The ARTS verses the Emerging Church…

404332976_lI see a conflict of ideas from the desire in the emerging church to be creative, tell the story and foster a re-discovery of mystery and the activity of the arts.  I love this new movement to tell the story of the gospel as well as the proposition.  Where in evangelical circles the arts seem limited because of an over-focused over-emphasis on proposition which at times turn art into blatant propaganda the emerging church has problems with art, too.

The very ideas of being postmodern and finding and expressing the narrative makes for fertile soil for a musician to write music.  It breaths life into the visual arts–whether film or photography or painting.  I am a hack at painting (see the photo), but I love to do it.  I love photography, too.  One concept in discerning what is good art that seems to impact is the idea of form, composition, structure and technique.

Free expression without the tools, is a mess.  Have you ever sat through a recital of "a tonal" music?  Yikes.  That kind of music is so deconstructed that there is absolutely no form and therefore it is very hard to have any story telling aspect associated with it.  Without a scale, or even repetition it fails to move the listener or even the musician forward.

I have a jazz music background, and in that you learn "improv" where you can be pretty deconstructed but there is form, believe it or not. We learn the "II-V-I" progression and simply repeat the form in some way.  There are scales that have form like the Lydian scale.  That scale can be improvised but really only over certain harmonic structures otherwise it would move so far from any form that it would cease to move people forward.  The joy in jazz music is at its pinnacle when technique, form and freedom are all in balance.  Sounds like a balance worth seeing in theology and faith practice!

The emerging church wishes to deconstruct, but when form is completely removed, it loses forward motion and cannot tell a story.  After all, stories have plots and villains and highs and lows.  In our evangelical world artists are stifled by a misunderstanding of the importance of the narrative.  How in the world can you create without a plot line to express?  But, the emerging church seems like it could equally be difficult for us artists.

If you want structure, form and balance you might be seen as one who is too rigid to fit in.  The idea of self expression might overwhelm the subculture in a way that really gifted artists would have to wait in line behind the consensus of people who just took up painting a week ago.  The value is not really telling a story in that case–at least not effectively.  It would be like "a tonal" music.

In conclusion, I think Lincoln Brewster represents a Christian musical artist who can stand on his own in the real world of musical ideas.  He has a voice.  Yet, can we embrace an artist like him in our local churches?  Would we either make him a propaganda tool or make him stand in line behind the guys who strum three chords? 

The very gifted people I know need the church community and often are not understood, appreciated or challenged.  We need to learn how to tell the story and tell it very well!  We need these artists, musicians, writers, thinkers and creatives if we really want to impact our culture of which language they expertly speak.

 

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

40 comments

  1. Have you found anywhere in emerging that truly has no framework? no skeleton on which it lays flesh to bones? I haven’t experienced this. Deconstruction yes, but not without a framework. Even in the arts. But I’m open to revelation to the contrary.
    I think you make good points, I just want to be clear if you’re talking hypothetically or if you’ve seen this as a legitimate and/or growing problem

  2. Have you found anywhere in emerging that truly has no framework? no skeleton on which it lays flesh to bones? I haven’t experienced this. Deconstruction yes, but not without a framework. Even in the arts. But I’m open to revelation to the contrary.
    I think you make good points, I just want to be clear if you’re talking hypothetically or if you’ve seen this as a legitimate and/or growing problem

  3. Have you found anywhere in emerging that truly has no framework? no skeleton on which it lays flesh to bones? I haven’t experienced this. Deconstruction yes, but not without a framework. Even in the arts. But I’m open to revelation to the contrary.
    I think you make good points, I just want to be clear if you’re talking hypothetically or if you’ve seen this as a legitimate and/or growing problem

  4. Have you found anywhere in emerging that truly has no framework? no skeleton on which it lays flesh to bones? I haven’t experienced this. Deconstruction yes, but not without a framework. Even in the arts. But I’m open to revelation to the contrary.
    I think you make good points, I just want to be clear if you’re talking hypothetically or if you’ve seen this as a legitimate and/or growing problem

  5. sounds like someone has been reading blue like jazz or something like it. i am one who has talent in the very limiting area of modern worship songs. that is how i learned the music I play…but I do think that a lot of churches are limiting the arts to the songs we sing on Sunday. There is much to be discovered, even though it might not minister to me. Imago Dei does a great job of this I think.

