In the last centuries, worship artistry has been criticized and persecuted in the Christian church, especially when we talk about the reformed church where the purpose of beauty seems to have been forgotten. Jesus came on earth not only to save people from death but also to restore all things since the whole world has been corrupted by the fall of mankind. Rediscovering the purpose of beauty and how the arts can give glory to God is part of the restoration that Jesus is bringing to the earth.
The planet is longing for the beauty it should have, and artistry is definitely a part of this design. One’s artistry needs to find it’s right place and it’s purpose.
Let’s put art in the place it should be and return it to its higher purpose: to reveal God’s glory and stir us to worship Him as a response to His glory.
Distortion of the arts
I believe the devil has stolen the purpose of art, especially when it comes to worship artistry, and I believe this has somehow happened in nearly all arts, especially in the visual forms.
I recently read an article that broke my heart. This article was from a pastor who blogs on a worship and arts-themed website whose name I won’t mention. In the article, he was sharing that there is a difference between art and design, (this already tells me that this person does not have a clear idea about what art is). He said that art is self-centered and egocentric and has no purpose since it can be meaningless. I know a lot of art can fall into this category, but I believe that’s not the real purpose of art. I believe the arts need restoration and the church needs restoration in understanding what art is.
The definition of art is: Art is the expression of creativity through skill and imagination (as found in the Oxford Dictionary). According to this definition, how can we say that art has no place in the church since it’s purpose is meaningful? How can we be so limited in our view of God and also of ourselves? God is creative. He made us as created beings and everything we do should reflect His glory and beauty.
So also as artists, we need to understand that our art, like anything else, cannot be self-centered and meaningless, especially when we become Christian. Isn’t the whole purpose of redemption to have all of our life not be self-centered but to have Jesus at the center just as He is at the center of all creation?
The real purpose of art
In the beginning, God made mankind a partner in His creation. We read in Genesis how God asked Adam to name the animals: (Genesis 2:19-20 NKJV)
19 “Out of the ground, the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.”
I believe all things should be done in an artistic way, just like God did for His creation. Didn’t God assign artists for the construction of the temple? Didn’t God give space to men to express themselves through music and song? So why rob art of its purpose? Why rob worship artistry of its creativity? Or do we only want to see doves and rainbows and lions? Do we want to only listen to easy songs with basically two or three chords? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be these types of pieces, but at the same time, there should be space for all artistic expressions, knowing that each one has a different purpose and audience. Do we want to limit our worship expressions and worship artistry to only a few styles?
- For instance, I wouldn’t use rock music as a background on a romantic date, but at the same time, I wouldn’t use soft music for spiritual battle. I hope this makes sense. Why should we limit ourselves to very basic art? Just because it has to be functional? All art is functional, simply by the fact that beauty has a function. God is beauty in Himself, and He didn’t make things just for the sake of making them functional. He made things in a way that is complete; He made them both functional and beautiful!
Let me ask you these questions, especially since I’m Italian 😉 :
- Why should food taste good?
- Are we satisfied just by eating tasteless things?
I believe this is the real purpose of art:
to give a message through the beauty and contribute our flavor and color to creation!
Just imagine how God made the story of creation. The story starts in a garden and finishes in a city. Doesn’t this talk about being creative and artistic?
Art has been left out
In the reformation, many things were rejected from the church and art had the same treatment. Although many things had to be rejected from the reformed church since there was a great need for reestablishing the gospel, many good things also got kicked out. Art was cut out from the reformed body of Christ for many years.
Fortunately, this is changing and we see art movements coming back to the church. However, there is still a big gap between the artists and the church, especially when the arts go beyond what we consider to be traditional or “churchy”. The church has lived in a bubble for centuries but now it’s the time to go out and be leaders in all the fields.
By this, I don’t mean that religion itself should mix in the spheres of society, but Christians should! If we continue to classify styles of art as holy and unholy, how can we ever be light in society? If we don’t see artists’ work as functional, we probably won’t disciple them by encouraging them to worship and praise God using the talents He gave them. How can they then go and make disciples if nobody has discipled them?
We have gotten so good at separating things from our lives because we fear they may be unholy. By the way, what makes something holy or unholy? In the church, we have kept only what we have deemed “churchy.” This isn’t to say that we need to reject the classical church activities, but at the same time, we have likely isolated ourselves too much.
Rediscovering worship artistry
As I said, the arts are coming back to the church and there are movements of Christian artists who are willing to take up the challenge of operating not only in the church but also in society. The road, however, is still long and not easy since many times the obstacles and the challenges come from the church itself and “new things” are not always very welcome.
My prayer is that church leaders will open up and see this great need that the world has since it’s also an incredible need of the church, to rediscover beauty. In Italy, we had the renaissance. Although this period was amazing not only for Christian art but also for the whole world, I believe it never reached its full potential as a tool for worship and worship artistry in the church. Since art was only for beauty and not for worship, I believe it missed out on its real purpose. In fact, the church lost the use of art after this historic period.
Worship artistry should be part of the life of the church and Christians should be part of the life of the arts. If the artist discovers their purpose of glorifying God through their art and worship God through it, worship artistry will be redeemed and the world will also have the message of the Gospel through beauty, melody, and color.
We need to take our place in society, but to do this we need to disciple the artists. We need to open our minds and allow worship artistry movements to grow inside of our communities. Where there is a community, there can be growth and discipleship.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please let me know what you think about worship artistry by leaving a comment below.
Wish you the best and God bless,
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