May 2, 2017
Creating a New Church
Churches and Art connect as one in most, if not all, churches around the world today. Whether they allow music, dancing, theatrical performances or visual arts, art in some form is a key component of churches today. However, that was not always the case as seen in the book, A creative Church: The Arts and a century of Renewal written by Todd Smith. He explains that it has taken quite some time to get churches all around the world and art to join forces. It would be hard to think of the church today without art, but that is one of the very reasons Todd has written this book. Todd says in his introduction that, “I have attempted, to the best of my ability, to cover the most important background developments beginning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to the present that gave rise to what I believe has been a century of arts renewal in the church.”(Smith) Todd goes on to discuss how there has been a transformation over the years and the reasons as to why there was a need for a transformation in the first place.
Back in the beginning of the 1900 hundreds Churches ran and looked entirely different then they do today! That very statement could also be said for churches today, because not all of the churches that are attended do the same things. Some churches allow dancing and some do not. Some churches allow simple singing and then some allow full fledge worship concerts for the Sunday service. Some churches allow theatrical plays and some have the bare minimum for holiday specials. But the one thing we can say for almost every church now days, is they have some form of art. That was not so easily said for back in the early 1900’s. Churches did not have art in services even though it is clear in Scripture that there was singing and dancing in multiple stories throughout the Bible. It wasn’t until the, “mid-century, the arts received an important endorsement among mainline protestant churches. It’s not like people were shunned if someone walked in to the chapel humming, it is simply that arts as a whole were not looked upon as a necessity but rather a distraction. It wasn’t until key influencers who loved the church and the arts started to integrate the two together and persuade those around them in the mid 19th century, that the church and art were slowly allowed to be in the same building for the same purpose.
Art was initially introducing itself around the early 70’s and 80’s in many distinct ways. Music became a thing of worship to the Lord rather than singing just to hear a voice of beauty or skill. Theatre became a visual aid rather than a victorious performance. And Art itself was to glorify God rather than to worship Idols. Todd even says that, “At the same time, denominational organizations took shape that included drama, as well as other arts.” (Smith) But not only did churches and church leaders allow arts to become more prominent throughout the church, members of the churches were being trained in the arts as well. People finally began to see that the church and the arts could embrace each other to only give absolute glory to our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Giorgio Vasari said in His book, The Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors, and Architects, “This I striven to do with accuracy and with good faith which are essential for the truth of History and of things written.” (Vasari) Now, there are always instances where someone in the church can take things to far, however that is a heart check for the person taking all the credit and the leader of that ministry to be aware to be able to guide the members to glorify the Lord.
There is no telling the exact day or hour when all of the changes finally took place in all of the churches that span all across the globe. However, we can see a significant change in the way people and ministries use the arts to glorify God. Like it was stated before, there will be churches and ministries who do not steward the gifts the Lord has given them well, and that is actions need to be taken by higher leadership from the church, and major heart checks need to be sought.
The arts have come far as once being isolated from the church to now being a key factor in the church to not only glorify the Lord but as a tool used by the Lord to help others. E. H. Gombrich said in his book The Story of Art that, “Someone may like a landscape painting because it reminds him of home, or a portrait because it reminds him of a friend. There is nothing wrong with that.” (Gombrich) And maybe God has given us the gift of art or, to remind us of Him and to glorify Him always. Art is a key factor that should always be integrated with the church and it was very exciting to see and read about others who felt the same way and fought for their love for Jesus and passion of art to become one throughout the book and history.
Smith, Anthony Todd. Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 2015. Print.
Vasari, Giorgio, De Vere Gaston Du C., and Philip Joshua Jacks. The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. New York: Modern Library, 2006. Print.
Gombrich, E. H. The Story of Art. London: Phaidon, 2016. Print.