Some churches are experiencing a renaissance of the arts and are beginning to incorporate live painting, sculpture, spoken word, drama, and other forms of art into their worship services. Some even have art galleries in their buildings. It’s exciting because our tribe is waking up to this as well. I use the word renaissance because we must have a rebirth, a returning to the arts in worship. After the Protestant Reformation we threw the baby out with the bath water and there was a great deal of hostility and skepticism towards religious art. This was especially true for paintings and sculptures; even plain crosses were suspicious because they could be seen as idolatrous.
When I was a little girl I remember hearing this verse read in church, it was from the “Thou Shalt Not List”, it is second on the Thou Shalt Not List:
“You shall not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens, or on the earth, or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God." Exodus 20:2-5.
This was a little frightening to a child that loved to draw, paint, and create. Because I’d seen the movie and I remember the scene when the Israelites made the golden calf, and God was pretty upset about that. I didn’t want to make God upset at me, so I made sure anything I created as a little artist wasn’t connected to church. “No graven images.” And then for the next 30 years I didn’t create anything for church or our worship gatherings or anything that was remotely related to my faith. I was obviously imitating God and His work by painting landscapes, flowers, figures and bowls of fruit, but I wasn’t necessarily dedicating it or intentionally relating my art to my faith. I was being so dualistic in my thinking. It was as if these two worlds weren’t connected at all.
I think many other Christian artists feel the same way. Actors, painters, and poets are valued out in the artistic world perfecting their craft and doing amazing work, but unfortunately there hasn’t been a place for them to use their gifts in the church. But this is changing and I say to you artists and to you churches, its time to come out and play together!
Part II coming soon.