[Note: This speech (given at the Shanghai International Church) started
with a reading from the Bible: Genesis Chapter 1: 1-31.]
Created in a Creator’s Image
(by Michael Krigline,
I don’t know how you deal
with your questions and frustrations, but sometimes, my method is to
meditate on them and upon what God’s Word says about them. These
meditations then take the form of a poem, and in a way that I will
probably never understand, music attaches itself to the words to form a
In Shanghai, a funny thing
happened to those songs. God provided a place with wonderful acoustics,
added some talented musicians and singers, and—occasionally—stuck me up
here to share a song or two with you—along with the scriptures that were
connected with them. People said they were touched by the songs, and some
challenged me to put them onto a CD—something I had never done before.
Now, I have written
Christian songs for years, but they never got this much attention before!
Maybe it is because back in the USA, we are surrounded by Christian music
& videos, Christian radio, talented singers and choirs. Here we have none
of this, so it is understandable that people would respond so positively
when they hear a new song that touches their hearts.
I say it is
understandable because there is something in the human heart that
loves creativity. It seems to be the way we were created.
And why not? What is the
very first thing we learn about God? “In the beginning God CREATED the
heavens and the earth." So, the very first thing that God revealed about
Himself, is that He is creative. A mere 26 verses later, we find another
fundamental truth—we were created in His image. Put these two facts
together (God is creative, we were created in His likeness) and the
logical conclusion is that we, too, ought to be creative.
If you look at our world,
God’s creativity is expressed in a multitude of ways. But among God’s
creatures, only mankind has been gifted with the means to express very much
creativity. Humans express creativity through music, dance, and art, but our creativity goes
far beyond this. A new business is an expression of creativity, as is a
teacher’s lesson plan, the design of a building, and even the way a parent
chooses to raise his/her children. Every one of us expresses creativity in
one way or another, though you may not have thought of it in those terms.
You can do this simply BECAUSE you were created in the image of a creative
Since humans are unique in
this ability, it is our duty, before God, to take creativity seriously. I
believe this is a God-given mandate for the Church and for all believers.
The Bible presents a strong
appreciation for using the arts in God’s service. Israel’s greatest king,
David, was well known for singing and dancing in his public and private
worship (see 2 Sam 6). The temple his son Solomon built was one of the
artistic wonders of the ancient world, and the Bible describes in detail
the carvings, tapestries, vivid colors and ornate furnishings that God
wanted it to contain.
Likewise, the Holy Ark of the Covenant was a beautiful chest, covered with
gold and adorned by a pair of angels with outstretched wings to cover the
Mercy Seat (see Exod 25). The garments of the high priest were covered
with precious stones and other artistic decorations, each of which was
designed to remind the people of some spiritual truth (see Exod 28). We
also know the people of Israel used colorful banners, a variety of musical
instruments, and the potter’s wheel to express their creativity.
During Europe’s Renaissance,
the Church also took its “creative mandate” seriously. According to Andrew
“The first Renaissance of the 1400 to 1600s was started primarily by a
handful of Christian artists, like the writer Dante, the sculptor Giotto,
and the painter Cimabue. They were brave enough to break with traditions
and forge a new approach. They were criticized at first, but soon droves
of secular artists followed.” The period that followed was shaped by
Christian artists like Bach, Handel, Rembrandt, Milton, Vermeer, and many
others. As in the Old Testament days of Asaph, the Church of the
Renaissance cultivated artistic talent, trained artists in the Word of
God, supported them financially, and then anointed and appointed them for
ministry. This release of creativity in God’s service literally changed
the western world, and even now, 500 years later, the world is still being
blessed by the art and music created by these sanctified artists.
Why did God give humanity
the gift of creativity? I think part of the answer is love. God’s love led
to a desire to create someone to embrace, and thus God created mankind.
Filled with a reflection of God’s love, we too create…families to embrace
and things to give to others. Christian art in particular flows naturally
out of our love for our Savior and God.
Author and artist Denny
Gunderson writes that “Love produces creativity. Creativity produces
change. And change is always viewed as either threat or opportunity.”
Unfortunately, in the
centuries since the Renaissance art has often been viewed as a threat to
the church, rather than an opportunity, and this remains largely true
today. The young man who senses a calling to become a pastor generally is
embraced, funded and trained by the structures of the Church, but when was
the last time you heard of scholarships for budding artists or Christian
musicians? Christian leaders complain that Christian music lacks depth or
sometimes even contains Biblical errors—and these complaint are
justified!—but should we be surprised when so little is done to mentor and
adequately train our artists?
An even more unfortunate
result is that most art is not created for the Glory of Christ AT ALL.
