Archive for ‘Art and the Local Church’

July 5, 2012

Evangelism, Artists and Art

In order to make disciples, we must first see individuals come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and cultivate personal relationships with Him. Jesus told His followers to go and teach all nations what He had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). As we know, the Great Commission is Jesus’ will for His church.  Although edification and discipleship are specific to equipping believers, teaching Jesus’ commands also involves reaching unbelievers with the good news about Him!  Evangelism particularly requires going – getting out of our comfort zone and meeting people where they are at.

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 What is the good news of Jesus Christ?

God created humans as whole beings, designed to be in fellowship with Him. That fellowship was lost for all human beings when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12). Since then, all human beings are born into this separation from God – unwhole, with a void in our souls. God desires to restore His relationship with human beings, but because He is Holy (completely perfect, nothing deficient or lacking), He cannot tolerate sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Since He is also Just, He requires a payment for sin. In the Old Testament, this payment was made through the sacrifices of animals, but these sacrifices had to be made again and again (Hebrews 10:1). The good news is that God then prepared a way for us to know Him through His Holy Son Jesus Christ who meets the requirements of the law for sin payment. Jesus bore the sin and separation from God on our behalf through His death, burial and resurrection so we can have personal relationships with God. Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6). If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin, you will be saved from a lost eternity (that’s forever, folks) separated from God (Romans 10:9, Acts 16:31, John 3:16). When you believe, God begins His work of transforming you into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29) and making you a whole person, while enjoying restored fellowship with Him.

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This is an artist’s depiction of Jesus dying on a cross.  I think it is a beautiful image, capturing the moment when Jesus took my sin and separation from God so that I could have a personal relationship with Him. This image relays a part of the good news to me.

Let’s say I’ve never heard the gospel message before. I have no idea who Jesus is or what He has done. Is this image going to bear the same significance for me? Absolutely not.

You see, God has chosen to use believers with their spiritual gifts and God-given talents to reach the lost for Jesus Christ. That’s not to say art and conversations about art can’t be used by believers or that it won’t touch somebody, it’s just that we must take tremendous care not to put art in the position of ministry.  Believers minister and evangelize, the arts do not.

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The question I come upon in my mind is this: If the arts in and of themselves do not minister, in what context and to what extent should the arts be used in a local church’s evangelism?

And I’m sorry if it seems like I’m belaboring a point here, but we have to review some of the principles mentioned in earlier articles to answer this question.

1. Christ is Supreme. The universal church and local gatherings of believers are His. When art is used in any church, it’s primary purpose must be to glorify and draw attention to Him.

2. Discipleship is necessary. When the arts are used in the church, they must foster communities of artists who edify each other and the local body.

3. Art should be pursued in excellence and integrity. In the local church, this means the arts must be morally good, artistically good, and reject secular forms.

4. Evangelism includes going. Evangelistic art by local church artists must not be restricted to the local church building. 

In an evangelistic context, the arts in the local church should clearly display the good news of Jesus Christ.  In creating evangelistic art, it is helpful to work together to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ – having a common purpose fosters strong relationships.  Evangelistc art that is excellent and created in integrity should be Holy Spirit-prompted and will be used by the Him to touch people’s hearts. Local churches should have teams of artists going out and being involved in community arts districts and events.

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Well, here we are.  At the end of “The Arts and the Local Church” series. As with the topic of excellence, we will revisit this series in the future as more topics arise.

To recap: Local churches should be community leaders in honoring Christ, discipling believers, and reaching unbelievers with the good news of Jesus Christ and in many instances they are.  The arts are areas where many local churches are not leading the way.

Dear believing artists, I leave you with a challenge to glorify Christ in your art and make Him known. I challenge you to instruct and disciple other believers in the arts – show them how to make Christ known through art and how to use art and conversations about art as evangelistic tools. I challenge you to be reaching unbelievers (artists and non-artists alike) using your God-given artistic talents.

Dear local church leaders, I challenge you to raise up artists surrendered to the Lordship of Christ – who seek Him first above all else.  I challenge you to raise up leading artists who are committed to teaching others about the arts, and more specifically, teaching others how to praise God and make Him known in the arts they produce. I challenge you to have a presence in your local art community (everybody has one, you generally just have to find it): send artists out to participate in community art events and classes.

