Recently I wrote about the importance of overflowing our hearts with the Lord. (Read it here if you missed it.) Push everything else aside, this is the one determining factor in whether our work is truly Christian or not. If we’re operating from the overflow of the Lord, we can write about anything and it will carry the essence of the true Gospel.
As we might paraphrase Luke 6:45 or Matthew 12:34, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
That can’t mean just setting up a “See no evil, hear no evil,” moralistic boundary around our hearts. You can stop watching rated-R movies and still not overflow with the love of Jesus. It’s more important that we’re putting good stuff in.
Take as much bad as you want out of your heart, you simply can’t overflow until you put good stuff in. Let’s turn our attention to the good stuff.
Here are three practical ways that every Christian creative should be filling their heart.
Communion with the Father
One of the beautiful things about the Christian faith is that you have direct access to God. You don’t need a priest or mediator. You can fill your heart directly from the fountain. Jesus described himself as living water. Come and drink!
See Ephesians chapters 2 and 3, as well as basically the entire New Testament for proof.
The two most common ways to connect with God are through reading the Bible and prayer, which are both easy to incorporate into your daily routine and extremely beneficial.
However, there are also many more ways to connect with God. Sometimes we call these practices the “Spiritual Disciplines.” They include things like meditation, worship, solitude, service, simplicity, and confession, to name a few. These practices help us to posture ourselves (body, mind, and spirit) to receive from the Lord.
At the School of Kingdom Writers, we use a book called The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster to explore these ideas. Spiritual disciplines can sometimes seem esoteric, but Richard Foster does a great job of making them practical without overwhelming you. He provides simple explanations and instructions that will help you take your first steps into twelve helpful spiritual disciplines.
Connecting with God fills the well.
Communion with the Church
God did not create us to be alone. There are so many scriptures that emphasize the body of Christ, and the importance of both meeting and working together.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Especially in our post-COVID world, I think it’s OK to be pretty flexible with what meeting with other believers looks like. But, nonetheless, we do need to be meeting regularly with other believers in person. We can’t use the weirdness of the world to excuse infrequent or impersonal connections to the Church.
Do you meet regularly with people who love, encourage, and pray to Jesus for you? Do you meet regularly with at least one person to whom you are willing to submit (as in, they have permission to call your crap)? Are you contributing meaningfully to the body, for instance by serving, supporting Kingdom work financially, and/or leading others?
Churches are made up of people, and people are imperfect. But it’s worth doing. Finding a church is hard work and can take time, but it’s worth doing.
Meeting with other believers fills the well.
Media is powerful and it is pervasive. According to a Crowdtap study, the average millennial consumes more than 17 hours of media per day.
Certainly we should limit our media consumption. But we likely won’t escape media entirely, and we shouldn’t.
The media we consume will either fill us with things of the world or fill us with things of the Kingdom. Used in the right way, media has tremendous capability to fill us and to shape our creative work. I believe that many of the most successful churches of this generation will be those that find ways to encourage and incorporate media into the culture of the church.
Listening to a sermon on a podcast is not a replacement for connecting with other believers, but it is still a good thing to do. Listening to spirit-filled music is not a replacement for the personal discipline of worship, but it’s still a good thing to do.
And we’re not limited to “Christian” genre media, either. If we’re committed to communion with the Father and communion with the Church, we can walk wisely and God can use secular media to speak to us and to shape our work. It might even be necessary! We just need to be double sure that our hearts are anchored in the Kingdom first.
If we’re to accept the Ephesians 4:11 commission to “expose the deeds of darkness,” then we first have to position ourselves in the context of Philippians 4:8: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Using media wisely can fill our hearts with the things of God. Media, secular and Christian alike, can fill the well.
Communion with the father, communion with the Church, and the judicious use of media—these are three ways that every Christian creative should be filling their well.
Ironically, I had an opportunity to confirm this recently. A few weeks ago we had a baby. My routines have been difficult as I focus on taking care of the household and the other five kids while still trying to do my job. I made little time for my Bible, prayer, and the other spiritual disciplines.
For several weeks we did not meet in-person with other believers, either our Church or meaningful smaller group connections.
I’ve been so busy that I really haven’t listened to or watched things that are profitable to my heart.
Normally, I’m an idea machine. I have pages of things I’d like to write or projects I’d like to do, most of which I never will, because there’s just too much. But for the past few weeks I’ve just been absolutely dry.
Last week I was finally able to get back into some of my routines. On Saturday, we met with a big group just to worship. On Sunday, we were back in Church.
And it’s like somebody turned the spigot back on. My heart is overflowing again. I’m telling you, this stuff is real.
It’s not a magic formula, but it is a way that God created us. As Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (my paraphrase.) That’s part of our operating system.
The best part is that grace is also real. You may not yet be engaging in these three areas the way you want to or in the way you feel like you should.
You could set up some legal standard for yourself—“I’m going to do X hours of this, and Y hours of that.” There is, after all, an element of discipline in these things, just doing the thing whether you want to or not. But setting an unreasonable standard for yourself is not going to yield the long-term results that you want.
Instead, I encourage you to pray and to ask the Lord if there’s one specific step that you can take today to get closer to what you want to be. You’re going to need Him to empower you, so you might as well let Him have a vote. Stop right now, and ask Him.
Even if you feel like you’re pretty solid on these things, why not ask anyway? We could all be more like Jesus, right? He may surprise you. Literally, stop reading right now and take a minute to pray and ask the Lord if there’s one step you can take today.
If you put the world in your heart, the world comes out of your mouth (or your pen).
If you put the Kingdom in, the King comes out.
It’s more important to intentionally fill our hearts with the good things of God, which may even include some secular media, than it is to set up some kind of legalistic, moralistic boundary around ourselves. If we focus on the King, that other junk will be displaced.
When we are creating from a well overflowing with the things of the Lord, then we can create with confidence. Whether our work is specifically about Jesus or not, we are by definition Kingdom creators. Almost by accident, the Lord will inhabit our work.
Give it a try. I’d love to hear about your results and your challenges in the comments.