If there’s one crowd that’s conspicuously missing from the church, it’s artists. Few artists feel understood by the church, and fewer feel the church has anything to offer them as artists. But artists have incredible potential to influence our society. By providing a framework within which they can work, not only will you be reaching an untapped people group, but you’ll multiply God’s glory in your church as you express Him clearly through art that worships.
Here 12 simple ways we can affirm the place of artists in the church, and encourage them to use their work for God’s glory:
1. Purchase art. Affirm artists by buying their work. Put it up in your home. And put it up in your church, even if it doesn’t have a Thomas Kinkadian/ethereal-Jesus-with-outstretched-arms-in the-background feel to it. If it’s good art, let it be beautiful because it is.
2. Pay artists for their contributions to the church. I’ve had folks tell me they’re disgusted that some ministries would pay Sunday morning musicians for their music. Why? Are we disgusted that we pay a pastor for preaching? The disgust comes from the idea that musicians and artists are the church’s rightful slaves, whose work is sub-par to “gospel work”. If we’re going to have a church open to artists, we need to communicate that what they do is meaningful. Being an artist doesn’t pay much, so we as the church can affirm artist’s work by giving them an outlet for expression, along with a much-needed stipend.
3. Let artists take charge of church art. If you’re a pastor – and I’ll only say this once – don’t design your church bulletin. Don’t design your sanctuary. Don’t decide how music ought to sound. Don’t create the advertising. Don’t design your power-points. UNLESS you’re an artist. Not only are you doing work you don’t need to do, but you’re sending a message to artists: “What you do is easy. I can do it, and I don’t need your gifts.” I had one artist recently tell me he walked into a church and the design of the bulletin was like a blaring siren to him saying, “YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE.”
4. Don’t insist art = ministry. When artists do create art, don’t insist the art needs to contain special grace. In other words – not every piece of literature requires a conversion experience. Not every song needs to be about Jesus. Not every poem requires biblical allusions. Not every painting needs a crucifix. Art can be dark, or it can be joyous. Art portrays reality, and that is a gift of common grace to our world that has inherent value. If you don’t insist parishioners print John 3:16 on their business cards, don’t insist artists do their business in explicitly “Christian” ways either.
5. Do insist art = ministry. While the work of an artist need not be “Christian”, Christian artists, by being good artists, have an inlet to a largely untapped/unreached people group: other artists. Affirm artists that create beautiful and true things, and also push them to reach the natural community they form with other artists.
6. Staff artists. Since most pastors don’t have an eye for art or what might seem off-putting to artists, pastors ought to consider hiring artists on staff. It benefits our ministry to have a different pair of eyes and ears in everything we do, asking, “How does this sound? How does it look? Is it pleasing?” It also provides for a need (an artist’s salary) and sends a message to your community: We value artists in everything we do.
7. Acquire a theology of art. Read some works on theological aesthetics, be familiar with great theologians and Christian artists – try to see the theological value of beautiful art, and how it images God in the world.
8. Provide tools for artists. Artists need space. They need time. They need tools. They need communities of artists who will give them feedback. Churches have money, they have building space, they have community. Consider opening the door during the week or on the weekends for musicians, or having an after-hours artists coffee-shop one night a week. Clear a room in the church for messiness – let it be a place where artists can experiment.
9. Create an artist mentoring system. Create a family of artists. Young business folks are mentored by older business folks. Young pastors, by older pastors. Why not young artists, by older, more stable artists? Artists tend to be eccentric, without a deep sense of identity. How great would it be to have older, more stable Christian artists guiding them personally and professionally?
10. Allow artists to learn like artists. Take this as far as you will, but artists have a hard time sitting down and listening to sermons. They just do. Consider giving them a room to watch the sermon on-screen and create art that expresses their reactions. Consider incorporating visuals and keying in on the narrative aspects of certain passages. Use object lessons. Move around the room when you preach – look artists in the eye. Consider using drama in your pre-service presentation (something Stott recommends in “Between Two Worlds”). Give artists a forum in which they can respond to sermons – in small groups, Q&A, or through live tweeting. Let them be hands on.
11. Provide theological structure for artists. One of the reasons pastors and artists don’t get along is that pastors tend to be linear, and artists tend to be connectors. We need to learn to treat each-other’s gifts respectfully. In other words, pastors can give to artists a much-needed theological structure for their work. They can give them a concrete meta-narrative from which to work, and theological boundaries that can guard artists from become experimental with truth. At the same time, Pastors can listen to artists’ challenges to traditional theological boundaries, and trust them to express these truths better than we ever could.
12. Meet artists where they are. Finally – artists aren’t going to show up to church. The crevasse between artists and the church is too deep at this point. This means, churches need to take initiative with artists. We need to find out where they meet, what they talk about, and how they interact. Then we need to go to them. We need to listen to them. We need to invite them to participate in shaping our culture. We need to affirm them, and show them a church that is holistic in its approach to the world – and that includes the redemption of art for God’s glory.
Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.