The Church and the Arts

Because we are made in the image of God the creator, we are destined to be creators of images and stories. It’s in our flesh and bones.

God is the great artist who conceived and constructed the intricate cosmos, the sculptor who shaped the human form out of the mud of the earth. God is the poet who imagined Israel’s improbable epic drama — election, fall into slavery, exodus and return to the land of promise — and then inspired psalmists and prophets to sing the story, and to re-imagine it for later generations living new chapters in the drama of exile and return.

If we are made in the image of such an inventive God, it follows as day the night that we too will be makers of shapes, symbols, songs and stories. As bearers of the image, we can do no other. Art bubbles up out of the center of our being. The more fully we acknowledge God’s creative power, the more freely we will celebrate the creative expression, the poiesis, through which we respond to God’s grace.” – Richard Hays Why Should We Care About the Arts?

I love how Hays phrases this, destined to be creators of images and stories indeed.

How neglected the arts can sometimes be in the Church though. From our utilitarian buildings, to our often clichéd music, to sermons which function more as information sharing than as artistic invitations to experience the glory and wonder of God – artistic values often appear low on our list of our priorities, if they appear at all.

That, I believe, must change.

It must change because we were created as artistic beings, and the church should be the first place we can enact those creative impulses. And it must change because the church needs to be welcoming to those of an artistic bent who feel they have no place, as well as to a younger generation which learns from visual and audio art better than it does from lectures and fill-in-the-blanks.

In a time of tight budgets, the arts are often the first thing to go, in churches and schools. I’d suggests we are failing to realize how high a price we will pay for that choice.

_______________________

– Do you think the arts have a role in the church?

– How can we facilitate that shift?

– Where is this already being done well?

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Mason Slater
Mason is a husband to Melinda, seminary student, youth pastor, blogger and freelance writer in, Grand Rapids, MI. He is passionate about theology, community and justice. What little time is left amidst his busy schedule is devoted to reading, coffee snobbery and a new adventure in home brewing.