Remember When: Worship Songs and Wistful Longings

The other day as I was driving, I was flipping through my presets on the radio (yes, some people still let fate decide their music) when the song “When I See You Smile” by Bad English came on.

As I listened, something happened to me!

I was no longer crossing under I-45, I was crossing under the home field football stands, hands interlocked with my 6th grade girlfriend with our heads together leaning in to share one pair of headphones. To a hormonal 6th grade boy it was love. But now, so many years later, the melody being pushed through my car speakers carried my mind through time and space, like some sort of emotional Delorian.

It was an ache – “a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.”

It was nostalgia.

But here’s the thing: nostalgia can be dangerous. 

It isn’t always bad, of course. It can serve to remind us of things we’ve forgotten, or even awaken a soft spot in our hearts. So you can probably imagine how that can be a really good thing when it comes to worshiping God through song.

Music is an innate language that harmoniously connects – from our 206 bones to the 86 billion neurons in our brains. Music in all forms is powerful.

That’s why in the Bible, we are commanded to have music as a part of our worship to God, and why I’m pretty sure we worship leaders will have job security in heaven. In fact, we are commanded over 100 times in the Bible to sing. So how we think about music and singing as a church obviously matters to God.

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the earth!”

– Psalm 96:1

Music is good. Music is necessary. It takes us back, connects us presently, and gives us hope for the future.

So, how can nostalgia in music be dangerous?

When the church is gathered, music is a tool of relationship with one another and with God. But nostalgia takes our hearts by the hand and says, “hey let’s get out of here and go back.”

The problem is that we can’t go back. Nostalgia cannot transport us to our old pews where we sat as children next to our godly grandmothers. It can’t let her voice ring in your ears as she belts out over the volume of the organ the rare third verse of the “Old Rugged Cross”. Nostalgia can’t really put us back into the sweaty teen-filled auditorium from the summer between our sophomore and junior years at camp when we had tears streaming down our faces and our hands raised, crooning the lyrics to “The Stand.”

There is power in remembering our past and the spiritual milestones that God orchestrated in our lives. A blessing of music is that we can encapsulate pieces of our story in songs, and in doing so, remember and give thanks.

Remembrance is good, but the danger of nostalgia comes in when we begin to live for that feeling like a drug to experience an emotion and close our hearts to the fresh and present movement of the Holy Spirit.

When we allow nostalgia to take the wheel in worship we can become skeptical of change, agents of disunity, dissatisfied grumblers.

When I was in the 8th grade my parents divorced.

My mom moved out and our house, and what was once the epicenter of a thriving family became a tomb to memorialize it. Stacks of books sat gathering dust. Plates remained where they had always been, and so did the same pictures, the same sheets, the same rug, and the same lamp, frozen and preserved like a cold body. But it all began to deteriorate. Dust gathered. Paint faded. Piles grew.

What began as an inadvertent attempt to hold onto the past ultimately stunted the growth of the future. 

Nostalgia can do the same thing in worship at church when we long for the “good old days.” We must fight vehemently against it, not just for ourselves but for those who would come behind us. We must build a flourishing rich vibrant relationship through transcendent worship that is always growing and fulfilling the words of Jesus that he is making all things new.

If music in song is designed to be a part of a flourishing relationship between God and his bride then we must have forward emotions and experiences even as we sing about the gospel—what God has done for us in Christ, his grace for us today, and all he is continuing to do in Christ.

Nostalgia isn’t the enemy. 

After I heard that Bad English song I pulled up Spotify and added a whole 80s ballads playlist, not because I’m a glutton for heartache, but because I can look back with nostalgia and trace the story of God’s grace to see his work in bringing me to where I am today.

Nostalgia is one player in the game, valuable in its role to connect us to our past. We must know, respect, and remember the power it can have on our hearts and then look forward.


