The Creative Impulse

Unknown-2Not often have I talked about non-theological or non-ecclesiological (non-church) related topics here – and what I am about to talk about is church-related in one sense – but today I want to speak a bit about one of my other passions, creativity.

All of us are creative in our own way. Some more obviously than others, but there is a spark of creativity in all of us. God is a creator, and we’re made in His image. Even if you put it at a very basic level, we are capable of creating more of our own race, so whatever way you look at it, we are creative beings. Creativity can be found anywhere you choose to look, and if you look inside yourself, you might find something you never knew was there.

You can be creative in anything – there’s the obvious things, music, dance, writing and art, photography and design – those things we like to traditionally call ‘the arts’. But there’s more to it than that.

You can be creative in more things than you would think.

Public speaking and teaching, often seen as an academic field, is more recently being seen as an art form, a place of creativity and innovation. In science, the ideas and theories that the great scientists have come up with have come through their imagination. They may already exist in creation, but the imagination to understand and figure out these ideas comes from what is essentially a creative impulse.

The great innovators in any field – science, maths, theology, politics, writing, film, even medicene, are ones with imagination to see what is or what might be possible, and that’s a creative impulse. We all have it in us somewhere.

Anything that involves us using our imagination, trying to see things differently, trying to bring something new into the world that hasn’t been seen before – even a scientific formula that’s been there all along – requires an element of our creativity. We all have that impulse in us one way or another.

And utilizing this impulse doesn’t mean we have to produce something incredible and of a high standard. That’s not ultimately the point. When we create something we are bringing part of ourselves into the world, and in turn something from God – as we are all made in His image. We don’t have to be Van Gogh to express ourselves through art, we don’t have to be Mozart to express ourselves through music and we don’t need to be Shakespeare to express ourselves through writing.

We can draw, write or play music or write blogs or poems for no one else’s view or benefit than our own, and it becomes a way of expressing who we are at that moment in time. In anything we create or comes from that impulse, we are putting something of ourselves out there into the world. Only God and ourselves may ever see it, but its there, and its something that wasn’t there before.

This is one reason why labels in terms of art/music etc are absolutely useless. So often we like to label things ‘Christian’ or ‘non-Christian’ depending on who wrote them or their content, when actually it doesn’t matter. We can engage with God through any book, music, film, poetry, play or anything created. Obviously there are created things which are overtly anti-Christian, but apart from that we can meet with God through anything created, whatever the intention of its author. You see whether they realize it or not when they created their art, music or whatever they were tapping into the creative gift and impulse given them by God. I have met with God many times through music, art, poetry, films and such like which were created by people who have no connection to Christianity, no relationship with Jesus. But I still meet with God through them.

You may think you aren’t that creative, but it doesn’t matter what the quality of what you create is, its that you are expressing something that matters. You are getting in touch with part of you made by God which can connect you with God in a different way.

I did this recently.

I’m don’t consider myself an artist – drawer or painter – at all. But a friend of mine gave me a piece of paper and a pad and asked me to use the pencil in all the different ways I could, all the different types of ways and shapes and thicknesses, with my eyes closed. I don’t consider myself an artist, but I did this and the feeling I had inside was one of liberation. I felt in touch with my creative side in a way that I hadn’t for some time, and it opened my mind up again and connected me with God in a new, fresh way. It engaged me again with His creative heart.

The art I produced was messy and not something that you’d show in the Tate gallery, but it had opened me up to see God differently, and inspired me creatively. It got me interested in creating more, and not necessarily for anyone else, but just to express something of me, to allow that impulse free reign and see how I can encounter God through it, and it ultimately has deepened my relationship with Him.

This is something we can all do. It doesn’t have to be any of the ‘arts’ as we define them, but tapping into that impulse in any way can connect us with a different part of God, and its something we would all benefit from. It can be done with pens, pencils, paper, paint, on computers or anywhere, if we look for it and are open to it.

And how does this interpret in a church context?

Well we can encourage people in our church communities to open their minds and their hearts, to try to express themselves to God in whatever way they wish. We can give them space to express things to God in any way they wish.

We can create that space for them, and it doesn’t have to be during a service, or a one-off service.

It doesn’t even have to be a service.

In prayer meetings leave paper, pencils and pens out for people to express what God is saying in whatever way they wish. Encourage people in church to express themselves creatively and give them teaching/training/direction to help them do this. Run courses for people with specific artistic gifts to allow them to develop them – such as our church did recently with the musicians in our church – and try and find a way of allowing some of this to filter into the services. Make resources available to people to allow them to create, encourage them to express themselves creatively in worship or even in private.

You see, creativity is something we can all be a part of.

One thing I would love to do eventually is create an online and even a physical space where people can come and express this creative gift freely, openly and safely, without boundaries. Where they can tap into that creative impulse and express whatever comes out. I’d love to have a website where people can post their creative output without any predjudice or expectation of quality, and for more churches to have space for creativity in their outlook and in their ministries, and not to limit creativity or set boundaries around it, but allow people to express themselves freely and safely.

I think sometimes we can become over-academic or scientific in our analysis of what church and the Christian faith is all about, when ultimately it all started with a creative, imaginative God creating and the end of the Bible sees that creation come to its ultimate crowning glory. We need to be more creative in our outlook on God. For example, one church I know of outlines their statement of faith not as a doctrinal statement, but as a narrative. They believe – as I do – that the story of God as told in the Bible is a story going on throughout human history – and before it and after it, and that whatever we do now is just part of this story. How creative.

I do believe that teaching and preaching are ultimately creative gifts.

Lecturers lecture and present statements of fact and their own conclusions – although those conclusions are essentially that persons creation and interpretation of the facts they’ve been given – but teachers and preachers are poets, they are prophets, they are speaking of a great narrative that has been going on since the beginning and will go on for eternity, they are trying to communicate not just facts and truths, but how they interpret into our realities, our stories. I read in a book recently that one of the best ways to communicate a message or get people to remember it is through real stories with real people which generate real emotions. The best preachers and teachers I’ve heard have largely been storytellers – in fact, the greatest teacher of all, our Saviour Jesus Himself, was a master storyteller.

Yes, teaching and preaching is far more than a scientific, academic thing. Its far more than a lecture. Its an art form and its wide open to new possibilities and means of expression. In the age we live in, I believe its becoming more and more important to innovate and be creative in how we teach.Ultimately we believe in a creative, innovative God with imagination, bigger than any idea or concept we can come up with. Bigger than any explanation we can give.

You see creativity is all around us, its inside us, and the creative impulse a vital part of who we are, how we express what’s going on inside us.

Its in every area of life, even the areas we least expect to find it.

Its vital we make it part of our lives, and part of our churches. Its vital that we don’t restrict it or hinder it, but give it free reign  – even if its only ourselves that ever get to see what we create.

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  4. Grant on January 24, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Wow James!! Thank you so much for this. Inspirational. An insight that can nourish and inspire me for a life time. I run a creative impulse project with kids in South Africa and this has provided me with some fresh ideas.

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