A good friend of mine has a passion for nutrition, and in the last year or so he has completely transitioned into a plant-based, whole foods diet. He’s lost a considerable amount of weight along with testifying to increased energy, better sleep, and a more attentive mind. His continued dialogue of how nutrition has improved and added to his life has intrigued me, especially in the ways it has affected his perspective of God.
For him, nutrition has opened new perspectives on the nature of God and humanity’s interaction with the Divine through his experience of cooking and eating nutritious food. As he uses quality ingredients, like organic vegetables and unprocessed foods, he reflects on the quality nature of God. This certain “clean” feeling he has as he uses these quality ingredients points him back in quiet contemplation of who God is, and how God moves in the lives of humanity in a pure, clean, unadulterated way. It seems as though whole foods and the craft of cooking with them has given him a more holistic perspective of God.
He has also said that nutritious foods and a stricter diet adds a deeper level of discipline in his life, a discipline that opens his eyes to the details around him in the world. As he carefully chooses what to eat based on the experience that the food gives him, he has noticed a deeper discipline in his day-to-day decisions and Divine encounters. He has often told me this new depth of reflection has opened his eyes to see some of the most unique Divine interactions that usually go unnoticed. His constant testimonies of how God is moving through his passion for good food and good cooking has inspired my own desire to experience similar things through the craft.
As he carefully chooses what to eat based on the experience that the food gives him, he has noticed a deeper discipline in his day-to-day decisions and Divine encounters.
Through these experiences, my friend opened my eyes to the practical encounters with the Divine that a person’s craft can offer. We’ve all heard, and maybe said, that a meal was so good, “it was a slice of heaven.” But what if a person’s craft truly opened space for people to encounter such Divine things? Everyone is given different abilities, and some people are naturally gifted with artistic skills. What would it look like if the people of God used their creativity and talent to artistically open atmospheres for the encounter of and reflection of God? This, in fact, is a means of worship: putting forth excellence in the area that a person is both excellent at and passionate about.
As the Church, we understand that vocational ministry is not the only ministry in a world that needs the Gospel. One effective way of reaching a culture is through art. We have seen it throughout the ages, but most prevalently in today’s society through the consistent engagement of culture with all forms of art and media. With the popularization of social media such as Instagram, and the rise in high-quality cameras built into recent smartphones, culture is consistently fed creative images that provoke thought. Similarly, carefully crafted coffee and the interior design of cafés and restaurants intrigue people cross-generationally into the atmosphere the restaurant is setting. Even creative marketing and branding strategies engage the mind in certain ways if done so artfully, and more importantly, authentically.
Whatever it may be, icons, photographs, paintings, graphic design pieces, architecture, culinary art, stories, books, poems, songs, and many other forms of craft engage the mind and soul through their influence on people. This influence comes through careful intentionality and authenticity put into the craft. A generation as ours, that can spot counterfeit from a mile away, longs for art that is raw, genuine, and vulnerable. What better an avenue to fulfill such a longing is the discipline of raw, genuine, and vulnerable craft with the intention of ushering in an authentic interaction with the Divine.
So how might the Church go about such a task? In ways commonly understood, this concept hasn’t always been artfully achieved. At times it seems that Christians have resorted to shouting the Gospel through cheesy catch phrases or appropriated pop-culture icons. On the other side of the spectrum, however, there has sometimes been art that has conformed too much to cultural standards that it loses its Gospel intent. So where is the middle ground?
At times it seems that Christians have resorted to shouting the Gospel through cheesy catch phrases or appropriated pop-culture icons. On the other side of the spectrum, however, there has sometimes been art that has conformed too much to cultural standards that it loses its Gospel intent.
I believe the best way to utilize one’s craft in the worship of God is through vulnerability. Narrative is a powerful tool to engage culture and influence people’s perspectives since it comes from a platform of honesty and genuine human experience. In other words, people relate and are more open to interact with others that have shared unique experiences. Therefore, good Christian craft and artwork must ultimately be centered on the Divine since God is the focus of worship; however, around this focus must also be the attention of lived, human experience that the artist shares or portrays. The mix of skilled craft and genuine narrative composes a powerful vulnerability that engages the heart and mind, and points to reflection on the focal point of the artwork, God, in order to experience the Divine.