Pointing to the Creator
An artist stands at an easel; her broad strokes on canvas eventually become the face of Christ. A man dressed in biblical costume sits at a potter's wheel and shapes an earthen vessel with his hands. A young dancer interprets the words of a popular worship song. Actors fill the stage in a modern version of the parable of the great banquet. Images of Christ painted by the masters in oils are projected onto a screen.
Today's churches are becoming centers of cultural change by rightfully reclaiming the arts as a means to worship God, to point non-believers to Christ and to encourage artists to use their gifts for God's glory. Like the modern art of pastiche (creating something new out of pieces on hand), many churches are blending the arts, drama, dance, sermons, songs and multi-media into an interactive worship service that invites people to experience God.
A church I attended in Atlanta one Sunday placed two large canvases at the front of the worship center. At the end of the service, they invited everyone to come up front, pick up a paintbrush, dip it in a bucket of paint, and brush a dab of paint on the canvas. While the canvas was still wet, an artist transformed those paint strokes and smudges into a beautiful work of art. And the entire church was part of the creative process.
A couple of Sundays ago, our pastor used a few classical works of art to illustrate his sermon. As soon as that first painting was projected on the screen, I was fully engaged. (We meet in a movie theater so the images were larger than life.) Each work of art conveyed meaning and emotion that blended beautifully with the sermon.
Creative church services can be simple or multi-layered, weaving together music, art, lighting and spoken word to form a tapestry that prepares the congregation for an encounter with God.
Around the globe churches are creatively using the arts to draw both believers and non-believers to Christ and to engage their communities. These churches have discovered that observing and engaging the creative process has a way of opening our hearts to the Creator.
Before the 20th century the arts were an important part of the church. The church was considered the cultural center of most communities. The church wasn't trying to be culturally relevant; it was driving the culture. Somewhere along the way, the church ignored much of the artistic world and lost its influence on culture.
In recent years, we've seen the tide turn as churches find new ways for artistic expression and faith to mingle. Many 21st century churches are driving the culture by embracing the arts and the artists who create with the hope that these artists will go out and impact the culture with the message of Christ while producing excellent art.
As one who enjoys art in its many forms, I appreciate pastors and worship leaders who find ways to incorporate creative elements into a worship service. They help visual learners like me more fully grasp the meaning of the message. Also, using the arts in church offers an outlet for artists to use their God-given talent to glorify Him and serve the church.
Churches that embrace the arts are doing three things: they are using the arts to point people to the Creator, they are giving artists an opportunity to worship God with their gifts, and they are sending these artists out into the world to influence the culture.
Our Creator is the master artist. Every day is a new creation, every sunset a masterpiece. Our Creator is so creative! Why shouldn't church be the most creative place in town?