God, as the Creator, chose to make human beings creative. Creativity is no accidental side effect of being human—a thought that I believe plagues the subconscious thoughts of many Christians. No, God endowed us with creativity so that we would use that divinely engrained gift in cultivating his world for his glory.
This has many implications, but today I want to share how this gift of creativity shapes the ministries of two of my former students: Joylissa Vleck and Micah Teruya. Both see their musical abilities as gifts from God and believe that God is calling them to use those gifts to minister outside of Christian circles. Though their styles are different, they share the same heart for glorifying God through musical creativity.
I asked them a few questions about how they view their music. These two have thought through what they are doing in greater depth than most Christians think through anything they undertake. In fact, both moved from their homes in Washington and Hawaii respectively to attend Bible College so that they could be more effective as musicians. Perhaps that sounds odd, but they both see the Bible as foundational to their approach to music.
“Music is a gift that God has blessed me with for the time being and I want to use it to further his kingdom. If I don’t, then I’m really just wasting resources. Alongside that, music is something I take great joy in…I can think of few things more fulfilling than being able to use something I love to glorify God.”
Joylissa sees her music as a means of using her gifts to create beauty in the beautiful world that God made “by taking the notes and frequencies that he created and using them in one of the many ways that he created them to be used—by making music.” She adds, “To neglect music is to neglect a part of God’s creation.”
Many Christians see a place for music in ministry, but would restrict the legitimate use of music to worship music and “Christian music” (however we would define that). But neither Joylissa nor Micah see these forms of music-making as their primary calling. Joylissa explains:
“I’ve been told many a time that I should be playing ‘Christian’ music for ‘Christians.’ But if music is indeed something that God created, then why have we decided that it has to stay within church walls? If someone were to say to a hairstylist that they should only cut the hair of Christians, or that this can only be done in a church building, you’d think that was ridiculous. A huge part of blessing and restoring the world is telling people who God is. I do that through my music, though it isn’t saying ‘God’ or ‘Glory’ every few seconds. I want people to see my genuine struggles and joys and the way that God intervenes and is part of them.”
Micah, too, sees music as an important avenue for helping people see truth in a way that they’ve never seen it before:
“So many people are looking for answers everywhere except the Bible. My goal as a songwriter, like any missionary, is to help people realize how irrational the message of the world is and how rational God’s love for them is. The challenge is doing this in a way that provokes a listener to think and wrestle through that realization rather than just spoon-feeding them a gospel tract.”
This is not meant to discourage those who are not gifted musically, nor to question those who use their musical gifts for Christian audiences or within church services. We are all given unique gifts and callings from God. What I find so valuable in the music of Joylissa and Micah is the thought they’ve put into their approach to music, the sense of calling and obedience that permeates what they’re doing, and their desire to use everything at their disposal to the glory of God.