A Creative Church Book Critique

Madison Nissly

ART 105-001

Nov. 21, 2016

A Critique of A Creative Church

Throughout history, the creative arts have impacted the world around us. A Creative Church by Todd Smith, is a book that does an impeccable job of capturing the essence of the influence that art has left behind in Christian Religion itself. Beginning with how each form of art has found its way into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, each section explains how they developed and who shaped their renewal. I thoroughly enjoyed this book due to its ability to give an incredible intertwining of the ministry of the church and the arts.

In the beginning of the nineteenth-century the church lacked the use of art forms that were acceptable to be practiced. However, one man named John Heyl Vincent decided to change the way people viewed this issue by creating schools offered to Sunday school teachers that would teach them how to paint and use a multitude of art forms. Thus began the start of many others rising to the challenge throughout the twentieth century who influenced the church as we know it today.

Music, Visual Art, Theatre and Dance were given their own sections in this book as each one contributed a great deal to the rise of the church’s creativity. These types of art were not only a means of education and freedom of expression; however, they were also seen as forms of worship in the congregation. Now the people were allowed to bring their own types of praise to the Lord by expressing their thanks in various forms. By using architecture and paintings to capture the beauty and holiness of the church, they were able to show their reverence for the body of Christ publicly. Other forms of art that transformed our generation were the use of television and books like Veggie Tales to communicate to children of all ages how to live for God.

I thought the book did a tremendous job of separating each section of the arts to better help the reader to understand how each one was individually influential in ministry. It provided a sense of clarity and flow as you read that you could not get from the author bunching all of the art forms together into one. The author gave a background history lesson on each chapter and then went into the transformation of each throughout the century.

The information provided in the text was factual but also added a personal touch. I appreciated how within each section there were small chapters included in each written by individuals that were impacted by the specific art or how they themselves impacted the century with their own art. You are given an insight into each author, artist, choreographer, actor, and musician that transcends a simple background check. Each chapter gives a summary of their accomplishments and how their perspective changed on the church within the context of art.

Sandra Bowden was one of those whose art changed the world. She says that she came from an understanding that the Word of God is meant to be treasured and used as a map to life. However, she “sensed there was more to the picture than definitive theological understandings” (Smith, pg. 102, 2014). Her mindset changed when she realized that the church is not meant to be restrictive or limiting unless it is displeasing to the Lord. I love that quote because God does not intend for His people to hold back their gifts. He wants us to grow closer to Him through the talents he gives us.

We have the ability to change the world through the passions that Christ has placed within our being. I liked how the book gave you this encouragement amongst the information and details surrounding a description of the arts. The church is made up of a people that are given specific gifts, whether that includes any form of creativity or not. We all have the same calling and that is to worship the Lord any way we can. By placing our eyes on Him and seeing what those that have come before us have accomplished, we are constantly reminded in this book that we have the power to not only change the church, but a nation.

A fact that I found which grabbed a similar perspective on this topic was from Michael J. Bauer’s book Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life of God’s People, which says “Each person came to church for worship, and many also came for parish community events, but all went their own ways in the arts” (Bauer, 2015). The ministry of Christ will develop and grow stronger when we come together and combine and discuss how we can attribute our gifts and talents to use to further the Kingdom.

In Chapter one of Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation, it says that the “Interaction with the arts and creativity is unavoidable in our culture” (McElroy, pg. 4, 2015). This statement is so true as we are faced day in and day out with different advertisements, Television, books, and social media. We are bombarded with messages that either are pleasing to God or more than likely not so pleasing. As a part of the church it has become a necessary time for the body of Christ to rise up and proclaim our worship and faith through these same forms of art in order to communicate to an ever- progressing culture.

A Creative Church by Todd Smith was a pleasant surprise as it exceeded my expectations of the role that the arts play in the Church. Each section of the book gave a unique description of the transformation of the congregation as certain leaders paved the way into a new era of creativity. I did not stumble once in confusion over the layout of the piece and appreciated the authors efforts in creating just the right amount of history and encouragement for future endeavors among those who wish to bring their art into the ultimate place of worship.


Bauer, Michael J. Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life of God's People. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2013. Print.

"BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 150 ..." N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

McElroy, J. Scott. Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2015. Print.

Smith, Anthony Todd. Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt, 2014. Print.

Created By
Madison Nissly


Created with images by Bogdan Migulski - "Ste. Chapelle stained glass windows in the lower chapel" • Peggy_Marco - "sunset temple thailand" • zoetnet - "church" • cr03 - "Theatre" • Didgeman - "good friday crucifixion church window" • Because Of - "paint" • skeeze - "world earth planet" • Ryan Vaarsi - "Worship"

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