Note: The symposium proposes 6 questions, each of which is to
be addressed in a plenary talk. The questions begin with
a fundamental concern (taking us back to Genesis) and end
with a view to the future (forecasting 50 years forward).
GOSPEL: In what way is art a gift, a calling, and
In what way, that is, does art tell us about the nature
of God (that everything is gift), the nature of human beings
(that we are made in the image of a Gift-giver), and the
nature of earth-tilling and Gospel-living (that we are
responsible servants who have been commissioned to make
artistic culture in the context of a fallen world)?
Our desire here is to help pastors understand the relation
of art to God, to ourselves as humans, and to our calling as
culture-makers, filling the earth with artistic goodness one
square inch at a time. This talk is foundational in nature
and will be presupposed by the later talks.
#1: Andy Crouch (editorial director, “The
Christian Vision Project,” columnist,
author, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling)
THE PASTOR: How is the pastor an artist
and the artist, a pastor?
can a pastor see himself as an artist? How can he learn
to think artistically, or live artfully, or grow in the
the shepherding of words and people which is also the
art of love? On the other hand, how can the artist see
as a shepherd? How can artists see themselves as uniquely
anointed shepherds of the imagination, of emotions, of
ideas, of physical
matter, of beauty?
Pastors and artists are both in the business of shepherding.
Both are called to live their lives artfully. The work
of pastoring is both a science and an art. The work of
art-making is both
a provocation and a care-taking. Our desire here is to
help the pastor and the artist grow in their understanding
of their kindred work: of shepherding, of art-making.
#2: Eugene Peterson (pastor, author, poet)
THE WORSHIP: How can our actions and spaces
be artfully shaped?
How can our corporate actions (the liturgy) and physical
spaces (the architecture) be informed by an artistic
perspective? How, in fact, can the arts reinforce
and enliven our theological
convictions about worship?
Our desire here is to help pastors and church leaders
understand the peculiar nature of the arts as epistemological
to our knowledge and experience of God as well as
media to support
our theological commitments as a community; but also
to challenge and expand them when necessary. The
not neutral. They
can aid or hinder our corporate experience. They
can conserve, confront, grow and revive our traditions.
And each artistic
media will do so in unique ways.
For us as pastors to become wise stewards of
the arts we need to have a basic understanding of
the “liturgical” function
of the arts and a basic sense of how the different
arts perform this function in unique ways.
The purpose of this
talk, in short, is to offer a basic landscape of
artfully shaped actions and spaces.
#3: John Witvliet (associate professor of music and worship,
Calvin College; director, Calvin
THE ARTIST: What is an artist and how do we
shepherd these strange creatures?
What is the anatomy of an artist? What is their
peculiar nature? What do artists need to be healthy,
persons? What do artists need but don’t
immediately realize they need? How can we provide
spiritual formation as well as community
opportunities for expression for the artists
in our care?
Our desire here is to help pastors understand
the way God has created artists. Artists don’t need to be idolized or marginalized—often
the two primary ways our culture treats them—they
need to be loved with understanding, appreciated
for the often non-useful,
non-marketable but glory-bearing work they create,
and invited into the gracious lordship of Christ
and the protective, generous
care of His Body, the Church.
Our desire, more fully then, is to help pastors
understand artists so they can shepherd them
well, with skill
and wisdom, with love
and joy, whether the artists are serving the
liturgy or the community or the culture at large or perhaps
to sit in the
pew and be loved for who they are, not for what
they can do.
#4: Barbara Nicolosi (screenwriter, columnist, executive
director, Act One, Inc., Hollywood)
THE DANGERS: What are the dangers of artistic
How can the arts undermine
the calling and mission of the Church? What
are the possible excesses and misuses of the
in a church
in the worship, in the discipleship, in evangelism
Our desire here is to help pastors anticipate
potential dangers in their use of the arts.
What works at
the playhouse may
not be suitable for the sanctuary. The experience
of art can become
a substitute for an experience of God. The
stirring of emotions may simply be that: emotions,
a stirring towards transformation.
There can be too much wow factor, or technological
or spectatorship instead of participation in
the worship of God.
More art is not necessarily better. What is
old can be deadening. What is new can be inappropriate
life to one congregation may bring death to
All of this compels us to seek wisdom from
above so that we
may be as shrewd
as serpents and innocent as doves in our shepherding
of the artists among us.
#5: David Taylor (pastor, playwright, teacher)
THE FUTURE: What is a vision of the evangelical
Church in the year 2058?
Where was the evangelical Church with the
arts back in 1958? What movements, trends,
to be aware of? What concerns face us?
What are the hopes
that lie before us?
The sons of Issachar of 1 Chronicles 12:32
were men who understood the times, knew
what to do,
Our desire here
is to help pastors and artists become far-sighted
Christians. We want to understand the spirit
of the age, not become
married to it. We want to be immersed in
the culture but not trapped
inside it. We want to be present to our
contemporary times, careful students of
history, and keen
observers of the
political, technological, commercial, religious and so on—that
carry us, sometimes forcefully, into our common future.
Our desire is not only to learn from our
past mistakes but to anticipate the brokennesses
that lie ahead
so that we
clear-headed and nimble-footed in our gospel
work. How can we as the church release
our artists to
with the weighty wisdom of past generations
and the welfare of future generations in
#6: Jeremy Begbie (associate principle, Ridley Hall, Cambridge
Imagination and the Arts)
(to be explored in the panels, seminars and workshops)
THE CULTURE: How can art serve the culture-transforming
mission of the Church?
How can we as the Church provide both “bread” and “yeast”: “bread” in
the form of Church-sponsored art events that explicitly reach
out to the non-believing community and “yeast” by
way of an incarnational presence through the lives of believer
artists who are working within and alongside the artistic
community in our cities?
Our desire here is to help pastors understand the different
means and unique ways in which art can reshape our culture.
We want to help them envision ways to release the artists
in their community to create work that awakens desire in
our neighbors for the good, the true and the beautiful. We
want to expose them to works of art that subtly and allusively
or provocatively and daringly challenge the deceptions which
disfigure us and pull us away from our Maker. We want to
help pastors know how to honor and bless the artists who
might already be working professionally in the art community
In short, the double question is this: 1) How can a church
create transformative art works and 2) how can it serve its
artists who are already doing the gospel work of salt and
light in their professional settings?