Limits…

We’ve been dialoguing with high school students all weekend up here at the State Youth Convention in Flagstaff, AZ. It’s been a great weekend and we’ve been doing a break out session with the students on Arts, Justice and the Local Church. We’ve had fascinating dialogue with the students and they drew out some great realities.

My question for you is this:

1. Do you feel like the local church unleashes the Arts to their potential?

2. What are ways you, personally, feel limited in your local church as it relates to the art in you?

3. What do you dream about seeing the local church doing with the arts?

Come on now, let’s be bold, answer the questions and let’s dialogue on this thing and dream together on how the arts can effect our influence in the world.

All of us Brayline guys were encouraged to hear students talk about how the Arts and how they could be unleashed in a whole new way in the church. I love the idea that the Arts could, possibly, be one of the most untapped evangelistic tools in the box. What would it look like if our local communities encouraged the Arts at the highest level. I contend that our influence and effect in our society for the Kingdom of God would have profound and fresh results.
SOUND OFF!!

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10 responses to “Limits…

  1. Sometimes I feel like there are a few important people on stage and we all sit back and listen.

  2. Okay okay, I’ll elaborate. Dang wordpress doesn’t let you delete comments, so sorry for #2.

    What do you mean by Arts, exactly?
    If you mean simply Music, Visual Arts, and Literature, i’d say:

    1. No, I don’t think the church does.

    2. When I think of church right now, I see it as a place where sharing art has a big potential. It’d be awesome to have monthly events where we could express art, but it doesn’t seem like all that many people are interested. Kudos to Promise for getting to show some people off at the first art show. Although arts don’t seem regarded all that highly within many churches, it doesn’t bother me. There are other places to express and mount your art to share with others who feel the same way you do about it.

    3. My visual dream of a church that unleashes art to it’s fullest potential would be a church where worship and songs would be more than just one style of music every sunday, or (maybe) with interpretive dance or something. I guess if it seemed unnecessary or over-the-edge to have people dancing to ‘How Great Is Our God’, there could always be a small-group type thing in which dancers put together routines or something. I also imagine art being displayed throughout the building, and possibly even have the walls painted by the church-artists themselves.

    I dream of a church where you can feel every branch of it are always working together to embrace the individuality of all the people, and not being scared to do so. I dream of a church that breaks the rules of the norm. I feel like there are itty-bitty lines we’re all scared to break.

    I think some churches try to be open to everyone, but expect everyone to be the same. How do you really reach out to other people? When I ask people why churches today try to make non-believers (or people who would never think about stepping foot into the church) intrigued by creating a building that doesn’t seem like the typical snooze-church, I think they also forget that there are plethora of non-believers who might think having a big expensive church is wrong, too. I’m also wondering if ‘snooze-church’ is the right term. Because what if maybe there are people who enjoy that style of church teens today consider ‘snooze-church’? Or what if there are really artistic people who feel like they have to bottle it for Christ because it’s not something churches today really seem to care about. Or maybe there are people who really like to golf, or to go mountain biking or something, but are all scared that it something ‘Christians’ don’t do. Okay okay, those are almost unrealistic examples of reasons people would divide, but is it possible to fit all of aspects of personal expression to be met in one building? That’s why there are so many types of churches, right? Baptist, Methodist, Lutherin, yadadada. People didn’t agree on ways to do things. I guess with a big enough population, you’re bound to form a group for any hobby; you could form a group to express all arts. But because some churches don’t like to cross lines and don’t embrace parts of expression, would it be right to have separate churches for people who enjoy different things so it is possible to reach out to different kinds of people? Not necessarily churches that would be like, “Hey, we’re the artsy church, so we don’t talk to those baptists,” or something, but branches of churches that like to explore different ways of expression or ways of worship.

    While I think of all of this, a verse comes to mind.

    Philippians 2:1-3
    If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by *being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose*.

    I hope this all doesn’t sound like a big jumble of a 16-year-old teen’s words and tangents left and right.

  3. I think I went overboard. Haha.

  4. Hey brian,
    I’ve seen art really effectively used at my home church in australia-beachside christian.
    On the final night of a weekend retreat we were asked to meet at a certain place before entering the main meeting hall. We were then instructed to enter the room silently, to look at the art work displayed (all created by people in our church with much prayer and God seeking). We were then instructed to spend time looking at the masterpieces and to allow God to speak. After about a half hour or more we sat and shared what God had spoken. Powerful time… People who’d previously had no time for visual art were spoken too proufoundly. One little baptist boy suddenly began speaking in tongues. It was amazing.

    God used this night because these artists we’re humbly asking God to use their gifts for the edification of the church. They weren’t seeking brownie points or trying to prove a point.