  6. sounds like someone has been reading blue like jazz or something like it. i am one who has talent in the very limiting area of modern worship songs. that is how i learned the music I play…but I do think that a lot of churches are limiting the arts to the songs we sing on Sunday. There is much to be discovered, even though it might not minister to me. Imago Dei does a great job of this I think.

  7. sounds like someone has been reading blue like jazz or something like it. i am one who has talent in the very limiting area of modern worship songs. that is how i learned the music I play…but I do think that a lot of churches are limiting the arts to the songs we sing on Sunday. There is much to be discovered, even though it might not minister to me. Imago Dei does a great job of this I think.

  8. sounds like someone has been reading blue like jazz or something like it. i am one who has talent in the very limiting area of modern worship songs. that is how i learned the music I play…but I do think that a lot of churches are limiting the arts to the songs we sing on Sunday. There is much to be discovered, even though it might not minister to me. Imago Dei does a great job of this I think.

  9. I agree. However, I believe this is a more serious problem with the emerging church than even you expose here. If one of “Christian” art’s jobs is to reflect who God is, bring glory to Him, etc., who are we take away logic and structure? After all, God is in many ways beyond comprehension, but He has divinely revealed to us that He is a God of purpose and order. If the emergent church’s art takes these facets of Holy God away, I believe with all my heart that they are [unintentionally] telling the world that God is something He clearly is not.
    I am BY NO MEANS saying that God cannot be worshiped through all forms of art and creativity. On the contrary, I am an ardent advocate of celebrating God’s grace and glory through the arts. However, Paul shows us a more excellent way: orderly church services wherein people serve according to their gifts, not according to their hobbies.

  10. I agree. However, I believe this is a more serious problem with the emerging church than even you expose here. If one of “Christian” art’s jobs is to reflect who God is, bring glory to Him, etc., who are we take away logic and structure? After all, God is in many ways beyond comprehension, but He has divinely revealed to us that He is a God of purpose and order. If the emergent church’s art takes these facets of Holy God away, I believe with all my heart that they are [unintentionally] telling the world that God is something He clearly is not.
    I am BY NO MEANS saying that God cannot be worshiped through all forms of art and creativity. On the contrary, I am an ardent advocate of celebrating God’s grace and glory through the arts. However, Paul shows us a more excellent way: orderly church services wherein people serve according to their gifts, not according to their hobbies.

  11. I agree. However, I believe this is a more serious problem with the emerging church than even you expose here. If one of “Christian” art’s jobs is to reflect who God is, bring glory to Him, etc., who are we take away logic and structure? After all, God is in many ways beyond comprehension, but He has divinely revealed to us that He is a God of purpose and order. If the emergent church’s art takes these facets of Holy God away, I believe with all my heart that they are [unintentionally] telling the world that God is something He clearly is not.
    I am BY NO MEANS saying that God cannot be worshiped through all forms of art and creativity. On the contrary, I am an ardent advocate of celebrating God’s grace and glory through the arts. However, Paul shows us a more excellent way: orderly church services wherein people serve according to their gifts, not according to their hobbies.

  12. I agree. However, I believe this is a more serious problem with the emerging church than even you expose here. If one of “Christian” art’s jobs is to reflect who God is, bring glory to Him, etc., who are we take away logic and structure? After all, God is in many ways beyond comprehension, but He has divinely revealed to us that He is a God of purpose and order. If the emergent church’s art takes these facets of Holy God away, I believe with all my heart that they are [unintentionally] telling the world that God is something He clearly is not.
    I am BY NO MEANS saying that God cannot be worshiped through all forms of art and creativity. On the contrary, I am an ardent advocate of celebrating God’s grace and glory through the arts. However, Paul shows us a more excellent way: orderly church services wherein people serve according to their gifts, not according to their hobbies.

  13. Hi Mak–my experience has shown me evidence that in this newer movement there is as much danger as in the older of not propping up the artist. “Professional” church artists, musicians and the like are really looked down upon in the emerging church, unless you are supported from outside the church. The point is, how does one promote and launch artists from the church? Is there a vision for funding an artist? If story, mystery and beauty is valued, then the emerging churches should each support a professional story teller who can mentor other artists and allow the power of narrative to be expressed with more clarity.
    I would say there is resistance to this since it is not egalitarian and puts a very skilled artist “above” those who think they are artists. This is what I have seen and hope will not be the norm.

