Creativity: It is Good

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[Note: This speech (given at the Shanghai International Church) started with a reading from the Bible: Genesis Chapter 1: 1-31.]


“It is good”

On Being Created in a Creator’s Image

(by Michael Krigline, August 2002)

            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 song.

            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 God.

            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.[1] 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 Sievright:[2] “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 destroy?

            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 creativity.

            Something indescribable 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 has made.

            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 equally—silly—and unnecessary.

            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.”

[1]  see Exod 26 concerning the Tabernacle which was the Temple’s predecessor, and 1 Kings 6 concerning the Temple

[2] Editor, Last Days Magazine; articles in Vol 18, no. 1 (1995) on art; quote from pg 8


© 2002 Michael Krigline. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print or copy this article, or link to it, for personal or classroom use.

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Scriptures quoted are primarily from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.


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