Finding a church is a challenging task. Upon moving to LA, I tried out several. Connecting with the service's message as well as the community and also feeling welcome is rare. But the moment I walked in Mosaic, I knew this church was home.
Erwin McManus is the pioneer behind the incredible church, which could also be called a movement. Mosaic is innovative, culturally connected and based in the cultivation of artistry. It is no surprise his new book The Artisan Soul is his greatest work yet. The novel is the culmination of his work in ministry. He's traveled to over 50 countries and spoken with a plethora of audiences. His teachings encourage us to embrace our intrinsic creative talents and to use them to build a beautiful future.
Hank Fortener is also part of the leadership team. Delivering inspiring messages at the services, he is Erwin's co-pilot. Both Erwin and Hank were gracious enough to sit down with me to chat. Given Mosaic has been such an influential part of my life, I was eager to share words with the two gurus. At Tiago Café in LA, we discussed The Artisan Soul, Mosaic's mission and how creativity is the beginning of our path to passion and happiness alongside Christ.
A: I'll always remember the sermon where you gave us all a ball of clay. You said 'You're building something with God.' Your book is ultimately about that, building something with God and reclaiming our creative essence. How do we begin to do that?
M: I would say that God is building something with you, that you're first a work of art. It's extraordinary to think about the fact that a human being is a work of art; that we would be an idea in the imagination of God and then we would be an expression of his artistic essence. So for me, it's both that you're a work of art and an artist at work. That's the essence of The Artisan Soul. Our life can be a work of art. I've taken the process we use, the design process that we use to create works of art, and adapted it to how you make your life a work of art.
A: How do you begin with the scripture and then turn it into action for us?
M: I was just in New Zealand last week and one of their most successful directors asked me a question at this event. He said, 'How do justify or marry your sense of human creativity with the bible's limitations of creativity?' His view was [that] I'm calling us to be creative and the bible says that we're not allowed to be creative. I thought, what an interesting perspective. For us, first of all, the scriptures are our creative manifesto. We think it's tragic that people have used the bible as a way to control people. Its core narrative has been about what you can't do. God called us to obedience so we that we could have freedom. The end game for freedom was so that we could create. For us, the scriptures are our creative manifesto, that Jesus did come to set humanity free. When we're free we create that which is beautiful and good and true.
A: When did it go wrong? When did it become about rules?
M: I think it goes wrong the moment a human being separates himself from the presence of the reality of God. The way we tell the story is that we would be free without God and God is always here trying to put us in prison. The true story is that we were free with God and without him we keep putting ourselves in prison. You cannot escape that historically religions exist to control people through guilt and shame. The truth is that without God all you can do is manage sin. With God, you can actually overcome evil. That love becomes a unifying principle of the universe. Religion exists because without God all we can do is try to manage our darkness. With God, we actually become light.
A: We're liberated. The last message this Sunday was about the first step in cultivating our creativity and identifying what we want, which is easier said than done! What are the steps to identify what your dream is?
F: I think for me a lot of the talk Sunday was less about finding what your dream is and more about figuring out what talent God placed inside you. One of the things that we find in Hollywood or in LA or among young people-what drives their dream is sometimes envy-I want to do that awesome thing. I think what frees people is to release that envy and be aware of what God put inside me. That will create a more beautiful piece of art than me chasing what would make me awesome. A self- discovery model really is helpful. Part of Erwin's voice in The Artisan Soul is helping a personal discover what their able to craft with their life. There's a role for people like Erwin in people's lives to help them find their own talents. At the gathering I said you might be like, "I'm printing money with my talents!" Your job is to find someone who's not. It's how can we help you discover the talents that lie inside you and allow that dream to be a natural outpouring of the way God crafted you.
A: You guys have traveled all over the world. Are there any inspirational stories where you've seen someone struggling with this and then had a chance to find their gift?
M: The book is full of those stories!
A: Can you give us a sample?
M: Quite a few people in our community are in the book.
F: When a person can see that their creative passions are not in competition with their spiritual journey- that's the permission Erwin gives people. You're a chef. Your spiritual journey can be expressed in your food. Through Kari who makes children's clothes, Emerson who re-purposes wood and makes things. If you look at a piece Emerson creates, Erwin mentions this in a couple chapters in the book; you see that he takes garbage and makes something real. He was in jail for four years of his life
and came out and is now a pastor at Mosaic. He helps people find life and re- purpose.
M: This isn't just about art. It doesn't only apply if you're a performance artist. My wife was an orphan and lived in a foster home till she was 18. Two weeks ago she was in Nicaragua building homes for Habitat for Humanity. Part of that is realizing that a lot of the pain and hardships in life is the material God uses to create a more beautiful world. It shouldn't surprise anyone that my wife was in Thailand helping young girls escape poverty, helping girls come out of prostitution because that's the world she grew up in. Here she is decades later giving her life to liberate people. I think a part of the power of Mosaic is that we're seeing life as a work of art. Love is the greatest masterpiece. I can't dance, I can't write, but what I can do is I can love and I can serve. I have a contribution to make in the world. If I do it with love and hope, it'll create something beautiful in the world.
The Artisan Soul is out February 25th! Join a book club and share the teachings with other followers at Mosaic.org/community!
Visit Mosaic.org for more information on Hank, Erwin and the opportunities to connect!