‘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 surface’ (Gen 1:1-2).
It is clear from this verse that the spirit moved in and created brilliance out of nothing. Likewise in the book of John, the word became flesh, ‘through him (God) all things were made, and without him nothing was made’. Can we safely assume that without the spirit of God, nothing creative can come into being? In the film, ‘The Heart of Madness’, schizophrenia patients were locked up in a ward with nothing to do day after day. The environment was stale and allowed no growth or imagination. Instead of trying to treat the patients’ conditions by using electric shock therapy, (as was the norm for other doctors), a female doctor decided to use occupational therapy through the medium of art to allow the patients to express themselves and find an outlet of freedom. In doing so, some of the patients produced beautiful pieces of art without being taught. Creativity and art was born out of the subconscious. Some of the patients were healed through art and released to normal life.
I believe that God has imprinted everyone with his Holy Spirit during creation, ‘The Lord God formed the man and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being’ (Gen 2:7). If patients can produce phenomenal artwork without being taught, does this open up the possibility that many of us (Christian and non-Christian) may not have realised the potential of our spiritual creativity? The Bible speaks of the spirit knowing no boundaries (2 Cor 3:17). Perhaps this could provide an explanation for my feelings of frustration and boredom when I am in a job or place that provides little flexibility and is very repetitive. This robs me of my imagination and joy.
So how can we encourage more creativity within the four walls of our churches? Being afraid of failure does not allow the space to learn because if you haven’t tried, you will never know success. When I volunteered in a Christian community, this was when I became my most creative. Everyone was given the opportunity and freedom to run workshops for guests and try out new things they had not done before. The Lee Abbey community was built on trust and hope, rather than a culture of fear and blame . This freedom of expression meant there was more scope for being as imaginative as possible. Einstein believed that ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world’. Bringing back imagination in the church may open more opportunities for all sorts of ages to engage in creative worship and allow the spirit to breathe again. Some churches are already realising the importance of using ‘Fresh Expressions’. This idea is very popular in the Anglican and Methodist traditions and is about reaching people outside of the walls and doing church differently in their ‘context’ such as meeting in pubs, cafes, businesses and in the outside environment. Perhaps we too can encourage more people to engage in church in more creative ways, such as art, drama, dance, poi, musical instruments, practical activities, reflection, prayer walks and so on. There is continual evidence of creative arts being seen as holistic by many and incorporates the physical, spiritual, emotional and social way to healing.
Some traditions adopt the same service format every single week without failure and this will definitely dampen creativity. Where does this leave space for those who really want to be expressive and see the spirit truly move and change peoples’ hearts? This inflexibility of religion (not faith) over the years has encouraged believers to split, divide and form new places of worship where freedom is not prohibited. For centuries past, we have seen religion consume faith and this has placed limits on God’s power.
Many in today’s world have become very apathetic, cynical and overwhelmed with life’s problems. Consumerism has taken the place of God. Maybe we have stopped thinking and believing there is more to life than what we see. When we stop asking questions out of curiosity, we have come to accept reality as it is. Morpheus from ‘The Matrix’ emphasises this point, ‘What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain’. When we are born into this world, we are born with the boundaries of a system based on rules and regulations. We see what we see and accept it as the only reality of our situation.
However, in the spiritual realm, the spirit lives beyond these boundaries. The spirit gives us freedom to think beyond our ‘self’ and reach into the world of the supernatural. This spirit manifests into various gifts such as the speaking of languages, wisdom, knowledge, healing, distinguishing between spirits and so on (1 Cor 12:8-10). The spirit knows no restrictions, but like the wind blows wherever he needs to (John 3:8 ). The spirit has no need for living in our time because time is only man made. Many of us may not have tapped into the creativity of spirit because we didn’t realise it was in ‘us’ or our ‘system’ told us otherwise. My husband for example, says he is ‘not remotely creative’ but when I watch him on Sim City, he is designing and creating his own world within the boundaries of the game! I can also see freedom in my daughter, when she expresses herself through drawing a picture. Her imagination is not ‘off limits’.
Sometimes ‘letting go’ and allowing creativity within the church will release the freedom of the spirit to ‘make something out of nothing’ and create something beautiful that originates from God. To be honest, I am bored of the same way of doing things and so is everyone else. If we want to see God bringing revival, let the spirit be free and let’s embrace change. “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” (George Bernard Shaw).