This special July issue of Sunday| Mag explores the creative process of?SALT Nashville, a?creative arts conference. I (Jonathan Malm) know firsthand that putting together a conference is a lot like putting together an Easter service. The goal of this issue is to take a look at a conference and see what things we can learn for our own creative church endeavors. Enjoy!
In the Fall of 2013, I was invited to stand before a group of beautiful and open people, and talk about the intersection between Christ and creativity. The inaugural year of SALT Nashville was just getting started. As I spoke, it felt like something in my deep heart was exploding.
I love it when that happens.
When God created the heavens and the earth, I think He must have felt like a kid in a candy shop. I just can?t squelch the assumption that there had to be tremendous joy and laughter as the words of the Bible began. What is so two-dimensional to us must have been beyond dimension to God. God creates a world. We create a Powerpoint.[quote]God creates a world. We create a Powerpoint.[/quote]
There was joy within the Trinity. Joy in the heavens. Joy in the faces of the angels. The same feeling of joy we had when, as the five-year old versions of us, we ran to Mom or Dad with a new crayon work of art.
That kind of joy.
Now painting that exact moment for generations to come, a fully God-inspired man, with equal parts prophet and poet coursing through his veins, pens these words:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The Creator starts with a blank dark space. If we were there, we would probably think something was wrong. Most of us think something is wrong when a nothing is being passed off as a something. God however, doesn?t see dark, empty, or formless.
He?s too busy seeing possibilities.[quote]God’s?too busy seeing possibilities.[/quote]
That?s because before anything starts to take shape, the Spirit of God is already there. Hovering there, to be exact. He doesn?t have to be invited or convinced to show up. He is already there.
On a surface level, God starts to create a bunch of stuff. Light and water and sun and moon and vegetation and animals and humans. And it?s all very good. But underneath the surface, God is doing something far greater.
He?s showing us what creativity is all about. And if we pay attention to how God is creating the world, I think we?ll catch what He?s offering us.
There?s a void. This void is easy to spot. God sees the void, and then fills that void with expressions of Himself.
The sun and the moon and the stars. They?re all expressions of God?s light. We?ll read later in Scripture that God is light, and He clothes Himself in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16). Those three objects?the sun, the moon, and the stars?will have differing functions, but they all offer the same thing to the universe. Light. They either produce it or reflect it.
Then there?s the water, the vegetation, the animals, and the fish. They?re all expressions of God?s life, each representing a creative dumping of God?s life?into what would become the world. He?s breathing it all into it all.
God is light and God is life, and in one series of creative flurry, He?s pouring it all into the world. It?s simple, really. For God to be a creative God, He takes the essence of everything He is, and He pours it into a void.
And the height of God?s void-filling activity is the creation of humans. We were fashioned and formed in the image of a creative God, and we bear that divine imprint. Our Maker is creative, therefore we are creative.[quote]We were fashioned and formed in the image of a creative God, and we bear that divine imprint.[/quote]
All of us.
All of us are creative.
And that?s pretty much the coolest thing ever.
Creativity is never an automatic thing because the essence of creativity always invites us to pour. Most of us think we?re creative when we display. I think we?re most creative when we pour.
And pouring takes intention. It?s active, not passive. It takes both dreams and sweat.
According to what I see happening here in the creation story, creativity is less about generating the next best creative concept. It?s less about comparing yourself with others who do the same thing as you do, and who?in your mind?do it better. Creativity is all about pouring the essence of who you are into a void.[quote]Creativity is all about pouring the essence of who you are into a void.[/quote]
It?s the essence of who you?are.
Not the guy who?s been on church staff longer than you, or the gal who makes everyone in the room laugh.
You pour you.
And you pour you into the unique voids that appear every week at your church. These aren?t simply ministry opportunities or bullet points in your job description. They are empty spaces that will remain empty unless you pour yourself into them.
Empty worship spaces.
Empty orders of worship.
We have been created to create. It is indeed a Divine calling to pour the essence of everything we are into the voids we encounter every day. And as I see it, God calls that ?creativity?. This, I believe, is where heaven comes to earth. This is where the Divine dances with the mundane. This is where light overcomes darkness.
This is where the world is shifted in an Eden direction.
And God invites us to do it all with the goofy smile and naive abandon of a kid in a candy shop.