Tara Allen | 09.29.23
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1
Art and creativity play a role in much of our lives. Music, movies, nature, museums, social media, interior design, cars – they all have creativity on display. Each of us is drawn to beauty and creativity. But where does that innate draw come from?
“As the creator of the universe, God is the author of beauty. Our desire for beauty comes from Him,” said Shae Lawson, the Communications Director at Radiant. “Art, creativity, music and storytelling are beautiful elements that God put within our hearts and souls. God uses those non-verbal things like music and images to stir our souls. And He can use them to spur us on in our faith as we observe the beauty of His world around us. And I love how we can connect to others through all aspects of art.”
For each sermon series, the creative team at Radiant seeks to put together a “look” or “brand” to illustrate what will be taught throughout the series. But before the art is created to support the sermons, there are months of prayer, discussion and strategy that happens.
“Before anything, I ask the questions ‘Lord, where would you have us go in the next year?’ and ‘What’s relevant to us now?’” said Pastor Nate. “I typically plan about a year out for our sermon content. I like to sit down with other pastors and elders and propose what I’m thinking and have them speak into it. Once that happens, then we have an idea of where we’re going and I bring in the creative team. I believe that if the Lord is using that specific passage or book to change me, He’ll use it to teach our faith family, too.”
Once the decision is made on what will be taught, there are several meetings and conversations that take place. First, an initial meeting happens with the creative team to hear what Pastor Nate’s goals are for the series and what will be taught. In this conversation, the creative team is able to pull out specific phrases, words and themes that Pastor Nate wants to teach.
“The words have to land first. So, the titling itself is purposeful and driven. The art comes last and supports the words,” explained Shae. “Sometimes, we bring in gifted artists we partner with, such as ArtSpeak Creative. We give them our title and ideas. They send us proofs and then we edit, shape and work with them to come to a place where we’re happy with the art. We want to be sure that the images support the theme, words, title and where we’re going in the series.”
For this current sermon series, LIFE, Pastor Nate prayerfully decided to study the book of John for 33 weeks as a church.
“We had previously been in Philippians, which is all about gospel, the good news, and is gospel-centered. Coming out of that series, I thought it would be a good moment for our faith family to understand Who the gospel is, what the implications are personally and how we can share it with others. That’s what took me to John,” continued Pastor Nate.
During the initial discussion about the study of John, the word “believe” was tossed around as a possibility for the title. Using “believe” as the title would have been an easy choice, since it is written 98 times in the book of John, but the team thought there could be more.
“Believe is a great word but sometimes we think of it in light of conversion only, so we tried to come up with a more complete word that describes the infinite facets of who Jesus is because of our belief in Him,” Shae said. “The word ‘life’ came up. We are alive in Him. He IS life. Because of Him, we get to live fully now and eternally forever with Him.”
“The word ‘life’ is threaded through John differently than ‘believe’ is. The One who is the Creator of life in the beginning came to live His life and give His life so that we might have eternal life. And belief is how we receive that life. Belief is the mode that gets you to life. The prize is life in Him. We believe so that we have life,” Pastor Nate shared.
After the series was titled, the team began to explore options for the design. Because the series is long, they knew from an artistic perspective that they wanted to have multiple looks that fit together and could be rotated throughout the series.
Where better to go when deciding on images for a study of the book of John than the book of John itself? The team took six passages from John to drive six ideas for graphics. The ideas landed as universe, water, people, bread, path and books.
“As we considered the concept of ‘life’, the imagery of who Jesus is and how He is depicted and how it intersects with ‘life’ came to the surface. We didn’t design artwork until we had six ideas of how ‘life’ could be expressed. ‘Life’ is used 37 times in John for options. We zeroed in on strong visual representations of life,” Shae said.
Universe (John 1:1–5)
God is the author of life. Everything that has been created has life only because of Him. The universe is never-ending. It is infinite. And that is life in Him. It will go on forever. We can’t capture it because He has always been and always will be.
Water (John 4:13–15)
Water is something that is vitally important to our lives. The fact that Jesus calls Himself the Living Water is important, and we should pay attention. Because of Him, we will never thirst again.
People (John 4:23–24)
We were created to live our lives for the glory of God in relationship with one another. We are called to love one another as we have been loved. This is the community of believers we are meant to walk with and love. We are called to live this way so that others might come and join us.
Bread (John 6:32–35)
Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is our sustenance. In Him, we have all that we need and more. We feed on His words daily. The image of bread can also help us think of Communion, where we remember the broken body of our Lord who gave Himself so that we would have eternal life.
Path (John 14:5–7)
Jesus is the Way. He said “follow me” down the new path of life. The specific image we chose is purposeful to represent a narrow path. It is not a wide, “everyone gets to heaven” path. If we follow Him, He guides us in the way to eternal life, even when life isn’t fair, easy or comfortable. It takes effort to walk on this path.
Books (John 20:30–31 & 21:25)
The very beginning and end of John talk about the Word of life. Even Jesus’ three years of ministry cannot be contained in any books ever written. No word can fully capture who Jesus is, what He is doing or will do.
“We used photorealistic graphics. They could have been abstract, but we’re using real photography to remind us that who and what we are studying in John is real. Real images in this series help draw our hearts and frame our minds,” Shae shared.
The hope with these six images is that they would cultivate in our people growth and an increased desire to see truths about God in the world and creation around us.
“Connect what you’re studying in God’s Word and what He’s teaching you to what you see in life, in others and in nature. This artwork can help us look up from the words of Scripture and actually see them in the life around us. Sometimes in Scripture, you’re just reading and you forget that the words represent real people in a real place. These words from God are speaking into us – real people, in a real place, in real beauty. And art can help us connect to that tangibly,” Pastor Nate said.
Our prayer is that through this series, our faith family will grasp that God is the author of life and that He gives life so that by believing in Him, we may have eternal life.
“I hope that people who don’t know Jesus as their Savior will walk away with eternal life. For all of us, I hope we walk away with a clearer picture of who Jesus is, are in awe of worshiping Him and that the overflow of that compels us to share with others the truth of who He is,” Pastor Nate finished.
Beauty is a good gift from God. Creativity, imagery and art are good gifts from Him that He allows us to utilize to tell His story. God has given us His Word, and we are able to take that and express the truth of His Word through these images, which then causes us to worship Him.