Let’s make a difference in the arts for Jesus Christ as communities of Jesus’ followers! Starting now…

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

June 28, 2012

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.

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

June 21, 2012

The Supremacy of Christ: The Proper Place of the Arts in the Local Church

Before we can talk about the proper place of the arts in the local church, we must first acknowledge that both the universal church and the local groups gathered in Jesus’ name and for His glory belong to Jesus Christ.  I love these verses in Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:15-18)

The word for “preeminence” in the NIV is “supremacy.” The NASB most accurately states the supremacy of Christ as His coming first in everything.

Very simply put, Christ not only expects to come before all else in my life, but also to be the driving reason behind all I say and do. From this passage, it is clear this is also Christ’s standard for His church. This is very serious business to God. He jealously guards His glory. In Isaiah, He declares to straying Israel, “I AM THE LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8). Additionally,  Jesus tells us that many of the Old Testament Commandments can be summed up in this command: to love God with our whole being – heart, mind, soul (Luke 10:27). We can see this is true as God commands, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

Since Christ is to be supreme in His church, the primary purpose of the arts in the local church should be to exalt Him. I say should be because most churches subscribe to one of two views concerning the place of the arts in the local church. Some churches depend on the celebrity and talent of their artists to draw people in, exalting the artist and the people they are trying to reach to Christ’s rightful place in their gatherings. Other churches do not realize the potential of believing artists to glorify God through art. They view the arts as a distraction from God. A select few even believe that the arts are only tools of the Enemy, intended to usurp Christ’s authority in His church. As a believing artist, I cannot take either stance regarding the place of the arts in the local church. One view completely discounts Christ, the other discounts the arts.

The question on my mind, believing artists’ minds, and probably some local shepherds’ minds is this: How are these attitudes going to change? It’s really simple. When Christ is in His proper place (i.e. He comes first in everything and is supreme) in a local church, the arts will also fall into their proper place! (I told you). When we recognize that Christ is to come first in ev-er-y-thing, we have to come to terms with the fact that He should also come first in the arts – especially those utilized in His church. Christ wants to be glorified and made known through artists and the arts – even in the local church.

What does this look like? This is also really simple. Make sure Christ is first in the arts in your local church. (See? I did it again). It is not about me, it is not about you, it is not about your local church, it is not about the artists – it is about Jesus Christ – who He is and what He has done.  Artists and arts in the local church need to reflect that. In music, this means not only “performing” (I really hate to use that term – remember our little post on integrity) music that is Christ-centered, but for the singer or musician to be dwelling on Christ during a time of praise and worship (see Muse: Drawing Inspiration). As a film-maker, if I’m asked to produce something for a service, it is not about showcasing what I can do or “wowing” people with smoke and mirrors. It is about having a heart overflowing with Christ, so I can visually share about Him.

Christ is first.  If Christ doesn’t come first in a local church, if He doesn’t hold His church’s devotion, priorities and views become skewed, not just about the arts, but about Him! We must (must, must, must) exalt Christ and glorify God in local church arts before anything else, and His exaltation and glory should be the driving reason behind our arts.

But…

There’s more.

You’re just going to have to wait until next week to get it.

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

June 14, 2012

The History of Art and the Church

As believers, we know that the church was established when Christ gave His great commission to the church. The church did prosper for some time and then Saul began persecuting the believers. In around 312 AD, the Roman emperor, Constantine, converted to Christianity, and declared the tolerance of Christians. Eighty years later, under Theodosius I, Christianity was proclaimed to be the official religion of the Roman Empire. This produced what we know today as the Roman Catholic church. Although most Protestant Christians will say the Roman Church is corrupt today, it did not start out so. These men were indeed believers who taught the doctrines that were handed down. The Roman Catholic Church has been ruled by succession of popes since the middle of the 5th century. These men, though they were flawed (as are all humans), saw that music and art  were preserved and regulated.

