More than Manifest
by Nathan Brown
Usually at this time of year—for each of the past five years—I have been working feverishly in preparation for the Manifest Creative Arts Festival, hosted and sponsored in Australia by Avondale College of Higher Education and Adventist Media Network. For a variety of reasons, this year the festival is not happening.
But creativity still matters. And these are some of the things we have learned about creativity through our five-year Manifest experience and creative community:
1. Creativity is broad, and we all do it.
In his 2015 “John Peel Lecture” for the BBC, musician and artist Brian Eno described art as “everything that you don’t have to do.” It’s that extra touch that makes a meal special: the flowers that didn’t have to grow in your garden, and when the worship service is more than just filling the spaces on a pre-printed order of service.
So before we abandon creativity to those “artsy” types, let’s recognize that we are all creative, and we all have the potential to be more so. When we make something, think imaginatively, solve a problem, or add that special touch, it is creative and it is good.
2. Creativity is divine, and human.
Creativity is one of the defining characteristics of God, an important component of the Godness of Jesus: “He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation . . . Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Col. 1:15–17, NLT ). As His stewards, we are created and called to be part of the creative reality of God. We are His masterpieces (see Eph. 2:10) and His co-creators. Creativity is essential to our understanding of God, ourselves, and our place in His world.
3. Creativity must be about something.
Creativity merely for the sake of creativity can be fun for a while, but it has a hollowness to it (see 1 Cor. 13:1, 2). We must resist the tendency of creativity to become self-indulgent. Creativity as a celebration of goodness, life, and beauty should take us outside ourselves, connect us with others, and share something of the goodness and hope we believe. Not that creativity has to be only positive or burdened with evangelistic intent, but our best evangelism will be creative and our best creativity will be a witness.
4. Creativity makes space for the creativity of others.
We must find ways to celebrate and support the creativity of others, both as individuals and in our churches. Creativity can be difficult and involve putting oneself at the risk of criticism, misunderstanding, or under-appreciation.
So how can we help those with particular creative passions to grow their gifts, abilities, and opportunities? As churches, our foyers can become galleries, our halls can be practice spaces, and our worship services can invite people to bring their best gifts to help us worship together. We can seek to include and value creativity in all we do, and invite members of our community to be part of it.
5. Creativity requires commitment.
Over the years of Manifest festivals, one of the most gratifying outcomes we have seen is how many regular participants and contributors have grown in their creative abilities, achievements, and opportunities. Creativity requires time and commitment to work and practice. With opportunity and encouragement we can grow our gifts and abilities to find our voice for the benefit of those around us, as a contribution to our church and community, and to the glory of God.
So let’s continue—and grow—our commitment to creativity. While the festival might have come to an end, creativity matters still. Personally and as a church, it is among our greatest resources and opportunities. Faithful creativity matters forever (see Rev. 21:26).
Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia, and a Manifest co-convenor.
*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.