“Creativity [means] the Holy Spirit allows us to contextualize the unchanging truths of the gospel where we are. . . . Philippians 2 says that we shine like stars in a darkened world, and [we need to equip believers] to make our neighborhoods, our counties and cities, a better place. . . . You know, we train foreign missionaries to do this! . . . We need, in a sense . . . to retrain ourselves, to awaken to what the Spirit’s doing in our neighborhood, in the city.” – Charlie Self, author of “Flourishing Churches and Communities”
Creativity and the common good are both at the heart of a Christian understanding of what it means to be human. We were created to create – to work as co-laborers with God, using the talents he gives us to transform and develop raw materials. But transform it how? Develop it for what? The answer lies in a concept of the common good: serving the needs of those around us and making a better world.
As we confront brokenness, suffering, and evil in a fallen world, this idea of creativity for the common good becomes essential for Christian living. Charlie Self, author of “Flourishing Churches and Communities,” made this point during a recent panel discussion. If Christians are not actively working to transform and develop their world for the common good, they are not fulfilling their role as human beings (who were created to be creators) or as Christians (who are lights in a darkened world).
This approach to work is also a witness for Christ within cultures that have difficulty understanding the gospel. Patrick Eby, co-author of “How God Makes the World a Better Place,” described how some of the ways churches “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) also help people develop as better workers. When churches help people function better in the culture – centrally, by doing good work – they lay the groundwork for helping people understand what it means to be human, and what God wants from people. This prepares the way for the more explicit gospel message.
You can learn more by checking out the new series of books on faith, work, and economics in diverse evangelical traditions, published by the Acton Institute.