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Why We Paint in Worship

“God is bringing a lot more joy into our reality of Him” – Narelle Crabtree

Each prophetic artist will have a unique story of how God called them to paint for Him. For me it came in a moment in 2005, when Bill Johnson preached at DaySpring Church on an obscure scripture in Zechariah Chapter 1. [1] At the time I didn’t understand its complexity, but as Narelle Crabtree said to me “I believe this is an important word for you”, my spirit leapt and I knew she had confirmed its significance. I unpacked that scripture with the Holy Spirit many times. In a nutshell, God’s solution is artisans. The anointing they carry that terrifies the enemy is creativity. When that creativity is applied in the context of worship, the fullness of worship in the throne room of heaven erupts.

The enemy is terrified of creativity because he sees ‘like father, like son’ and it reminds him that he can only copy and distort. We were created in the image of the creative God. Not only does that mean you are creative in your unique way, but because you are ‘one’ with divine creativity, you have access to solutions for any given situation. As Theresa Dedmon, Bethel Kingdom Creative, says, you were ‘born to create’. Understanding your identity as a child of the creative father makes you terrifyingly unstoppable. There has been a battle over creative people since long before Luther [2] and Calvin [3] redefined the arts. As a reaction against church idolatry and deifying objects, the reformed church abandoned its role as patron of the arts and ‘secular art’ took on more importance.

Artists shape the world

Artists shape the world. Everything around you, from your computer, the chair you sit in, the movies you watch and the car you drive, was first a thought in the mind of an artist. The world believes that Eve ate an apple because of a poet and an illustrator. [4] Darwin’s theories originally took on public acceptance because of imaginative illustrations and cartoons. [5]  Art has the ability to change the way we think. When the church switched off the light in the arts, it made way for self-worship, humanism and perversion to take a cultural stronghold.

The arts belong to God

The arts belong to God and He is taking them back for His purposes. The world is in desperate need of creative solutions in all arenas, solutions that come from hearts of compassion and mercy. The church is once again recognising the spiritual influence in art and many church services are including artists on their worship platforms. People with creative gifts will draw humanity into the heavenly throne room from where creativity came. All manner of creativity may reveal the nature of God and worship arts are not restricted to music and singing. Dance, painting, photography, collage – the list is unlimited and includes things that are beyond today’s imagination.

The supernatural creativity of God has a life within it that can bring wonder and hope into seemingly lost situations. When an artist creates momentum for the Spirit to flow through them, the work of their hands becomes anointed to do God’s work. There is a supernatural element within the work that empowers others to experience deep prophetic vision and a heavenly perspective. A ’God-artist’ stands on the threshold between two realms allowing the spiritual realm to manifest on the canvas. These artists are prophetic and have permission to release authority, compassion and revelation. Their art is a blessing gift that encourages, strengthens and comforts. If we evaluate art in worship from our standards and cultural context, we may miss what God is rejoicing in, remembering always, we have ‘an audience of One’.

A divine invitation

Prophetic art is a relatively new term used in the last decade to describe a specific stream of Christian art. When we began to explore what God wanted us to do with art at Dayspring, we called it worship art. Worship art enveloped the heart of God in much the same way that worship music does. We saw paintings emerge that set people’s lives ablaze. Destinies and dreams were released. Prophetic art can contain the anointing to heal, to save and set free, to redeem and restore, to transform and breakthrough. Prophetic art is God-breathed with His faith-giving life. The prophetic nature of the art lies in the anointing released by the Spirit through the artist, and not necessarily within the artwork imagery or within the context of when it was rendered. Prophetic art is an invitation into a divine partnership.

At times there is no written or spoken interpretation of the art needed for the prophetic meaning to become evident, especially if the artwork is a confirmation of an already existing revelation or using well known and widely accepted iconic imagery. Other times the artist may be called upon to give an interpretation, keeping in mind many interpretations are possible. God may speak to many different people through the one piece of art. The artist is not an infallible oracle and other perspectives on the work are both valid and welcome. Sometimes the artist doesn’t know the interpretation, perhaps not until the one person a message is for comes forward and says, ‘God is speaking to me’.

