• Dan Carlton

Created to Create

Creators and founders, startup communities, co-working spaces, and acceleration are some of the words used to describe innovation in business. This innovation movement has created companies that did not exist 15 years ago but are now household names with millions/billions of dollars of revenue. While all of this is happening, the church is on the outside looking in—without a seat at the table and, without even wanting a seat at the table. We believe that the church needs to reclaim its creative role in our culture.

We are created by our Creator to create. This stems from the foundational statement of Genesis 1, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” The opening pages of the Hebrew scripture tell us the story of a God who creates. Before we learn of His love for his people, His covenant relationship with us, before we hear of His holiness and His sovereignty, we hear He is a creator God.

Long before laws, rituals, traditions and customs were set in place, there were people. God put the first humans in the garden with the instruction to create—to form culture and build a society. They, and we, are imperfect creators, but in the core of our soul is the call to create because God has placed that within us.

The church has taken the best “Creator/Founder” story in our culture and made it a “how” story. We have discussed the process of how God the Creator did all this, we’ve written books, built museums, and argued with scientists. But we put the focus on the wrong part of the story. It’s not a “how” story—it’s a Creator story. It’s a story of a God who creates, and we are created in his image. One of our foundational images of God is His creating out of abundance.

We are not God—He’s the creator—we are the created. So we don’t create out of nothing. But as people created in His image, we take what He has created and use it to bring Him glory. And when we do this, there is human flourishing and God is honored—when we don’t do that, we miss what he has intended.

So many churches and believers have reduced their calling to church attendance, budgets and buildings, learning church doctrine and occasionally thinking about how to engage the culture that “we” created and God’s wants us to redeem (Psalm 107, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Colossians 1:3-14). But what if we came back to our foundational idea of being made in the image of God to create—how would that change our lives and our culture?

It would open up “calling” language to include everyone. Todd and I grew up doing the same things at the same church, and both of us felt called to ministry in our teens years. Our parents and church affirmed and encouraged our sense of calling. I went to college and seminary and did the academic work that prepared me for the “ministry.” Todd pursued business and technology and that also prepared him for ministry—a created-to-create ministry. Unfortunately, we have made the work of my calling as the “ideal” and Todd’s calling never gets the focus it should. I was trained to manage religious institutions and people. Todd understood being created to create.

We believe there is a beautiful creative community out there among lots of people like Todd. Unfortunately, the church has drifted away from our Genesis mandate. We don’t identify with “creatives,” and “creatives” don’t see us.

So, if you want to be creative in the arts, creative in business, creative in education, creative in health care—you have to go outside the parameters of the local church. The church doesn’t do those things. But what if we did?

It is interesting that the Bible tells us that Paul was a tentmaker. Paul was one of (if not the) greatest theologians to have ever lived—he wrote half the New Testament. The Bible writers could have given us lots of information about Paul’s spiritual life, but they tell us he was a tentmaker—which seems an insignificant piece of information in the context of writing the story and theology of the early church. But we think it is included because Paul’s understanding of God’s work was formed in Paul’s connection with his community. And Paul’s understanding of God’s work in the community would have been severely limited if he had not been a tentmaker, engaging the marketplace of his world. Paul was created to create, and we see that in his desire to plant churches, to preach the gospel, to develop theology AND to make tents for the marketplace.

A theology that leads us back to being created by the creator to be creative could lead to renewal of the culture and the institutions that God created us to create. The clear model of the New Testament is the church engaged creatively in business, education, physical and mental health, the arts and literature. And the evidence rising out of 2000 years of church history is that when the church is creative—both the church and humanity flourish. We too often ask—what do we need to do to get people to come to church?—and those conversations always lead to programs and curriculum, but what would happen if you opened up the door to the Creator in all of us?

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