How Artists Can Support the Church
For all artists and creative professionals who are Christian, it is important to know how artists can support the church. We are all members of one body, and we need to see how we can love each other, bear one another’s burdens, and offer our gifts and skills to the greater body. The challenge arises when artists, trying to use their gifts in the local church, bring types of art which the church leadership does not understand or resonate with. What are we to do then?
Don’t Give Up
Some artists have been so frustrated with their local church, they have told me they are tempted to give up, and, like Paul to the Jews, respond by saying since you will not engage or welcome my art, I will go to the world. There are far too many artists in New York, Los Angeles, London and other cities who felt so misunderstood by the church that they have left the church, or even left their faith behind, and they don’t see how the church, or even God has anything to do with their gifts or calling. This grieves the heart of God. God is the source of their creativity, and he gave them their gifts for a reason. Maybe their art is meant to be in the church, or maybe it is meant to be in the broader culture. Either way, the word of God should inspire and encourage them. All of God’s children should find hope, and inspiration in church, not rejection.
A Common Language
The problem in communication is often the absence of a common language. This is true between pastors and creative professionals. Their training and their expertise lie in almost completely separate segments of society. Where do either of them learn about art and creativity in the context of their faith and their church community. Art schools don’t usually talk about faith in a positive light, and seminaries don’t talk about art at all. (with a few exceptions) Where are they both going to go to understand the role of art in the Bible from someone who understands both audiences. This is our passion. We are here to help you establish a common language that both the pastors and the artists are comfortable with. The core of it starts with God’s calling of the artist Bezalel, as well as the artwork in the Tabernacle and the Temple which were commissioned by God and approved by God. If you have never heard of this, take a minute and watch our short video on Bezalel, and art in the bible. We need to agree on the gift of creativity and the place it has in culture, as well as within the church. Another essential issue for many pastors and artists to understand is the issue of the 2nd commandment and what that means for art in the church specifically. HERE is the video link.
Begin with Scripture, not Culture
If you want to begin a discussion about this, we must begin with scripture. We must begin with principles we find in scripture rather than our cultural preferences and the desire to be hip or cool as a church or an artist. Culture can give us context, but we must start with the foundation of God’s word. His word specifically tells us of how God called the artist Bezalel, and filled him with His Spirit for one key purpose – to make the Tabernacle spectacularly gorgeous, with extravagant priestly robes, incense, anointing oil, elegant furniture and the stunning Ark of the Covenant, with angels wings hovering over the Ark.
The beauty of the ark, and all the accoutrements, represented the beauty and holiness of God. In Gods’ grand plan from Eden to the New Jerusalem, it was essential that the Israelites see the beauty, goodness and righteousness of their God in the very center of their culture. Art was in service to God for this purpose. The beauty and ornamentation throughout the tabernacle and temple were never condemned by the writers of I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, or any other place in scripture. God, in his great wisdom, never ordained any criticism of the artwork in the temple, the tabernacle. Instead, we see that this beauty paints a picture of the New Jerusalem that makes this earthly artwork feel like a mere sample of the beauty and glory that is fitting for the home of the Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings.
As you begin the process, be thankful. Approach your pastor as a friend, not an enemy. Even if you feel that you have been offended, take a minute and consider their position. Having been a pastor in a local church, I can tell you it isn’t as easy as you may suspect. There is always someone who is critical and not very appreciative of all the hard work pastors put into sermons, worship services, training team leaders, deacons, and so on. Pastors are people too. Like an artist, pastors create something new every week, they present it before their people, and have to deal with the critics and the cynics. The criticisms hurt.
If your pastor understands the nature of who Bezalel was, and God’s detailed plan for beauty in his house of worship, be thankful. Tell your pastor what a blessing this is. You have a wonderful foundation to build upon.
If your pastor has questions about the texts and would like to speak to a pastor, feel free to send them to me. I do consulting for churches, seeking to engage their culture while remaining faithful to God’s word. I can help you start a new initiative, speak to your church, or bring unity back to an arts ministry in disarray. I have helped churches reach out to artists for over 25 years- from small churches to churches with over 10,000 attendees every week. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
The Right Conversations
Healthy beginnings and healthy communication can prevent countless wounds and misunderstandings down the road. It is important to start with the right conversation. One of the most helpful conversations is about the primary model for ministry, each of you care deeply about. God’s purpose for the church is to use people with different gifts and passions to glorify Him.
Though there are many gifts and types of leaders, in order to get a better handle on this it’s helpful to look at 3 basic categories for ministry. If we look in the book of Hebrews we find 3 categories of spiritual leadership, or what scholars call the 3 offices of Christ. These are the offices of 1) Prophet, 2) Priest, and King.
Prophet, Priest and King
The easiest way to understand this is to think of it this way:
The office of a Prophet is really about speaking the truth, and may include confrontation.
The office of a Priest is really about compassion, and is often more therapeutic.
The office of a King is really about function, and more organizational, or utilitarian.