This week we wrapped up a summer-long series entitled For the Love of God: A Study of the Minor Prophets and after 11 weeks, I can personally attest to the Minor Prophets’ significance in my own understanding of the character of God. Each week, through each book, we saw different facets of God’s steadfast love for his people. For me it was like looking at the most precious diamond in the world and each angle provided yet another glimpse into the brilliance of the gem. That’s how we see God’s character revealed through each minor prophet.

But, if you’ve tracked along throughout the summer (and you kept the table of contents in your Bible open) you may have noticed we missed one of the twelve minor prophets: Zechariah. We had planned this teaching series for 11 weeks, simply due to some natural rhythms in the church calendar, but all along we knew one of the 12 would be forgotten. Ironically, the name Zechariah means “God remembers.”

So, for those who might feel short-changed or, for the love of God, can’t imagine making it this far through the Minor Prophets and missing the last one, we wanted to provide a few resources on the book of Zechariah to conclude the series. As we have all summer, you can study the book with us by utilizing the Bible Project video and discussion questions provided here.

But how might the book of Zechariah give us one last glimpse into the character of God this summer? What is the unique facet of God’s love revealed in this minor prophet’s writing?

In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying…

– Zechariah 1:1

Names, in the Old Testament, often serve as a literary device in which the author hints at the point of the story through the names mentioned in the text. For example, we see this in the story of Hosea when each of Gomer’s children’s names reference Israel’s state of disobedience and then are changed to reflect God’s grace towards them.

Well, in Zechariah 1:1 we are given a clue as to the point of this story, too.

As mentioned above, Zechariah (in Hebrew) means “Yahweh remembers.” So, what does the LORD remember? The next two names in the verse give us some indication. Berechiah means “God will bless” and Iddo means “at the appointed time.” God remembers, and at the appointed time, he will bless his people. This is one of the main thrusts of Zechariah’s prophecy.

The context of Zechariah is similar to that of Haggai, in fact their prophecies overlap in history. The nation of Israel was returning from exile to a city and a temple in ashes. It had been utterly destroyed by the previous Babylonian conquest. But God remembered. God remembered his covenant with his people. He remembered his promise to bless them and keep them. This does not mean, that God had somehow forgotten at some point. Rather, despite Israel’s cycle of disobedience, God faithfully remembered his promises and still desired a relationship with them.

So, God continued to reach out and pursue them. God gave Zechariah an oracle – a message – to serve as a love note to his people.

Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

– Zechariah 1:3b

Notice the repetition of the name for Yahweh here: the Lord of hosts. This moniker appears 261 times in the Old Testament, 80 of which occur in the short books of Zechariah and Haggai. The emphasis is on God’s control. When the people are discouraged by the state of their city, disheartened by the state of their temple, and disillusioned by feeling out of control, God reminds them he is sovereign; he is in control of history; he remembers.

And he calls his people to remember as well when he says “return to me.” He’s calling for a renewed commitment to obedience.

What follows this call can only be described as bizarre, and exactly what you think of when you think of Old Testament prophecy: visions with images that are hard to explain, sections of poetry, and non-linear illustrations of Israel’s current state, mixed with their future hope, and  promises of a Messianic king.

The non-linear flow of this book mirrors the non-linear nature of history and our lives. It’s a reminder that not everything is as neat and clean and perfect as we might like, and yet even when the world feels out of control, the Lord of hosts remembers. God remembers his people. He has not forgotten his promises or turned his back on the people he loves.

In fact, Zechariah looks to the future Messiah as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s remembering. Zechariah describes Jesus as humble, coming on a donkey (9:9-11), and as shepherd who would be rejected (13:7-9) 500 years before it all happened.

Jesus – through his perfect life, death, and resurrection – continues Zechariah’s theme of God’s control over history, God’s pursuit of his people, and the fact that God remembers his promise.

At the appointed time, he will bless his people.

This promise was partially fulfilled in Zechariah’s time as the people returned to the Lord and obeyed for a brief period of time. But, it was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus when, at the appointed time, God blessed his people with his presence on earth.

In times where we are discouraged by the state of our nation or our culture, when we are disheartened by our inability to gather for worship and become disillusioned by feeling out of control, be reminded by Zechariah that God is in control.

