Like most of the parenting world, I’ve watched Disney’s Encanto more times than might be appropriate to admit. Though the storyline is simple, the complex metaphors and messages mixed within the delightful music capture my attention again and again. To summarize, the Madrigal family members live within a magical home where everyone has a gift—except Maribel—who for some strange reason was not given a gift. In her song, Waiting for a Miracle, Mirabel confides:
I can’t move the mountains
I can’t make the flowers bloom
I can’t take another night up in my room
Waiting on a miracle
Always walking alone
Always wanting for more
Like I’m still at that door longing to shine
Like all of you shine
Maribel, keeps her chin up, busying herself serving those with special powers. But she longs to contribute in a significant way—to bring honor to her family. But as she is reminded, often, she has no gift.
Like the Madrigal family, the church has a tendency to overvalue particular gifts within the church. This is not new. Paul had to call out the Corinthians regarding their high esteem of certain spiritual gifts; they placed significant value on speaking in tongues and prophecy. Today, I’d venture a guess that prophecy isn’t the gift we value. It’s more likely the gifts which provide a practical return.
Are practical gifts important and necessary? Absolutely! Preaching is a significant component of meeting together. Paul encourages the church to meet regularly and urges for order and honor within the meeting (1 Corinthians 11). He calls for psalms and hymns to encourage the body of believers (Ephesians 5:19).
But he also says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries but the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5). He continues, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; or again the head to the feet I have no need of you. On the contrary, it is much truer the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Corinthians 12: 21-22).
Meet the Artists of the Bible
Last summer, during my studies of the Old Testament, I met Bezalel and Oholiab. They are “filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all craftmanship.” (Exodus 35:31). God invites these artists into the process of making the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.
30 Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 31 And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all craftsmanship; 32 to create designs for working in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 33 and in the cutting of stones for settings and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. 34 He also has put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver, of a designer, and of an embroiderer, in violet, purple, and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs. —Exodus 35:30-35
Although God is the ultimate Artist, these two servants were called by God to use their skill to fashion artistic designs for His glory.
As a creative communicator, when I read about them, I thought, that’s me. Artists have been called by God to do work in every artistic craft! Painters, poets, musicians (of all types of music), crafters, thespians, filmmakers, and yes graphic designers, too, can be filled with the Spirit to use their spiritual gifts to bring glory to God.
An Invitation to the Church to Consider the Arts
What might it look like if the church valued the more abstract applications of the gifts of the Spirit? Can we find spiritual wisdom through a blog post? This writer hopes so. Might we bolster our faith through a painting? Is it possible for a book club or group discussion about a current movie—plumbing for theological themes—to serve as an environment in which we might be taught or perhaps find healing?
It is tempting to prioritize or even give complete deference to the practical applications of the gifts of the Spirit. What would happen, if we looked for the gifts of the Spirit—as operated in abstract, non-practical ways like painting, poetry, spoken word—to be used in the building up of the body alongside the practical applications of preaching, teaching and serving? All for God’s glory!
Next time you start a sermon series, or explore your next staff addition, or consider a new ministry component, consider the artists in your congregation—and not to design your sermon graphics or paint your sets—but to help you see the world and the attributes of God in a completely different and beautiful way.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” —1 Peter 4:10