Through the ages, the church has lost an important, once encouraging, value. Looking back through antiquity and reviewing architecture of old cathedrals, it is easy to support the claim that the church once held a high value for the arts. Now, before you jump ship and get frustrated claiming that the gaudy over-priced art of the church was and has been a waste of money that could have been invested otherwise, read some thoughts on the matter.
From early church music and art to today, a common thread can be recognized as important; there has always been a search for relevance and fresh expression. Reviewing the works of the world’s most prolific composers, and reading articles about their lives, it is evident that the church commissioned a lot of pieces. Through the mass proper and adaptations of the mass, composers of the baroque, classical, romantic and beyond, exposed a new layer to the music previously released.
Looking at the church today, with pieces of “build your own bible experience” and “encountering God based on preference,” we have left art to decay and have neglected the beauty of Jesus, the laid-down lover. Beauty is more than a way to express feelings for your significant other. Beauty is creativity, and creativity is beauty.
“In the beginning God created…” Genesis 1:1
Let there be light. Separate the seas. Made the earth. Made man. God made everything. The act of creating draws us back to the origins of all creation. When God said it is good, He wasn’t merely making a pass at the day. He was declaring that as He creates, good is produced. It is good because it was made. Without God’s “hand’s” creative outstretching, there is no divine inspiration to be creative. If we don’t believe that God played a part in creation, the value for beauty and creativity is lost. However, that isn’t the reality. God not only played a hand in creation in the garden, but continues to do so today. “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11. Beauty is restoration. Beauty is second chances. Beauty is grace. Beauty is mercy. Jesus is beautiful! Everything has been created by God and everything will be beautiful again. Beauty has been forced to become a standard of social equity. It was never intended to be made filthy by the hands of man. In the midst of beauty being devastated by the enemy, creativity is the main tool to combat beauty being twisted and forgotten about. Without creation, there is no tomorrow.
The Lord doesn’t waste breath. Your life is no accident. Everyone was created in the Image of God. There is a gift of creativity within you. The reality is that creation takes the giving of yourself to serve others. It takes bravery. It takes failure and being okay with failure. Failure is beautiful because it points us toward our need of something greater than ourselves. Failure leads us into the arms of Jesus. Creativity, in any expression, points back at a loving Father who first gave you the gift of life.
“A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16
God doesn’t see our failure the way we do. God doesn’t see us the way we see ourselves. We need to begin to press into a lifestyle devoted to creativity in every facet of life. Our gifts, handed to us from a loving Father, help us to express how radical our Creator truly is. They take us places we never thought possible. Being creative is practicing obedience, and in turn, lifts up the name of Christ by bringing glory to the King of all Kings!
A month ago, I set up a gofundme account to support my first album. The Lord told me to ask for $5,000, so I agreed to set my pride aside and ask for help. The money was raised in 48 hours. It didn’t take long to realize that having a kingdom value for creativity, and being obedient to His call leads to radical opportunities. This isn’t me saying “God is going to give you a bunch of money to create,” this is me saying “it takes a community with a value for creativity to make art for God!” The church once had such a high value for the arts that new pieces were unveiled every week. The David, the Sistine Chapel, stained glass, mosaics, masses, dances , etc., have all been commissioned to declare the beauty of God through creativity.
I was reflecting on the“sacred vs. secular” mentality the other day. It isn’t something I subscribe to. My heart is to recognize all art as a form of expression, whether perverse or pure. God sometimes uses art to uncover the dark side of the gospel; our evident need for a Savior. I think that encountering art can help us recognize our need for God and our depravity without Him! The thing I was considering is that it is a shame to see exquisite bands that started off as Christians seemingly running away from the Church because of a lack of appreciation or understanding. Why is the Church so afraid to experience new art because of a lack of understanding or mystery? The Lord our God is the most mysterious thing ever, and we will never comprehend His ways. Each time we encounter God, it is a new experience. It is a shame that so many artists have been turned away by the Church because they aren’t understood. Our job isn’t to understand, our job is to love! To show the love of God.
This is where I think we, as the body of Christ, need to regain a value for commissioning, or helping to fund art and creativity. The early church did a great job supporting artists to make art that still is regarded today as some of the most prolific and widely accepted pieces from artists like Michelangelo and Bach. I consider my album (which is coming along great!), a commissioned work for the Church. Commissioning is a creative act. The word itself encourages missional team work. In 2016, I challenge you to hire a creative or to claim your own creativity. Fund a piece of art. Reach out to someone who has creative ideas and invite them into brainstorming sessions. Make something new and give it away. Be the creative you were created to be!