God remembers.

God loves you.

And his promise is still being fulfilled, today, as God continues to call people to himself.

At his appointed time, not yours or mine, he will bless his people.

All of this points us to the sovereign love of God.


050: What Makes Biblical Community Unique?

Biblical Community is one of the core values of Clear Creek Community Church. On this episode, Ryan talks with Bruce Wesley and Karl Garcia about what “Biblical Community” means, how it became a core value, and how it influences every aspect of the church.


Side by Side by Ed Welch

Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Lost Art of Disciple Making by LeRoy Eims

Small Groups, Big Impact by Jim Egli and Dwight Marble

Transformational Groups by Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger

Love Your Enemies

There are some days when life feels like the first 10 minutes of a Disney movie. The sun is shining, your hair looks great, the people you cross paths with at the grocery store are really friendly, and you feel like you could just burst out into song at any moment.

Then there are days when you feel like you’re trapped in a war movie or maybe a horror flick. Everything goes from bad to worse as you deal with your own wounds and brokenness coming to bear in your relationships and interactions; or the effects of other people’s scars, hurts, and hang-ups; or the ugliness of the world playing out right before your eyes.

This year has felt a lot more like the latter.

The tricky part for Christians is that Jesus calls his followers into both kinds of days.

He doesn’t say to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength only when things are going well for you, or only when your back isn’t against the wall, or only when you aren’t facing a global pandemic, national tension, and an election year.

It’s an all-the-time thing.

Similarly, he doesn’t command us to love people only when we feel like it, or when they’ve earned it, when we’re allowed to leave our houses and actually see them, or when they agree with us.

It’s an all-the-time thing.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

– Matthew 5:43-45

God values people. No matter how righteous or lost an individual may be, they are someone God dreamt up and breathed his breath of life into. You and me and everyone else.

When people are mean to us, or directly oppose us, or seem to be blind to our very existence, it can feel like the best course of action is retaliation.

But this is where Jesus’ words counter not just our culture, but our human instinct.

“Love your enemies.

“Pray for those who persecute you.”

Jesus is saying, see past their actions; care about their souls.

He isn’t commanding us to allow evil and let violence and corruption run amok. Nor is he condemning self-defense.

He’s telling us to see our enemies the way God does.

In the book of Acts, a young Christian named Stephen was taken out of the city to be stoned to death after he had just stood before the Sanhedrin (Jewish council) and preached through the Old Testament in order to show them that they had missed the Messiah.

But as Stephen lived out his final moments on earth, literally dying for the mission of Christ, he did something unexpected.

“And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he said this, he fell asleep.”

– Acts 7:60

This religious group had executed Jesus and were subsequently executing his followers. They fit the bill as much as anyone to be an enemy to Christians. But Stephen displayed the greatest love anyone could in the midst of such a tragedy. As they threw their ill-meaning rocks at his body, he threw back genuine prayers for their good to the only one who could do anything about it.

And who should be presiding over this scene, but Paul, known then as Saul, who would later pen the words:

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

– Romans 5:7-8

Paul was one of those people Christ died for when he was still in willful rebellion to the gospel.

And you know what?

You and I were too.

The best thing anyone could ever do for you is love you enough to rescue you from your own destruction.

And so when Jesus says to love our enemies, he’s not saying that means we should turn a blind eye to what they’re doing. He’s not saying what they’re doing is right. Love is in no way undermining the fact that God is perfectly just, and that there are very real consequences for sin on this side of eternity and beyond.

But rather than leaving them to their fate, Jesus is saying we should not give up on them in light of the gospel.

Because he didn’t give up on us.

The apostle Peter said it this way: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9).

If the story of Stephen sounded familiar, there’s probably a reason.

Jesus, as he was hanging on a cross dying for the sins of the world, was also dying for the sins of those who put him there – the enemies of his ministry and those carrying out their orders.

