Why Churches Should Stop Producing Crappy Art
When it comes to art, there tends to be two types of churches. On the one hand, you have liberal churches that produce great art but tend to have crappy theology. On the other hand, you have conservative churches that have great theology put tend to produce crappy art. It's the latter I want to address.
The conservative churches use clip art for their programs, Times New Romans on their powerpoints, and have single acoustics for praise. And they're minimal for various reasons: "The word is enough"; "Art is consumeristic"; "Let's be God-centered."
I think it's a mistake though to use that as an excuse to have lame praise, ghetto power points and hokey programs. The church should value the arts (e.g. music, design, visuals, etc.) in their service because art matters. Here are some reasons why:
1) Our God Values Art
It doesn't take much study to realize God really digs art. In creation, God created diversity (Gn 1:20-25). For the tabernacle, God requested colors (Ex 26). For His temple, God had a design (2 Chron 3). For the priests, God ordered fashion (Ex 25:10). In the Bible itself, God ordained different genres (ex: poetry, narratives, songs, etc.).
In other words, art is everywhere in Scripture because we have a God who values art. The early church grasped this, which is why they produced so many paintings, cathedrals and stained-glass windows. They knew art mattered to the Lord.
2) Art Removes Barriers
When we think of "art" in worship, we tend to think of something like the picture above. Flashy lights, fog machines, and over-the-top. The criticism is worship like this resembles a concert rather than a church. I admit, something like that scene above may be a little distracting. However, I'd argue this scene below is just as distracting:
To think a minimal worship is "more spiritual" & less distracting is, in my opinion, ignorant. It presumes the human heart is naturally prepared to worship and only needs a moment of silence to get ready. But we carry burdens and anxieties into worship. What art is capable of doing is diverting our eyes from these internal distractions onto Someone greater.
3) Art Reaches People
Good music doesn't save people. Neither does a good website or even a good speaker. But they do get people to listen. I don't know about you, but if I hear a song that's off-putting, I'll change the station. But if a song has a good tune or voice, I'll download it off itunes and eventually learn the lyrics.
In other words, good art gets your attention. Sometimes you get fooled and realize the content is shallow. However, if you ever discover the richness of say a song's content, it's the art that got you to listen. This is what the church needs to see: Art doesn't save, but it does help bring people in to get saved.
4) Art Communicates Value
If we went to a birthday party like this, we'd probably think, "This party is lame." Reason: its "design" communicates this party isn't very important. Likewise, a church with crappy art communicates to the world that what they're doing must not be very important.
But this is not only lame but contrary to the gospel Christians value. As Sarah Fitch writes, "We serve an excellent God & there's no excuse for us to do less than the very best when we are representing him. Christians should have the most beautiful graphics out there because we have the most beautiful message in the universe."
5) Art Enhances Value
One thing I've heard is that when women receive jewelry from Tiffany's, the Tiffany's box itself creates half the excitement. Of course if the box were empty, then it wouldn't mean anything. However, if she received the necklace without the box, half the joy that came with the gift would be lost.
The same goes for worship. If churches only focus on the art but forget the gospel, then it'll feel like an empty box. But if churches focus on the gospel but ignore the arts, they lose some of the joy that can be experienced with the gospel. Art itself is not worship but it prepares & excites the heart for worship.
I'm pretty passionate about this subject & hope to see a church that can have both good theology and good art. And the reason is art is not just meant to produced for missiological reasons but for biblical reasons. Art matters and I long to see local churches incorporate the arts (and artists) more.