A Creative Church: How Arts Have Affected the Church and the Spread of Christianity By Chris Densmore

Art has been around for thousands of years. From the Egyptians to the Greeks and Romans art has been used as teachings to hunt animals, remembrances of great Pharaohs or used in religious rituals. Art has always had some use to different religious groups like Christianity. Arts have affected the Church and have helped the spread of Christianity through theatre and literature, music, and visual arts.

Theatre and literature have been great uses for the church to spread the Word of God and show different cultures the stories of the Bible through visual experiences. The Sight & Sound Theatre, which was founded by Glen Eshelman in 1976, is one of the many examples of how theatres have used to reach unbelievers about Christ. The Pennsylvania based Sight & Sound Theatre was the largest faith based live theatre in the country during the late 1900’s. Their mission was to

Present the Gospel of Jesus Christ and sow the Word of God into the lives of our customers, guests and fellow workers by visualizing and dramatizing the scriptures, through inspirational productions, encouraging others and seeking always to be dedicated and wise stewards of our God-given talents and resources. (Smith, pg. 52)

Seeing how Sight & Sounds mission was to use the theatre to spread the Word of God to all who came in to watch their shows. Theatres are great ways to reach out and tell people about all the stories in the Bible and therefore talk about Jesus to unbelievers that came to watch the show. Another way art has been used is through literature like the book The Screwtape Letters. The Screwtape Letters was written by C.S. Lewis. The book is about a demon named Screwtape writing to a lower demon of the name of Wormwood talking about a newly converted Christian and how to deceive him and make him fall and go to hell when he dies. “The Screwtape Letters wrestles directly with this paradoxical call of Christ to Christians – that they should separate themselves from the corrupting influence of worldliness, only to be sent back into the world to live a life full of faith,” (Woods, pg. 54). C.S. Lewis explains through The Screwtape Letters that by living a life that Christ would live in the world we live in we can be examples to others around and show them the love of Christ. Lewis also goes shows that we should be weary of the temptations of this world and know that everything that looks good in this world here and now will not compare to what is waiting for Christians in Heaven.

The Church has been able to use music as a form of getting the gospel out to the people. James David Vaughan had a great influence on Southern Gospel music. Created the Vaughan Normal School of Music in 1911 to help teach people about music. Vaughan brought in great teaches like Benjamin C. Unseld to teach at the school. Through the school Vaughan was able to create a musical company which was able publish his first music book Gospel Chimes, “a compilation that included his original compositions, as well as the standard works of other musicians,” (Smith, pg. 64). Once Vaughan had been able to publish Gospel Chimes, he decided to create a quartet to sing them while traveling around the country. The Vaughan Quartets was so successful that Vaughan created 16 quartets in total to sing gospel music around the country.

Visual Arts Organizations started popping up in the mid too late 1900’s. One of the Organizations was the Christians in the Visual Arts. The group CIVA was founded in 1979 and quickly grew to become one of the major faith based art organizations in America. Their Mission statement was “A call to creative work, devotion to the Church and the call to be present in culture,” (Smith, pg. 90). The organization wanted to help artists, filmmakers and designers to understand the relationship between art and faith. Organizations like CIVA were able to inspire many people to create visual arts in a Christian world view. One of the more popular Christian visual arts is the popular show called Veggie Tales. Veggie Tales was created by Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer. These two men envisioned a television show that would entertain kids and adults and share the gospel through it. Nawrocki shared the mission of Veggie Tales and stated, “We want to tell stories from a biblical world view, a world view that assumes that there is a God who made us, who loves us and wants a relationship with us,” (Shill). Veggie Tales is a great example of many of the Christian visual arts that have been created to this day and prove that Christian art is able to be popular and still share the gospel with people.

The use of theatre and literature, music, and visual arts have affected how the Church has been able to reach out and share the gospel with the community. Christian art has been used throughout the century for one thing or another. From sharing the gospel through plays, creating and singing gospel music and to creating shows on television that help share the gospel to kids. These are just some of the few ways art has affected the Church in bringing and sharing the gospel to the people.

Bibliography

• Marovich, Robert M. Music in American Life: A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music. Urbana, US: University of Illinois Press, 2015. Proquest Ebrary. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

• Shill, Aaron. “Spiritually Nutritious: ‘Veggie Tales’ Seeks to Nourish with Biblical World View.” Deseret News. N.P., 7 Mar. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705387192/spiritually-nutritious-veggie-tales-seeks-to-nourish-with-biblical-world-view.html?pg=all.

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

• Woods, Robert, ED. Evangelical Christians and Popular Culture: Pop Goes the Gospel. Westport, CT, USA: Praeger, 2013. Proquest Ebrary. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

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