Christian attitudes about artists are changing.
Just over twenty years ago, social critic Os Guinness noted in his book “Fit Bodies Fat Minds” that artists often are the most isolated group of people in evangelical churches.
Today, evangelicals still have work to do but the ground is shifting.
Artists such as Makoto Fujimura are pushing for Christians to be involved in the secular art world as well as Christian entertainment.
Academics such as theology professor David Taylor are encouraging artistic Christians and churches to work together.
In light of this, what are some ways church leaders can continue this conversation?
Here are 5 things you can do as a church leader to help your artistic members feel closer connected to your church.
1. Do A Bible Study on Art
One common definition of art is simply making things while using aesthetics, the study of beauty and ugliness.
In other words, people create art when they make beautiful things (which including performing as well as things like sculpture).
Various Bible verses talk about people making beautiful things, from the Israelites building the Ark of the Covenant to Jeremiah’s street theatre antics.
If you extend art’s definition to include anything that requires a certain creative input, you can find even more passages that talk about the topic.
Look for those verses and create a Bible study.
Then invite artists or people interested in learning about creativity from a Christian perspective to do the study.
Alternatively, build a Bible study around reading Bible stories that reference art (such as God creating the world, the ultimate artistic act).
2. Small Group Studies
Doing a full-fledged Bible study may feel too challenging at the moment.
In that case, consider reading books which explain the theology behind art.
“Art and the Bible” by Francis Schaeffer summarizes Bible stories that mention art and explains principles we can take from those passages.
“Scribbling in The Sand” by Michael Card goes even broader, discussing creativity from a Biblical perspective.
If you’re more interested in analyzing what churches have often gotten wrong about art, consider reading "Imagine" by Steve Turner, which includes a brief history of art’s role in church history. Chances are, the artists in your church have experienced some snubbing and want to know more about that topic.
3. Ask Artists to Help with Church Events
High church denominations (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, etc.) have a particular advantage when it comes to making artists feel welcome: their church functions require lots of artistic input.
It takes many artists to build the stained glass windows, ornate building structures, sculptures and paintings that feature so heavily in Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches.
You may not care for high church style art, but you can still emulate the basic principle.
Figure out who the artists are in your congregation – who’s good at painting, sculpture, acting, storytelling, whatever.
Then ask if they’d like to contribute to a church project or upcoming events.
Obviously, these kinds of contribution can create a temptation to praise the artists themselves when the point is to praise God.
Fortunately, you can avoid this problem with subtlety. Artists can give church members new ways of seeing things without drawing too much praise to themselves.
For example, several years ago the church I attended held an Easter service.
When I entered the sanctuary, I noticed an easel and canvas by the pastor’s podium, but the pastor didn’t reference it during his message.
As the congregation sang, an older gentleman quietly went up to the easel.
Someone gave him paints and brushes and he started working.
No one paused worship to introduce the man, he just silently painted as we sang.
Little by little, a painting of Christ wearing his thorny crown, blood and tears dripping down his face, came into being.
Once the painting was done, the man returned to his seat. I still don’t know his name.
After the service, someone moved the painting to a small side room.
Anyone could find the painting and see it, but it clearly wasn’t the main focus of coming to church.
4. Make Art for Adults Too
Many churches do a good job of creating artistic projects for children.
Some churches host plays where the Sunday school acts out Biblical stories or Christian allegories.
Others give kids coloring sheets or arts and crafts related to a Bible lesson.
However, once those kids move into high school these projects tend to disappear.
This may accidentally teach people that only children need art to help them understand Biblical concepts.
In fact, as my painting story shows, adult Christians can also learn about God from artistic projects. Art can move past our rational views and speak directly to the creative side, suggesting new ideas or new dimensions to old ideas.
Create artistic projects geared toward adults as well as kids. For example:
- a night or reading original stories or poems that reference theology or Bible stories
- a simple play where two or three actors play out a Biblical story or idea
- a painting event where church members create postcard paintings of Biblical scenes
5. Get People Talking
Start conversations about art.
Get people thinking about what good art is from a Biblical perspective, a good movie you saw recently that reflects Christian ideas, why art and beauty are important to God.
Bring these topics out in the open, and use the discussion to foster healthy views on art.
I hope these ideas help you.
Know a great art project your church recently? Tell us about it below