    I am not saying, however that there is no structure or framework for the actual ministries, just not one that supports artists in the way I am asking about. And, it is “asking” more than telling.

  14. Hi Mak–my experience has shown me evidence that in this newer movement there is as much danger as in the older of not propping up the artist. “Professional” church artists, musicians and the like are really looked down upon in the emerging church, unless you are supported from outside the church. The point is, how does one promote and launch artists from the church? Is there a vision for funding an artist? If story, mystery and beauty is valued, then the emerging churches should each support a professional story teller who can mentor other artists and allow the power of narrative to be expressed with more clarity.
    I would say there is resistance to this since it is not egalitarian and puts a very skilled artist “above” those who think they are artists. This is what I have seen and hope will not be the norm.

    I am not saying, however that there is no structure or framework for the actual ministries, just not one that supports artists in the way I am asking about. And, it is “asking” more than telling.

  15. Hi Mak–my experience has shown me evidence that in this newer movement there is as much danger as in the older of not propping up the artist. “Professional” church artists, musicians and the like are really looked down upon in the emerging church, unless you are supported from outside the church. The point is, how does one promote and launch artists from the church? Is there a vision for funding an artist? If story, mystery and beauty is valued, then the emerging churches should each support a professional story teller who can mentor other artists and allow the power of narrative to be expressed with more clarity.
    I would say there is resistance to this since it is not egalitarian and puts a very skilled artist “above” those who think they are artists. This is what I have seen and hope will not be the norm.

    I am not saying, however that there is no structure or framework for the actual ministries, just not one that supports artists in the way I am asking about. And, it is “asking” more than telling.

  16. Hi Mak–my experience has shown me evidence that in this newer movement there is as much danger as in the older of not propping up the artist. “Professional” church artists, musicians and the like are really looked down upon in the emerging church, unless you are supported from outside the church. The point is, how does one promote and launch artists from the church? Is there a vision for funding an artist? If story, mystery and beauty is valued, then the emerging churches should each support a professional story teller who can mentor other artists and allow the power of narrative to be expressed with more clarity.
    I would say there is resistance to this since it is not egalitarian and puts a very skilled artist “above” those who think they are artists. This is what I have seen and hope will not be the norm.

    I am not saying, however that there is no structure or framework for the actual ministries, just not one that supports artists in the way I am asking about. And, it is “asking” more than telling.

  17. Tom–my attempt is to not critique or expose the emerging church as a whole (which is impossible for me to do in a post) but only compare the issue of supporting the arts.
    Your point about orderly gifts, however, is a great point. What that means is harder to flesh out but it is something we should struggle with gladly.

  18. Tom–my attempt is to not critique or expose the emerging church as a whole (which is impossible for me to do in a post) but only compare the issue of supporting the arts.
    Your point about orderly gifts, however, is a great point. What that means is harder to flesh out but it is something we should struggle with gladly.

  19. Tom–my attempt is to not critique or expose the emerging church as a whole (which is impossible for me to do in a post) but only compare the issue of supporting the arts.
    Your point about orderly gifts, however, is a great point. What that means is harder to flesh out but it is something we should struggle with gladly.

  20. Tom–my attempt is to not critique or expose the emerging church as a whole (which is impossible for me to do in a post) but only compare the issue of supporting the arts.
    Your point about orderly gifts, however, is a great point. What that means is harder to flesh out but it is something we should struggle with gladly.

  21. Awesome, touched a few more nerves here it looks like. Using buzzwords like emerging and postmodern always gets people’s panties in a bunch, LOVE IT!!!
    It once again boils down to preference, as long as it goes with what the word of God is saying then go with it.

    Oh yeah, by the way was Jesus a political figure, might as well stir up something else, please don’t respond.

  22. Awesome, touched a few more nerves here it looks like. Using buzzwords like emerging and postmodern always gets people’s panties in a bunch, LOVE IT!!!
    It once again boils down to preference, as long as it goes with what the word of God is saying then go with it.

