Once there was a musician whose unrivalled skill and creativity made him one of the most famous in his day. He went on to become one of the most respected names in classical music. His musical innovation was second only to his love for Jesus Christ. Johann Sebastian Bach was an artist who shaped the music scene, both yesterday and today, in the name of God.
Creativity is something that, unfortunately, is at an all-time low. New homes are no longer built with a living room or study; space that was formerly used for a piano or library is now given to entertainment rooms with televisions and computers. We are rarely encouraged to create, instead settling for the new and fangled art and music of our revered pop stars.
Sadly, the church has contributed to this artistic boredom in our culture. Pastors get their sermons online. It seems like everyone wants to do the latest study by the famous person on some glittery topic. And Christian music has turned into a machine, pumping out tunes that are sung all across the world. I’m not saying that any of this is bad. But if it exists in lieu of original, grassroots risky thought and culture that is created just because, we may have lost an important part of ourselves.
God is creative. Look at the variety of fish in the ocean, for example. Ephesians tells us that even we are the workmanship of God the craftsman. One of my favorite guys in the Bible is Bezalel. He helped design and build the Old Testament tabernacle. In Exodus the scripture says that “God filled him with His Spirit, in wisdom and craftsmanship, to make designs in every inventive work.”
When I read this, it validates the joy I find in building something out of wood, drawing a picture, crafting a sermon, or writing a song. Being made in the image of a Craftsman means that we too are created to create. Something dies in us when we don’t, and something comes alive in us when we do. I believe that in our cluttered culture there needs to be a freedom for people of faith to stop being numbed by entertainment and start making our own art and music. This shift from consumer to creator would do our souls much good.
In our church we have tried to foster this. It takes work. You have to be willing to break the mold and risk some things. Most of the art and tapestry in our meeting place were created by members of our church. We have songwriting and crafting guilds to encourage the same. People write songs, quilt together, do henna, make each other clothes, and even build chainmail. Things aren’t squeaky clean, but there is an honesty in the air. It’s an atmosphere that encourages everyone to create for the glory of the Creator.
How do I do this? Try this: Turn off the radio and hum instead. Pick up that dusty instrument and take some lessons. If you’ve always wanted to learn to paint, buy some materials instead of coffee this month and give it a go. Grow your own vegetables. Sew, draw, write, sing, play; refuse the trend of the age and make your own instead. You’ll find yourself in the good and sacred company of J.S. Bach.
I will conclude with a lyric by one of my favorite hymn writers, Francis Pott: “Thou didst ears and hands and voices for thy praise design; craftsman’s art and music’s measure, for thy pleasure, all combine.”