that band does was meant to go to the glory of God. Their musical gifts were meant to be part of our inheritance. But since they were rejected by the church, they naturally migrated to those who would accept them Ė the "world".
Redeeming the arts, the church is to be the main dispenser of creativity, the patron and protector of the arts. God not only wants to awaken the church, he wants to redeem the arts and artists who are in the world and bring them back into the fold. Artists have an innate need to express themselves through their art. Because they have been stifled in the church, many of us have been led to believe that mediocrity in the arts is acceptable for Christians. Yet this is contrary to the Bible, which tells us to give our very best to our Lord and King.
For decades the church has been forced to go to the secular world to get quality. So it was with Solomon who used pagan workmen on the temple. In 2 Chronicles 2:13 we read: "I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan, and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone or wood and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and with those of my lord David your father." In 2 Chronicles 5:1-7 we go on to read about the dedication of the temple that is meant to give glory to the Lord.
The church needs to nurture the artists so that the mediocrity is driven out and quality is brought back in. I talked with an English dancer on a plane trip who was not a Christian. As we reflected on creativity, she could not deny the reality of a Creator behind it all. Our conversation opened up the door for sharing Christ. I felt the Lord say, "this is a token of what I want to do in the artistic community."
I met a man in Kansas City whoís a stained glass window painter. He approached me, saying, "You saved me, you saved me!" "What do you mean?" I asked. His response was, "I thought my whole life was a waste. Iíve never led a home group, or done any leadership courses. I havenít done all the things that others have done." He then showed me a photograph of his work, and it was incredible! This guy was so talented! I told him that I believed that people have actually gotten saved by seeing his work; seeds got planted, and somewhere down the road someone watered and someone else reaped the harvest! The man just started weeping. Here was a guy in his 50ís who believed that his whole life had been a waste; he felt he had no relevance to the work of God. I really believe that, just like this man, many other people have to hear how important their work is in the kingdom, and that their creativity is a gift from the Lord!
David Ruis has been involved in music and pastoral ministry for many years. He was the founding pastor of the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard in Manitoba, Canada, which seeks to provide a safe place for the artistic and native communities in that city. David has written many popular Vineyard songs such as "We Will Dance", "Let Your Glory Fall", "Break Dividing Walls", and "Release Me".
"Used by permission from Vineyard Music Group, P.O. Box 68025, Anaheim, Ca. 92817-0825"
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