Sep 20 2006
We are doing a series at our church right now entitled, “The Church They’ve Always Wanted.” It’s a study of the book of Titus. There is one phenomenal observation I just realized this morning that has previously escaped me.
There are many people today who talk about doing relevant ministry with cool music, arts, etc. Some talk about the fact that the roots of the Church are artistic and that we must return to those roots. A question: who says that our “historial roots” actually produced disciples back in the day? And our all our videos, music, productions, and arts producing disciples today? Let me say: the book of Titus, as far as we have studied it in church, makes no mention of any of this artistic activity. Most everything Paul instructs Titus to do has to do with life-on-life activity. Just as Jesus spent time with people in the context of real life, so Paul instructs Titus to do the same – so that the gospel would be presented properly (and thus, be attractive to outsiders). It is not the beauty of art that in-and-of-itself produces disciples. The art is only useful to the degree that it produces understanding of Christ! Art for art’s sake is pointless. I’m sure plenty will disagree with me.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with arts, my friends. But when we start believing that without arts, our churches would be sunk, we have abandoned the power of God to change lives and begun relying on ourselves, becoming technocrats that manage church growth and create excitement through eye candy rather than the beauty of Christ. The gospel is simple and it stands on its own. Through the power of God in raising Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts, we will see growth in the Church. Do our actions prove that we trust God more than ourselves? What if we walked away from the “arts machine” that many churches have become? Would we be considered unfaithful? Probably, but certainly not unfaithful to Christ! Only unfaithful to a system of beliefs that places an unhealthy value on arts.
It’s funny to me that Paul is often cited for this relevant type of ministry. In Athens, he noted their affinity to statues of gods. They even had a statue to an “unnamed god.” It is true…Paul did not condemn their art. But neither did he pick up some clay and create more art. He plainly declared to them the truth about Christ – previously unknown to these people. Paul decoded their art and made it concrete.
My question: what if we stopped doing art in church today? Would you be worried about our effectiveness? If we worry, then our trust is in our art, not in God’s power. Paul knew the gospel has a self-evident power. He didn’t come with wise and persuasive words. He came preaching Christ crucified. When was the last time we put so much energy into the simple preaching of Jesus crucified and resurrected? Maybe the discomfort in some of our lives comes from the fact that all our energy is caught up in art that has little to do with the proclamation of good news, caught up in things that produce very little fruit. Yeah, this blog is too black and white but I don’t feel like being nuanced right now. I just want to know: is it possible that all our Christian activity is more of a hindrance to what God wants to do than a help? Where is our reliance? The art or the Author? It’s only the Author that can make the art powerful. Do we believe that? Or do we create simply because someone told us to? The Spirit will testify in our souls to the liveliness or lifelessness of our work. How do you feel? The Church they’ve always wanted has little to do with art. It has everything to do with our lives. The bible tells me so.