The holy day we celebrate this month is about the Son who submitted himself to incarnation, choosing to live on earth as the image of the invisible God. The word incarnation carries with it the implication that something unseen takes on form. The Word became flesh and lived among humanity. At its best, planting a church is an incarnational activity. New churches are first conceived in the heart of God, who invites humans to interact with the birthing process. The Spirit nurtures the creative impulse, and in the fullness of time, a new church comes into being that intends to represent the Son, and like Him, actively participate in the world.
In this sense, church planters are artists who give birth to wonderful, transformative dreams and visions. They carry a genetic code that reflects our Great Creator who announced, “I made the earth, I created the people who live on it. It was me—my hands stretched out the sky” (Isa 45:12). God creates in His own image, sustains what He creates, and has placed His creative Holy Spirit in us. We are therefore creative by nature. The church planter is an artist and the Church is a work of art. In the New Testament Paul reminded the church at Ephesus to “be filled by the Spirit” speaking “to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord” (Eph 5:18-19). The community is reminded to invigorate the creativity within each individual. People who are filled with Creator’s Holy Spirit are potentially the most creative people on the planet. They are able to influence the entire world through their God-given abilities and gifts. Any fledgling church can live out its creative impulse.
The word incarnation is also used to mean that Christians must give form to their ideas and beliefs about Jesus by engaging in practical and sacrificial ministry to others. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ … And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). To be involved in incarnational ministry demands that the new church do more than simply inviting people to worship services or preaching a relevant sermon. It is about embodying Christ by carrying his love into a community in ways that help people become reconciled to God. Author Madeleine L’Engle, who believes that “all true art is incarnational,” discerns the artist as a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver. She compares this to Mary, mother of Jesus, who, when the angel told her that she was going to give birth, rejoiced and obeyed his command. “The work of art comes to the artist saying, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’” In each case, the artist (or the church planter) either participates by saying “My soul doth magnify the Lord” or by refusing to do so.”[i] Merry Christmas church planter/artist! Celebrate incarnation- Magnify the Lord in all that you do
[i]Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Wheaton: Shaw, 1980), 18.