Contemporary music, movies, art, novels, and so much more, by and large
present themes that are more likely to drag our souls (and our children)
to hell, than to lift our vision to heaven—and you know what I mean. If
one needs proof that unseen powers influence our world, consider the fact
that many cultural and civic leaders seek to limit the access of their
people to the Truth of the Gospel, while embracing music and movies that
promote selfishness, sexual sin, and violence. What greater evidence is
there, that the force behind the scenes is determined to kill, steal, and
Well, what do we do to
regain a grip on the arts, and to revive a serious interest in the
Church’s creative mandate?
First, I say remember what
you see here. This is church that encourages art, at least in the realm of
music. My CD is proof of this fact, for it would have never come about
without the encouragement of leaders like Eric, Gerald, Leo, Rob &
Elizabeth, and so many more. Likewise, our worship teams allow for
different styles of worship. These teams are full of people who have
little musical training or natural ability, but as they present the “five
loaves and two fish” of their ability to God, our leaders provide
encouragement, and the result is wonderfully pleasing to God’s ears. So, I
repeat, remember what you see here, and when you return to your home
church in six months, three years, or whenever, take back a commitment to
encourage the arts.
Beyond that, it basically
boils down to attitude and priorities. As individuals and as a part of the
Church of Jesus Christ, we make choices every day in how we spend money
and time. These choices will either encourage Christian artists and help
to expand their positive influence, or leave the arts in the hands of the
Prince of Darkness. We need to pray and ask God to help us find a more
prominent place for God-honoring, God-inspired, Godly creativity that
reflects the glory and will of the God in whose image we were created.
So, so summarize, creativity
is a fundamental part of who God is. Since we were created in His image,
it follows that God calls us to express creativity in the way we live and
the way we worship. The Bible and history provide many examples of the
positive power of God-inspired creativity, but the modern church has
fallen behind the world in finding ways to stir up the arts. It is not
hard to see that the arts are probably the most powerful of all
communication tools for reaching the majority of earth’s people, and thus
it is time for the church—starting with you and me—to reclaim this
precious gift from above, and use our God-given creativity to both Know
Him better, and more fruitfully Make Him Known.
Before I close, I want to
leave you with a related truth that has liberated me in expressing God’s
happens when I see hundreds of you worshipping God through a song I wrote.
I get an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and joy in those moments, and
for years I was confused about this. I had always associated this with
pride—and pride is evil according to the Bible. But how could this
wonderful thing I have created for God’s glory, result in something evil?
Perhaps you have faced
similar questions in your own line of work. I have as a teacher. I get a
similar sense of satisfaction when a lesson plan works and FINALLY makes
the “light” come on for my students. For you, it might happen in that
architectural design that is widely appreciated, or in a business
suggestion that earns you above-average recognition. Maybe you sense this
so-called pride when your company report shows that your branch is among
the top in your field, or when your ideas save the company time or money.
Students feel it when they get an A on a big project, parents sense it
when your children make good choices based on what you have taught them,
health care professionals experience it when someone is healed through the
medication you prescribed. As far as I am concerned, all of these
situations reflect the creativity that God has placed in you, and in each
situation people could look at you as the source of some
blessing—and this can lead to this sense of pride.
I asked an African pastor
friend about this many years ago, and he pointed me to the scripture we
read earlier (Genesis 1). He pointed out that at the end of each day, God
looked back and said: “It is good.” My friend said that the satisfaction I
feel is not pride, it is simply a small taste of the same appreciation God
feels when we use our gifts and abilities to serve Him and the people He
Pride is Nebucadnezzar
saying “I did all of this,” not Joseph saying “many have been saved
because of my work.” But to your heart, the feeling can seem very similar.
We don’t guard against
unholy pride by hanging a sign around our necks that says “God is
responsible for this, not me.” Likewise, the common tendency (among
Christians anyway) to deny that we have done a great job in our work is
When I sing in this
building, even I am amazed sometimes at how good I sound! (I know how bad
I sound in my living room!) Likewise, I hear all the mistakes in that CD,
but I also know that, for a bunch of amateurs, we don’t sound half bad.
This is not sinful pride, but simply a recognition of the beautiful
product of a God-inspired, prayer-powered project that honors Him.
As children of the Most High
God, if we are not to expect excellence in your work, who is!? It is often
our excellence that opens the door for people to notice God at work in our
lives. This is part of what Jesus meant when He said: “Let your light so
shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your
Father in heaven. (Matt 5:16)”
Do not be afraid of the
feeling of satisfaction. Just keep the Source in mind, and know that He
too, looks down at your work and says “it is good.”
© 2002 Michael Krigline. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print
this article, or link to it, for personal or classroom use.
(see Website Standards and Use Policy)
Scriptures quoted are primarily from The Holy Bible, New King James
Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.
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