“In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1)
As a kid, I remember spending hours on end with my cousin designing homes. We drew them. We built them with blocks. We talked big ideas as the adults around us rolled their eyes. Inspired by the new “mansions” we saw going up around us, we created never-before-seen works of architectural wonder that we would live in some day. (Ask me how that turned out.) There was something invigorating about being a creator.
Have you ever thought about how amazing it is that you can create your thoughts? Some call this living with vision. Some call it artistic flare. Some call it hobby. Some call it work. Some can do it with paint and canvas. Some do it with wood, some with yarn, some with musical instruments. Some get creative with cameras or even – praise God – food. And, there are a few of us who can only struggle in this regard with words (how many of us loved creative writing in school?).
Creativity is a reflection of the image of God in us that we generally don’t see in ourselves, but in others. We’re quick to marvel at the exploits of others, but downplay our creative contribution to the world. This is the first repentance needed regarding our creativity.
If God loves to create, and I am a created and creative being, then to pooh-pooh my unique contribution is to cast aspersions on the Creator who gifted. I am responsible as a human being to create. If I shirk that responsibility, withhold that responsibility, or downplay it, then I have some explaining to do.
Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30) celebrates the creative investor, and slams the one who couldn’t come up with a fresh thought. This is not the kingdom of heaven, says Jesus. In God’s kingdom, creativity is celebrated, expected, and meant to expand the riches of the King.
Then there is this conundrum: human creativity can be stunningly beautiful and sometimes unbearably disturbing. It’s not merely the case that we create the good and leave well enough alone (after all, we created the car, and then came up with the AMC Spirit, that hideously unreliable first car of my youth).
Beyond these creative blunders, humanity is sadly imaginative in creating evil. We can take what is created good, twist it perversely, then watch it destructively run out of control, like a runaway train into a crowded city. This is a second creativity requiring repentance, and we are all culpable.
Our own empires
And then, we come to this: we may embrace our creativity and share it with the world; we may turn our creativity toward only the good, and still miss the mark if we use it for our own glory rather than the Creator’s.
This is subtle and can creep into our discipleship and life as churches when the followers of Jesus invest their primary creative energy in selfish purposes. We use our immense creativity to build our careers, our names, our futures, our coffers, and even our churches.
The spiritually reborn are recreated, and Spirit-led creativity builds the kingdom.
That’s not to say every song we write needs to be in a hymn book or on the Christian Top 10. That’s not in the least to say the only acceptable career is in church vocation (truth is, many of us in ministry routinely sacrifice Spirit-led creativity). As followers of Jesus, what we must accept is that any use of our creativity that does not contribute to the advance of God’s kingdom, reflect his beauty, celebrate his wonder, or undo the lies that bind should be repented of and shunned. My creativity is part of the stewardship blessing given by God and is one of the primary avenues of worship for those living in view of God’s mercy.
Babel doesn’t need to be built again, but cities do need to be creatively engaged in every way for God’s glory. Christians are uniquely positioned to be prophetic and redemptive creators of hope. Human creativity is not just for children, not an end in itself, or even a means to an end, but a window through which a glimpse is caught of the eternal goodness of the Creator from a land darkened by creativity in crisis.
—Phil Wagler serves as a pastor of the creative community of believers known as Gracepoint Community Church, Surrey, B.C. He is the author of Kingdom Culture: Growing the Missional Church, and a commentator on Menno Media’s Shaping Families.