Last night I attended a conference for Christian artists: Painters, dancers, writers, even basket weavers (I kid you not — and world renowned). Earlier in the day, Jesus said something to me that was one of those things that sounded ordinary but was quite extraordinary. He said, “Your words are a prophetic act.” In the Revival (Charismatic) culture, everything these days is a “prophetic act.” You here the term so often it has lost all or most of its meaning.
But God was telling me something important about my gift (and I will add here, yours as well). He was saying that the very words I write bring the presence of God — bring, as we like to say in revival circles, Heaven to Earth. This was important to me not because God was validating my gift but because He was telling me that what I write has inherent value regardless of what purpose or value I subscribe to it. Art, in other words, does not need to have a purpose; the fact that it exists is purpose enough.
For years I have struggled with how this gift works. Many of you may not know I am a writer of fiction and that it in fact is my primary gift. And the one thing that has always been self-evident to me is that in any form of artistic expression, freedom is paramount. But it is real difficult expressing any artistic gift you possess with freedom when you are trying to make sure it has a “purpose.” How is this going to reach the lost? How will this advance the Kingdom?
The answer is rather simple yet profound: Our very act of artistic expression, conceived in freedom, is itself an advancement of the Kingdom. The creativity that God has placed within us, and wishes to release through us, is not neutral. God told me during worship last night, “Do not underestimate the power of art. Do not underestimate the power of your words.”
We may agree, but this is a bit of a paradigm shift for many in the church who feel everything should have an overt purpose. To say artistic expression matters and should have a place is to say something deeply theological: That we weren’t put on this planet to simply save the lost or “advance the Kingdom” through preaching and the latest local church initiative to make Christianity seem really appealing to others. (Or worse, to try to get our art to explicitly do the same, all of which is a hopeless form of manipulation). Rather, our very lives are a work of art, not an effort to advance the Kingdom but the very expression of the Kingdom.
All of this took a great burden off my shoulders, for I realized I had been trying so hard to make this life work, it was destroying any semblance of art within me. It caused me to write the following words, which I hope bless you:
My life is not an act of futility or frustration; my life is an act of worship.