Many of you think of me as that “Christian Actor Guy” who goes around the country performing in churches, and while that is true, as with any job there is more to my work than meets the public eye. The traveling is mostly done on weekends. My “day job” is not all that glamorous. I sit at my desk and spend many hours each week doing the “business” of an arts ministry: paying bills, answering correspondence, and trying to convince pastors to invite me to their church!
“A Device to Root Out Evil” – Dennis Oppenheim
I have a long list of the “reasons” why I am not invited (and maybe I will delve into those in another blog) but I think it is important to consider why you should invite artists to your church–and I am talking big picture here, not just me but artists in general–be they musicians, painters, dancers, poets, storytellers, comedians, or yes, even actors. Actually, the reasons are many, but I will focus here on my top 3 reasons you should be inviting artists to your church.
The Artist as a Prophet – Artists are people who see things differently. Often on the outside of a group or community, they can bring new perspectives to old things and sometimes make old things new again. Sometimes they can be disruptive, but that may be good, as things need disrupting in order for change to happen. Historically artists have played a major role in shaping culture, inspiring change, and speaking to the heart. If you need convincing, just Google “the artist as prophet” and you will get several examples. When that artist is a Christ follower, their art can speak volumes to your congregation and touch hearts and minds in a way that nothing else can.
Inspire and Affirm Other Artists – The church needs artists. In my earlier blogs I have addressed the fact that fewer and fewer churches are offering an outlet for artists to be a vital part of congregational life. In many churches, choirs are gone and musicians are few, drama is gone or replaced by a video screen, and the sanctuary, once a place of beauty, is replaced by a multi-purpose room indistinguishable from any other meeting place in town. Art in churches and schools is given a low priority yet is highly esteemed in the culture at large. I believe the church should be a birthing place for the arts. One of the most fulfilling things about my work is hearing other artists express their gratitude after seeing my art presented in their church. It gives them hope for their own artistic expression. The church needs to be affirming that! In our current culture it may well be the artists, more than the preachers, who can effectively call people to examine their lives and relationship to God.
Saying Things Differently – Let’s be honest, we can get numb in the pew. We get into a routine of hearing and seeing things the same way, week after week, and after awhile, we stop listening. Bring in an artist and suddenly we rediscover our eyes and our ears. The artist may not even be saying anything that the pastor hasn’t already said 100 times… but saying if differently can cause people to hear it, sometimes for the first time! The language of our culture, like it or not, is the language of entertainment. That’s one language artists know well. Allowing them to be heard can be transformational to both individuals and the body as a whole.
Like I said, there are many reasons you can give for not bringing an artist to your church–and many of them might be legitimate (lack of funds, scheduling conflicts, etc.). But I encourage you to seek out opportunities and encourage artists, both within and outside your church, to have a place in the life of your congregation.
What other reasons can you give for including artists in the life of your church?
Posted by Chuck Neighbors