Imagine That by Manuel Luz


imagine-thatIn Imagine That: Discovering your Unique Role as a Christian Artist, Manuel Luz, the Creative Arts Pastor for Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California, compares Jazz music to Biblical community, claims that the Levites of the Old Testament had the “ultimate gig” and makes a convincing case for art as a spiritual discipline.

Luz’ unique personal history (he’s been both a Jazz musician and a rocket scientist and now is a Pastor) makes me want to sit across the Starbucks table from him and just ask him to talk about his life.  This and the fact that he really doesn’t like the commercialism of “Contemporary Christian Music” as a genre make for an interesting and compelling book (he describes Jesus casting out the moneychangers in the temple as an example of Biblical era commercialism).

He deftly weaves through a discussion about “Christian art” and claims that as a Christian with a true Christian worldview (a set of assumptions that affect our view of the world), our art cannot help but express this in some way.  If Christ is in us, He will “escape” in our art.

He writes about God as the first artist:

“…God loves music. He is passionate about it.  He is the original audiophile.  And more so, it is one of His love languages.  …He derives great joy when we express ourselves to Him with music.  He inspires us to sing, and we sing.  He inspires us to compose and play, and we compose and we play.  And He inspires us, in part because He simply loves to hear us play, loves to hear us compose, loves to hear us sing. …We musicians were created, in part, to play the gig to end all gigs.  …We have the privilege and honor of playing and singing for the God of the universe. …He taps His foot to the beat.  He smiles at the clever turn of phrase. He anticipates the key change, hangs on every note in the solo, leans forward in His seat when we hit the final chorus.  He applauds when we finish each song. (page 32)

And as a non-musician writer, I can only believe this is the same about all art:  writing, music, dramatic and visual arts included.  God in enamored with my meager attempt at creating art even though He is Supreme Artist, and this alone is inspiration enough to keep pursuing my art even when I feel like I’m finger painting next to a Monet.

Luz talks about his own struggles as a young musician and preacher, including the sin of pride, false authenticity and the traps of success.  He humorously recounts a sermon he gave on pride. He says, “I remember preaching on the sin of pride once.  I thought I did that great.” (page 95)

He tackles the definitions of beauty and art and reminds us that God is the ultimate author of beauty and that “anyone who is moved by beauty is closer to God than they realize.” (page 57)

Luz calls for excellence in artistic expression and encourages musicians, artists, dancers and writers to spend time and energy honing their craft.  It’s important to be good at what God has called you to do.

I was engaged and encouraged by Luz’ writing.  I enjoyed his perspective about the church and its relationship to the artist.   I especially connected with his section on reconciling “secular” art with “Christian” art.

Bottom line:  I liked this book.  And sometimes I’m a hard sell on books. I thought it read well and easily and was broad in its scope regarding art.  I didn’t feel that as a musician, he left me (a writer) out of the discussion.

I would recommend this to musicians and worship leaders, writers and journalists, dramatic and performing artists, as well as visual artists.

Well done, Mr. Luz.  And I’d love to come hear your Jazz trio sometime.