This is a simplified way to look at these offices for the discussion here to bring clarity.
In the Old Testament different people occupied these different offices.. some were kings, like Solomon, some were prophets, like Jeremiah or Isaiah, and others were priests, like Aaron. However, we are told in the NT that these three offices were all prefiguring and pointing to Jesus Christ. Naturally, being God, Jesus held these offices in a more complete way than any mere human in the Old Testament.
While Christ is perfectly all 3, you and I are not perfect. We usually have primary gifts in one of the three areas. Sometimes we have a mixture of two of them, but essentially, we need other members of Christ’s body to complement our ministry in the body of Christ.
Priestly Church Leadership
So, think about it, if your church leadership is very priestly then they will have a high priority on compassion and forgiveness. They may have a great counseling program, and care deeply for the broken, the poor and the disenfranchised. They will be drawn to art which is comforting to those experiencing pain in their lives. They will want art which is more therapeutic.
Prophetic Church Leadership
If your church leadership is more like a prophet, they will be a more confrontational church in their preaching and ministry models. They will address social wrongs, heresies, and the call to repentance in a very direct way. They will prefer artwork which focuses upon truth and challenges people to repent and to change the way they think and act.
Kingly Church Leadership
If, on the other hand, your church leaders are more Kingly, they will prefer artwork which is functional and supports a particular ministry. They will desire art which is useful in a pragmatic way – for instance making a documentary of a missions trip or making a brochure design for the church. They will see art as a supporting gift.
Preparing to Speak with Your Pastor
When you finally take the time to speak to your pastor, the temptation will be to elevate your own gifting and perspective. This is normal and understandable. We all want other people to be passionate about the things we are passionate about. Yet, the other two offices are equally important. All three offices of Christ are valuable and should find expression in the local body. No single approach is sufficient. Take some time and start by praying for your pastor and church leadership. Then pursue getting to know your them.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
I would recommend you begin with these key questions you need to ask yourself before you approach the church leadership, they are:
1) What kind of art do you create? Is it more like a prophet, a priest, or a king?
2) What kind of gifts do the leaders in your church exhibit? Are they more prophetic, priestly, or kingly
If your voice as prophet, priest, or king does not match the voice of your church leadership then you will probably experience tension as you try to contribute to the life of the church with your art.
To the degree you and your pastor have different strengths in these 3 offices of Christ, you may experience tension. This also means there is a possibility to complement one another and to increase your appreciation for all that Christ longs to do in our communities. No matter which voice you or your pastor have, we all need to submit to a Biblical model. Just like a husband and wife are designed by God to serve one another in their differences, not just remain stagnant and stubborn in their own preferences. We grow when we work with people who possess different gifts, and the end result can be all the more potent and powerful.
Each office has its own strength, but without the others to balance it out- any office can be overemphasized and become unhealthy, which leads to a distorted and deformed view of Christ and the gospel.
• If we are only interested in being prophets, we will speak truth without love – wounding those we need to love.
• If we are always priest-like, we will comfort people without confronting their sin – we will fail to take holiness and repentance seriously.
• If we are only kings we will focus on checklists, programs, and pragmatic issues forgetting to relate to people needing grace and truth.
If we are to communicate the full richness of the gospel, then we need to pursue an integration of all 3 offices of Christ. We cannot ignore one office and let it be minimized or ignored. We must seek to use our gifts in community with others who complement our gifting so that together we become more and more like Christ.
Speaking with Your Pastor / Church Leadership
Once you have evaluated your own artwork in light of the three offices of Christ, go to your church leadership. Share with them what you are learning about the offices of Christ, and ask them which offices their heart for ministry most resembles? Listen for what drives them and excites them about the gospel. Then, as the dialogue opens up, you can wait for a time to share which particular offices your passion and artwork most resemble – and how you want to enhance or complement their ministry. This way, you are coming alongside your pastor instead of coming from a point of conflict and tension.
Remember to have compassion and to be realistic as you go through this process, it will take time. So let me also encourage you to persevere in caring for the Church – it is Christ’s Bride for whom he died, and God has given you a role to play in your local body. To be honest, there may be churches who simply don’t understand you and cannot help you connect your faith and your creative passions. If that is true, you can lean on us to help you connect them. We will be here to inspire you and help you grow in both your faith and your craft. That’s what we do. Check out our Arts & Entertainment Institute’s Core Foundations Course HERE, it is all about the integration of faith and art, and answers all these questions in a deep and thorough way.
God cares about both pastors and artists. Surprisingly, in many ways, they are similar. They both take risks by creating new works and presenting them before people and God, not fully knowing how it will be received. The vulnerability and willingness to keep trying are the same for both. Maybe, as both artists and pastors, if we started with this appreciation for what we have in common, we could begin to work together more often, and more effectively…for His Glory!
NOTE: If you and your church leadership would like help in utilizing art for ministry, creating or nurturing a ministry to artists, or to speak to your church about these issues, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2020 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.