The Role of Art in the Church

Christopher Laurie went to heaven on July 24, 2008.  At the time, he was serving the Lord with his considerable artistic talent as the head of the design department for Harvest Ministries.  His family misses him very much.  His father, Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship, says, “I know my son is in heaven, not because he was my son, but because he was God’s son through faith in Jesus Christ.”  The Bible says, “For as many as received Him, He gave them the power to become sons of God.”
As a tribute to Christopher, we asked Greg to let us share some of his work and answer a few questions about Christopher and the role of art in the church today.  We hope that his legacy will encourage you and your role as an artist in the Church.
How did Chris get his start as an artist and where did his inspiration for art come from?
Greg: Christopher loved to draw as almost all children do.  I suppose he picked that up from me, as I was also an artist, or perhaps more accurately an “advanced doodler.”  I started out in graphic design and hoped to become a cartoonist professionally, but a call to ministry came and took me in a different direction.  But I passed my love of design on to my son.  I used to tell Topher (his nickname) to “Bring your sketchbook,” wherever we went, and he did.  We lived in a home where all forms of artistic expression were appreciated, ranging from movies, music, paintings, graphic design, etc.

I loved to watch cartoons with Christopher as well and got him into the early classic Disney animated films, as well as collecting books that had various types of illustration and design.  Christopher also had the advantage of traveling to many places, from Asia to Israel, from England to Japan, and all around the United States. We particularly loved to visit New York City, which is so vibrant with design.

I took him on one trip to Holland, and we visited the Van Gogh museum together, and he explained to me the story of Vincent Van Gogh and what the various elements in his paintings were all about.  I was utterly fascinated.  It was at this point that Christopher was really beginning to blossom as a true artist.

As a small boy, he met artist Rick Griffin and grew to love his work. Through a good friend, Gordon McClelland, who hired Christopher to work for him during high school, he learned quite a bit about the world of art, from contemporary modern art to advertising design.

When he was in middle school in Dana Point, he was in a class with John Severson’s son. John was the founder of Surfer magazine and an accomplished artist himself. They became friends and, as I recall, had an ongoing friendly competitiveness with their art assignments.

This interest was fired to another level when we became good friends with David Riley. David is a professional graphic artist whose design firm helped shape the early campaigns for the Harvest Crusades. Christopher was always keenly interested in the artwork that was developed to promote the work of our ministry.

Christopher attended the Laguna Art Institute and, for a time, was enrolled in Pasadena Art Center.  As computers and computer graphics were simple enough for a high school student to master, he was the teacher’s assistant in computer graphics class. His skill was amazing in this area; he was able to animate and create the most original cards for Father’s Day or our birthdays.  I remember us talking at length about art history, typography, package design, or advertising art as he worked on assignments.  Some of my favorite pieces he designed were from this time when he was in art school.

One of the pieces was a redesign of a movie poster for the film Spartacus. He used the circular image of the ruins of the Coliseum in Rome as a bracelet around a slave’s wrist. The poster was of a forearm and fist, thrust upwards in a defiant pose.

Long after his art school days, he was always studying, continuing to learn, going to art shows and galleries. From the beginning, when he came to work for Harvest as art director, his plan was to make it a fun and learning atmosphere of friendly collaboration. He wanted to take the art department on field trips to see inspiring exhibits at museums. He had his finger on the pulse of contemporary culture, but he understood the timeless, important, and uncompromising message of the gospel. This was a time of great joy for me, as I loved dreaming and collaborating with Christopher on projects.

What was your working relationship like with Chris at Harvest?
Greg: His challenges working at the church would have been:

1.) The constant demands of a father who loved art and had high expectations of what things should look like!

2.) The constant deadlines!  We were always needing artwork for every ministry department, crusades, Web sites, women’s events, Easter, Christmas, new book cover designs, etc.  And each of these things would be needed ASAP!

3.) The limited scope of his role in the art department.  He loved all kinds of art and would have enjoyed not just directing art projects, but creating them himself—such things as flyers, posters, and programs needed for ministry—just for the sheer joy of creating art.

Do you have any comments on the role of art in the church?
Greg: The role of art in the church…Art and beauty are God’s ideas.  They are His means of expressing His divine nature.  The church should never see the arts as “worldly,” but rather a means for expressing and proclaiming His glory!  How amazing it must have been during the era of church history when patrons commissioned great works for the glory of God.  Christopher and I would heartily agree with an article in Time magazine that stated, “Church and art today are scarcely on speaking terms.  Yet Christianity was once a great patron of all the arts, and artists in turn enriched the faith.  The church must ‘reassume its ancient and proper responsibility and productivity with reference to all the arts,’ an undertaking that ‘it could well begin by purging its own arts [of the] insipid or precious or esoteric or sentimental.'”

I was and am very proud of Christopher and how he used his God-given abilities to bring glory to God.  I hope others are inspired by his faith, life, and work as I and his family, friends, and coworkers are.  

(This post originally appeared on a site with free church graphics shared by thousands of Christian artists around the world. Used by Permission.)

View samples of Christopher Lauries artwork below.