There is an old saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” For a moment, let us consider that “beauty is in the hand of the Creator.” After all, the only true beauty we can ever encounter is the handiwork of God, the divine Creator. A resplendent sunset, a colorful rainbow, a magnificent waterfall, the potential in a newborn child, the legacy of an elderly saint, a dynamic worship song, an anointed sermon––each of these can remind us of God’s handiwork in the world and through the lives of his people. Scripture is filled with declarations that it is God who has created the world and everything in it (Deut. 3:24, Ps. 19:1, Jer. 32:17, Acts 17:24). In the book of Genesis, before Scripture records one word that God ever spoke, the writer records, “God created” (Gen. 1:1, emphasis mine). With no instruction manual and no model to follow, God’s first divine act within time and space was to create ex nihilo––something out of nothing. Then notice that while Genesis 1 begins with God creating the heavens and the earth, it ends with God creating the first humans whom he then entrusts with the same creative responsibility with which he first created (Gen. 2:15).
Makoto Fujimara has written that “to be human is to be creative,” and adds from Dorothy Sayers that “the characteristic common to God and man is apparently . . . the desire and the ability to make things.” Recently, I have been reading Fujimara’s book, Art and Faith: A Theology of Making, and it has had a profound impact on my thinking about how we as Christians, and particularly as worship leaders, engage the arts. We who lead in worship use the mediums of music, video, theatre, dance, and communication through songs, storytelling, and sermons to help people encounter God. Fujimara, a practical theologian and an artist in ancient Japanese tradition, emphasizes the privilege of humans––we creatures whom God created in his own image––to participate in the loving and divine creative work of God in the world that he created. He writes, “God’s design in Eden, even before the Fall, was to sing Creation into being and invite God’s creatures to sing with God, to co-create into the Creation.” To co-create with God is the privilege of every child of God. It is to take up the occupation of our Heavenly Father.
“to be human is to be creative”
The western church has labored for the past two centuries to present the truth of the Gospel pragmatically––through science, logic, and reason––in response to an increasingly critical and secular society, but there is more to the gospel than science, logic, and reason. If we only engage half the brain, then our pragmatic presentation is incomplete. Incomplete evangelism will yield incomplete discipleship, yielding incomplete worship, and worship is that very engagement and “co-creation” with God into which we have been invited to participate. A. P. Gibbs has called it, “the Christian’s highest occupation.” Fujimara sees faith as far more of an art than a science:
Imagination, like art, has often been seen as suspect by some Christians who perceive the art world as an assault upon traditional values. These expectations of art are largely driven by fear that art will lead us away from “truth” into an anarchic freedom of expression.
Indeed, the orthodox church has steered away from the arts in an effort to be separated from secular society. Thus, we have moved away from the creative and artistic expressions of beauty from the past––the music, the art, the theatre, even many of the dynamic sermons––which have been perceived as stiff and stuffy. Now the church has seemingly abdicated her role as co-creator with God, leaving no place for creativity in contemporary culture, sometimes considering it inherently sinful, and thereby leaving the depth of human creativity to the depravity of Hollywood. The children of God must not leave their Father’s occupation to a secular society who can only create types and shadows of the kind of beauty that can ultimately come only from the hand of the divine Creator. There is no shortage of new content being created in today’s culture. One needs to look no further than the myriad audio and video streaming options on our smart devices. Yet Fujimara emphasizes that “after many decades of the church proclaiming ‘truth,’ we are no closer as a culture to truth and beauty no than we were a century ago.”
To co-create with God is the privilege of every child of God. It is to take up the occupation of our Heavenly Father.
Today, it is often business acumen, industrial efficiency, and high productivity that drives the gospel train; but we must not be forced to choose productivity and efficiency over creativity. At the end of the day, the kingdom of God is not advanced through cells on spreadsheets or dollars and cents, however critical these tools may be. Nor can science, logic, and reason save us. God is not a CEO or a scientist but an artist. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10, NKJV). When we create, it is the outworking of having been created in the Imago Dei. This is how true worship happens––when humans give our lives to engage the gifts God has given us. Nothing can bring a father any greater pleasure than when his child carries on the family occupation. The world needs a creative church, one with a vision that goes beyond just “what works” to see what can only be seen with the eyes of faith and done with the hands of the divine Creator. Now is a good time to get back to our Father’s business.
 Makoto Fujimara, Art and Faith: A Theology of Making (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020), 6.
 Ibid., 9.
 See A. P. Gibbs, Worship: The Christian’s Highest Occupation (Walterick Publishers, 1950).
 Fujimara, Art and Faith, 5.
 Fujimara, Art and Faith, 5.
Trés Ward serves as the Assistant to the President, Director of Worship and Arts Ministries, and an adjunct faculty member at Emmanuel College. He teaches courses in Worship Ministry and Music Education and directs the Emmanuel Singers, The Voices of Emmanuel, and the Chapel Worship teams. Trés received the Bachelor of Music Education from Appalachian State University and is completing the Master of Divinity at Liberty University with an emphasis in Worship Studies. A credentialed minister with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Trés has served the local church and at conference and general denominational events as a choir director, worship leader, and Fine Arts adjudicator as well as an itinerant preacher, evangelist, youth camp speaker, and missions team leader.