Here at Liberty University, we are taught that art is used to express and display the beauty of God’s created world and a gift given to mankind to help express that. This form of expression makes the world more beautiful and helps convey messages and feelings like none before. In A Creative Church, author Todd Smith traces through the different forms of art and how they were brought back to be used in the church and to bring glory to God. He starts with theatre, then music, the visual arts, and dance (Smith).
A Creative Church. Digital image. Amazon. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
While the dramatic arts had been used earlier in America, there wasn’t really a role for it in the church until the end of World War I when a reverend wrote a play with the intent of it being a clear display for the message of the Bible. As a result, resources were provided by churches for the furthering of programs that utilized the dramatic arts as a form of praise for God. This was made official with the formation of both the Federal Council and the National Council of Churches. Millions of members made up these councils, making it clear that the dramatic arts were now a fully supported form of worship in the religious community. This has been carried over today with the Sight and Sound Theatre in both Pennsylvania and Missouri. These theaters bring Biblical stories to life with breathtaking sets, beautiful music, and incredibly talented actors who are not seeking to bring glory to themselves, but to God, and the message He wants to be given (Smith). As Smith explains other groups practicing the dramatic arts and significant pieces, he transitions to music.
MoutainProductions. Sight and Sound Theatre. Digital image. MTN News. N.p., 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2017. <https://www.mountainproductions.com/blog/2013/03/07/a-complete-custom-motor-package-for-the-sight-and-sound-theatre/>.
Music was the primary form of worship in many churches in America and still is today. It accelerated in popularity in the religious community at a rate much faster than the other art forms. In the form of shape notes and singing schools, the music was used as a way to unite congregations with a common form of expression. With the help of James Vaughan, Southern Gospel became a prominent style in churches, relatively simple in style and an easy way for the congregation to sing together with one metaphorical voice. This continued to flourish with the innovation of other Creatives, the style eventually shifting towards a more big band, contemporary sound. While Southern Gospel remained a popular form, a somewhat controversial change took place in the sixties and seventies where the introduction of electric guitars and drums in gospel music guided the style to be more accommodating to the tastes of younger Christians. This changed the typical worship time in a church from a choir, organ, and hymns into original songs led by a small “worship team”. Speaking of actual churches, the form of architecture – put more broadly, visual art – flourished in the twentieth century as well (Smith).
Mansions Over the Hilltop. Digital image. The Time Has Come. N.p., 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Apr. 2017. <https://thetimehascome.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/5-hymns-i-just-cant-sing-anymore-song-1/>.
While the church is actually the group of people meeting in the name of Christ, the physical building plays a large role as a symbol of the formation and interaction of a Christian community. There was a push to not only build beautiful and long-lasting structures, but to also improve upon previous designs, resulting in a variety of architectural styles being used in church buildings. Visual art also began to develop and grow in the twentieth century through the form of illustrators, comic book artists, and animators. These skilled individuals helped influence the Sunday School movement with the rising use of pictures of Biblical scenes and ideas to teach. Illustrations helped give way to comics being created, those lending a hand in creating gospel tracks to be handed out and vivid stories to be told with images. Visual art also developed into animation, with colorful and entertaining programs such as Veggie Tales and The Adventures in Odyssey leading to the spiritual education of children. Visual art continued to change into a digital format with computer graphics, God’s glory being portrayed through computer games and programs.
JPSonnen. Church of St. Luke in St. Paul, Minnesota. Digital image. Orbis Catholicus Travel Blog. Blogger.com, 29 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2017. <http://orbiscatholicussecundus.blogspot.com/2012/04/american-church-architecture.html>.
Similar to the dramatic arts, dance took on a change in the twentieth century, being a form in which the movement of the human body was used to express joy and praise in the Spirit of God. In Psalm 30, David describes how God “turned [his] mourning into dancing”, clearly explaining that dance is an expression of jubilance (Holy Bible NIV). Many churches and organizations viewed dance as sinful and had doctrine that forbade it altogether. However, the Charismatic and Jesus movements in the 1960s helped renew the form and make it a more acceptable form of worship again.
Digital image. Harlequin. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2017. <http://us.harlequinfloors.com/en/markets/dance/>.
Smith spends quality time with each form of art and traces step by step how it had “renewed and flourished” in the church throughout the twentieth century (Smith). He used extensive research paired with personal testimonies from “Creatives” in the church to convey the renewal of arts in the church, and depict how exactly they serve as a form of worship to God. Being heavily involved in the arts throughout my life, I thoroughly agree with Smith’s purpose of writing the book, as well as with his belief and message that the arts are a crucial part of our worship.
Liberty Worship Collective. Digital image. Go Tell Ministries. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2017. <http://www.gotellministries.com/ministries/camps/camp-speakers/attachment/liberty-worship-collective/>.
Gardner, Helen, and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner's art through the ages: a concise global history. 3rd ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
Holy Bible Niv, Journal the Word Bible, Imitation Leather, Brown/Blue: Reflect, Journal, or Create Art Next to Your Favorite Verses. N.p.: Zondervan, 2016. Print.
O’Donnell-Long, Michaela. “Fostering Space for Creativity in Religious Organizations.” Journal of Religious Leadership, vol. 14, no. 2, Sept. 2015, pp-31-47. EBSCOhost. Print.
Owolai, Olusola. “Paradigms of Biblical Creativity Culture for Use in Gospel Presentation by the Church.” Ogbomoso Journal of Theology, vol. 17, no. 3, 2012, pp 97-116. EBSCOhost. Print.
Smith, Anthony Todd. Creative church: the arts and a century of renewal. Dubuque, IA: KendallHunt, 2015. Print.