Art That Edifies: Discipleship

Before FortyOne20 Ministries was even a blip on my radar, I read a book called The Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland. I think it is a great book, and it radically changed my thinking about artists and art, but I disagreed with Mr. Noland on a key point.  He asserts that art is innately good as a gift from God and therefore art shouldn’t necessarily have to serve a specific purpose in the church. While I believe art is good as a gift of God, I also believe it can take on moral and immoral characteristics. Like all good things, our Enemy seeks to pervert it constantly. I also believe that art in God’s church must serve one or both of the following: it must glorify God (as we discussed last week) and it must edify His church.

To “edify” means to “build up.” It implies instruction and improvement, either moral or intellectual. Edification is an important topic in the New Testament. In regard to spiritual gifts, Paul addresses edification many times: “Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12).  I do not believe that the arts are spiritual gifts, but I do believe that when they are used in the church, they should be used to build up the church.

So how exactly is the church built up? In Matthew 28, Jesus gives specifics as to how He wants His church built up: Go and make disciples. I believe the church is built up when believers use their spiritual gifts and God-given talents to evangelize and disciple. Evangelism and discipleship by believing artists in the arts occur on an individual level and involve instructional relationships.  I will address evangelism later this week, but for today I want to focus on discipleship.

During my last two years in college, four women (shout out Meredith, Susan, Jenna and Hannah) modeled community and vulnerability for me, spurred me on in my walk with the Lord, gave valuable life advice as I came up on graduation and had to put my big girl shoes on, and encouraged me to do the same for others. They spent time with me (still spend time with me when busy life permits), built into my life – they discipled me. I know there are other churches that are intentional about discipleship as well. Unfortunately, these churches are the blessed exception to the general rule.

Discipleship in general  is lacking in the church. A lot of this has to do with our unwillingness to interact with people outside of our age group and season of life. We want to be with people who are going through what we’re going through and dealing with what we’re dealing with. (Not judging, there are days when I want the same thing).  Churches have groups and programs for just about every season of life. The problem with this model is that we’re circumventing the older and more experienced coming alongside the younger and less experienced (2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 2:3-5). In other words, we’re bypassing discipleship.

Further troubling, and more to our point, is the lack of discipleship of artists in our churches. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to write and produce a play for our Christmas program at my old church. There were difficult patches as our team was given direction by our elders, but overall it was a positive experience for me. I loved it!  Before I graduated, Susan (the same discipler mentioned above) asked me about my ministry dreams. Writing and producing plays for evangelistic events was my response. We talked a bit about how it can become more about the production than the evangelism, and Susan said something to the effect of, “Well, if people are being discipled in the process, it can be good.”  That was profound for me because I had never thought about how producing the arts could be used for discipleship. I had only ever thought about how you could produce art and it would have an effect on the people experiencing it.

I majored in Radio, Television, and Film in college because I wanted to be  the next Peter Jackson. (Please don’t ask how that’s working out for me). I remember watching The Lord of the Rings‘ special features and being wowed at the number and variety of artists involved.  When producing a film, you have the opportunity to bring a lot of different artists together for a common purpose. It’s just really cool and exciting and fun.  When I personally take on a video project, I make sure to bring somebody along with me.  It’s not only an opportunity to teach them about the industry, but how we as believing artists should conduct ourselves while producing.

Although my productions have largely taken place outside of the church, I believe the same discipleship opportunities exist for artists within the church. Whether we’re working on the music for praise and worship, producing a video clip or a skit, drawing, painting, or sketching we can give the members of our teams the opportunity to learn more about the craft they are engaging in and teach them how to do it in a way that glorifies God and ministers to others.

Some ideas for cultivating discipleship for artists:

– Diverse teams of artists in range of experience and spiritual maturity

– Artists are encouraged to work as teams instead of on their own

– More experienced artists are encouraged to walk alongside and train less experienced artists

– Artists are encouraged to build community

– Artists pray and praise together

– Artists are encouraged to do a devotion on the project at hand and share it with each other

This is not to say believing artists should only interact with people on their teams, because discipleship must take place outside of the arts as well.  BUT we do need to be discipling artists specifically in the arts if we expect God to use artists and art to glorify Him and reach the lost.

***

Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, Film. She is passionate about reaching and discipling artists for Jesus Christ. 

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