    Oh yeah, by the way was Jesus a political figure, might as well stir up something else, please don’t respond.

  23. Awesome, touched a few more nerves here it looks like. Using buzzwords like emerging and postmodern always gets people’s panties in a bunch, LOVE IT!!!
    It once again boils down to preference, as long as it goes with what the word of God is saying then go with it.

    Oh yeah, by the way was Jesus a political figure, might as well stir up something else, please don’t respond.

  24. Awesome, touched a few more nerves here it looks like. Using buzzwords like emerging and postmodern always gets people’s panties in a bunch, LOVE IT!!!
    It once again boils down to preference, as long as it goes with what the word of God is saying then go with it.

    Oh yeah, by the way was Jesus a political figure, might as well stir up something else, please don’t respond.

  25. I went to a leadership summit sponsored by Willow Creek this summer. They used a wide variety of artistic expressions, many of which we quite moving and beautiful. They were also varied and involved persons of many ages and ethnicities.
    At one point, however, some “break dancers” (if that’s what you call them) took the stage and did their thing. It was great to see young mostly African-American and Hispanic young men be involved in a church thing.

    But I couldn’t help but wonder – where is the Gospel in this?

  26. I went to a leadership summit sponsored by Willow Creek this summer. They used a wide variety of artistic expressions, many of which we quite moving and beautiful. They were also varied and involved persons of many ages and ethnicities.
    At one point, however, some “break dancers” (if that’s what you call them) took the stage and did their thing. It was great to see young mostly African-American and Hispanic young men be involved in a church thing.

    But I couldn’t help but wonder – where is the Gospel in this?

  27. I went to a leadership summit sponsored by Willow Creek this summer. They used a wide variety of artistic expressions, many of which we quite moving and beautiful. They were also varied and involved persons of many ages and ethnicities.
    At one point, however, some “break dancers” (if that’s what you call them) took the stage and did their thing. It was great to see young mostly African-American and Hispanic young men be involved in a church thing.

    But I couldn’t help but wonder – where is the Gospel in this?

  28. I went to a leadership summit sponsored by Willow Creek this summer. They used a wide variety of artistic expressions, many of which we quite moving and beautiful. They were also varied and involved persons of many ages and ethnicities.
    At one point, however, some “break dancers” (if that’s what you call them) took the stage and did their thing. It was great to see young mostly African-American and Hispanic young men be involved in a church thing.

    But I couldn’t help but wonder – where is the Gospel in this?

  29. Pete–I think the gospel would be in it if they were telling their particular story somehow. It might have been weird to not hear them share their context.
    Dance is a particularly interesting and powerful form that can be an amazing story telling tool. I, of course, cannot dance at all! However, I think everyone should dance, just not in public.;)

  30. Pete–I think the gospel would be in it if they were telling their particular story somehow. It might have been weird to not hear them share their context.
    Dance is a particularly interesting and powerful form that can be an amazing story telling tool. I, of course, cannot dance at all! However, I think everyone should dance, just not in public.;)

  31. Pete–I think the gospel would be in it if they were telling their particular story somehow. It might have been weird to not hear them share their context.
    Dance is a particularly interesting and powerful form that can be an amazing story telling tool. I, of course, cannot dance at all! However, I think everyone should dance, just not in public.;)

  32. Pete–I think the gospel would be in it if they were telling their particular story somehow. It might have been weird to not hear them share their context.
    Dance is a particularly interesting and powerful form that can be an amazing story telling tool. I, of course, cannot dance at all! However, I think everyone should dance, just not in public.;)

  33. Rich, great post!I would like to touch on the dance thing. In my former ministry, even in a “contemporary” style of service (I hate having to refer to it that way, worship is worship no matter the style preference) we had quite a bit of rigidity.

    I had a 12 year old voice student who was an excellent dancer. We ended up selecting a song from Barlow Girl for her to sing and she, along with two other youth group friends put together a beautiful dance. She danced and sang while the other two danced and it was one of the creative things our church had done in the 4 years I had been there as the worship minister. The leadership promptly squashed any ideas we had of doing something like that again because they felt too many people were uncomfortable, including themselves.

