Glory of God | Beauty of the Church | Good of the World
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Whether we realize it or not, we all consume art.
Other than God’s wilderness, everything you see, touch, taste, smell, and hear was formed by human hands from something. Someone took raw materials and gave them shape. This includes:
- the game you played with your children last night
- the TV show you watched before bed
- the pancakes you enjoyed this morning
- the song you listened to on your commute
- the device you are reading this on
What you consume may be minimalist or ornate. It may be pleasing to your sight, or it may be hideous. But as human creatures we have five senses through which art and culture pour into our minds and hearts in a steady stream throughout the day; we don’t have a choice about experiencing it.
This is true within the church walls as well.
Throughout the centuries since Acts, the church has taken on an incredible array of architectural forms. These structures vary in their design and the culture they display inside and out, but they all have this in common: the spaces they inhabit are significant. The symbols they use are important. They are representative of a certain view of the world, of the human experience, of the relationship between God and man; of the sacred and the transcendent.
In the third world, this may be a solitary cross hanging in a stucco building. In high churches it is the stained glass, the arches, and the organ. In most contemporary Protestant churches it’s somewhere in between. But again, there is no avoiding it. The aesthetics of your church’s meeting place—from the facade to the walls to the halls—matter.
And so the questions we must ask of each space are:
- What does it communicate subliminally?
- What is its effect on the congregation’s senses?
- Is it cold and stolid, or does it encourage wonder and worship?
- How good, true, and beautiful are the items displayed?
- Are they excessively sentimental, blunting the rawness of scripture?
- Are they just there to fill space, or do they demonstrate craftsmanship?
- Do they appeal to both genders?
- Does this place aim our hearts toward things above, or low desires?
God instructs his church to think about things that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8), and we want to make things that represent these qualities and impress them on the minds and hearts of God’s people.
Art-making can be a lonely endeavor, but the best of it arises out of community. At A|C we hope to help believers unify around communal art projects, aim those projects at hearts, and create an atmosphere in which both seasoned and budding artists are free to explore the great doctrines of the church, experiment with expressions of truth, and push the boundaries of their God-given talents.
We see this as a real opportunity for discipleship. We want to welcome young artists into a encouraging, honest, scripture-saturated community that helps them hone their craft in spiritually healthy ways, guided by a theologically robust view of God's work and their role in the church and the world.
And we want to cultivate good art. We want the soil of our church to be fertile ground from which sprout the next Bachs, Lewises, and Fujimaras.
The most beautiful thing in any church is, of course, its saints walking in unity, growing in their love for Christ, and learning to serve Him with their gifts.
We hope to provide reviews of work and host workshops that give language to those wanting to learn more about this area. We want to encourage the body to consider the things they surround themselves with every day and how those things are shaping them.
Art-making and art-viewing are both forms of meditation. They helps us slow down and admire the Lord. They help us grasp at an emotional, spiritual level who he is, and embrace him. They provoke us and provide space for us to worship.
We become what we behold, and we want our church to behold the stories, images, and metaphors of scripture, culminating in the risen Christ.
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THREE WAYS we will work for the beauty of the church:
1| create through images, stories, videos, and songs that aim her desires toward the risen Christ
2| cultivate a rich culture for budding artists to grow and develop with robust orthodox theology as their guide
3| help the saints become more aware of and fluent in the art they absorb and how it shapes them
Curtis is a writer, media strategist, and editor at A|C. He can't stand Tolkien, loves Lewis, and wants to be Chesterton. Curtis and his wife Emily have four boys, Damon, Luke, Cameron, and Henry.