It’s a question raised in a video I found online today.
And it’s a question that has been forming in my head and heart for the forty years I’ve followed Christ as an artistic type.
Excuse me… as a creative. Apparently, that’s the descriptor for us now. It’s a good word. Inclusive. Except, oddly, most of the time, people use it to reference musical performers. But I’ll gladly stand under the creatives umbrella.
Back to the question. How can pastors and churches encourage the creatives in their midst? In my reading through Exodus, there is a single word that offers a powerful answer. See if you can find it:
The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. (Exodus 31:1–6)
Did you see it? I just gave you a clue. (Twice.) It’s the only command in the passage: See. God had called a craftsman/artist (ahem: “Creative”) named Bezalel and filled him with his Spirit -- the first time, I believe, someone in Scripture is so described – in order to make the tabernacle and all its paraphernalia.
It’s an incredibly tricky assignment. For Bezalel needs to fashion physical objects to support an invisible God. Without creating an idol. He must have been an exceptionally wise and talented creative.
But Moses has to see it. Bezalel’s skills and mindset are there, in action in the community, noticeable. God calls on Israel to recognize them.
If we are to encourage creatives in the church, there’s something very important we need to see. What sets them apart is not primarily the product they produce. It’s how they think.
Artists are comfortable with open-ended questions. They use the status quo as a stepping-stone. They embrace risk. Exploration is their playground. They are frequently asking, What’s next?
All too often, the church is the polar opposite. Risk-averse. Disliking unresolved questions. Finding approaches and then codifying them. It’s no wonder that creatives struggle to find their way in such environments. If they darken the door at all.
This morning I darkened the door of a church. There’s an intersection in my town that has stately sanctuaries on three corners. I tried the doors on each. Outside one, faces were carved in the stone above the entrance. I thought, this is what artists do. They give a face to spiritual truths that can be hard to understand.
Then, finding the third church open, I went into the sanctuary and marveled at the light streaming in through the high windows. I thought, and this is what creatives do, too. They open up a window to eternity. They help us see beyond.
It’s a calling that requires ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship. We need to prize these Bezalels among us.
But first, we need to see them.
Creator God, thank you for those in our fellowships who have a creative gift. Help us to encourage them – not only in enjoying what they produce but embracing how they think. Bless them through us, Lord, for you certainly bless us through them.
Reader – has your church encouraged artists in your midst? I’d love to hear about it.