We live in a time where things get old quickly. Where news and fashion used to spread slowly and linger, we now live in a world of viral videos, trending hashtags and insta-fame. A single trend will swamp us, and then be forgotten as quickly as it arrived as the next thing takes our attention.
It makes me think about the burden that this places on creativity. It’s hard to come up with something new when, in the time it takes you to imagine it, someone else is probably already doing it (complete with the perfect hashtag!). There will always be room for creativity – the capacity to imagine beyond what is already there – but the shadow of competitiveness and comparison hangs over the creative process like never before.
For the follower of Jesus, though, creativity isn’t just about pushing boundaries into uncharted territory. With faith, creativity collides with worship: the glorification of God, in whom all things were created. Creativity is at is freest and fullest when it is done as an act of worship.
Creativity is at its freest and fullest when it is done as an act of worship.
This is not to say that the things we make will last forever. Rather, we can freely use our creative capacity to explore new ideas that are driven by lasting truth instead of passing trends. The urge and ability to innovate is inherent to being image-bearers of our Creator God. This means we don’t have to shy away from bringing a new idea, or design, or story, or song (six different Psalms invite a new song!) – in fact, we can do so all the more confidently, because at the core of anything new is the everlasting truth and steadfast character of God. We will forever be able to bring a new song, because the One who inspires all our creative pursuits has depths that are beyond tracing out.
There are some powerful worship songs out there, and some deeply prophetic art, and writing that seems to have come directly from heaven. It’s enough to make any Creative go from cautious to conquered, withholding their efforts because all the good stuff is already out there. But let’s put that lie to rest with a little venture into John’s vision of the throne room of heaven in Revelation 4 and 5. Read this passage, or perhaps listen to it with your eyes closed, and soak up the beauty and glory of it all.
The visuals are one thing; the sound is another. We read of an anthem – a new song, specifically – sung by the four living creatures and twenty-four elders who minister at the foot of the throne. Then, the voices of millions and millions of angels join in. And finally, the crescendo of the chorus is sung with everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea lifting their voices: praise, glory, honour and strength, for ever and ever, to the one who sits on the throne and to the lamb!
Imagine the harmonies. Imagine the atmosphere, thick with sound. And imagine your voice in the mix. I reckon a song sung by the creatures and elders and angels would be hard to beat, but here’s the kicker: the song isn’t complete until all the voices are added. To create worshipfully isn’t a challenge to cut through what’s already out there, it’s an invitation to join in with the most true and beautiful song that’s ever been sung.
To create worshipfully is an invitation to join in with the most true and beautiful song that’s ever been sung.
This is one of the most liberating results of seeing creativity as worship. We need not make a name for ourselves, because the point of our pursuits is the Name above every name. This doesn’t mean we have to write under a pseudonym or leave our artwork unsigned lest any of the glory goes to us. But it does mean we have the privilege of creating as recipients and givers of grace. It means we don’t rise or fall based on how quickly or broadly our ideas are adopted. We take our cue from the elders in Revelation 4:10-11: ‘They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”’ We’re reoriented, taking our motivation from the love of God instead of the ‘likes’ of man.
There’s much more to be said – indeed, there always will be – but I can’t put it any better than this hymn (which in itself is wonderfully old, with a history that goes back even further than 1917 when it was finished by Frederick M. Lehman):
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And everyone a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
My fellow Creatives, Worshippers, Anthem-singers: next time you face a blank canvas (metaphorical or actual), go hard into the eternal song for the glory of God.