Once upon a time, I built a pinewood derby car. It looked kind of cool, but it wasn’t very fast.
About ten years went by, and I didn’t create much of anything with my hands (except for anything I could do with a pencil or mouse).
Four months ago, I started a new job that combined a wide variety of tasks that I love: graphic design, video production, social media, web design, photography, and much more.
Oh yeah. And also? Stage design.
Like, building stuff.
Like, building BIG stuff. That’s supposed to look pretty. That will be seen by a thousand people every week. Many of whom are way more skilled than I am.
It was intimidating, but I told myself I was creative and would find ways to figure it out. As my friends Ted and Marshall would say, that was a problem future Matt would handle.
This past week, present-day Matt caught up with future Matt, and I had to build a set for our church. I had a handful of people who volunteered to help, but they were asking all sorts of questions that I had no idea how to answer.
The church had done a few stage design projects in the past, but for the most part, this was a new initiative that people weren’t expecting and that we didn’t announce beforehand. Many people weren’t used to the idea of creating art simply for art’s sake.
I was terrified. I found myself at Menards looking at walls of different types of wood and borrowing very large saws that I had no clue how to operate. I had quite literally zero experience. The odds were extremely high that I would end up with fewer than ten fingers.
After hours of planning and days of hands-on help from people way more talented than myself, this is what we came up with:
Honestly, I really like it. It came together just as I hoped it would. But, being the perfectionist people-pleaser that I am, I couldn’t say those words out loud. Thinking that I knew the church culture, I was just sure I would be welcomed Sunday by an angry mob of people—probably with picket signs and tomatoes ready to hurl at my creation—who couldn’t believe I “wasted their tithes” by building huge, unnecessary palettes. Since this is probably the most visible project I’ve worked on so far, the voices in my head said things like, “Is this where our church is headed? Is this why we hired that guy? What is that thing, anyway?
I’m sure there was some of that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear more. But most people seemed ok. Some of them didn’t understand, but they were supportive. Even if they didn’t understand the why, they could respect the result.
All of those negative and poisonous voices I heard in my head were lies.
Lately I’ve been reading a book by Gary Molander called Pursuing Christ. Creating Art. One point he beautifully writes is that “Christian artists don’t need to create art for God. They need to create art in response to God.” Just as “We love because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:9), we create art because He first created art.
I was terrified of this project for two reasons: my lack of experience and my worry of how people would respond.
My inexperience caused me to have to lean on the help and advice of others—something I sometimes struggle with.
The second issue was probably even more powerful than the first. If I’m not careful, I can easily be overtaken by what others think of me. My need for the approval of others is a deep weakness I need to overcome.
Since this was a new area for our church, I was afraid people would attack and target me for trying something different. I was afraid they would think my work was unnecessary—or even worse, sacrilegious. I was very careful about saving money and working as inexpensively as possible, but there was still a cost involved; money that could have gone to missions or homeless people or millions of other important things. On top of that worry—this was new. And the phrase “we’ve never done anything like this before” is veeerrrryyy powerful. To be frank, I was wrestling with a lot of those questions myself.
The last several years, “worship” has been a popular thing for Christians to talk about. A popular discussion point lately has been that worship should be much more than just singing on Sunday mornings. Everything we do should be an act of worship.
If that’s true, working on something that exists to enhance a worship experience should surely be an act of worship. Sadly, this week my fear, doubt, and worry were more powerful than my desire to worship.
We follow a God who is the Creator. He spent several chapters of His own Book explaining how people should decorate His temple. Specific colors and fabrics and building materials are mentioned by name in our Scriptures. It’s ok to create things that look beautiful, and beauty can enhance the atmosphere of a worship service. People have varying opinions of what is beautiful, but the desire to create a beautiful space for worship isn’t something for me to be ashamed of.
I learned a lot this week—about construction, about worship, and about myself. Despite my lack of experience and lack of faith in myself, everything turned out just fine, and so far I haven’t lost my job or been pelted by tomatoes. I have a lot to learn, but this week was a big step in the right direction.
Added bonus? I didn’t lose any fingers.