At the beginning of the church (the true beginning) we know that believers often met in each other’s homes and sometimes on Solomon’s porch at the Temple. The houses were probably simple without a lot of elaborate art, perhaps some pottery and tapestries. However, to make up for how little weknow about the people’s houses, we know a great deal about the detailed artistry that went into the making of Solomon’s temple (see 1 Kings 6). Of course, the temple that Solomon built originally was destroyed, but it was rebuilt and dedicated to the Lord (Ezra 6: 15-16). We also know that they spoke to each other “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody from the heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19).

If we fast-forward a few hundred years, we enter into the Liturgy of the Catholic Church. Specifically what we know existed musically in the church was chant. There were different types of chant: Gallican (France), Old Roman (Rome), Mozarabic (Spain), and Ambrosian (Milan). It should be observed here that the different types of chants served the different languages or dialects of the countries in which they were practiced. When Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 AD, he sought to impose Roman chant (and one language) on the entire empire. This led to a body of chant being compiled, known collectively as “Gregorian chant.” This name originated supposedly because Pope Gregory I authorized the reorganization and standardization of the chant liturgy, established the “schola cantorum” (school of singing), and,  allegedly under divine inspiration, composed all of the melodies for the chants.Gregorian chant became the standard  repertoire of music in the western church from the 9th-16th centuries.

Music was simple: the was one single-line melody- known as monophony. In the 11th century, however, people started getting bored with that. Composers started composing with multiple voices moving around each other- known as polyphony. At its origin, polyphonic music may have only had two or three voices, but by the height of its glory day there could be as many as five or six. Polyphony saw its greatest development at the Notre Dame Cathedral in France. The two well-known composers of this style are Leonin and Perotin. Their music imitated the style of grandeur in the construction of the massive cathedral (which took almost 200 years to complete).


The main visual art of the church was the architecture. These structures required a lot of science and planning, but they are also works of art. Think of the Notre Dame Cathedral (pictured above)- this took two hundred years to complete. The people who started it never saw it completed. But it was their life- what they did… who they were. Perhaps the most famous church artist was in the Renaissance period- Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarotti Simoni. He is known for his famous David sculpture as well as for his painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (pictured below).


Among his late works is the fresco on the Sistine Chapel altar wall- The Last Judgement (pictured below).

His final project was to design St. Peters Basilica in Vatican, Rome (pictured below). He died while the dome was under construction.


This is just a sampling of his works. He did many paintings and sculptures of religious subject matter. Most of his work was commissioned by the Roman Church.

Music in the renaissance became more humanist. Composers tried to find sounds that expressed the emotion of the text. Polyphony became more and more complex; so much so that it became an art of its own- one was not considered a great composer unless he could write polyphony. This increasing complexity of several voices each being of equal importance with no discernible melody made it almost impossible to hear the text. In fact, at the dawn of the Reformation, this is one of the complaints that Luther brings to the church- the lay people had no understanding of what was going on in the Mass.

We should take into consideration that Luther originally had no intention of leaving the Roman Church; he merely wished to “reform” it. He was excommunicated after he would not give up. Music was very important to Luther as he was himself an amateur composer. He respected and appreciated the Catholic composer Josquin. Luther kept much of the Catholic traditional music.  Some was kept in the original Latin and some was translated into German. In addition, new German texts were written and set to old melodies. Luther believed in keeping some Latin in the church service as he believed it to be educational. Somewhere in the mix of things singing had become a part of the service only for people who were in the choir. Luther believed in and encouraged the congregation to participate in singing. The chorale was developed as a standard of congregational singing: 4-voices (not polyphony) with a prominent melody composed so that the music repeats with each verse. This is the origin of today’s hymn. Luther composed around 12 of these, including Ein Feste Burg- which is translated and sung in many protestant churches today as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

Outside of Germany, John Calvin led the greatest Protestant reformation. Unlike Luther, Calvin sought to separate completely from the Roman Church. He stripped churches of all possible distractions, including decorations, elaborate church buildings, ceremonial procedures, and polyphony. He believed that congregational singing united worshipers in faith and praise. For the songs, he only permitted use of biblical texts, and especially encouraged using the book of Psalms as a source. The Psalter came into being for this purpose. In England, there was a split, but this was because Henry VIII was refused an annulment of his marriage by the pope. The Anglican Church remained essentially Catholic, except for the liturgy which changed from Latin to English.

