I sit here on a snowy Sunday afternoon pondering how to stress the importance of artists engaging in the local church community. I find that in order to do this we first need to realize the value of an artist to the body of Christ. We find the answer in I Corinthians 12:12-27.
Paul speaks here of the importance of each person to the body of Christ. Just as all parts of our physical form are important to its overall function, I believe that artists, especially visual artists, are highly important to the church.
I did not grow up in a church body that celebrated art visually but my father, a painter and sculptor, took time to discus with me why visual art was non-existent in our tiny evangelical church. My father understood his artistic giftedness was from God, but there wasn’t a place to express himself in the church. I did watch my father give paintings away for charity auctions, ministries, and a number of church members support him through purchases. Yet something was still missing in my mind. In a way, my father seemed to have to separate his “artist-self” and “spiritual-self” for service in the church. I didn’t understand, that so I asked questions. Maybe you’ve felt that your “artist-self” and “church-self” aren’t combine-able either. I’ve met many artists who have just accepted that is how it is. I don’t think it has to be that way even though I know many people struggle to resolve this feeling of division.
I believe part of seeing more artists involved in the church is helping both artists and non-artist understand how valuable creative persons are to the growth of any church body. I also believe both sides need to understand that the church can potentially offer fertile ground and a safe-haven for the artist to grow.
In I Corinthians 12:17-20 we see that each part is needed, and needs the body, to function at its full capacity. Verses 18-19 say:
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be?
For example, the body needs the eye so it can see and not run into things. Likewise, the eye needs the body or it would have no place to reside. As artists, we must realize that we need to belong to a Biblically sound body of believers where we will be challenged to grow as Christ-followers, individuals and artists. The artist needs the body for the same reasons a doctor, mother, brother, farmer, etc., so they can grow personally in their walk with God and be held accountable in his/her career, life, and character.
The church needs artists, because of their ability to help make abstract concepts easier to understand. Visual artists can give substance to concepts like love, beauty, patience, promise, redemption, trust, etc. Artists can also help the body learn how to “see” and experience art and life. Artists can also help people see something of God himself. His creativity, His goodness. Art not only gives us a glimpse into the world God created, but into the Creator himself.
I often hear a viewer of artwork say “I just don’t get that.” It matters not what gallery space the work is found in or whether the art is “good” or not, my point is that Christ-following artists can be a vehicle in which individuals and a congregation can learn to understand art. Not just the way the world views art, but by presenting it in its original design: as worship and praise to God.
Another way artists help others to “see” is through the way they view the world. Artists
see details and moments as unique and magnificent instead of ordinary and ignorable. Artists drink-in each experience, capturing every sensory detail. Through creating works of art, creative persons can then share these brief moments in a tangible way. A photographer, for example, notices the way the sun glimmers off tiny dew drops clinging to daisy petals and captures it on film or digitally. When that artist shares the image with others, it no longer seems ordinary. It may challenge the viewer to look for those moments in everyday life and celebrate them as the wonders of God.
If you are an artist, you are important to the body of Christ whether your church has a visual arts ministry or not. But, you need to create and share it with others so God can use it for His plan and glory.
Ann Williams is a painter, mixed media sculptor and Director of the Visual Voice ministry at Lincoln Berean. This article is the second of a series to be published on the CIVA Blog. Click here to read the first post.