church and ministry
Calling All Christian Artists
By Lori D'Augostine
CBN.com Associate Producer
What do you get when you mix the arts with the local church? I suppose it depends on who you ask. If you were to ask Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Church, you'd most likely get a very favorable response. If you were to ask local church congregants, you might get mixed reactions, varying on their interest in the arts. Some of the most unfavorable views generally come from outside the church.
How do I know this, you might ask? I guess you could say that I've been around the Church drama block a few times. Sometimes I was a spectator throwing my tomatoes at poorly directed actors and cheezy scripts, and other times, I was involved in excellent and redemptive productions that have left others in tears and hungry to live radical lives for Christ.
I've also studied this extensively. In a recent class-assigned focus group I conducted, statistics indicated there is a general dissatisfaction amongst believers and unbelievers alike. Both agree that drama, or for that matter, any art has the power to transform. Yet many feel that the church as a whole is falling short in its approach to use drama in reaching the lost.
It was but 12 years ago that I was reluctant to even step foot into a church building. As an established artist, I'd usually thumb my nose at the words, "Christmas pageant." Yet, I'd agree to lay my pride aside just once a year to fulfill my "religious" duties.
I think that I would really have enjoyed some of the church pageantry surrounding Christmas, if it weren't for those distracting angels. Literally, there were women skipping around the stage flapping their arms in cut-out, cardboard wings.
As an unbeliever and a trained ballet dancer, it was very difficult for me to see beyond the absurdity of watching untrained dancers run around the manger. Yet as a believer now, it seems that much more conflictual.
To whom much is given, much is required for the redeemed. Therefore, if we truly are representatives of the Most High, why are we settling for less that the best in our presentations of Him?
We can't forget that we have a responsibility that goes beyond our church walls too. We have been commissioned to share the Gospel with the rest of the world. Yes that's right, even the lowliest of sinners that Jesus hung out with. I'm sure that the bohemian types didn't scare Him away.
There are few churches who dare to drudge through the trenches and reach out to the greater arts community. I'm referring to the highly unreached people group, narrower than the 10/40 window. Although it's difficult to map out this group, they clearly are in a world of their own. I'm referring to the world of Broadway and Hollywood artists.
Yet I say this very tongue-in-cheek, especially in light of the fact that a church in South Georgia dared to go where no other church has gone to produce a film called, "Facing the Giants." Herein lies the power of the local church. With a budget of only $100,000 and a volunteer cast and crew, the film is grossing 1.3 million in its opening week. This Baptist church became a pro-active agent in the battle for Hollywood.
We all know that much of what is offered on the Big Screen and Broadway stage directly mocks Christianity, and resembles the salacious behavior that God required Lot to turn his back from in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. There are so many gray areas in the arts that many Christians settle for the "hear, speak, and see no evil" approach altogether.
What I am beginning to propose is not a defensive turning of our backs, but an offensive Facing of the Giants of Hollywood and Broadway approach to create drama within the walls of the church that will draw believers and unbelievers alike.
The Puritanical approach seems outdated and frankly, within the last few decades there has been a greater movement to allow the arts back into the church. But, this isn't enough. Again, the church doesn't need to be concerned with numbers, but quality.
I'm not advocating lavish sets or high budget films either. I'm merely advising art ministry leaders to seek the proper training and equipping. There are many Christian colleges across the nation that are offering advanced degrees in the arts.
Regent University offers undegraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in Digital Media, Cinema-Television, Theatre Arts, and Journalism. Recently, Regent introduced a Theatre in Ministry degree that is preparing theatre artists to enter into church ministry.
In 2 Samuel, when God gave David and Israel the go-ahead to settle in the city of Jerusalem, David gathered "chosen men" to worship God for this triumphal entry. David is described as "dancing before the Lord with all his might." Perhaps David went through an auditioning process to determine who would be fit to usher in the presence of God when the Ark of the Covenant was first brought into the Tabernackle. I can almost promise you that David and his cast and crew were not cutting out cardboards angel wings for this event.
There is a high calling for the Christian artist. They must know and defend their place in the church and the world. They are called to present art that is truthful, aesthetically pleasing, excellent, and glorifying to God. Christian artists must uphold solid Biblical convictions, yet seek to create a connection with the unsaved. It is a constant juggling act, and God is raising up many local church leaders to fulfill this role. Are you one of the chosen, and are you fit for this task?
"Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. You are their glorious strength. Our power is based on your favor. Yes, our protection comes from the LORD" (Psalm 89:15,17, NAS).
Stay tuned for more on the "Plight of the Christian Artist"on Spiritual Life.
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