“And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

– Luke 23:33-34

Upon first reading this gospel account, it’s hard not to feel anger and indignation at the people who beat and mocked Jesus as he was becoming the propitiation for those very sins. But that’s not how Jesus saw them.

He could have called down curses upon them or proved them wrong by coming down off the cross unharmed.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he chose grace – the undeserved gift of mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and hope.

My prayer is that in this season and all those still to come we would be people who choose grace too.


Wednesdays at Home: 8/5/20

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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Pride and Unity

With four young children at home, I am constantly mediating conflicts. Inevitably, when someone comes to me, it is everyone’s fault except their own.

“That is mine!”

“It was his fault!”

“But what about me?”

Sometimes one of them actually has been wronged, but deeper concern is always the attitude of their hearts. Their insistence on their own goodness, their certainty that they are right, or their interest in pleasing only themselves prevents them from moving toward each other with love.

There will always be conflict in our lives, but the Bible consistently shows us that it is possible to have conversation without sin — to disagree without division. Right now we are facing unexpected change, difficult choices, and conflicting narratives.

Should we wear masks or not?

What should school look like in the fall?

How can we move forward as a country?

As a church?

These questions are important and ongoing conversations are required. Everyone is invested and most people have opinions, but passionate beliefs aren’t the true creator of division.

Instead, the deadly poison of pride is what threatens our unity as believers. Pride makes everything about me. I become the most important person in the room, losing sight of who I am in relation to both God and others. In our pride, we consider ourselves more important than others and refuse to acknowledge our shortcomings, which leads to mistrust and separation. In our certainty that our conclusions are best, we place our opinions, rights, and affiliations ahead of our love and unity as disciples of Jesus.

For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In the final moments before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and then for “those who will believe,” which includes all of us who have been a part of the church throughout history. This prayer, for future believers, is centered upon unity with God and each other.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

– John 17:22-23

Our unity has a purpose. Jesus prays that we would be one so that the world will believe that the Father sent Jesus and loves them even as he loves his Son — a declaration to the world of the truth of the gospel. Our unity can only be found in Christ, and then our unity leads others to Christ.

Jesus, in whom and through whom all things were created, humbled himself even unto death. His humility overcame the pride of Adam and allows us to be united to God.

Pride always leads to separation, but humility leads to unity.

In fact, the first step in coming to faith is repentance, requiring a rejection of pride and a posture of humility. In order to be reconciled to God, we have to admit that we cannot save ourselves — that we are sinners who disobey God and hurt the people around us. When we admit our faults and lay them at the feet of Christ, we completely rely on the grace of God. This humility leads to unity with God, unity with others, and is an invitation to others to embrace the love of Christ.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but, in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

– Philippians 2:1-3

My children will continue to have conflicts.

The church is no different.

There will always be conflicting opinions, priorities, and passions, but these differences don’t have to divide us.

Loving each other is more important than winning any argument. Our identity in Christ trumps every other issue we face as a church family. We belong to Christ. As his people, we should emulate his example by becoming tenderhearted, living with humility, and valuing others above ourselves. This will lead to love and unity instead of pride and dissension.

As the family of God, but still a group of human beings, we will inevitably have disagreements. But if we commit to an attitude of humility, we can remain united together in Christ.


048: Multiplying Leaders in the Church, Workplace, and Home

On this episode, Ryan talks with Chris Alston, the Director of Leadership Development at Clear Creek Community Church, about how to multiply leaders in every realm of life. Whether it’s in the church, at your work, or in your home, Chris shares his model for raising up leaders of character who not only lead with courage and conviction, but who focus on raising up more leaders for the future.


“Leadership from the Inside Out: Examining the Inner Life of a Healthy Church Leader”, Kevin Harney (Self Leadership)

“The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do”, Mark Miller (Team Leadership)

“The Multiplication Effect: Building a Leadership Pipeline”, Mac Lake (Organizational Leadership)



Daily Dependence

Down the hall from where I sat on the hospital floor, my knees drawn into my chest, a medical team worked diligently to save my son, Bill.

