I had a truly amazing time at Story. I loved the people who I met and most of the messages that I heard.
But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?), I left feeling a little bit conflicted.
The thing I loved the most about the conference was seeing one presenter after another get up and share the excitement that they got from their craft. Watching Isaac Rentz bounce around the stage, sharing his videos, and telling us, “I love this. It’s really good,” awakened something in me that I didn’t even know was asleep.
Being proud of my work.
When I went through The Bad Time, the phrase that stuck with me the most was that I had “a spirit of performance.” This was because I wanted to music to sound good. I wanted the worship team to practice, to give our best efforts, to come prepared. I didn’t want what happened on stage to be a distraction and technical difficulties and poor musicianship can certainly be a distraction. But when we put these ideas into practice and started playing well, out came the accusations. Being good was not okay. Not only was it not okay, but there was probably something a little bit demonic behind it.
Even though I rejected that then and reject it now, nevertheless, a part of that admonition stuck with me. Being good is somehow a negative thing. Fully immersing in the creative act, whatever that might look like to you, is something you need to guard against.
Seeing artists stand up in front of a group of other artists and say, “This is my work and I love it,” was something that I needed to hear.
But there was another message that was said loudly, and it competed with that one.
“Worship the Creator, not the creation.”
Now, this sounds really good. One can’t very well argue with that. The Bible is clear about idols and anything placed over God is an idol. So questioning that bit of wisdom feels very wrong to me.
But I’m totally going to do that.
Not the idea itself. But rather that it’s something that we need to spend a lot of time thinking about.
I mentioned Isaac Rentz because he was by far my favorite presenter. Though he is a Christian, he doesn’t create “Christian art” and, in fact, eschews the notion that art can be Christian. He directed a video about death. He directed a video about a misunderstood monster. He directed a video with no plan at all. There is no faith message in these endeavors. There is no call to the Gospel and they don’t walk through the four spiritual laws.
But they were the result of him reaching beyond his comfort zone and doing something he couldn’t do. They required his full creative energy and as a result, these projects point to God. Not to a neat, tidy, polite God, but to a wildly creative being. A God that refuses boxes and boundaries and rules. A God that understands hurt and pain and hope and love; a God that understands what it is to be human.
When Rentz jumped fully into the creative process, the resulting work pointed to God because creativity comes from God. He didn’t have to think about whether or not he was worshiping the creation or the Creator – the work pointed to the Creator because it originated with him in the first place.
I find it interesting that many who preach the “worship the Creator, not the creation” message will often point to Romans 1:20, which says that creation points to God. But we seem to write ourselves and our creative abilities out of that equation. We are God’s workmanship, but that which we create is so often suspect.
So we hide it and we hedge it. We play make it family-friendly and safe for all ages. We measure it out so we don’t have something that’s worthy of worship, nothing that can get in the way.
And it sticks out and distracts and says that God doesn’t care about art. God doesn’t care about music. God doesn’t care about poetry. God doesn’t care about our hurt and pain and hope and love; he doesn’t know what it means to be human.
But he does. That was the whole point. We are created to point to him.
When we do that – when we create without apology, without fear, without limits – the result will cause those who see it to worship. And whether it is acknowledged or not, that worship will be for the One from whom creativity pours forth.
And we can echo the words of that same One who created first and say, “It is good.”