“When TIME magazine compiled a list of the one
hundred most significant people in twentieth-century art
there were only five who had shown any public signs of
Steve Turner, journalist, poet, Imagine:
A Vision for Christians in the Arts
This symposium will bring together pastors, church leaders
and artists to discuss the Church’s relation to the
arts and to artists. We will focus our discussion on three
1) art and the worship of the Church
2) artists and the community of the Church
3) art and the mission of the Church in the renewal culture
If you are interested in exploring the ways in which we can
encourage a more theologically informed, biblically grounded,
liturgically sensitive, artistically alive and missionally
shrewd vision for the Church and the arts, then we welcome
you join us April 1-3, 2008 for a lively and enriching conversation.
matter how we the Church view the arts?
Yes, it does, tremendously.
Consider this data:
The 2006 Box-office receipts for Hollywood in 2006? $9.42
- “It wasn’t just the biggest tour of the year—it
was the biggest tour in history. Who else but the [Rolling] Stones?
Nobody, that’s who, and the dark lords of rock & roll
could not be stopped, grossing an estimated $437 million to shatter
U2’s box-office record.” - Rolling Stone
Magazine, end of year issue 2006.
- According to the Center for Screen Time Awareness, the
number of 30-second commercials that the average child views
year is 20,000.
That’s a massive power in economic terms. It’s
also an enormous power which artists wield in the shaping
and lives in our society, especially the young ones. We
the Church ignore this culture-shaping, heart-transforming
Does it matter how we treat the artists in our communities?
Most artists, whether in NYC or LA, in Seattle or Austin,
little if anything to do with the Church. It strikes them
more like a rationalist’s university classroom or a pragmatist’s
business meeting than like anything resembling the rich world
of God’s creation filled with all its supersensory
wonder. They look at the Protestant Evangelical church
and they see
an aesthetically arbitrary arrangement. They see a fickleness
beauty. They see an imagination handicapped by Enlightenment
presuppositions. Why should artists want to become members
of a Church that either ignores, dismisses or rejects their
and vocation? Yet they too are sheep Christ seeks to bring
into his fold.
What about pastors?
Pastors are gatekeepers. They let things
in, they keep things out. They make things happen or not
happen. To inspire a pastor with a vision for aesthetic
open doors not only for new artistic activity in the church—an
ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda—but also for
the kind of discipleship that artists need to become mature
of grace in the culture. We cannot ignore the uniquely
important role that pastors play in the Church’s
work of cultural renewal.
What about our churches?
Churches across North America are
experimenting with new forms of gospel-communication: through
film and dance,
banners and sculpture, ambient music and architectural design.
How do we as leaders make wise decisions: how to think artfully;
how to employ wisely the different arts into the service
of worship without undermining the aims of our worship; how
to equip lay
persons, businessmen and lawyers, house-keepers and politicians,
to come alongside artists in a mutually enhancing partnership?
With much of this experimentation comes a messiness and perhaps
even doses of evil. We need great wisdom.
What is the hope? What is the end result?
The hope is for
an eventual Packer poet laureate and an Amy Carmichael
breaking new ground in the field of modern dance. We’re
looking at our artists making films for Universal Studios,
the vanguard galleries, teaching in the college theater
departments. We’re looking at artists sitting on
the advisory board of ballet companies. We’re looking
at seminaries with programs in aesthetics. We’re
looking at a generation of children growing up in our churches
getting the kind of nurture
which will produce first-rate artists, a Mozart or a Charlotte
The hope is for a powerful, grace-filled transformation of
And that future begins now. It begins with young believer
artists like the rocknroller Sufjan Stevens, whose album “Illinois” ranked
#9 on Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 50 Albums of 2005:
interested in reconciling this phenomenal event—the
incarnation of God—with Santa Claus and blue-light
specials at KMART and the weird preoccupation we have
with buying a lot
of junk and giving to each other.” (in
a recent Rolling Stone mag interview)
DOES THIS SYMPOSIUM ENVISION FOR THE CHURCH?
1. A corporate worship that is theologically informed,
biblically grounded, liturgically sensitive, artistically
aesthetically rich, rich because of its recognition
that beauty, the senses,
our imaginations and emotions as well as the arts matter
greatly in our worship and knowledge of God who himself
facets of our humanity and called them good.
2. Church leaders who understand the unique make-up
of artists and a Church that becomes a haven and home
them; a Church
that gives the kind of pastoral care and discipleship
that enables them to grow up, mature, and become firmly
identity in Christ; a Church that knows how to release
her artists into the manifold callings on their lives
they may find
themselves on the earth that God so loves and artistically
3. A Church which transforms the culture by way of
a redemptive artistry; a Church that sends her artists
into the culture
to become the incarnational presence of Christ, a presence
hidden or powerfully public, holistic, prophetic, winsome
or graciously subversive; a Church which releases her
create works which expose all the ugliness of sin and
entice the human creature into the beauty of God.
IN SUM, WE WANT TO GIVE THOUGHT TO THESE 3 AREAS:
1. The arts and the corporate worship of the
church (its liturgical actions and its sacred spaces).
2. The arts and the pastoral care of artists (the discipleship
and community formation of artists).
3. The arts and the renewal of the culture (the impact
against the zeitgeist, the redemption of the centers