I leave us hanging in the late sixteenth century. That is because in the Protestant church, so little has changed. Whether they know it or not, many modern day churches have in one way or another been influenced by Calvin’s view of the arts. In some ways this is a good thing… anything that distracts from worship is not something that belongs in the church.  There is a counter-tendency in some local churches to give arts the pre-eminence during worship. Do we need the elegance of St. Peter’s Basilica? Or the ornate ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?  Or do we need music that is so distracting that we cannot focus on worship? Or music so complex that we cannot understand the words? No. Paul tells us that everything we do should be for the edification of the body (1 Cor. 14:26).  We as artists need to know our gifts and learn how to use them for the edification (building up) of the body of Christ. As artists we need to know that as long as our ultimate goal is to glorify God, what we do in the church is important and good.

Know what you can do. Ask yourself if you are doing it. If you are, ask yourself if it is edifying the body. If it is not, ask yourself why not. If you are not doing what you can do, ask yourself why not. If it is a personal choice, pray that God will help to use you and your art. If it is a matter of oversight (pastors and elders), talk to them with respect for the authority that God has given them. If it is truly something that God wants you to do, he will work in their hearts to give you that ministry. Don’t be discouraged when things don’t go your way. Know that God is molding and making his church into the perfect bride, and he does have a place for you and your art.

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

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Seth is a pianist, piano instructor, piano performance major, but a believer in Jesus Christ first of all. Seth was raised in a family of eight children and was homeschooled from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. From the beginning, he had a love for music and specifically for the piano and organ. At the age of seven, hebegan playing piano and taught himself for four years. When he was eleven, Seth began piano lessons with Thea Hoekman in Fremont, Michigan and started playing the organ at his church in Newaygo, Michigan. When he was thirteen, Seth’s family moved to Texas and he began his studies with Carolyn Steinberg in Celina, Texas and continued studying with her throughout high school. These formative years were essential to his growth not only as a pianist but also as a believer. When he was 16, Seth began his private piano studio under Mrs. Steinberg’s helpful guidance. Seth has developed many ideas about teaching that are his own and has grown as a teacher for the past several years.

June 12, 2012

The Arts and the Local Church: Preface

Well, folks, it is upon us.  In two days we are launching The Arts and the Local Church series on the FortyOne20 Ministries blog. For the past few weeks we’ve been dealing with the concept of excellence, and we will return to that topic mid-July, but for the next month or so, we are shifting our focus.

While the need for excellence in the arts is generally accepted and agreed upon, the place of the arts in the local church is typically a matter of great contention.  Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, some things need to be said before we publish the articles.

First, and most importantly, FortyOne20 Ministries and The Arts and the Local Church contributing artists love the Body of Christ (universal church) and the local groups of believers gathered in His name and for His glory because we love Jesus. It is never our intention to overstep the authority of the local church on the arts or any other matter. We recognize pastors, elders and other shepherds as called by God to oversee and take care of local church gatherings (Tit. 1; 1 Tim. 3). Whether we agree with them or not, we accept their authority in their respective local churches.

Secondly, you may read things in this series that are at odds with what your pastors, elders, shepherds and churches teach. If that is the case, your responsibility is to submit to the authority of your local church, NOT to lead an arts revolution within said gathering. If you are seriously convicted about what you are reading, you should prayerfully consider speaking to your pastor and elders about it, but know that what they say goes for your local body of believers. If you still find yourself  disagreeing with their decision, (pastors and elders, don’t hate me) it is perhaps time to make a gracious exit. Let me reiterate: it is NEVER your job to start an arts revolution in your local church without the consent of your local church shepherds.

That being said, it is our prayer that this series will spark a God-orchestrated and positive change both in believing artists and in how local churches view and use art. Many churches simply do not realize the proper place of art in the church and that is inhibitive to believing artists. Our goal for this particular series is to understand the proper place of art in the church and how to achieve it, and it is our prayer that it falls on receptive and ready-to-act hearts.

Sincerely,

FortyOne20 Ministries

and

The Arts and the Local Church contributing artists