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How To Engage & Enjoy Artistry In Your Church

This is one of my favorite pieces being played in a way that merges the horizons between the old and the new. I love it when old and new worlds come together. It’s a reminder that our present is indelibly wrapped together with our past. It also prompts us to recall that artistry last.

The lasting, enchanting effects of artistry should never be marginalized or dismissed. Sadly, George Barna reports that creatives are leaving evangelical churches at an alarming rate – something we talked about last week. I’m not terribly surprised by this. My church experience has shown me that artists – who typically want to explore and experiment – aren’t the most welcome folks in church life. They dress differently, think differently, act differently…they’re just different. This breaks the cardinal rule of most churches: Don’t be different! I’ve been in churches where people’s evident sin was confronted when the offenders where different, but when the same sins were committed by folks who did fit the ethos of the congregation, nothing much was mentioned. The message was clear:  You can do whatever you like as long as you look and sound like us.

What this means is that too many churches lack the artists, musicians, story-tellers and poets they need to engage a world increasingly communicated to through these very mediums. The church has said, if you don’t learn through reading and listening to someone talk, you’re just not going to develop here. Your church needs to seek out, develop and free creatives. Why?

Because creatives are…

  1. …Native Speakers. The Apostles Paul warns the church about speaking in tongues; “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.  But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue (1 Cor. 14:18ff).” Today’s culture speaks in video, music, painting, poetry, etc….And the younger they are, the more they do so. From Generation X folks on down, creative content originates from home on iPhones and iPads. Entire music albums are produced using GarageBand and a few simple microphones. Creatives instinctively communicate. If you’re not embracing artists in your church, it’s you – not them – that’s speaking in tongues. You need an interpreter.
  2. …Creating Needed Experiences. The story of David reminds us that David was both a musician and a worship leader. His musicianship brought solace to Saul and the church has leaned into David’s Psalms as a source for comfort and worship as well. I often wonder what would have happened to the church if some of the “no new songs” people I’ve worshipped with had lived alongside David. Somehow we forget that every older experience was once a new experience.
  3. …Your Future Leaders. Just as David rose to the throne, many creatives ultimately find themselves in church leadership.  Why? Think about what pastors do. Chiefly, they write. They write classes, sermons, articles, talks, funeral services, um…blog posts. Pastors spend a lot of time writing – or at least they should. That’s a creative pursuit, for those who want to craft good messages. The same is true of worship leaders. What will happen to the church if all of the creatives are finally run off?

When we first open the pages of scripture we discover that God is creative. Our world is created with vibrancy and diversity that it doesn’t need for survival. I believe God loves creativity. And we are bestowed with creativity as well. So, go ahead. Set your creatives free. Allow them to work and craft and explore.

Allow them to be as different as they need to be in order to reach a generation of really different people.

How do you think your church can engage artist and creatives?

  • Bruce w

    Well put!! Thanks for this– gonna share

  • Happytheman

    with creative comes critics with critics comes censorship with censorship comes spiritless.

    • Criticism is one of the big reasons there’s not more creativity in church….And everywhere else too.

  • Max Chance

    I love this post. I live this post. From early on, I knew my ministry was more off-beat, maybe, than most… and I’m not going to pose like it’s always been well-received. God be praised- in His wisdom, He knows what His kingdom requires, and provides it. I’ve been well supplied with collaborators and those who share this worldview that begins with the Creator and radiates outward in all sorts of colors, tones and shapes– all of them able to be interpreted, perfectly, by the heart. I think that’s why we’re drawn to the arts. Everybody likes at least one song, sometimes even without words. I’m not saying that replaces the spoken Gospel delivery, but I am saying that the heart knows a language that transcends speech. Praise God!!! I’m definitely sharing this… Keep up the great work, Sean The Creative! (I think it takes one to know one!) 🙂

    • Thanks, Max. I wish I were more creative than I am. I have a great love for creatives. Mostly out of jealousy.

      • Max Chance

        Ha! I relate to that… there’s always someone who looks like they’re ‘better’ at things we admire or aspire to, even in the areas where we know we’re truly gifted. But I think you said it- what ministers do is very creative. It takes a lot of imagination- and that on the fly! We’re called to help people encounter the real God, often by presenting His ancient narrative as though it were just written. Even the most baffling minds in the most creative of communities have to admit that, really, it’s all been done before, all been told before- it’s just a question of bringing that into the “now.” I think much of the creative process is about- at least for me- finding how this idea/comment/concept relates to me, gets my blood pumping, and then sharing that. Which is something we all do everyday… but especially those who present the Word to the Body, and before the ‘powers’ at that. So I guess I’m rambling to say, I’m not that taken with the ‘mystique’ of it… I think we often just don’t recognize it for what it is… Not to say I don’t still have my jealousies!!
        Anyway, thanks again for sharing! (And thanks, too, for the transcript. I’m taking a youth group to Tennessee tomorrow, but will dive into the material as soon as I get back Monday. You and I share a love for Dr. King, not just as an icon of American history, but much more as a preacher. I’m looking forward to reading your comments!)

  • Max Chance

    Also love that Bach piece!

  • Carol

    Your blog really spoke to me today. Maybe because I feel like I’m a creative person on the other side. For years I wondered why I felt like I didn’t fit in. And it wasn’t just at church. It was seeing church members outside of church and not being acknowledged. That’s probably why I stopped going so long ago. I could never figure out what I was doing wrong. Well, I finally realized it wasn’t me! I am happy to say that when I did come back to church, I was received warmly and by the most welcoming people I have come to know.

    • Thanks, Carol. Just because someone doesn’t fit it doesn’t mean they’re the off ones. 🙂

  • Bill

    You know what I think

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  • Amy Palmer

    Ok, this is why some of us get all inspired when we read the following scripture:

    “See I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri the son of Hur of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – to make artistic designs for work in gold and silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”

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