What if…we were poets and painters

I’m becomingly increasingly convinced that art is the door through which we will see ourselves anew, as individuals and as the Lutheran Church.  Well told stories, for example, have a way of preparing hearts to hear from God.  Images from Haiti have a way of calling us to action.  What if we re-embraced art as a tool for renewal?

I came across a thoughtful article about the power of art and design in the church, this part written by Adam Lancaster:

It’s not simply that art and design should matter to Christians in general or to the local church in particular, but that the right kind of art and design matter. Certainly, every organization must communicate effectively to create understanding among a particular audience, and every individual demonstrates a need for personal expression, but few value the importance of doing so in a way that is fundamentally aesthetic. The Church is a frequent offender, quick to manufacture seemingly artistic results without much knowledge or appreciation of the history or development of art and design (or worse, without a working Christian theology of art and worship). Dedication to a meaningful creative movement in Christian life and church will require a certain seriousness, beginning with addressing the cautious, contrived way some churches have tiptoed into the sphere of art and design.

But design and media is not the peaceful, swirling comet shooting across the sky of Van Gogh’s Starry Night—it’s a sharpened knife and a bloody ear. Art and worship is not Ray Charles’s “Georgia On My Mind”—it’s a lifetime spent overcoming the darkness. Creativity appears safe but it comes from an unsafe place, a cavernous recess in the soul where rusty cogs spin in irregular patterns, a molten core of heightened sensation that feels more deeply and sees more clearly than many ever will. There’s nothing kitschy about its raw imagination. There’s nothing glamorous about its burning emotion. To soft-pedal design simply to fill space in a service is to dishonor the medium.

Creativity is a holy calling and design is a prophet’s megaphone. Christian aesthetician Calvin Seerveld says that to accept this high calling is “to become a professional imaginator in order to help your handicapped, unimaginative neighbor … to give voice, eyes, ears, and tactile sense to those who are underdeveloped toward such rich nuances of meaning in God’s creation.” Far too few recognize those rich nuances of meaning, which are at the heart of God’s intended, abundant life. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is not satisfied with a mundane existence, but leads his sheep to the greenest, most delectable pastures. A proper use of art and design in the life of the Christian and in the Church can be that vehicle that plunges them headlong into deep, reflective, God-glorifying worship.

Art and design matters to the Christian and to the Church because it matters to God, who sees fit to tell of His goodness, not in scratching the surface, but plumbing the depths of life.

Check out Christians in the Visual Arts, Imago, and the Lookout Gallery for examples of God’s story being told through art in the Church.  Maybe just having a new church website is a start in using good design to communicate more effectively to those around you.  Clover‘s mission, for example, is to help ordinary churches create good websites.  What would it look like if churches became centers of art?  I’m starting to think they would be brighter beacons for the gospel.


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