Restoration churches and evangelical churches in general have ushered Art of out the building. Most music - gone, almost all performing arts â€“ gone, all (but tacky) visual arts â€“ gone. Good writing and poetry â€“ gone.
Not only are these things obviously not present in RM church worship or architecture or spiritual formation, but the act of creating these kinds of art is completely lost.
So, what is the result? No art; no artists. Why would an artist feel welcome in a Restoration Church? No one speaks their language. No one cares about their gifts and talents. Their very best contributions would never even make it to a Wednesday night class.
Where are the concerts (and donâ€™t even say the words Vocal Union)? Where are the art galleries? Where is the drama? Where is the communication of art? Where is the art in the worship? Where are the experienced artists teaching the novice artists? Where are the art classes? Why can we not take from good art the passion that was so preciously put into it?
I fear that our inability to appreciate art significantly limits our hermeneutic. How are we supposed to understand the art of the Bible when we are incapable of understanding any art? How will we know the power of the Psalms without any awareness of poetry? Are there not paintings of Biblical events that capture the meaning of the passages better than our cognitive processes can? Isnâ€™t a picture still worth a 1000 words? Is there not a language in music that speaks to the heart that words cannot?
An art illiterate community loses at least of a third of the meaning of the Bible because of their illiteracy. Itâ€™s in there, we just donâ€™t see it â€“ or at least donâ€™t get it when we do see it. Itâ€™s like reading a newspaper written in English and Chinese. English speakers will read every single bit of the newspaper they are able to. But English speakers are chronically Chinese illiterate. So, rather than learn Chinese, they are content to believe everything that is in English is all that is important.
When will art regain its rightful place in worship? When will we value the instructive, inspirational, motivating, passionate, meaningful aspects of art in the same way we value moral codes and propositions? When will the RM emerge from black and white into full color? When will we repent of our expelling artists from among us? When will we hear the cry of the baby who got thrown out with the bath water?
Despite all of my questions, there is reason for hope. Some churches are introducing art through banners and murals. AGain, some of these are nasty, but some of them speak a powerful message. At the Zoe worship conference, there is art. Jack and Jill Maxwell create incredible works of art that capture the meat of the passage preached at Highland Church in Abilene. The Abilene Christian University art faculty created a traveling art exhibit including pieces or art from the book of Isaiah. Call ACU to get it booked at your church (last I heard all they charge is a mailing cost). Many RM churches have enjoyed and have been moved by the Jesus Painter. More and more churches are getting familiar with new kinds of worship. I think RM churches are a few years off from prayer stations and sand tray confessionals, but many are moving in the direction of art.
What are your stories of art in church?