Last year, we tried something new at our church, but because of time restraints, we had to set it aside. Now, it looks like God has opened up a new door for it, so we're looking at starting it up again. It is a creative arts class for our Undergrounders (preteens), called Applause. The basic idea is that each month, or six-week period, or whatever is needed, a church member who has a strength or talent will come teach the kids for a short 20-to-30-minute class. (I know that's not long enough, but it's what we've got.)
The thought behind it is this: God created us in his own image and since God is creative and uses his creativity regularly, we should do the same. The name, Applause, comes from the idea that we should be giving our talents as applause (or worship) to God instead of seeking applause for ourselves. One reason that Becky, a Crossgate church member, had the idea originally is that these kids are going to be worship leaders, pastors, teachers, etc., in 10-15 years, so let's teach them now that worship doesn't have to look a certain way. God doesn't expect worship to come packaged neatly in a 10-minute singing session before preaching once a week. He is more creative than that. I can worship through a poem, a novel, a blog post; some people worship through drama, song, dance, even something as technical as manning the sound board during service can be an act of worship. We need to show that to these kids now before they get locked into some box that is their idea of what God is and what worshiping God is.
This is my brainstorming session on our first month's topic: God's creativity.
God made man in his own image. And he saw that it was good. What does it mean that we were made in God's image? (Kids answer, probably not in their own words: we have three parts, we have free will, we have the potential for some of the same traits as God: mercy, love, jealousy, etc.—yes, we have some really insightful kids.)
After God created man, what happened? (Garden of Eden, fruit, sin...)
After sin entered the world and man, do we still have the image of God in us? (yes)
I don't feel very Godly most of the time, with all that sin covering up God's image. But God's image is still there, underneath all that sin, isn't it? That's pretty amazing. I was made in God's image and so God's image is still inside me somewhere, even when I'm sinning. But I'm covering up the beauty of God with sin.
Someone tell me what you know about heaven. (Pearly gates, streets of gold, no sin, perfection...)
Sounds nice. But if God made such a perfect, beautiful place and then let people covered in sin come there, would it be beautiful anymore? No. That beautiful place would turn into earth, basically, wouldn't it? So heaven wouldn't be very heavenly anymore, would it? So what would be the point of heaven? But God provided a way to wash that sin off so we could go to heaven. What was that? (Christ's death on the cross, salvation)
Right. So when I was saved at the age of seven, all that sin went away, right? And now I'm perfect, so all is well. But wait, that's not right. Just today, I got really angry and yelled at someone for cutting me off in traffic, and I was envious that my friend was shopping for new clothes and I can't afford any right now, and I wasn't very respectful to the lady at the store who couldn't seem to figure out how to make change, and...sin, lots and lots of sin. But when I was saved, what did happen? (God forgave my sin, and Christ came into my heart.) What does that mean, Christ came into my heart? (Lead them to understand that the Holy Spirit came into my spirit to lead me. Gal. 4:4-6, Romans 8:14-16)
So God is part of me in two ways: God made me in his image, and then when I was saved, the Holy Spirit entered my spirit, awakening that essence of God that was already there. So how do I improve and build upon that spirit of God that is inside me? (prayer, reading the Bible, going to church, etc.) Exactly. If I learn who God is through Bible study and prayer—learn his qualities, his essence, his personality—then I can spend my time trying to make those parts of me stronger and better, right?
In Applause, we are going to study one aspect of God in particular, his creativity. This is not necessarily the most important aspect of God, but it is one that is often overlooked. And I think every aspect of God must be important, don't you? Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments and the countless Old Testament rules with these two: “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...and ...love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). I spend a lot of time on Sunday mornings talking about loving others, and showing the world God's love. And that is very important. But we need to also put every bit of us—our hearts, souls, and minds—into loving and worshiping God, every day. That comes first. And I think that takes creativity.
Now we're going to see some evidence of God's creativity in the world around us. (Show them a video clip from the Planet Earth series that highlights that—something similar to the National Geographic article "Hawaii's Unearthly Worms"; or just show them the pictures from the NG article.)
God's creativity is everywhere around us. When I'm really struggling with a problem, and I need to remember that God's got it all under control, I like to go outside for a walk and surround myself with his creation. It helps me remember his awesome power, but it also reminds me that God doesn't always do things the way I would do them if I were him. If I could have created the world, I probably would have created one kind of worm, or maybe two, or maybe I wouldn't have had the foresight to create those slimy, dirty things in the first place. Or maybe I would have made them less slimy and a little prettier, but then they wouldn't have been as effective at what they do. God is so much more creative than I could ever be, so whatever is going on in my life, maybe God knows a better way to deal with it than my little brain can handle.
Before next week, I want you to to take a walk outside. While you are walking, I want you to pray silently that God will help you see him. Just something as simple as that, “God, please help me see you on this walk.” Then look around you and really see God's creation. It doesn't matter if you live in the country or in town, you can see creation everywhere. In fact, the image of a flower forcing it's way through a crack in cement says a lot about God to me. Next week be prepared to tell me about something you saw and how God could speak to you through it.