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A Church for Artists (Part One)

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I

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Chad Jarnagin (creator of the LuminousProject) & Brett Mabury (my worship arts pastor from Journey). These two older brothers inspire me greatly. We spent hours processing & dreaming out loud.

We sense a stirring of the Spirit. I know a few of you sense it, as well.

“Aslan is on the move.”

The Spirit is always moving, whispering to those who will posture themselves to listen. Posturing is less about DOing & more about BEing. And in Nashville/Franklin (as well as many places I am sensing), He’s whispering something new.

In the midst of these stirrings is a conversation about the arts, & more importantly the role artists play in the Church. Artists are no more “special” than anyone else, but they do play an integral role…& for centuries this role has been minimized & marginalized. But as we all know, things are changing.

I came home from that late night conversation with a fire lit in my heart. I had to sit down & write some thoughts down.

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II

Concerning artists serving the Church… what if we have it backwards?

What would it look like for the Church to serve its artists instead of the artists serving the Church?

Art is the most influential factor that shapes, creates & revolutionizes culture. Historically, revolutions have been quietly started by art that challenges the status quo…art that presents healthy narratives to an unhealthy world….art that creates the world that ought to be. 

If this is really true, then the Church should make it a priority to care for the artists in its community. To pour into them…not suck them dry.

Spiritual needs. Encouragement. Nurture. Challenges. Soul care. Love. Grace.

There’s nothing wrong with artists in the church (& on staff) supporting the local body of believers. Of course Sunday morning (& any gathering) should be infused with creativity, as much as the community can authentically offer. Our sacred spaces of prayer should be some of the most inspiring that our world has to offer. (by the way, inspiring doesn’t have to mean expensive!)

Creators rising up & being generous to the congregation.

Creators don’t necessarily have to create completed art. Art that thrives in the Church is art that is unfinished…inviting the congregation to interact & to pray through creative expressions. Art that is more of a blank (or unfinished) canvas that compels worshipers (even the least artistically-inclined) to add their own stories through image…confession…prayer…and praise to God. Art that invites the worshiper to see their own story within the bigger Story of God.

We need art inside the Church.

Art that illuminates…shining light in the darkness.

Because darkness exists everywhere! (especially inside the walls of the Church.)

But…art cannot stop there! 

What if the Church was more of a nameless, faceless family that sought not for fame & recognition…but instead took on a posture of humbly serving from underneath? What if we shut our noisy mouths for a minute & let our artists speak on our behalf? To commission them to create beauty for a broken world? Perhaps then artists would thrive in the Church! Perhaps artists would be more compelled to create…without constraint… & in a way that goes beyond self-expression.

Generous, generative art.

Art that isn’t micro-managed by leaders who demand cultural yet ironically unbiblical standards of “safety.”

Art that thrives both inside & outside the walls of the church.

Art that points to Jesus…not because He needs it but because the world needs it. (HT: Gary Molander)

I’m not talking about creative, well-marketed propaganda where art becomes “background” to the “message”… I’m talking about art that IS the message! Because the transforming Gospel is not only truth & justice, but also beauty.

The arts cannot be relegated & reduced to mere propaganda…as if the Gospel is something to be sold! And the arts should not be limited to great design used for utilitarian purposes.  This is why artists have such a hard time thriving in the Church…especially those who are on staff & under leadership who do not value art for what it can be. Church leadership should value the arts & not see it as decoration & pretty aesthetics (though there is nothing wrong with good design.)

We need designers creating solutions, but we also need artists asking questions. (HT: Len Wilson)

God whispers to us not only through text & spoken word but also through image & story. Not in a way that adds to or contradicts scripture…but in a way that ILLUMINATES it!

Some of the best art created are by those who are immersed in the word of God, healthy liturgy, and the mystery enjoyed at the Table. (CS Lewis, Tolkien, etc)

Ian Cron sheds light on how the Church might present truth in today’s culture: “While the front door of the intellect is shut, the artist sneaks in through the backdoor of the imagination.”

Some creators are called to the unique role of creating “liturgical art.” And that is very important. I’m one of those. But if the Church wants to make an impact in culture through the arts, then the Church must embrace, support & commission its artists to create great & excellent art for the world. Because the world needs it. And this must be shepherded…not controlled.

What would it look like if the Church paid/commissioned its artists to create, not only for Sunday morning, but for the community?

What would it look like for leadership to make time & space for its paid artists to create beauty without agenda? The artist needs room to play…to create with reckless abandon. It is here that the creator becomes like a child again. It is here where Spirit whispers through creation… sparking the imagination to dream God-thoughts.

When the Church begins to give space for its artists, then art will begin to thrive. But if it stifles creation & demands constant production, art will die.

The Church should not be selfish with its art & keep it confined to Sunday morning. Sunday morning art definitely has its place, but it shouldn’t stop there.

The Church must think beyond itself. 

A shift in posture is needed if great art is to come out of the Church.

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TO BE CONTINUED…

the LuminousProject

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This discussion is one of many that we have every May at the LuminousProject.

LuminousProject is a contemplative movement & space for our souls to catch up to our bodies. It’s the intersection where Dreaming, Thinking, Communion, & BEing meet.

Now what makes the LuminousProject unique & different from other creative conferences?

Stephen Brewster said it best:

STORY is great if you want to be refueled and inspired.

ECHO is great to learn the practical side of creative ministry.

CATALYST is all about leadership and they do it well.

LUMINOUS is where you go to have a spiritual experience. It is a unique and connected tribe led by Chad Jarnagin and his team of amazing “ministers”. They would probably not call themselves that, but it is what they are. When I go to Luminous I see people being refueled spiritually and challenged spiritually.

What makes Luminous unique? As Chad describes, “From what I hear from other who does multiple conferences a year, the conversations, discussion opportunities at Luminous are unique. We build in time and space to discuss thoughtful topics together. We tend to lean towards the ‘why’ questions, not just the ‘how to’.”

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Registration is OPEN with limited spots available in each pricing tier.
There are only 40 spots available each pricing tier for Individuals and 40 for Groups! Rates go up Oct. 1. Once each level sells out, more registrations will only be available on the next level. We only have 220 total spots available. Go HERE for more info and to register today.

Ian Morgan Cron will again be our spiritual navigator for #Luminous14. Mark Pierson (The Art of Curating Worship), and some of my favorite artists will be joining us as well. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be announcing more and more presenters!

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