My daughter-in-law turned to me and said, “Bill always tells me ‘Amy, God will sustain us.’” She repeated words that he’d used to encourage her: “Manna for today, Amy. Just manna for today.”

Often, in the days that followed, my husband, Dave, said, “We have what we need for today, let’s just be faithful and rest there.”

It is all too easy to believe in a God based on my own warped and self-centered thinking. But, I want to know God accurately and intimately as he reveals himself in Scripture, because what I believe about God completely influences how I behave and how I hope.

As I surrender to who God truly is, I have learned to ask daily,

LORD fill me with your Holy Spirit, from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet and the full extension of my arms.  Teach my mind, control my emotions, and direct my will.  I want to know you; to be conformed to the image of your son; to be used by you to bring light and life. It’s your work LORD; I’d be honored to join you in it.

But, there are days and even seasons that I do not feel like God is using me to bring light and life to the world around me. Honestly, there are days that I do not even feel his presence. During those times I have learned what it means to fight for faith, to actively cultivate a daily dependence, and to know truth.

This truth undergirds trust.

The years leading up to the worst November of my life were full of loss. Both of my parents and the sweetest-mother-in-law-ever died, leaving Dave and I with no living parents. One of my sisters lost her struggle with drugs and alcohol. We unsuccessfully fought to save our business. We walked alongside dear friends as they lost a 21-year-old child to brain cancer. Close friends moved away.

There was so much loss.

Then we lost our son, Bill — a pain like no other.

A year later, on the very day that Dave was to speak at a close friend’s funeral, we were told that he himself had cancer which they described as inoperable, metastatic, high-risk, and aggressive.

I have feared that someone looking in on our lives would think that somehow, we had fallen out of favor with God — that surely, we were being punished by God for some major wrongdoing. But, I prayed that God would make himself look good to those watching. That they would see, as I know, that he is perfectly good and so very faithful.

God is sovereign and he knows and loves me personally.  There is tension in believing these things. But it is in this tension where trust is developed and dependence is practiced. It is here that I fight daily for my faith:

  • Study Scripture: I carefully and humbly seek to know truth with the help of the Holy Spirit and a community of other believers who are brave enough to be honest with me when my thinking gets skewed.
  • Reject False Gospels: I actively weigh my thoughts and beliefs, rejecting false gospels and recognizing old voices in my mind, seeking to replace lies with truth.
  • Pray as if it Matters: I trust that God the Father loves to hear his children pray, believing that God the Son makes every prayer pleasing and leaning on the Holy Spirit to help me as I pray.
  • Focus on the Eternal: I remind myself that temporal events are momentary; eternity is forever (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Daily dependence is simply trust in action.

Throughout my day, I verbalize a particular concern and then look at it squarely and say, “Am I going to trust you with this, God?”

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives me confidence that God loves me; therefore, I can focus on just taking the next right step. As I walk with Jesus, I trust that he is present, aware of every detail, and actively working to fulfill his purposes. He can be trusted. God is my loving father who takes great delight in his children and is completely dependable.

As much as I seek to avoid pain and trouble, I find it easier to cultivate a real daily dependence on God when I am desperate. The ugly truth is that when life is easy, happy, successful, and prosperous I tend to take credit for all the good and forget my need for the indwelling life of Christ. 

But, in daily dependence, I find intimacy with Christ. As I set my mind on him, I find hope, joy, and contentment.

My prayer is that you will also find abundant life in Christ and trust in him daily.


A Pandemic of Fear

There are extreme emotions everywhere we look right now — anger, distrust, contempt, frustration, and so much fear. COVID-19 outbreaks, financial stress, uncertainty with school, murder hornets (come on now!), all dominate our thoughts.

There is no question that fear is as contagious as any virus, and this is all on top of the myriad of ways we face fear in normal, non-pandemic life circumstances.

Fear is not sin. Like all emotions, fear is a God-given response to the reality of our world. However, we can — and often do — sin in our fear when we lash out at those around us, numb ourselves with alcohol, drugs, or Netflix, or hide from life and people. When we place our trust in something other than God, our fear can master us, and then fear turns from a real (and helpful) emotion, to a source of pain, destruction, and isolation.

