I’m working on a book that focuses on connecting the Church with the arts and artists. As it’s been forming, God has brought this question to my mind, “What if integrating the arts into the Church is more than just a nice idea? What if this integration is essential to the maturity of the Body of Christ?”
I’ve always felt that something will be missing in the Body of Christ if artists don’t–or aren’t allowed to—take our place in it. God has designed the Christian community as a place where every believer’s gifting, large or small, can be discovered, nurtured, and used for the benefit of the believers themselves and the Body 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…” 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? Without an integration of the arts and artists into the church, the Body of Christ might be called physically, emotionally and mentally challenged.
I’ve been thinking, talking and praying about this subject a lot, so it was cool when God added some more definition as I was reading the other day. I felt led to pick up my little 1958 Student Edition Amplified New Testament and flip it open to Ephesians 4. Vs 11 says, “And His gifts were (varied; He Himself appointed and gave men to us) some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers. 12 His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church), 13 [That it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God; that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (or personhood)—the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard stature of the fullness of Christ and the completeness found in Him.”
A few things about these verses struck me. First, that artists fit into several of the giftings that Paul mentions, such as prophets (inspired preachers and expounders). The arts are designed to be prophetic. For example, the prophets of the Old Testament often used performance or crafted objects to convey God’s messages. Prophetic lyrics and music were a constant part of Jewish life. The temple was adorned with maximum beauty to proclaim the past, present and future magnificence of God. God’s artists today are not oracles like the OT prophets were, but as we learn to collaborate with Him, He will use us in prophetic roles to bring truth and understanding in our churches, communities and culture. As for evangelistic gift (preachers of the gospel, traveling missionaries), the arts are needed here to speak across language barriers. With the pastor gift (shepherds of His flock), churches need a worship and arts pastor who can shepherd and guide artists to hear God’s voice. The arts are excellent at teaching, as well, especially in our visual society, because they have the ability to slip past the intellect and plant truth deep in the heart.
Are these gifts given to the Body so we can be spiritually encouraged and mentally centered? No, it is so, “that we might attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God…”. How can we really be one unless we are sharing our gifts, functioning as God designed us? And how can we have a full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God without approaching a comprehension of His inherent beauty and creativity or His unending grace? It can’t be done without the arts and artists.
The rest of the verse answers the question of why we should seek to attain these things:“that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (or personhood)—the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard stature of the fullness of Christ.” There it is…we will never reach maturity or be the complete personality of the Body of Christ without cultivating the gifts of the arts and artists in the church.
We artists have always known this intuitively, even if we didn’t have words for it. Now God is bringing a new wave of creativity and a new awakening to the power of the arts, and giving us the words to talk about it.
May pastors and leaders come to a new understanding of God’s divine plan for the arts and its essential role in bringing about the maturity of the Body of Christ. May artists increasingly hear God’s voice and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in our creativity.
May God speed the New Renaissance that is rising!