    I understand the need for orderly worship but when something that is pure and holy is cast aside in fear because it is an artistic expression and goes against the grain of the church’s tradition then I think there is a problem. In this case, it was not a free form of expression but something we planned and rehearsed for two solid months so that the dance and clothing was appropriate and my student could be equipped to sing and dance together.

    I am saddened when we try to force worhsip into a small box because we believe that is what God wants and expects. He is more concerned about the hearts of those gathered in worship than he is about musical style, sermon content, drama, choirs etc.

    Amos 5:21-23 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”

    If the heart is wrong it doesn’t matter about dance, music, or anything else…it is destible to God.

  34. Rich, great post!I would like to touch on the dance thing. In my former ministry, even in a “contemporary” style of service (I hate having to refer to it that way, worship is worship no matter the style preference) we had quite a bit of rigidity.

    I had a 12 year old voice student who was an excellent dancer. We ended up selecting a song from Barlow Girl for her to sing and she, along with two other youth group friends put together a beautiful dance. She danced and sang while the other two danced and it was one of the creative things our church had done in the 4 years I had been there as the worship minister. The leadership promptly squashed any ideas we had of doing something like that again because they felt too many people were uncomfortable, including themselves.

    I understand the need for orderly worship but when something that is pure and holy is cast aside in fear because it is an artistic expression and goes against the grain of the church’s tradition then I think there is a problem. In this case, it was not a free form of expression but something we planned and rehearsed for two solid months so that the dance and clothing was appropriate and my student could be equipped to sing and dance together.

    I am saddened when we try to force worhsip into a small box because we believe that is what God wants and expects. He is more concerned about the hearts of those gathered in worship than he is about musical style, sermon content, drama, choirs etc.

    Amos 5:21-23 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”

    If the heart is wrong it doesn’t matter about dance, music, or anything else…it is destible to God.

  35. Rich, great post!I would like to touch on the dance thing. In my former ministry, even in a “contemporary” style of service (I hate having to refer to it that way, worship is worship no matter the style preference) we had quite a bit of rigidity.

    I had a 12 year old voice student who was an excellent dancer. We ended up selecting a song from Barlow Girl for her to sing and she, along with two other youth group friends put together a beautiful dance. She danced and sang while the other two danced and it was one of the creative things our church had done in the 4 years I had been there as the worship minister. The leadership promptly squashed any ideas we had of doing something like that again because they felt too many people were uncomfortable, including themselves.

    I understand the need for orderly worship but when something that is pure and holy is cast aside in fear because it is an artistic expression and goes against the grain of the church’s tradition then I think there is a problem. In this case, it was not a free form of expression but something we planned and rehearsed for two solid months so that the dance and clothing was appropriate and my student could be equipped to sing and dance together.

    I am saddened when we try to force worhsip into a small box because we believe that is what God wants and expects. He is more concerned about the hearts of those gathered in worship than he is about musical style, sermon content, drama, choirs etc.

    Amos 5:21-23 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”

    If the heart is wrong it doesn’t matter about dance, music, or anything else…it is destible to God.

  36. Rich, great post!I would like to touch on the dance thing. In my former ministry, even in a “contemporary” style of service (I hate having to refer to it that way, worship is worship no matter the style preference) we had quite a bit of rigidity.

    I had a 12 year old voice student who was an excellent dancer. We ended up selecting a song from Barlow Girl for her to sing and she, along with two other youth group friends put together a beautiful dance. She danced and sang while the other two danced and it was one of the creative things our church had done in the 4 years I had been there as the worship minister. The leadership promptly squashed any ideas we had of doing something like that again because they felt too many people were uncomfortable, including themselves.

    I understand the need for orderly worship but when something that is pure and holy is cast aside in fear because it is an artistic expression and goes against the grain of the church’s tradition then I think there is a problem. In this case, it was not a free form of expression but something we planned and rehearsed for two solid months so that the dance and clothing was appropriate and my student could be equipped to sing and dance together.

    I am saddened when we try to force worhsip into a small box because we believe that is what God wants and expects. He is more concerned about the hearts of those gathered in worship than he is about musical style, sermon content, drama, choirs etc.

    Amos 5:21-23 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”

    If the heart is wrong it doesn’t matter about dance, music, or anything else…it is destible to God.

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