If you're anything like me, someone who just can't help creating, you've probably had some brush with the creative arts. Maybe you are in a band, maybe you make films in your spare time or are writing a novel. Maybe you knit, sew, or make furniture. Whatever you're doing, it's creative and you love it.
If you're anything like me, you are compelled to make, but you also tend to think. You question what you're doing; why you're doing it. You wonder what Jesus thinks of how you spend your time, and if you should really be doing something else.
You are the slightly scrupulous, thinking kind of creative Christian.
And you probably haven't found very much of substance on the subject, when you've had time to look. I by no means have all the answers. At the very least let's get this conversation going.
Do it for God
It is OK to be creative. Even more: it is good!
As God's image bearers, representations of Him in the physical, our small creations point to His big creative works.
We are far from perfect, but we are being made good. We don't relate to God perfectly, nor can we act as perfect representations of Him. Yet we persevere, because to give up would be worse than carry on. It would be to embrace our sin.
God is sovereign even over the arts. There is no thing that God did not create, that cannot come under His Lordship. It is plain to see that sin and Satan hold sway over so much. The worship of sex, of self, of intellectualism and of fame saturates the creative arts. Yet all must bend the knee to the risen Jesus. The fact that the people are sinful doesn't make the discipline evil.
Despite opposition, create to please your creator, make for your maker.
Do it for people
We live in an increasingly secular world. Often creatives are at the forefront of new ideas, and these new ideas continue to remain far from the truth of the gospel.
Non-Christian creatives need the gospel. These people are dead. As with any occupation, as you do what you have to do, you are meeting and interacting with people. You are forming relationships where gospel conversations can happen.
Yet the creative arts as media have immense potential for communication. The gospel is a message, and most mediaâsuch as writing, film, or musicâare perfectly suited to conveying a message.
While not all art can or has to be a complete gospel presentation, we must be open to using our talents to proclaim God's kingdom. As this message is core to our perspective of the world, integral to identity, of course it should interest us creatively. Yet we must be prepared to sound the endless depths the gospel message contains; let's not be content to say "Jesus died!" and move on without context or implications.
Do it well
If you are going to engage with the artsâwhatever you doâdo it for the love of it.
Get out there and do it!
Yet if you're going to do anything worthwhile, you're going to have to work hard and seek to do it well.
If you want to be taken seriously by the creatives you want to reach, if you want to seek to glorify God to the best of your ability, and if you really want to produce satisfying work, you'll need to stretch yourself.
If your focus in making is to communicate a Christian perspective to non-Christians, make sure you're not condemning yourself to ridicule for technical reasons. There are very gifted and very ungracious people out there who probably won't want to watch your film or hear your music unless it's good. Even then, the gospel is not a message that appeals to many people. Don't expect instant acclaim.
Your church family will be more supportive, a lot of the time. Yet the same rule applies. If you really want to serve them, seek to serve them well. Make good stories that will achieve something. Communicate ideas that will be worthwhile, that will build people up and not waste time.
Please don't be trite. Tackle big topics with maturity and appreciate complexity. Ask lots of questions. Learn from others.
For the love of God, don't make bad art.
Matthew Joils is a student at the University of Canterbury. He is involved in the Christian Union on Campus. He enjoys writing, publishing weekly on his blog: www.matthewjoils.wordpress.com
Matthew Joils' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/matthew-joils.html