Worship and the Arts by Carol Kiger-Rice
Let’s start by answering this question: “Who is the ultimate Creator?”
And now, “Who is created in His image?”
It is in an effort to be reminded that GOD, Yahweh, is the/our ultimate Creator, that these questions come. He has created all things, and all things are created by Him (Col 1:16). We also know that we are created in His image (Gen. 1:27). Does it stand to reason then, that creativity should flow from GOD’s creation? Shouldn’t we be creative as Jesus is creative? I believe the answer is yes.
Unfortunately, the church has become quite stagnant over the centuries, in allowing anything truly creative to come forth through her people. We have chased wonderful artists off, sending them out into the darkness instead of embracing them. Anyone heard of Vincent Van Gogh? Incredibly artistic, but also artistic in his eccentricities, he was working as a lay minister among miners in Belgium. Leaders in the church, upon visiting the work in the mining camp, decided Van Gogh was behaving in an undignified manner as a minister, by identifying himself so closely with the minors, and fired him. Van Gogh turned to art, but died by committing suicide, and never fully recovering from the former rejection (ref at end). Imagine if he had been able to embrace the artistic gifting within, and was able to be supported and encouraged in his gifting. There are countless other stories. You may know of some yourself. Still, the Lord gets HIs glory, and the works done by these artists reflect Him. How much more, if the church had embraced the arts, instead of trying to lock them up.
When I first got saved, I put away my theatre and artistic interests, believing them to be somehow demonic. Though often the arts are full of demonized activity, it does not have to be that way. I believe this occurs because often the church, rather than embracing and stewarding the arts, and artists, pushes them away as unholy. When rejected, the artist will find a way and place to create. But will it be for GOD, or for man? Artists need to be encouraged and discipled toward maturity. Not thrown to the ‘wolves’ so to speak, of having to rely solely on the secular industry to guide them.
Eventually, the Lord freed me from my belief, and showed me that the arts are for HIS glory, and need to be ransomed back from the one who has kidnapped them (the enemy). As a believer, I can tell you of numerous times when i have witnessed a beautiful painting, or other work of art, listened to an incredible piece of music, or read a poem, when I was overwhelmed by the incredible presence of the Holy Spirit involved. I have often been brought closer to the Lord through such. As an unbeliever, I remember being deeply touched by a particular painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. Had there been a person there to talk to me about Jesus as I pondered that beautiful painting, my heart would have been softened to the point of really listening to them tell me about the Ultimate Creator. I am saddened by how we have removed the arts, and sterilized our services and lives with Jesus, to the point where there is NO creativity, and only carbon copies of either what the world is producing, or what the ‘hot’ church is producing.
If you look around at creation, you obviously can see the most amazingly creative things which the Lord brought forth. Have you ever really pondered the creativity of a zebra? Think about a giraffe. And look at a polar bear, or watch a horse run. Imagine the feeling you get in the springtime, when everything is coming to life. How do you feel after the first snowfall when the landscape is completely transformed by the color white? Are you amazed and moved by the ocean and it’s roaring waves, or the incredible color and beauty of a mountain side in the autumn?
Ever noticed how a piece of music immediately propels you back to some distant memory, and you are in that place again, with all the feelings and emotions? Are you uplifted by a song? In the same way, we are often profoundly influenced by a ballet or orchestra, or a play. Ever felt a life changing experience by going to see a particular movie? These things come from those created in the image of GOD. “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of LIghts….” (James 1: 17). He uses everything for His glory, even a donkey (II Peter 2:16), or a pagan king (Daniel 3 and 4)). He called the creation ‘good’. He called the creation of man and woman, ‘very good’. Let creativity flow LORD!!!
I am an advocate for the artist. I am an advocate for allowing the arts and creativity back into our lives, and back into our churches. Wouldn’t it be revolutionary to have the local artist in a congregation, place his or her paintings or other works in the church halls, or display cases? What about a room dedicated to the works of the artists in the church? What about letting artist’s paint during worship? Or read a poem during a service? Or do a moving piece of theatre? What about taking it out into the highways and byways, and letting people know Who the REAL Creator IS????!!!!!!!!! Imagine if we supported artists the way we support evangelists or missionaries. Guess what, they might be the same thing!!!
Hey you artist: get your stuff into a coffee shop or other gallery. Take the chance….go for it!!!!! Hey you musicians, who says you can’t go into a coffee shop or club and do worship music, or music the Lord has given you? Do we want to reach people or not? It might be the artist who finds real success in reaching people today, by doing so in a totally unique and relevant way. Let’s face it, most people are not going to walk into a church building on their own. But we can take it to them. Where most folks will turn and walk away if someone tries to preach at them, they will stand and stare at a wonderful work of art. They will linger and listen to a worship band on a street corner, lost in praises to the King. They will join in the celebration as dancers celebrate Who their GOD is!! I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen the Lord being supremely worshiped through art, dance, music, theatre, film. It happens. If should be happening more.
Art touches a person’s soul. It has touched mine. I’m sure it has touched yours also. It goes to a place a speech often cannot. (And let’s face it, most sermons are speeches). The arts go beyond the barriers, beyond the walls, beyond the fears. The Holy Spirit pierces the heart of the person who is affected by a song, work, dance, story, poem. Suddenly, we feel like we might know Who GOD is for a second. We feel we may have connected with the Creator. We are suddenly moved to know HIm at a level deeper than we could ever have known. Who is this GOD Who has created such beauty? Who is this GOD Who understands the pain deep in my soul? And Who is His Son?!!!!!!! This is the heart of the Lord………..to pierce the darkness.
Can we afford to let the arts into our circles? Can we afford NOT to?
It’s time to open up the doors, and welcome the writers, artists, musicians, and dancers, and allow them to speak the words of the Lord thru their medium. Let the artist come forth and prophesy. After all, King David did it on his harp, and he was a man after GOD’s own heart. Isn’t’ that our goal?
Here are some Scriptures that reveal how the arts were used in both the Old Testament and the New:
Ps. 45:1 “my heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer”
Ezekiel 4 and 5: Ezekiel ‘acted out’ a demonstration of what the Lord was going to do.
I Chronicles 25: Musicians assigned to 24 hour worship in the temple, were to prophesy on their instruments.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John: Note that Jesus, HImself, used the art of storytelling, through the parables He told in the Gospels.
Exodus 31:1-11: Here, the Lord explains to Moses regarding those whom He, Himself had appointed and gifted in “artistic designs”, and “all kinds of craftsmanship”.
I Kings 7:14 and following: Hiram from Tyre, was hired by Solomon to work on the Temple, because he was “filled with wisdom, understanding and skill for doing any work in bronze”.
II Sam. 6:14: “and David was dancing before the Lord with all his might…”
Acts 17:28: Paul uses a known poets words, in speaking to the Athenians on Mars Hill in Greece about the One True GOD.
Col. 3:16: “….teaching and admonishing each other with psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to GOD.”
Song of Solomon 2:4: He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” ALSO, 6:4: “….You are as…..awesome as an army with banners.”
There are others, such as the care taken in the artistic endeavors of building the temple, or the material used in the holy place, or the priests garments. You may find more yourself. In closing, I leave you with Psalm 150, which tells everything to praise the Lord, and specifically describes both dance, and music, as being for His praises:
Praise the Lord! Praise GOD in His sanctuary; Praise HIm in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre; Praise HIm with timbrel and dancing; Praise HIm with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the LORD!
(The Van Gogh story is taken from an awesome issue of Last Days Magazine, Vol. 18, Number 1, “What is the Church doing with the Powerful Gift of Art”.)
Carol Kiger-Rice is in San Diego, CA