Practical Pointers

​Pastor, use the arts!

Julie Guirgis is a freelance writer and caregiver in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Why does a painting, book, photograph, or film evoke such emotion and connection in us? Why do we spend so much time expressing how we feel through various arts? There are many surface answers, but the bottom line is that it is a God connection.

Creativity in the garden

In Genesis 1, God set creativity into motion when He created us in His image. God ingrained creativity is into our DNA. Our impulse to create and express ourselves is divinely inspired. When we create, it pleases God because He loves to see His image shine through each of us. Whether through gardening, painting, singing, writing, knitting, shaping pottery, can all be potentially prayerful pursuits, we are encouraged to express our creativity in different ways and to various degrees, even if we are not born with a genetic bent to a particular talent.

The arts in the Bible

Language. The Bible is rich in artistic use of metaphor and poetry written with much skill and sophistication. The Psalms, Job, and Song of Songs are the most prominent examples of biblical poetry. The nature of scripture itself affirms the importance of creativity in language.

God chose to reveal Himself through the writings of various authors over many hundreds of years in just about every literature then known to humanity. There are historical stories, laws, poems, songs, proverbs, prophetic oracles, parables, letters, apocalyptic literature, and even genealogies. In producing our literature, we are following the example of God, who gave us a rich heritage in His word.

Drama. Drama is first mentioned when God tells Ezekiel to “act out” the siege of Jerusalem. He even drew the city skyline and used it as a familiar backdrop (Ezek. 4). Jesus often spoke in parables and told colorful and intriguing stories that had their fair share of drama.

Art. The visual arts played a major role in building the tabernacle (Exod. 31:1–11) and the temple. First Kings 6:4 says, “He made narrow windows high up in the temple walls.” Recessed windows were near the tops of the walls to help light be the center of the temple.

Some of the artwork in the temple, like the pillars, had no utilitarian purpose but simply to reveal beauty. Second Chronicles 3:15–17 provides a beautiful visual image: “For the front of the temple . . . He made interwoven chains and put them on top of the pillars. He also made a hundred pomegranates and attached them to the chains. He erected the pillars in the front of the temple, one to the south and one to the north. The one to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz.”1

Music. Singing was a big part of Hebrew culture. The hymnbook of Psalms continually encourages us to sing to the Lord (Ps. 149:1). The Psalms include songs of praise, laments, pleas for help, introspection, prayers of repentance. It provides examples of how to sing our heart cries to God. Jesus and the apostles sang hymns. Paul even suggests that music is a sign of being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18–20).

Dance. Psalm 149:3 says, “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.” Psalm 150:4 says, “Praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe.”

Practical application

Gavin Richardson suggests that you ask yourself, what arts do you wish to cultivate? “Photography, painted arts, writing, improv/theater, filmmaking, dance, design, graphics, ceramics and sculpture are possibilities.”2 He urges that one take time to determine the “why” and “what” of infusing ministry with the arts.

The arts can have a powerful impact, awaken us to truth, and change lives if they are produced by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Creativity can teach and inspire in a way that connects people with the God who loves them.

  1. Scripture is from the New International Version.
  2. Gavin Richardson, “Art needs the church: How to create artisan communities.” United Methodist Communications. http://www.umcom

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Julie Guirgis is a freelance writer and caregiver in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

September 2020

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