    I think we have to do everything out of a love for Christ. We can see people drawn to him through hobbies, arts and what not. But ultimately the reason for publically getting together in a big or small church building is for instruction from the word of God. Too often churches today are more concerned about getting butts on seats then actually seeing their congregation grow more in love with Jesus.

    That’s what I’m working on… Knowing and loving Jesus more

  5. As someone who has just been handed the oversight of the creative elements of my church, this is a topic that I am very interested in.
    Here are my opinions as of right now.
    The cool thing about art is that it experiences no boundaries, which is why it is such an amazing way to worship our Lord. The problem when you try to program with artistic elements is that it is really easy to start to place boundaries on art or artist for the sake of quality or atheistic. My feeling is that church leadership needs to let go of the reigns a little and let artists express themselves as a part of the community which is the church. I think this can be done in an organized planned way, but I am most excited about the culture that could be created that is spontaneous and driven from an artist desire to want to be part of the church’s movement.

  6. 1. no

    2. Christians are willing to get into something on the premise that it is Christian music/art/movies rather than on the quality/relevance of the art itself

    3. there was a time when the best of art came from the churches. I would freak out to see that come back around!!

    I have a blog post on this as part of the conversation. It’s more of a rant based on “fireproof”, the movie. But for what it’s worth, check it out!

    http://afterthethrillisgone.blogspot.com/2008/10/burden-in-my-hand.html

  7. 1. I think that the church could do a better job of “unleashing the arts” by supporting the FINE arts. I don’t know very many friends of mine that are avid supporters of the ballet, symphony or opera. I don’t know very many people that have even been to an opera. The film industry and other things that are “pop” culture, definitely. However,

    2. As it relates to me…I can’t tell you the last time I’ve had a discussion about Mahler, Chopin or Debussey…On the flip side, I feel like I’ve grown a lot as an artist through the support of my church. I also feel like have a lot of support to pursue my artistic dreams. More support than any other place I’ve been.

    3. My dream for my church is to connect with the local arts community. To do things injunction with them and to attend their events. It’s only by the local community’s support that the ballet, symphony and museums can survive and they are DYING, especially in Phoenix. The Arizona Opera, where I used to work, has had to downsize dramatically.

  8. Hey Brian,

    1) Do you feel like the local church unleashes the Arts to their potential?
    I do not feel like the church (universal) unleashes their potential at all, in fact i sometimes think the church stifles its artist. What i mean is the church has created its own subculture that uses Christian-ey words and has a certain look. Because the separatist mindset sometimes tries to take a “we are not in the world or of the world” rather than realizing, we ARE in the world, not in some Christian subculture world. I believe if the church would chill out a little, then more artist could be released to create in their full potential.

    2. What are ways you, personally, feel limited in your local church as it relates to the art in you?
    In my case, I fortunately have the freedom when it comes to my art (im a musician) in my church, but i am part of a video environment, and i think that if i were to be part of the “main” thing i would be limited. I do sense some slight limitations at times by the congregation. Unfortunately they are so used to simplistic worship songs with simple melodies (ie: to mlin songs) I feel these songs have a place in unifying the people, but i believe the church needs more melodic music that has complexity and depth and creativity, music that perhaps inspires the people not by singing along but inspires them buy the sheer creativity that he has put into his artist.

    3) I would love to see more complex creative productions that use the all of the sensory elements to reflect on the works of God. Imagine a mash up of mutemath, sigur ros, polyphonic spree meets cirque de sole.

    Thanks for provoking thought my man, Love your blog and Promises blog as well, good luck to you guys! and keep it coming man!

  9. I have to say, I’ve seen some solid attempts at including artists & their creations in church. It’s always worked out, in my experience so far. On the other hand, I’ve been in environments where art is absent or highly structured. Sometimes, to me, there’s something about fine-art-quality work that I miss when I am in the church environment. I’m sometimes told, as long as it communicates the gospel, as long as it’s Christian, as long as they mean well… but, something inside me goes… it’s still bad art!

    The church I go to now, the Glorified Church in Santa Clarita, is one of the most free, most open minded ministries I’ve seen so far. Right from the start, I mean, we use electronica music every week in our worship, we encourage dancing, we’d love to have breakdancers or anyone do interpretative dance… We hope to one day include a lot of urban arts, like live-graffiti art happening during services. But I mean, we haven’t found local Christian graffiti-artists (yet).

    We are like, praying for radical Christian artists or artists in general to come through the doors and say “I want to do THIS!” and we’d say “Awesome!!! Do it -now, here!” but so far, we are still pioneering, growing, developing, getting out into the community (which is in the suburbs, so I mean… it’s sort of an unconventional church! Some people enjoy it and some people would rather go to a quieter more normal sort of place that feels more church-y I suppose).

    Anyhow… At this moment in time, I want to know more, share more, talk to people like you guys more.

