Usually at this time of year—each of the past five years—we would be urging you to come to the Manifest Creative Arts Festival, to submit your entries to the various creativity-focused competitions, and to think about what creativity means for your life and your church. This year, we are only asking you to consider again the last of these. As the absence of advertising, invitations and entreaties might have failed to alert you, the festival is not happening this year.
But creativity still matters. And these are some of the things we have learned about creativity through our Manifest experiences and community:
As His stewards, we are created and called to be part of the creative reality of God. We are His masterpieces and His co-creators.
1. Creativity is broad—and we all do it.
In his 2015 “John Peel Lecture” for the BBC, musician and artist Brian Eno described art as “everything that you don’t have to do.” It’s that extra touch that makes a meal special, the flowers that didn’t have to grow in your garden and when the worship service is more than just filling the spaces on a pre-printed order of service. So before we abandon creativity to those “arty” types, let’s recognise that we are all creative and have the potential to be more so. When we make something, think imaginatively, solve a problem or add that special touch, it is creative and it is good.
2. Creativity is divine—and human.
Creativity is one of the defining characteristics of God—and an important component of the Godness of Jesus: “He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation . . . Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Colossians 1:15–17, NLT). As His stewards, we are created and called to be part of the creative reality of God. We are His masterpieces (see Ephesians 2:10) and His co-creators. Creativity is essential to our understanding of God, ourselves and our place in His world.
3. Creativity must be about something.
Creativity merely for the sake of creativity can be fun for a while but it has a hollowness to it (see 1 Corinthians 13:1, 2). We must resist the tendency of creativity to become self-indulgent. Creativity as a celebration of goodness, life and beauty should take us outside ourselves, connect us with others and share something of the goodness and hope we believe. Not that creativity has to be only positive or burdened with evangelistic intent. But our best evangelism will be creative and our best creativity will be a witness.
4. Creativity makes space for the creativity of others.
We must find ways to celebrate and support the creativity of others, both as individuals and in our churches. Creativity can be difficult and involve putting oneself at the risk of criticism, misunderstanding or under-appreciation. So how can we help those with particular creative passions to grow their gifts, abilities and opportunities? As churches, our foyers can become galleries, our halls can be practice spaces and our worship services can invite people to bring their best gifts to help us worship together. We can seek to include and value creativity in all we do—and invite members of our community to be part of it.
5. Creativity requires commitment.
Over the years of Manifest festivals, one of the most gratifying outcomes we have seen is how many regular participants and contributors have grown in their creative abilities, achievements and opportunities. Creativity requires time and commitment to work and practice. With opportunity and encouragement, we can grow our gifts and abilities to find our voice and what we have to say, for the benefit of those around us, as a contribution to our church and community, and to the glory of God.
So let’s continue—and grow—our commitment to creativity. While the festival might have come to an end, look out for events and opportunities “presented by Manifest” (such as a concert by Psalms project band Sons of Korah at Avondale College on March 19). The book—Manifest: Our Call to Faithful Creativity—is also still available from Adventist Book Centres.
Creativity matters. It is among our greatest resources and opportunities. And faithful creativity matters forever (see Revelation 21:26).
Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing and a Manifest co-convenor. Connect with the Manifest community on Facebook (www.facebook.com/faithfulcreativity).