Does Anyone Care About Art in the Church—Part 2
Yes! Some do!
The church has changed. Anyone who has experienced the cathedrals of Europe, and compared that aesthetic to the average function-over-style of the majority of churches built in this country in the last 50 years, would have to conclude that they don’t build them like they used to!
A couple of weekends ago I walked into a church and I could tell almost instantly that this was a church that cared about art. It was not a huge church; they averaged about 250 in their worship service. The foyer had a feel that was more like what I have seen in certain museums or fine hotel lobbies. The furnishings were elegant. There was art on the walls—meaningful art. One piece especially captivated me. It was a wood engraving of the hymn “How Great Thou Art” that was engraved to look like a page out of hymnal, with incredible detail.
The platform of the church was tidy, not the usual clutter of mic and music stands I am accustomed to seeing in most churches I frequent. As the worship service started, we were treated to a string ensemble that played their music impeccably. Somebody cared about the aesthetics of this church. Yet is wasn’t an atmosphere of artistic snobbery you might have expected by my description.
If you are still wondering “does all this really matter?” Let me give you a few reasons why I think it does:
- It is an indication of giving our best to the Creator. By caring about art, about things of beauty, I think we are acknowledging that we are creative beings and affirming that to both to God and to each other.
- It is obvious that our culture cares about art. I would argue that we live in an entertainment culture. That doesn’t mean that all art is good art or appropriate for church, but we need to recognize that it is a huge part of the culture we are trying to speak to.
- By caring about art we are given a voice worthy of paying attention too. We are speaking the language of the culture we are a part of. You may not like the fact that we live in an entertainment culture, but it doesn’t change the fact that it exists. Art is one valuable way we to let our voice be heard.
- It is Biblical after all. It goes all the way back to the Old Testament, from the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 35 & 36) and the Psalms of David, to the New Testament with the parables of Jesus.
So how can you make your church a welcoming place for the arts? A big church can hire artists, and many do. But art in the church is not only for the big, the moneyed, or the ultra sophisticated. Little things can go a long way. Consider the following:
- Look for ways to include the arts in your worship—not just music, but drama, painting, sculpture, and dance, etc… there are exceptional artists in all these areas and more (probably some hiding in your very pews).
- Care more about the aesthetics in your place of worship. From the moment you enter the church, what can you do artistically to draw attention to the things of God? Think paintings, furniture, music etc. (Some churches have turned their foyers into galleries that showcase artists in the church.)
- Plan social events that create opportunities for artists to be discovered. A talent show at a church retreat might just be the venue to discover talents you never new existed.
- While we want to encourage art, we also want to encourage quality. Have some sort of screening process in place so that what you create is truly inspiring to those that experience it… (I know that art is in the eye of the beholder… so tread carefully).
- Don’t do this alone. Consult with others in your church who are artists or at least good appreciators of art. Use them for everything from the design of the worship service to the design of your print materials; from the table displays in the foyer to the paintings in the bathroom. An arts committee in your church might be a great investment of time, talent and service.
- At the risk of sounding self-serving, invite guest artists into your church. Experiencing art well done inspires art well done!
For some pastors reading this, I can hear you saying, “great—just one more thing for me to do!” I know leading a church is not easy and there is a lot on the proverbial plate. I don’t think every pastor needs to make this their personal responsibility… but I do think that by delegating and encouraging those already in the congregation who have an artistic bent, we can do much to enhance our message. Artists are uniquely gifted to speak to the culture. Artists who are Christians need opportunities to use their God given gifts to the benefit of the Body of Christ and the world.
What ideas can you share for discovering and encouraging the arts in your church?