    As far as the LA area, by the way, I started posting on Craiglist, and have been praying for a regular or semi-regular meeting of Christians in the arts, to start working together or just talking or *something* I don’t know yet.

    I found out IAM (International Arts Movement), has a representative out here, who I met back at their conference last year, but I’m hoping for some way to have gatherings more frequently than they seem to be doing it… I don’t know what capacity my church will have in these gatherings, but I know I’d love to keep reading this blog… this is a topic dear to my heart, reading some of the accounts from earlier posts (the paintings, the boy speaking in tongues! people hearing from God through the art work, the LACK of a need for someone to TEACH people how to hear from God through the art… YES…). Okay, so already I’ve only read two articles on this blog and I’ve written these obscenely long and somewhat-related responses, it just gets my motor running to realize that there ARE other people out there with a heart for this, for the arts in church, exploring, sharing, talking about it is encouraging to me.

  10. 1. No.

    2. I feel like I’m actually NOT held back by ANYTHING outside of myself by my church in particular. Thank God. Now the responsibility is on MYSELF. Now what?
    I recognize that this is a unique situation. Our church is only 2 yrs old, it’s NEW new new, and we are open, open open, we LOVE doing a new thing for the Lord! but at the moment we’re not working with much of a budget, and we’re sort of like, “Do whatever you want!” but I’ve never worked well with such little structure somehow. but I mean, I’m free to come in and say, I want to show a video of something crazy or do a dance, or take pictures or paint or – I don’t even know what. This is the standout question to me, in a way, because it’s like – Hey, YOU, you have a church where it’s really FREE- so now what do you do with it? Money issues aside, I think my own creative blocks need to be done away with, and maybe the answers to this question will come out a bit clearer with more prayer and consideration with God at the heart of it all… What does HE want to see happen in our Jesus-freaky lil church in the ‘burbs — and beyond!?

    3. I dream of seeing COMMUNITY form around the arts and beyond, in the Christian circles, to touch those around them, to change the atmosphere we’re in… and like…infuse freedom, joy, love around us… there’s such a limitation put on how people can be involved in the arts – it’s expensive or a mess or silly or pointless or not helfpul enough or not-something-importat-enough.

    I used to teach kids in the Bronx art, and the first year I was like this terrible academic stickler and I’d punish the kids with reading the art history book. I’d make them read and read and remember and it was not the most fun.

    The next year I took the other approach- I was like, no more punishment-reading. In fact lets use the books for the art images inside them and leave out the text – more time to create that way 🙂 and I just said to the kids, essenetially, you know what- I trust your instincts. TELL me what this painting MEANS. I helped alog the way, but I really did ask them to look and explain their ideas about what they saw…and we could recognize common experiences, we could see the meaning in color and line and composition. You know? we could see into the artists message and connect it to our own lives, and think through- whether it was some famous painting like, whoever, Van Gogh – or just a girl who made a watercolor about how embarassing and sad she feels. It was pretty much AMAZING.

    Trusting the participants, trusting the art can speak for itself…

    The experience of the creative actions, the trusting- like that church where prayer & Spirit-lead artists created work, and the people were invited to be a witness, be a participant with the work. God speaks. We can be invited into the room and then let God bring the words, bring the message we need. Whoa. Letting go of control.

    Another time, I remember I was an intern for an art ministry at the North Carolina School of the Arts. I used to give the students in my bible study things like Silly Putty and Play Doh to take their minds OFF the serious art studies they did, where they were being drilled with “YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO!!!!” it was joyful, it was relaxing. It was worthwhile. We used to have story-time too, with milk & cookies & classic Christian books like The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe read-alouds…

    And at church there in NC, we explored art & worship with a new topic each week for a series, it was a woman’s group. I remember one week we did writing, the next collage. The week we did a session lead by a modern dancer, no one knew it was planned, and 3 older (65+) ladies came (one who had NEVER danced) and they WOULD NEVER have come to our session , if they had known the topic… came in to participate. But they loved it!

    We read a scripture, a Psalm I think. We read it and read it, then we created one movement at a time, individually, for an interpretive dance- we had to remember how to do OUR movement over & over, so we practiced it a little. We started creating this scriptural interpretation with our bodies, pretty much ignoring one another – UNTIL we came together and created this performance, this worshipful living scripture thing.

    I wish it had been on tape, the woman who led us was a modern dance teacher at Wake Forest U… it’s been experiences like that, I want to see more of… and trusting the arts with the message God wants to convey, in a way… Trusting that people will hear from Him and not saying, oh, it has to be this little clean, neat, sanitized work, this safe, boring, been-done sort of experience.

    It CAN be powerful and fresh if we really allow God to flow and do something NEW through us. Oh let me be a part of THAT. Nothing’s in the way but myself.

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