Why the Church Needs the Arts (Part 1)

In my experience, many contemporary churches don’t say much on the subject of the arts. We think of the arts as a territory for the secular world, and we neglect creative expression as part of the life of the Church. We certainly don’t deem it mandatory. But this is a mistake. In neglecting creativity in the church, we are missing God’s heart for the arts and for artists.

We worship a creative God. He is the most creative being who has ever or will ever live, and He made us in His image.

We are made in the image of a creative God. He designed us to be creative. As believers, this should mean that we excel in creativity. Our innovation should shine. We should be artistically competitive. To neglect this would be to neglect exploring an important aspect of God’s character.

Creativity should be a part of the fabric of who we are as believers. We are a creative people. And as we practice creativity, we better understand what God is like.

If I’m making friends with someone I just met, I try to learn about them and what they like. If I meet someone who loves to read, I read the books they recommend. If that person is a foodie, then I visit the restaurants they love. To know God better, we need to do the things He likes to do with Him, and that certainly includes creative expression. To neglect learning about his creativity would be to neglect a huge part what He is like.

God gave certain believers creative gifts that are meant to serve the Church.

In church there’s a lot of talk about spiritual gifts and how they relate to serving the body. However, creative or artistic gifts are not often discussed as gifts the Lord gives to serve the Church.

I’ve had a strong bent toward creativity since I can remember. According to my parents, my love of painting started as a toddler. They didn’t particularly nurture this in me above other things; I was just drawn to it. It’s how the Lord made me.

It can be hard to know what role art should play in adult life. It can be very difficult to have a career as an artist, so many people who have a love for art end up relegating it to the role of a hobby in their lives. At most, they enjoy it for personal recreation. More often they neglect their gift entirely.

I have to believe that the Lord gives people artistic gifts for more than just a fun hobby. God is not wasteful like that.

Some believers are given creative gifts to serve the church.

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . .”

The Lord gives all believers spiritual gifts. Those who are leaders should lead. Those who are givers should give, and so on. It should be no different for those with a creative gift.

If the Church doesn’t incorporate opportunities to serve in creative capacities, creatively gifted people will remain stunted in their spiritual growth.

That may seem like an extreme statement, but when a person is designed with certain gifts, and those gifts aren’t being used, that person is not functioning in the Body the way they were meant to. 

There are believers whose strongest gifting is in the area of the arts, and these people need to be serving the Church with their gifts, both for their benefit and the benefit of the whole Church.

Why is it that we see some gifts are more important, or even as better, than others? I’ve noticed that sometimes churches emphasize utilitarian gifts above others. Their focus is on gifts like service, leadership, or teaching. They neglect gifts like creativity because they don’t seem as useful. Intentionally incorporating the arts into the life of the Church seems unnecessary, but this could not be more untrue. The church desperately needs to engage the arts for the benefit of the whole church.

Releasing people with creative gifts to use those gifts to serve the Church benefits the whole Body. Whether the gift be painting, acting, writing, singing, or knitting, exposing the Church to the creativity of other believers inspires them, encourages them, and teaches them about the character of God.

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