≡ Menu

Where Do Artists Fit in the Church?

If you have the gift of teaching, evangelism, hospitality, or helps, there is a place for you in the Church. If you have administration skills, musical makoto-fujimuratalent, or simply like to serve, there is a place for you in the Church. But if you are an artist, a writer, a poet, or an actor, you’re out of luck.

Makoto Fujimura, founder of International Arts Movement, believes that:

Christians often misunderstand the role of creativity. Few churches get involved in the arts, and as a result, many creative individuals feel separated and alienated from God and His body of believers.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately — “separated and alienated.” Probably because the last few weeks, in our church, we’ve been talking about spiritual gifts and callings. The funny thing is: It’s not ignorance of my calling that alienates me; it’s awareness of my calling that alienates me.

I mean, where do artists fit in the Church?

The church needs people to man the nursery, host Bible studies, organize social events, plan outreach opportunities, visit the sick, counsel the hurting, and recycle bulletins. But… poets? Seriously. What practical purpose do poets serve in the local church?

It’s a conundrum. On the one hand, if God “calls” some members of His Body to write fiction, direct theater, sculpt, or paint abstracts, how do those callings practically relate to the local church? If they don’t, are we prepared to say that artists and actors are peripheral to the real mission of God on earth? And if they’re not — if artists actually serve an important role in the Body of Christ — why isn’t there more of a practical place for them?

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on Reddit
{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Glynn September 16, 2009, 3:18 PM

    This is a kind of extension of the discussion on "calling" and work and ministry. At some point, I suspect the Reformation, the (Protestant) church began turning its back on arts and culture. I think we're both internally impoverished and externally ineffective because of it, because we really don't know how to engage it because we have no frame of reference. Seriously, writers, poets, artists, dancers, sculptors and actors are slightly suspect in the church. Or maybe more than slightly. We've lost our ability to see how art can speak to God, his work and his plan. Artists like Fujimora are raising the awareness, however, and I believe that we will see the fruit of their work in the next generation or two.

  • Niki Turner September 16, 2009, 3:25 PM

    Interesting that musicians are artists, yet we rarely hear them discounting their gift and calling to the Body. But where would the church be without the painters, sculptors, writers, and architects who have yielded to their craft throughout the centuries? Scripture is full of references to artisans and craftsmen and skilled laborers and scribes of all kinds throughout Bible times.
    In my mind it just goes to show how focused we are on the "things that are seen," the urgent, practical demands of the Body. It's a lot easier for a pastor to extol the virtue of serving in the nursery so the squalling infants aren't disrupting the sermon than it is to appreciate the fiction novel a church member just published, or the mural of Psalm 23 someone volunteered to paint in an alley downtown. Don't get me wrong, just because I've got a creative bent doesn't mean I can't help out in the nursery, teach Bible study, or go on a mission trip, either. But it does mean I have permission to focus on my craft and give myself to the gift God has placed in me without feeling guilty, or like a defective Body part. And it means I don't need the Church to codify what I do.

    • Mike Duran September 17, 2009, 12:24 PM

      Thanks, Niki! Yes, I think we've let "the urgent, practical demands of the Body" frame how we think about spiritual gifts and calling. So as long as churches have "worship" services, musicians will serve a far more utilitarian purpose than, say, painters or poets.

  • D. S. Crankshaw September 16, 2009, 5:41 PM

    To be honest, I don't feel that way, but perhaps it's because the church I attend (Park Street Church in Boston) has an arts program with strong support from the ministers. I lead the writing group at my church (which does all genres, for Christian and secular audiences), attend a Bible study composed mostly of artists (which isn't always comfortable for an engineer/writer), and regularly talk to the ministers about my writing.

    • Mike Duran September 17, 2009, 12:04 PM

      Hey, Donald, thanks for visiting! In my 30 years of attending churches in SoCal, I have yet to encounter one with a vibrant arts program. That could say as much about my personal history, demographics, and zip code, as it does the West Coast's inferiority (culturally speaking) to the East. My perspective would probably be different if I attended a church like yours. Blessings!

  • Kaci September 18, 2009, 5:49 AM

    I think I've seen both, really, and I think a lot of it's showing your mettle. Need a sound tech? There's eight in the youth group. Need help with camp sketches? There's eight drama kids over there. I guess I, too, come from churches who by and large engage the arts, everything from stage productions (dessert theaters, theater in the round, etc–my favorite ever is an annual Tenebrae service that literally involves ALL the arts).

    But I think largely it's a matter of artists -finding- areas of need they can fill, even if it's starting relatively small. I filled in as a receptionist for a few days and wound up editing the church bulletin a few times, simply because I'm good at it and edit things without consciously doing it.

    Besides, the OT tabernacle construction begs differ. And, the purpose of the priest's garments: For glory and beauty. It was supposed to look good. So the women made find garments and the metalworkers got to work.

    At any rate, I'm being long-winded. A little surprised, on some level, the west coast doesn't see more, all things considered, but that's my ignorance speaking (Texan here). The truth, I think, is that I can probably find more Scriptural support FOR the arts than against. Ironically.

    I suggest some hunting. Does your church have a newsletter? Is there a way to possibly edit the thing, or to write for it? That kind of thing. Even projector screens. I remember once at a high school thing (private Christian school, not church), and our tech didn't have time to type up the slides and finish everything else he had to do. So he asked me if I could type fast. I said fast enough, thanks to all the writing on the laptop. So he had me pounding in Bible passages and notes onto slides for the Power Point.

    Not pickin' a fight, just saying, if practical's what people want…well, the old saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way.

    Either that, or m skeptic side was accosted by my optimistic side. 0=) Til next time, Mike.

    • Mike Duran September 18, 2009, 12:55 PM

      Thanks for your thoughts, Kaci! I'm sure as one moves North from my digs (Inland Empire, CA), to the coast and upwards into Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Fran, etc., the "church art scene" changes. My lamentations, no doubt, are a projection of where I'm at (literally and figuratively).

      You're right about finding practical ways to incorporate one's artistic gifts. Even if I was to do so, however, I'm afraid the limits of my involvement would be as a newsletter editor or something. In other words, I just don't see a lot of places where the Church accommodates and affirms its artistic members. Perhaps I should be happy that church newsletter editor gigs are available, huh?

  • Kaci September 18, 2009, 4:17 PM

    Haha. Aw, I didn't mean it quite like that. Of course, another option is to point out David was, in fact, both poet and lyricist. 0=)

Leave a Comment