I have often said God is an economist, as He will prepare many hearts to receive an image in a way that is unique to them. How a person responds to a piece of prophetic artwork is as individual as their response to music, dance and other creative forms. The Father has prepared their heart and soul to receive His message, and their response is their response. Two people may stand side-by-side in worship observing a prophetic painting, one may see a pretty picture while the other is taken into a life-transforming divine encounter. Neither one is right nor wrong. There are paintings that simply grip the souls of those who see them so that they lay down their lives and draw deeper from the living wells.

Beginnings at DaySpring

David and Narelle Crabtree are the Founding Pastors of DaySpring Church, Sydney, now living in Denver, Colorado, and are the founders of Unfailing Grace Ministries. When we began exploring art in worship at DaySpring, the rules of art didn’t seem to apply. God just wanted people to know He loves them. We learned to say, ‘stick figures prophesy’, because a childlike stick-figure drawing would have the same life-changing impact as an awe-inspiring master work. It was love and joy that ruled. In all cases, the purpose of prophetic art was to reveal the Lord, not the artist. The impact of blessing in a prophetic artwork is not linked to the skill of the artist, but to the heart of the artist, and their ability to express the heart of God. Worship art aligned with the mandate of our worship team, to have our hearts fully surrendered. Our catch-phrase was ‘yielded and intentional’. As we worshipped our lives transformed into a love song to Him.

I interviewed Narelle this week and asked her to reflect on our evolution of prophetic art. She says that, “We are redeeming something that got lost for a long time in the church. I believe [art in worship] has always been on God’s heart.” Long before art was introduced to the worship platform at DaySpring, Narelle was struck by how expressive worship was in the psalms and was open to the ‘more’. She says, “It seemed like worship was the expression of our love for God and I was open to the idea of worshipping in ways that expressed all of our whole body soul and spirit. DaySpring was a prophetic community wanting to be sensitive to what Jesus wanted us to do each day. Worship is relational. We all together are delighting in God and we enhance each other’s worship. We were not coming from something that’s driving us to perform well but rather ‘I’m here because this community of God loves me and I’m bringing a gift of my worship’.” [6]

“He is bringing a lot more joy into our reality of Him. There’s still a legacy of ‘be silent in my sanctuary’ that people grew up with, and even though we’ve moved a long way from there, to where we discover the joy He has in us and He wants us to have in Him. I think as a lot more of that is released it will be more freeing for artists. Even now, I’m excited for the ‘more’. I wonder if God is saying: ‘Hang on, don’t restrict me to an instrument or voice or paint brush’. I want to have that openness of heart with expectation and not miss it when it’s confronting or not comfortable and unknown. I’m curious to know what other creative expressions there is going to be. If we are to have a sense of heaven on earth, I don’t think we have any idea of all that happens in worship in its fullness. I want to stay curious.” [7]



Acts 10:44 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.”

[1] Zechariah 1:18-21. 18. Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were four horns. 19. And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” So he answered me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” 20. Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. 21. And I said, “What are these coming to do?” So he said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could lift up his head; but the craftsmen are coming to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations that lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.’

The Hebrew ‘Charash’ is translated craftsmen, artisan, engraver, fabricator of any material. James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James Strong (1822-1894) New York. 2796. Transliteration ‘Charash’, phonetically ‘Khaw-rawsh’, short definition ‘Craftsmen’. Horns are authorities that lift themselves up against God’s people. Four is the earth. The four craftsmen match the power of the horns to the four corners. God’s solution to the powers bringing discouragement to God’s people in the four corners of the globe was craftsmen that terrify!

[2] Spelman, Leslie P. “Luther and the Arts.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 10, no. 2 (1951): 166-75. <>

[3] Spelman, Leslie P. “Calvin and the Arts.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 6, no. 3 (1948): 246-52. <>

[4] Martyris, N 2017, ‘Paradise Lost’: How The Apple Became The Forbidden Fruit, NPR, <>

[5] Browne, J 2001, Darwin in caricature: A study in the popularisation and dissemination of evolution, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 145(4): 496-509.>

[6] Crabtree, N, 2020, interview with Wendy Manzo, YouTube <>

[7] Crabtree, N, 2020, interview with Wendy Manzo, YouTube <>

Main Image citation: DaySpring worship, Sydney. Photo by Glen Hegner

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