I was recently introduced to an organization called The Fellows Initiative which currently operates programs in 22 cities around the US.
A Fellows program is a nine to ten-month spiritual and vocational leadership program that prepares the graduate to live an integrated life of faith. The content presented in the program includes the theology of work, vocation, calling, cultural engagement, and leadership. The program includes a part-time professional job in a Fellow’s field of interest, theological coursework, Biblical study, mentoring and service. All of this takes place in community with other Fellows.
The Fellows program is designed to facilitate the participant’s understanding of how their story fits into God’s larger story, enabling them to start post-college life with a strong foundation for a integrated life of faith—a full life that seamlessly weaves together career, personal life and their place in God’s story. The program helps the graduate to think “Christianly” about work, culture, friendships and experiences.
The Fellows Initiative has a national conference each year with speakers from their alumni network as well as scholars and thought leaders. Greg Ayers, an alumni of the 2012 fellows program, is also communications manager and senior editor for The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. Greg was asked to come and speak on the topic of creativity:.
You do not need permission to love and impact the world. Any area of life and vocation is a legitimate expression of appreciation for God’s creation.
Ayers sometimes struggles to know if he has the ability to do this. As a result, he has had the pattern of separating his creative music gifts from his everyday life. In one illustration he gave, he can sometimes give the impression that he is disengaged in meetings. The reality is that he is seeing waves of color from the sounds of those speaking in the meeting resulting in his writing the rhythm, guitar line, base line, and melody for a song in his head.
Normally, however, Greg thinks that as he is at “work,” he needs to put the creative thinking aside and focus on his “work,” saving creativity for later. Unfortunately, this thinking deprives Greg and his co-workers the benefit of his creativity. Greg now realizes that this creative impulse is a gift from God that he needs to steward it in every area of his life, including his work.
I can imagine how the conversation with Jesus is going to go one day when I get to Heaven on judgment day.
Jesus: “Show me what you did with your creativity. I can’t wait to see what you did with it.”
Greg: “You know, Jesus, I had a day job. I had bills to pay. I had to work 8, 10, 12 hours a day.”
Jesus: “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. I gave you 8, 10, 12 hours a day to be creative.”
The truth is, he didn’t just give us 8 hours, he gave us 24. And it’s not just in our day jobs or side projects, but really every minute we have, every decision we make, every interaction we have is an opportunity to express our creativity.
Greg gives an admonition and a warning. The Scriptures open by describing a God who is a worker and a creator. As we are made in His image, we are both workers and creators. But creatives need to remember that if you wait for permission or validation, you will often never get started.
Just because we do not recognize your gift, does not mean you are not gifted.
What does it look like to get started and to start well? In Greg’s case, it was responding positively to the offer from his supervisor to manage a video project. Greg had never produced a video before, but welcomed the opportunity to challenge his creative abilities and communicate the fact that all work should be imbued with dignity and creativity. Greg ended up producing the video linked above which gives a stunning visual reminder of the God-given dignity of every human being with creative capacity for human flourishing. I invite you to watch this video and share it with your friends, family, and colleagues.
God desires the integration of our faith into our work with the characteristics He has given us, including our creativity. The faith and work movement needs to continue thinking about how to welcome creatives and think about what is necessary for their flourishing.