Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

Co-creating by heart with sandy cathcart through writers helps and art info, focusing on all things wild.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Steve Hopkins Message to Artists and Writers - Part VII

Today, we start the second in the messages given by Pastor Steve Hopkins at the awesome art retreat at Box R Ranch in May. Now, we are entering the using of our gifts.

The photos are images I took at the Tall Trees Rendezvous earlier this month.


A pastor notices a new family visiting his church. After the service, he introduces himself and strikes up a conversation with the visitors. The husband says that they have just moved to the area and they are looking for a church where they can be actively involved in ministry.

Unable to contain his excitement, the pastor asks, “Where would you like to be involved?”

The husband responds, “My wife and daughter dance, my son is a painter, and I am a playwright.”

There is a deathly silence for what seems like a week.

Then the pastor says, “Well, the choir is always looking for more singers and maybe your wife and daughter can act out a skit you write for our children’s ministry, but dancing may take a review and decision by the Board.”

This is a true story, because the pastor in this story is me, before I felt the freedom and desire to use more artistic means to communicate biblical truths.

I have since learned that art and dance can come closer than systematic theology at capturing and allowing us to experience the mystery of God.

Mel Gibson proved that drama can more adequately demonstrate the agony of Christ.

And a picture can illustrate better than words abstract theological truths like the trinity or the Incarnation…Or the Humanity of Christ over and against His deity.

The arts exercises the mind to understand the many levels of meaning in Scripture.

Augustine and Aquinas both felt that God purposely made the Bible difficult so that we would have to wrestle with it (Bible is not stream-lined, not all slick packaging).

But most ministries and pastors are reluctant to use the arts in worship, mostly because they don’t know how to use it or are afraid of being connected with the Emergent Church, which they haven’t decided yet if it’s good or bad. But the fact is we have moved from a telegraphic society to a televisual society.

So, the question I want to explore is…How can artists find their niche within the Covenant community? And how can leadership provide a nurturing environment for artists?

First off, I think the pendulum is swinging back toward art in the church. In the early days of Christianity, and even after the Bible was mass produced, the masses were illiterate and much of our theology was communicated and preserved in art.

I have a very gifted artist and historian in our church, and as part of the worship service, she will present a piece on screen and will tell us a little about the author, when it was painted, and the subject matter. She then will make a present-day connection to the theological truth or scene we see on the canvas.

A few weeks ago, she had a piece by Cavaggio that was dynamic. She presented the piece picturing Mary and Martha and talked in three minutes of her struggle of always being a Martha. It was very affective.

I was at the Hermitage this last summer and saw a piece by 17th Century Spanish artist Murrillo called, “The Prodigal.”

We don’t use icons in my church, but we flash the words to our worship songs on the screen and behind them is a Masterpiece painting or a classical piece. We call it visual praise.

So, things are changing.

The high churches are incorporating art in their worship services, but more of the staunch churches like Calvary Chapel are being freed up to use more art and videos in worship services. It’s funny, cause they call me and I feel like they are like little kids who just found the key to their parent’s liquor cabinet.

So how can you as an artist help assist us pastor types in using art in ministry?

Speaking as a pastor, here are some things that may help you integrate art in your church.

1. Be patient, but persistent.

One of the problems the Church and we pastors have with the arts is one of perception. We tend to look upon the arts in a different way from other vocations. How many times have you heard, “Oh, you’re the artist. So, what do you do for a living?”

The idea that an artist can make a living with his craft is foreign to many. Which I find ironic, because many see us pastor types as working only a few hours one day a week and they wonder how we support ourselves. Ha!

And honestly, this attitude has hurt the arts in the church. Vincent Van Gogh trained for the Dutch Reformed pastorate. He found early on that he just was not “pastor material.” He wanted to serve Christ with his gifts, but the church had no place for him and would not accept him with his artistic idiosyncrasies. Instead of accepting, discipling, and nurturing him, they just branded him as strange and cast him aside.

This was a sad thing, because the Church lost a great opportunity by her own callousness.

But again, I think the pendulum swing is shifting, and as it is shifting you can help us pastor types by being patient and dialoguing and teaching us how art can be used in a worship service, or in the church. Be patient, but persistent with your pastor.


Okay, we’ll stop there today.

At the art conference, we spent some time thinking of ways we can use our art in our local churches. And I’m very interested in ways other artists are using their art in their churches. So, please leave a comment or send and e-mail. Perhaps we can help one another come up with some new ways of ministry!

Recently, one of my fellow artists came up with the idea for us artists to be painting abstract visuals at a Friday night jazz concert at our church. Now, that’s a fresh idea. And another church in town is holding a Christian artist’s contest at their annual women’s luncheon. I’m even planning to take part in that.

There’s a world of opportunities out there. What ideas do you have?


At 1:21 PM, Blogger etechne said...

karen stone wrote: we use words to explain, and pictures to MOVE people. you think world vison would be as successful without images? not a chance...

the moravian church, perhaps the greatest missionary organization ever and the source of a 100 years of 24 hour prayer, was birthed when count zinzendorf, on the usual young nobleman's tour of europe, was confronted by a painting in a church with the caption: this have i done for you; what have you done for me?

i think it all comes down to a tension between serving and provoking. exercising the "prophetic imagination" (speaking of which, pick up the book of that title by walter breuggemann).

At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Saw your request for feedback on the art lessons from God list. One thing I've seen done is having spontaneous or pre-planned paintings (usually somewhere around 6x4 feet) created by artists during the music part of the worship service; usually done to one side of the altar, so that people can easily see it as they worship. Being at worship services where this is done has been an extraordinary experience for me, as the paintings are often prophetic and tie in, frequently unintentionally on the artist's part, with what is being preached or otherwise spoken by God through the service that day.

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Elsi Dodge said...

McNair Wilson spoke to this (art and the church) at the Christian Writers Guild conference in February. I've got a CD of his talk, which I listened to in the RV on my home this morning. He is quite persuasive that arts and church are essential to one another.


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