Over a decade ago, many churches embraced a toolbox full of options for designing worship services including music, video, drama, dance, visual art, poetry, spoken word, stories and testimonies, guided prayers, and interactive exercises. These days….it’s almost exclusively music and video. Certainly music and video are art forms. But what about the other tools?
There are many reasons to explain what happened. Developing arts teams in a variety of disciplines is expensive, complicated, messy, and inherently risky. I believe that several churches attempted to do more than their resources allowed them to do well. As I’ve often said, the only thing worse than no drama is bad drama! Sadly, any art form done poorly will be written off as a poor investment. So instead of recognizing that each of these art forms should only be used as often as they can be done with excellence, we write them off and stay safe. I also recognize that a church with solid Biblical teaching, engaging worship music, and a little video, can be a prevailing, healthy community. So why rock the boat?
I believe it is time for another renaissance of art in the church. We need to see a rising up of creative artists willing to experiment and re-invent ways to unleash the arts for moving people in worship. It’s time to raise up Why do I feel so strongly about this? Here are my two top reasons:
- Because people in our congregations experience different pathways to God - Not everyone senses God’s presence primarily through music. And yet musicians are typically the main people planning our services! People learn and respond to moments through a variety of methods. Some folks are more visual. Some love the power of story and words. Others long for guided prayers and silence. Some people are tactile, and engage best with an interactive experience or activity. Embracing a wider palette of art forms will allow for more individuals to be struck by the wonder and beauty and power of God’s presence.
- Because gifted artists are sitting on the sidelines and long to be invited onto the field – Back in the days of Moses, God raised up artists named Bezalel and Oholiab to design and craft the ark of the covenant and all its furnishings. When describing Bezalel, God said: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills - to make artistic designs…” Your community and mine is filled with men and women just like Bezalel!
Every church, no matter what its size, has some artists sitting in the seats who could be invited into the grand adventure of using their gifts to advance God’s purposes. Photographers, dancers, poets, painters, filmmakers, writers, designers, actors and, of course, musicians are all potential players in the crafting of transcendent moments. Your church likely has its own unique combination of gifted men and women who are just waiting to be known, inspired, and led. Once they taste the deep fulfillment and joy of using their gifts for holy purposes, these artists will passionately declare, “I was born for this!” And they were…
In order for this new artistic renaissance to happen, we need some courageous leaders willing to take the risk, move out into new territory, lead up effectively to the senior leaders of their church, build community life by life among artists, and prepare really good work so that the congregation is so deeply moved they will support these new art forms. I know that sounds daunting. But it can and must be done! Anybody out there up for the challenge?
I’d love to hear what you have to say…and if you are a church artist who wants to take a deeper dive with me on these issues, please consider joining our Worship Arts Coaching Circle launching in November. www.coaching-circles.com