By J. Scott McElroy
A New Renaissance is rising. A movement to reintegrate the arts (music, visual art, dance, film, etc) into churches and reengage the culture with spiritual art is growing in many areas of Christendom. Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Charismatics, Catholics and others are seeking to rekindle the relationship between faith and art. The Vatican is meeting with world renowned artists, Charismatics have released prophetic statements about the arts, and protestants are integrating media and the arts into services.
The Church was once the major patron of the arts, and many Christian leaders believe that it can and should be once again. But this renewed interest in the arts is far more than just church’s attempts to stay relevant or to create propaganda to win converts. In fact, it may be an essential ingredient to the foretold preparation of the Bride of Christ, as well as a shift in the way the church impacts the world as a force for good.
The worldwide Church stands at a unique time in history, in a position that no other institution can fill. Her decision to embrace, encourage and disciple artists and the arts will benefit individuals, communities and the Body of Christ in profound ways, and enable her to better fulfill her mission of offering God’s love to the world.
It starts on a local level. As local churches take the initiative to embrace artists and their gifts they will see a richness and depth to their services and community life. Just as God brings specific messages to congregations through their individual pastors and leaders, so He has specific insights to bring to local churches through the artists sovereignly planted in them.
Why this is happening
There are several reasons why this movement to re-integrate faith and art is happening at this point in history. First, as it affects the church, this New Renaissance provides an important catalyst to the maturity of the Body and Bride of Christ. Romans 12:4-6 says, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and those members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us…”
God has designed Christian community as a place where every believer’s gifting, large or small, can be discovered, nurtured, and developed for the benefit of the believers themselves, the Body of Christ, and the wider world. How can the Body properly function without the gifts that the arts and artists bring to it? Gifts of seeing and sight, intuition and knowing with the heart, creating and crafting with the hands, and more? Congregations and the Church universal will continue to miss a large facet of the personality of God if artists and the arts are not allowed to bring their gifts, observations, personalities, and visions into the Body of Christ to be nutrured and become part of community life.
Another reason for the New Renaissance is the fact that we live in an arts-saturated world. The arts– music, film, graphics, performance, public and visual art and more– are the language of the culture. We saw an amazing shift in worship music over the last 25 years. Where once 100 to 500 year-old hymns were commonly sung in the majority of churches, now most have at least one contemporary service where new rock-oriented worship music is sung, often with a full band. This change in music enabled new generations to find relevance in their church experience. A full integration of the other arts into the church is the next logical step. The arts meet people where they are by using language that is familiar and meaningful to the person encountering it. The arts provide connecting points for people who are unchurched and they enable us to express Christ’s essence by showing, not always speaking. The arts create a work that has a life of its own and can be carried into the culture to make an impact far into the future.
A third reason for the timing of this arts/faith movement is for the beautification of the Bride. How long have churches—especially Protestant churches– lived with an absence of beauty in our worship spaces? (Actually, the answer might be “about 500 years”, since the Reformation.) And Catholic churches have struggled with this, as well. In making the announcement for the Vatican’s Nov 21st Arts Summit the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture said that the art and architecture of many modern churches, “…do not offer beauty, but rather ugliness.”
Beauty is an inherent aspect of the personality of God; He loves and creates beauty just because it is part of who He is. That was driven home with the discovery of bizarrely beautiful galaxies caught by the Hubble telescope over the last two decades. Wild, mind-boggling beauty that we didn’t even know existed until the Hubble, challenges us to think about a God who creates and values beauty that serves no utilitarian purpose. It’s time that the Church started tapping into and portraying the full personality of this awesome God. We can and should lead the world in all areas of creativity because we are beloved children of the Creator God, made in His image and living in intimate relationship with Him.
And a forth reason for the rise of the New Renaissance is for the reconciliation of a whole tribe of people…the artists of the world. Millions of these people have been disconnected from their true source, wandering for centuries in search of elusive creative fulfillment. Most have known that there is a spiritual aspect to the creative process, but God is calling them to the joy of learning to truly collaborate with Him in creativity. They have a place in the church and the world to be a conduit of His joy, insights and messages on the earth, and as they take their place in the community of the Body of Christ, it will flourish and grow in maturity, and the artists themselves will know joy.
What can be done?
So what can Artists, Pastors and leaders, Churches and supporters do to usher in this new renaissance? Practically speaking, artists can get training, grow in their craft and become part of a Christian community. Pastors and leaders can look for ways to integrate the arts into services, churches can pursue artists and start a small arts gallery. Supporters can be advocates for the arts in their church and help educate congregations. On our website, thenewr.org you’ll find articles and resources on these subjects and more.
But in the end, all this activity will not be enough to see this movement to renew the arts reach critical mass.
Bono , from U2 , said in a USA Today interview that his band tries, “…to write songs that raise the temperature of the room and find words for feelings you can’t express. And then, as Quincy Jones says, you wait for God to walk through the door. Because in the end, craft isn’t enough.” Impressive works of art, ingenious education and brilliant proposals–though all those things and more are needed—aren’t enough for a New Spiritual Renaissance in the arts.
We must have divine inspiration.
We must seek ideas from God; connecting and collaborating with Him in our creativity on the projects he planned for us before we were born. This starts with learning to hear God’s voice in prayer and in our everyday lives. You’ll experience your greatest growth as a believer when you develop that aptitude. For more resources at developing this skill, see the “Hearing God in Your Creativity” section at our website, http://thenewR.org .
A New Renaissance IS rising, and it starts in the hearts of artists, leaders, and the Body of Christ as we learn to listen for His voice and collaborate with Him.
J. Scott McElroy is the founder of The New Renaissance Rising and author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working With the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (2008, Destiny Image). He is a writer, voiceover artist, visual artist, and award-winning radio producer who is passionate about redeeming the arts through collaborating with the Holy Spirit. As a voiceover artist, he hosted the Animal Planet TV series “Wildlife Journal” from 2004-2007. His voice is heard on national TV commercials, video games, websites and more. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife Danielle daughter Hailee and son Kaia.
I appreciate your ideas here — and as an artist who is also a believer, I definitely agree about the importance of better integrating the arts into the church and the Christian community.
One thing I would add to your list of reasons for an artistic renaissance is a renewed recognition of human creativity as part of the Image of God that we all bear. Even with no “Christian” message at all, the simple act of making music, art, theatre, etc. is an act of cooperation with the Creator of all things; a hint of the amazing power and playfulness that spoke the whole universe into being.