Interaction with Two Writers


Creator Spirit  cover  I love when aspects of my world(s) intertwine, or interact as it were.  As a pretense, I have been reading a book by Belmont professor, Dr. Steven Guthrie.  Last Winter Keith Getty introduced me to Steven, which started me paying attention to his work in the area of worship and the arts.  Steven’s book that I am presently reading is Creator Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human.  Granted, I am not too far along in my reading of Steven’s book, but enough so to stimulate my own thinking about ways the Holy Spirit intervenes in our lives, and more pointedly for this discussion, how the Spirit connects with our human creativity, or perhaps how the Spirit speaks when we are creating.  What’s more, I have been wondering how our creativity might enliven our hunger to know more of the Spirit, and ways we are more sensitized to His message when engaged in artistic expression.  I have always suspicioned that our bent toward creativity was one indication of what it means to have been made in the image of Creator God.  I appreciate Steven Guthrie’s commitment to presenting the personal nature of the Holy Spirit, and doing so in light of biblical truth.

Now let me switch gears, though the previously mentioned emersion in  Steven Guthrie’s book serves as background here.  Last February I was privileged to be part of leadership in the “Text & Tune for Today’s Church” Conference at Carson Newman University in East Tennessee.  One of the primary presenters for that conference was song-writer, Graham Kendrick.  During that conference we had precious little time to spend together, and Graham and I agreed we would connect in future days.  Last Saturday I was privileged to have breakfast with Graham and his lovely wife, Jill.  I was richly enlightened just to engage Graham in conversation about his music, his view of the state of worship in the evangelical church, as well as to hear his insights into the state of the Church in the U.K.  It was an inspiring time, and for me certainly a blessing.

As Graham responded to questions about his creative processes in writing songs, proverbial bells began to ring in my head regarding what I was reading in the early pages of Guthrie’s book.  Let me share just a couple of prominent points where I sensed convergence of these two experiences leading:

  1. Matters of Spirit-work are resplendent with mystery.  A “spirituality” in which we sense the Spirit’s work, and yet struggle to find word constructs to articulate such working, seems to beg for art forms to count upon for its telling.  I personally believe the difficulty in describing how music has its meaning makes it a splendid art form for worship, seeing how this “non-knowing” parallels a “non-knowing” of the Spirit’s mystery.  Of course, all is a matter of grace.
  2. The Spirit intervenes in the midst of our faith journey (living life).  For the artist who is seeking inspiration for art expression, this may have to do more with simply living life by faith than necessarily seeking the inspiration itself, especially for utilitarian purposes.  I have, nonetheless, heard Graham speak of the ongoing work of creativity and practicing his craft.  Still, there is surely surprise in the living of life, and herein we often see the Hand of the Spirit active.
  3. Creative works are often best developed in community.  Graham spoke about songs begun in a more private setting, but developed amidst the community of faith.  He described for me a story song that gained strength as sung in the worshiping community where truth for the story’s protagonist becomes faith-building strength for worshipers.  Of course, this spoke loudly to me, given my interest in the dynamics of congregational worship singing.  If you think about it, this developmental practice has been the case with many, if not most, who have given large bodies of music to the worship life of the Church; Bach, Watts, Wesley, and more.  Ministry through meaning and significance of songs that have been conceived and developed in community seem positioned to stand the test of time.
  4. Creative expressions in worship must serve the Gospel.  Whether talking about the state of the church and its worship, or talking about song-writing, Graham often restated a determination that Gospel be at the core of worship and its music, certainly including his own creations and leading.  This determination harkens back again to Guthrie’s book where incarnation and re-creation hasten mind and heart to rest in God’s triumphant work.  These themes, resonant of Church Fathers like Athanasius, are drawn upon by Guthrie who shares the disciplines of music and theology.
  5. It seems when it comes to worship music, thoughtful study and analysis has followed practice, perhaps more than the other way around.

These musings may serve little more than to entice you toward Graham’s music, or Steve’s book.  If that is the response, it is well worth the effort, as I commend them both for your parousal.  I continue to ruminate on Guthrie’s book for insight and further contemplation regarding the work of the Spirit and connection to artistic expression.  Graham was generous enough to give me two CDs, which have played continuously in my car ever since, and I rarely listen to music while driving, but with these songs I am not just listening.  As has been the case with other friends’ music, I am singing along, worshiping, and envisioning the singing church.

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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