If you resonate with the truth of the forerunner ministry and you do not have a strong gifting in preaching from a platform are you invalidated? The very simple and obvious answer is no, and the truth is, due to the radical shift in technology in recent years the most effective preaching platform may not even be the church pulpit anymore. I say the church pulpit rather than the church platform, because I still strongly believe that it is “through the church (that) the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known” (Eph. 3:10). The reason I make a differentiation is because preaching is not the only gifting that the New Testament envisages that the church members will possess, indeed it is envisaged that as the “ekklesia” gathers to worship each one would bring their own contribution to edify to the body depending on their particular gifting. The Bible outlines many giftings and callings that can help build up the body and there are many extra-biblical callings (which if they had existed in Bible times I believe would have been included), which likewise need to be employed to communicate the fullness of the gospel.
Do you feel invalidated from this ministry if you are a designer of any ilk, a blogger, a script writer, an author, a TV producer, a videographer, a podcaster, a coder, an inventor or indeed any other kind artist? It is evident that the workplace is increasingly populated by those that have been termed by Richard Florida as the “creative class” (see “The Rise of the Creative Class”—Revisted, Revised and Expanded, 2014, Basic Books). Florida has noted in his work that over a third of the workforce are part of this class. Sometimes the workplace is simply seen as a place to be endured by Christians, perhaps something that can be used to fund Christian ministry, yet the truth is we need a much more holistic approach. We absolutely need to ask the question about what we do with our financial resources, but perhaps a more germane question is what are we doing with our creative skills. Do we even consider that these skills can be used to further the Great Commission of Jesus more directly? How are these skills important in the storyline of Jesus returning to the earth? My earnest desire is to see these giftings fully align with the New Testament’s message and be an effective tool to build up and prepare the Body of Christ.
CREATIVE GIFTS – Let us break this down a little further as it relates to the various creative forms that we engage in either for our vocation or simply as a creative expression of who we are. This is in no way an exhaustive list, what it is however is a challenge to think about common forms of creative expression in missional ways. If you are a creative, I challenge you to think of your artistic calling and think how you can use it for missional purposes.
SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS – We live in an age of social media revolutions. The pen has truly become mightier than the sword. Social media is a platform of much that is banal, yet there are growing number who are using it to disciple a generation. Today most Christian young adults are spending more hours on Facebook than they are reading the Bible. The platform may not be Facebook or Twitter tomorrow, but rest assured there will be a platform and writing will be a critical component. Communicators who can cut through the dross, redeem much in society and provide biblical insight to those who might not receive it anywhere else are much needed. If you are a communicator, social media is both a place to cut your teeth in speaking to this generation and to hone your skill in communicating the bare essentials in compelling and engaging ways.
BLOGGING – Blogs such as Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Mashable and Gawker are some of the most popular destinations for many online today. While you may not consider the latest personality quiz or celebrity news a blog, it is an undeniable fact that blogging both forms and changes the world views of many in this generation. It is my contention that the growth of New Calvinism since the early 2000s has come about largely through an army of bloggers. Blogging should be a critical component of any social media ecosystem. It takes a little more effort than simply tweeting, but it also provides a destination for the brief thought of your tweet to be fleshed out. Whereas a Facebook discussion might be fruitless, blogging provides a forum for discussion to happen in a much more reasonable way. Oh that we will see a generation of creative bloggers communicate the message of God himself.
AUTHORS – While social media and blogs are a first step in the journey of writing. It is my hope that out of every one hundred bloggers we can see ten effective authors emerge. While we need effective songwriters to spread theology through sung worship, the truism is born out that “leaders are readers”. And if this is the case (which it is) then we need an army of writers. Writers who are poets, writers who are story tellers, writers who are theologians, writers who are historians, writers who inspire and teach through their craft. The pen has always been mightier than the sword and today the many technologies which help us write have become mightier than an arsenal of weapons.
YOUTUBERS – Compared with some of the venerable media companies YouTube is still a child. In existence since only 2005, it like many of its other social media compatriots has grown rapidly. The statistics for Youtube are simply staggering. YouTube beats any cable network hands down in a contest for Millennial viewers; we have seen the short form videos of YouTube find a ready audience in our instant social media. Unsurprisingly, individuals who have the skill and tenacity have been able to make a living from such videos. Explainer videos, animated videos, spoken-word videos are all watched millions of times and shape the way that culture thinks and the way that culture acts. The technical barriers that once applied to television have been reduced dramatically, but the question of compelling content and able communicators still remains. Is it possible that the revolutionary meta-narrative of the Gospel could become a virus on YouTube? One thing is for sure, it will not disciples of Jesus do not embrace this tool.
DOCUMENTARY MAKERS – Documentary has become the domain of modern day activism. It is possible to find documentaries about many of the great “causes” of the day. What is not always so evident however is the power of the documentary to challenge and change world-views. Worldviews are important as they are typically assumptions that are communicated implicitly by the filmmaker. These implicit assumptions are very rarely challenged by an audience. Individuals will often discuss the issues the documentary raises, few will go down the onerous task of deconstructing the worldview presuppositions that the film assumes before discussing the issues at hand. Yet such deconstructions are necessary for many Christians who will conform their thinking to the pattern of the world. The challenging question for Christians however is where the documentary makers are who can speak about the issues of the day are from a Christian worldview. I believe having discussions with a foundation of truth will always have good results.
MEDIA PRODUCERS – Television and radio producers of both entertainment and news media face similar challenges to the documentary makers. There are many Christians in these fields and many who have been raised in by Christian parents. In the rough and tumble of everyday tasks, decisions and to do lists do we let the revolutionary message of the Gospel shine through not only our daily interactions, but actually inform the way that we write and produce the television and radio that goes forth.
CODERS – Code is perhaps the fastest growing international language. We live in a world dominated by the latest applications that make our world more efficient, more social and generally a better place to live. Is it possible that we can think about this new language to help the gospel go forward more efficiently? Coding is undoubtedly a valuable economic benefit to the individual, but are the coders who have surrendered their life to the claims of Christ selling their skills so that they can stand before the kings of this age, or so that they can bring many into glory in the age to come.
ARTISTS – Painters, photographers, actors, dancers, musicians are often the subversive ones in society. Making controversial statements through their art. Changing the way we think about reality and culture. Let us not divorce our faith from our art. Let the subversive message of Jesus flow through our art and in some small way prepare a way for the coming of the Messiah.
This list of creative callings is far from complete, yet as we close this blog I encourage you to think about the creative calling which God has given you. It is perfectly natural to think about your work and creative expression as a form of worship and I encourage you to do that, however also start to think missionally. How can your gifting build up the body of Christ, how can your gifting proclaim the truth of the gospel (and often in ways that are not blatant, overt or stereotypical) and how can your gifting prepare the way for the return of the Messiah to the earth?