An Imaginative Cathedral By: Brydon D. Jackson II

In the reading of A Creative Church I found the author, Todd Smith, very knowledgeable about the subject and he used experienced sources to convey his points. He included the following, excellently, denominational reactions to new art forms, pioneer stories, and how the influence art, history, and the church have upon each another is shown.
When a new form of art the church often has varying reactions, depending on denomination. Though the author makes sure to include many sects, or denominations, of Christianity in his description of events, he tends to focus mainly on protestant point of views. It should be noted he even, dare it be said, utterly neglects the orthodox sects’ views on the various subject matters.
One such subject matter should pertain to the orthodox denominations particularly, but is only viewed from a protestant lens, dance. Though he left out the orthodox viewpoint, he did give an excellent description of how the protestant denominations reacted to the introduction and integration of dance into their belief systems. In this case, he took great care to make clear that the introduction of dance into protestant culture was gradual and only accepted, at first, by a handful of denominations.
It was finally integrated on a grand scale only at the beginning of the nineties by many denominations in many forms. Many forms of art have been rejected or accepted by the church over the past century, in the case of dance it is now widely accepted by Christians the world over. They have even founded dance companies with the purpose of expressing their faith.
Their other purposes include spreading the art of dancing (among Christians presumably), professing their faith, spreading of the faith, to grow closer to God, to edify the denominations that have yet to accept the art of dancing, further the training of dance ministries, enhance the art, and train dancing missionaries.
Todd Smith’s inclusion of pioneers’ stories was a very creative way to express how the arts came to be accepted by the church. What’s more, the effectiveness of the pioneer’s experiences became two-fold because they are presented in high detail. With the objective point of view to put their actions in perspective the audience is allowed to view the events in a more accurate context, the audience is presented with a more informative perspective on a series of events that affected the art(s) in question.
For example, the author examines Bill Drake, director of OM Arts International, and explains how he came to Christ and used his musical gifts to glorify God. In Bill Drake’s case the Lord, with the help of his followers, convinced him not to take his own life, but to give his life to the Lord and to let Him guide Mr. Drake along the path chosen for him.
That path, as it turns out, was to use his musical talents and to minister to people all over the world, via OM Arts International. Mr. Drake even helped to found the company that he now directs. The author also delves into how these individuals, the pioneers, make their decisions and why they did so. In Mr. Drake’s case the decisions he made were influenced by the Christians who gave witness to him and by what he felt the Lord had in store for him.
This way of conveying how art and the church (through Dr. Drake) were to meet is far more effective than the lecture format Calvin Seervald uses in his book A Christian Critique of Arts and literature. It doesn’t involve the reader in the personal side of the history like the pioneer story does, and being personal is half of what art is about.
This is why the pioneer stories are so effective, though these decisions were hard for Mr. Drake, given their nature (whether to continue with life and what to do with his life) that is certainly true, he came through because of his love for his craft and for the Lord and those are depths you cannot reach via lecturing.
The author also clearly conveyed how the arts, the church, and historical events all interacted and affected one another. One pioneer’s story demonstrates this point, Dr. Colin Harbinson. Dr. Harbinson was in Russia for Boris Yeltsin’s stand against the communist hardliners in their attempt to overthrow the government. His work in Russia had the effect of the eastern and western societies exchanging elements of culture with each other.
He even helped to “rehabilitate” the palace’s, the Belezorsky Palace, décor, to symbolically help the people to forget the hardships they had endured under the oppressive communist regime. History has always had an effect on the arts. With the fall of the communists from power, the church was once again free to express itself again, including using the arts.
Now that they were free from the censorship of the government they are able to use the forms of expression that best capture the glory of God, even if they are from the west. Todd Smith could have taken this a step further by taking a page out of J. Scott McElroy’s book (no pun intended) Creative Church Handbook.
In McElroy’s book, he shows how the church has come to accept art, how it can come to accept it, and even seeks to show them how to incorporate them better. Smith could have used a step-by-step process for some of the art subjects to better show how they were integrated and accepted.
In conclusion, Todd Smith wrote an exceedingly sufficient book on the church’s reaction to art over the last century. He attained success in this endeavor by compiling and implementing substantial sources to convey exactly what has been achieved.


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