Recently one of my morning quiet times erupted into a biblical treasure hunt to discover what really pleases God? I had the time and my heart was already awakened by the Word, so I started leafing through the epistles in search of scriptures (1) mentioning how God is pleased or given glory/praise through our actions or attitudes. An hour later and several post-it notes crammed with references, I closed the Book and, with a fresh cup of coffee, meditated on the truths I’d just uncovered.

Later that week, undoubtedly orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, I came upon an article that continued the instruction of that short study. The author surfed across the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, picking out references to God’s love of artistry, movement, color and more.

“From creating the tree that was pleasing to the eye in the garden of Eden, highlighting the artistic and spiritual leadership of Bezalel and Oholiab in the building of the tabernacle, to the weirdly dramatic exploits of some prophets, God has been interested in artistry for a long time. Jesus’ cryptic parables, Paul’s teaching hymns, John’s psychedelic imagery, and the central roles of singing, dancing, storytelling, aroma and food symbolism, icons, preaching, poetry, and proverbs in the life of Israel and the Christian church - all point to the same truth: God communicates artistically.” (2)

Reading that description my mind immediately recalled the exploits of an extremely powerful man, Samson; the finely honed skill of a stone-slinger named David; the prowess of the old testament athletic warriors in contests of strength and cunning in battle; and a multitude of references to boxing, running, leaping and jumping throughout the Bible. Each example seemed divinely designed to challenge man in his walk with God: to take it to the extreme and please God with his entire being.

“From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth… God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, “We are His offspring.’” Acts 17:26-28 NIV

Arts and athletics in the hands of missionaries and ministers have a unique role in arousing people to recognize their source of skill – a Creator who was pleased to invest the power of creativity into man as a means to draw him back to Himself. These expressions rarely require translation because they belong to the heart and soul of the people and their culture. Whether that’s Mongolian wrestling, Guatemalan marimba music or the scripture-infused creative dances of the Hawaiians, it’s clear that each culture has its own unique treasures to bring before the throne of God. When arts and sports missionaries combine cultural expressions with the truth of who God is, it can empower communities to embrace God and worship Him as their own, not as a foreign God.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of mean; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Eccle.3:11 NIV

As Kingdom-messengers come alongside cultures with a heart to serve indigenous people in rediscovering their God-given creativity and expression, this brings great glory to God. The Gospel is clear in its depiction of our future:

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’.” Rev. 7:9,10 NIV

This oft-quoted picture of “every tribe and tongue and nation” worshiping around God’s throne isn’t limited to celebrating languages but a complete cultural explosion of wonder, joy and worship towards the object of humankind’s affection and devotion – the Lamb of God! I fully expect a wild diversity of dancing, drawing, leaping, ball-throwing, fancy footwork, color, sound, aromas, textures and light-shows by God’s chief creation – men, women and children boldly demonstrating their love for their Creator in their mother tongues and cultural traditions – all to the pleasure of God.

(1) - Romans 15:7; Eph.5:21; Col.1:10; Phil.2:9-11, etc.
(2) - Brian Schrag, God Hearts Arts, www.Urbana.org 2011