Creativity and the Christian life

I mentioned a couple of weeks
ago that Mrs. Happy and I are leading a small group study about fostering artistic
creativity in the Christian life. Some commenters asked for "tidbits" or other
information about what we’re studying. We had our first real meeting tonight,
and I had some time when we got home, so I thought
I might write a little about the premise of the study.

We are all created beings. God created us in his image, which means that we
are creators at our very core. When we create art, we express ourselves
in a way that mirrors God’s expression of himself in his creation. When we
create art, we imitate God the way a child imitates a parent. That’s part of
our God-given nature, and it’s a part that we often ignore or deny.

If you assemble a group of 100 adults and ask them, "How many of you are creative,"
you may see ten hands (but probably fewer) raised tentatively. Ask
how many are artists, and the response will be even more tepid. If you assemble
a group
of 100 children and ask them, "How many of you are artists," the number of
hands raised will be closer to 200. All children are creative, and all children
delight in artistic expression. Kids love to make up stories, illustrate their
stories, make up songs, dance their emotions, play games of make-believe, and
more. They revel in their creativity. Unfortunately, practical-minded adults
tend
to beat
that
out of
them as they grow older.

So vibrantly creative children grow into practical-minded adults who beat
the creativity out of other children. They encourage young people to be "sensible"
or "responsible." They demonstrate how to live in a way that squashes creative
expression. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to share my
creative endeavors with someone, only to be told, "Curt, you have too much
time on your hands."

The sad fact is that when we squash our inherent creativity, we’re squashing
an important part of how we relate to God. It used to be that when you wanted
to hear the best music,
or see
the
highest
quality
paintings,
or
examine
the most
innovative architecture, you went to church. It is a horrible turnabout that
in the 21st century, church is the last place you go for true artistry. Nowhere
has creativity been more squelched than in church. Fortunately, that is starting
to change. More churches are seeing the value in creative worship, especially
in music.

In any case, my small group is going through the book The
Creative Call: An Artist’s Response to the Way of the Spirit
.
Here are a few discussion questions from the first week:

  • How do you define "artist"?
  • Write three words or phrases that describe how you feel when you’re being
    artistic (or when you used to be artistic).
  • Write three words or phrases that describe how you feel when you’re engaged
    in activities that don’t involve creativity.
  • What do your answers to the previous two questions say about how you view
    these two sides of yourself?

I’ll try to post something more each week as time allows.

11 thoughts on “Creativity and the Christian life

  1. My first response to question three was “but every activity I engage in involves some kind of creativity.” I suppose it depends on how you look at it. When I balance my checkbook (!), sometimes, I have to be creative to find an error. I’m discovering that my mind is always engaged in creative endeavors. planning a meal is creative, making my children’s clothes was creative, buying on a budget…

  2. This is fascinating to me. At our church’s women’s retreat last fall, we could pick an area of ministry we wanted to explore, and I chose ministering through art. Many of the women found it revolutionary that one could minister via art. Wouldn’t people created in our creative God’s image be creative?

  3. Paula,
    You’re right about creativity. Most people actively use their creativity every day while denying that they are doing so. If you can recognize your everyday activity and also recognize that you’re creative because God made you that way, it can be a wonderful aspect of a relationship with God. Artistic expression is just taking that idea one step further.

    mopsy,
    If you write about your explorations of art ministry, let me know and I’ll definitely link.

  4. Curt, speaking of ministering through art: on the 21st of this month, I wrote a post about my hopes to start a cottage business selling a line of greeting cards I make myself. A friend had shared with me how she passed one along. Interesting story you may share here if you like. Her act through that card ministered to me anyway…

  5. Is it legal to participate online? If you don’t want comments like this, please tell me, and I won’t do it again.

    How do you define “artist”?
    An artist is someone who creates something that is meaningful and usually pleasing.

    Write three words or phrases that describe how you feel when you’re being artistic (or when you used to be artistic). . . engaged, challenged, alive.

    Write three words or phrases that describe how you feel when you’re engaged in activities that don’t involve creativity. . . bored, depressed, frustrated.

    What do your answers to the previous two questions say about how you view these two sides of yourself?
    I guess I long to be creative and have a bad attitude about things that I don’t perceive as creative. I need to be more like Paula and learn to recognize the creativity that is required for each small task I face.

  6. It always unformats my comments. They must be too long. There used to be a lot more “returns” between questions and answers.

  7. Ruth,
    For some reason, the commenting system doesn’t recognize single returns. Press return twice at the end of a line, and it registers. If you want a single line break, you can do it manually with the html tag <br>, but that’s a lot of trouble.

    As to the other matter, it certainly is legal and profitable to participate online. Here are my answers:

    1) An artist is someone who expresses something on a level deeper than verbal language can communicate.
    2) Diligent, expressive, exploring
    3) Uncomfortable, responsible, dutiful
    4) Practical things are things I must do. Artistic things are what I find fulfilling.

  8. You are so kind. Thank you for the formatting hints. I will test them here.

    You said: An artist is someone who expresses something on a level deeper than verbal language can communicate.

    So speechwriting is not an art? (I’m not saying it is, but I would feel creative writing a speech).

    Or, are you trying to point out that being creative can be different from creating art?

  9. By the way, my husband and I will have our eighteenth anniversary tomorrow–on the first Monday of a hot, sweaty, but very exciting VBS. :)

    I just thought you might like to know that.

    Thank you.

  10. Verbal language can be used to communicate something on a level deeper than verbal language can express. Some of the greatest works of art ever produced are novels, stories, and poems—things that rely solely on words. I tend to think of speechwriting more as a craft than an art, but there are certainly some speeches that rise to the level of artistry, both in their words and their delivery. And yes, I think creativity and art are not necessarily the same thing, at least by my definition.

  11. You said, “Verbal language can be used to communicate something on a level deeper than verbal language can express. Some of the greatest works of art ever produced are novels, stories, and poems—things that rely solely on words.” I expected that you would feel this way about traditional art forms that use words. That’s why I didn’t ask about poetry or novels, but about speechwriting.

    I think this is an interesting discussion, because my husband works for a company called “Sonnet Software.” Their software does some sort of funky, electromagnetic analysis–nothing to do with sonnets or poetry. Yet the president of the company feels that, for him, writing amazing software is an art, and that he puts blood, sweat, tears and soul into the way he formulates his product. That is why he chose the name he chose. Most “mathy” kind of people think it is “Sonic Software,” but it isn’t.

    Sometomes art is something only a connoisseur can appreciate. That strikes me as sad, and wrong somehow, but it doesn’t bother me where my husband’s software is concerned.