So what can we do? How can we, as Christians, approach and respond to fear in a way that honors God and edifies our community?


Search Your Heart

So often we experience anger, anxiety, contempt, and other powerful emotions that give us a sense of control over what’s really going on – the fact that we’re afraid. Doing this allows us to focus, often in a negative way, on other people and situations instead of what is happening in our own hearts.

This is when fear moves from a common and natural response, to something that cannot be controlled and can cause devastating harm. Instead of denying our fear, we must learn how to recognize the reality of fear, so that we can bring it into the light and respond in a way that honors God.

Recently my child was diagnosed with COVID-19. My initial response was anger at the place where she was exposed, frustration concerning how on earth we would manage our family of six for the next few weeks, and contempt toward the way others were responding to our situation.

But, what I finally had to acknowledge was a deep fear of what was happening – that my child was sick, that we all might be sick, and mostly, that someone else I love might have contracted COVID-19 and be put in serious harm because of us.

And there was nothing I could do about any of it.

I had to stop, breathe, and ask myself What is really going on? What am I reacting to and why? And then, I had to be willing to honestly discover the answer.


Allow Others In 

The simple act of speaking your fears out loud to another person has a transformative effect.

When I call my friend whom I can trust with my fears, a weight is lifted. Even if the threat isn’t gone, and even if I still am afraid, I am no longer carrying my burden alone and so the power of fear dissipates.

Reaching out to others with our fear takes courage. It requires vulnerability to admit that we are afraid, especially if we are the type of person who feels the need to be strong and in control, or maybe has been taught that fear equals weakness. But the truth is we are weak and we live in a broken world that we can’t thrive in alone. God created us to live in intimate relationship with each other. Neurobiologists calls this the “neurobiology of we,” describing the brain as a social organism. 1

We need each other to walk through valleys of fear.

When I finally acknowledged all of the fear in my heart, I immediately contacted my best friend. Describing all of the emotions I was feeling and admitting to the fear building in my heart left me feeling exposed, but immediately lighter. She was able to speak truth into my life, and she took on some the burden of my fear simply by loving me in that moment.

We need each other, always, but especially in difficult moments. If you can find the courage to truly be honest in community, facing fear can transform isolation into a pathway to intimacy and love.


Trust God 

Does trusting God mean that you will never experience fear again?


There are real dangers in this world, and emotions are a gift, not a curse. Instead, trusting God means that we have learned to take our fear to him — that we can trust God with our fear and everything that causes fear. Only when we cry out to God in these times can we find peace in his presence and learn to trust in his promises — promises that really are greater than any circumstance we will ever face.

In the difficult moments in life, we can choose to run away, or we can choose to run toward our Father.

Choosing to step into God’s presence, be filled by his Spirit, and pray to experience the peace of Christ has allowed me to not just make it through fear, but to find rest and purpose in the midst of it.

He is good, he is faithful, and he is present — and truly, that changes everything.

Run towards God with purposeful time in his word to remind yourself of his promises, and purposeful time in prayer to find rest in his presence.

God is for you, he is with you, and he is faithful to rescue you.


There is no reason to be ashamed of fear. To experience fear does not mean you are failing in your faith — don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. But fear can twist our hearts and minds in ways that hurt ourselves and others, and can lead us away from God instead of into his arms.

Like anything else, how we respond to fear is far more important than whether or not we experience it. Fear can rule us, or we can learn to respond to it well and lean on the one who rules over all.


1 – Siegel, Dan. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, 211.

Why the Church Needs Art

Over the last 10 years, I’ve been in search of the artist’s role within the church and culture. The one thing I have become undeniably certain of is that God is an artist, and he is misunderstood.

In Genesis, God created a beautiful, thriving world full of flourishing life.


What purpose did it serve?

What does the vibrant color of a geranium or the graceful dance of a sparrow on the wind achieve? How about the breathtaking display of Aurora Borealis or the intricate inner weavings of an orb weaver’s web? Couldn’t God have accomplished his plan without any of this?

In the last 100 years, the rise of industry (and subsequent consumerism) has shaped us into a productivity-driven people. We ask, “how can art help us accomplish our goals?” However, in asking this question, we have unknowingly chosen utilitarian pragmatism over human flourishing.

If God didn’t create in order to quicken his redemptive deadline, or multiply his end product, then why did he?

God is an artist. He didn’t just create people to save, but souls and a world to restore. Art, creativity, and beauty are not simply tools in the hand of a redemptive God, but instruments in the hands of a restorative Creator.

So, what does this mean for the role of art in the church?

We see, in Genesis, God create humans for two main purposes—to cultivate his creation, and to delight in his presence.

Often, this call to cultivate is separated from our invitation to delight and dwell with our creator. You see, our mandate is not just productivity, but, as the artist Makoto Fujimura says in Culture Care, “to infuse all of life with Christ’s presence.”(Fujimura, 2014, Called Beyond Utility section para. 13).

When we talk about art, whether song or dance, poetry or painting, design or directing, we are talking about something that can be extremely impactful, and yet is often deeply misunderstood.

Art is:

Universal – In any given city, art can affect a wide variety of people and cultures in a way nothing else can. Think about an old white man and young black woman sitting in the same theatre, enjoying the same film. Art has the ability to transcend age, race, or experiences, affecting people from all different walks of life in a profound way.

Vehicular – Art can take people to places they never imagined they could go. Think about the way you have felt after hearing a certain song, seeing a certain film, or reading a certain book. The creative work took you somewhere you had never been or took you back to a place or time you had been long before.

Persuasive – C.S. Lewis says that art can “steal past the watchful dragons” of the soul. Art stands at the border and welcomes in those who would normally resist the invitation to engage.

Motivational – We are not simply intellectual creatures, but also emotional beings. Art reveals the heart of any movement and sets people in motion and on mission.

Generous – It provides something beautiful without demanding anything in return.

See how impactful art can be? However, if we view ourselves as merely people of productivity, then all art can be distorted and reduced down to a means to an end.

We can use visual art to advertise our church, musical art to stick catchy phrases into people’s minds, and written art to teach our philosophies—and this type of art is useful. However, if beauty and creativity that transcend utility are seen as wasteful, we end up with an emaciated version.

Beauty is not just a means to an end, it is a pathway to revealing the heart of God.

In the gospel narratives, we are told of a woman who broke a costly bottle of perfume and began to anoint Jesus with it. As the glorious fragrance filled the house, the men who were present began to scold the woman for this reckless and wasteful act. To them, it was completely impractical. Jesus, however, stopped them and said:

“She has done a beautiful thing to me… and wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

– Matthew 26:10, 13

Jesus’ profound statement sheds light into our Creator’s heart. Why did Jesus make such a bold statement about this specific act?

Maybe this act wasn’t practical, but this sacrificial expression of creativity actually best conveyed the heart of the Gospel, and that was beautiful to Jesus.

Perhaps it reminded Jesus of how the Father created a world that he knew would be broken by sin, chose a people to reveal himself to who would reject him, and would give up his one and only son in a seemingly wastefully, but beautiful, creatively sacrificial expression of love, all for the sake of restoring what was once broken into something even more beautiful than it was before.

At first glance, the church needs art in order to be most productive (advertisement, music, design). However, if this is the only reason for art in the church than we have missed who our God is as a creator and reduced him to a CEO.

We would only need a staff of people who are talented instead of a church full of people who are gifted. God doesn’t just use art and beauty to accomplish a task, but for delight, wonder, enjoyment, depth, human flourishing, and ultimately to best exemplify redemption and restoration.

After years of searching, my conclusion is that the church, and culture as a whole, needs art in order to reveal to us the heart of God and the big picture of the Gospel; that Jesus did not come merely to buy us back from sin, but to bring us into flourishing freedom.