This is a guest post by Mark Altrogge. Mark is a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA.
In my last post I mentioned how my wife once asked a young lady and musician what church her band was part of, to which she replied: “We don’t go to a church. The band is our church.” Artists can tend to be on the independent side, especially since the creation of art is often a solo endeavor. As a musician and artist, I could easily tend in that direction. But as a pastor, I have come to see over the years how every believer, especially artists desperately need and benefit immeasurably from the church. I gave 4 reasons in my last post and here are five more reasons why artists need the church.
Artists need to learn to be servants.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10).
Many artists feel like their gift is for self-expression, or to gain recognition for themselves. I so appreciate Ivan, a member of our church who is a painter and art prof who uses his talent to serve the kids and parents in our church. He painted beautiful, detailed, humorous murals of island scenes for our “Kids Cove” – Monkees sporting eye-patches and scimitars, pelicans in pirate hats amidst palm trees and beaches. I love pointing out to guests the detail he painted in a large tortoise’s eye. Ivan’s wife, Gina, also an artist, serves our teens by transforming our sanctuary for their meetings with fun, colorful decorations.
Barry, our lead guitarist, plays in a couple bands, where he melts faces with his shredding guitar solos. Yet on Sunday mornings he’s behind the singers worshiping God with tasteful licks that compliment the other musicians to make music that helps the congregation worship. Like Ivan and Gina and Barry, artists need the church so they might use their gifts to serve others.
Artists need to worship with others.
“…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph. 5:19). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
God intends for his people to worship him together. Yes, we can sing to Jesus driving in our car or making a sculpture in our studio, but we’re also to sing with other believers. Our worship with others is a preview of heaven where we will sing to Jesus together with those from every tribe and tongue and nation. There’s just no escaping it, the Christian life is not to be lived alone. We live it out with our fellow believers.
Artists need to share their struggles with others and pray with others
“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccles. 4:12). “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
God doesn’t intend for us to go through life alone. He gives us brothers and sisters to share our struggles and help bear our burdens. Yes, I usually work out my artistic challenges alone. I don’t need to share, “I’m really struggling to get the right shade of cadmium orange in this landscape” with others. But at times I need to ask others to pray for me if I’m discouraged or concerned about a family member. And I need to help my brothers and sisters bear their burdens. Remember the movie, Cast Away? The main character, Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) finds himself alone on an island after his plane crashes into the Pacific. He takes a Wilson volleyball from a package with a bloody handprint on it, and draws a face in it and starts talking to it. We just aren’t designed to go through life alone.
Artists need the church to assist them in witnessing for Christ
A gallery in Pittsburgh carries my paintings. The first time I met the owner and the manager I took a coffee table book of my paintings in for them peruse. They encouraged me about my work and asked me if I did this for a living. I told them I’d been an art major in college and got my Masters in Painting. Then I told them I’m a pastor.
For a few seconds they seemed shocked, or perplexed, as if painting and preaching don’t go together. I guess pastors aren’t supposed to be artists. Over the years I’ve had a few opportunities to share bits of the gospel with them. But one of my favorite times was last year when they graciously gave me a one-man show. Lots of my friends from church came to the opening. Afterwards one of the ladies said to my wife, “This was my favorite opening we’ve ever had, because your friends are all so nice.”
That was the highlight of my day – to know that my brothers and sisters had shown this woman the love of Jesus. I’m so grateful for my church.
Artists need the church! And the church needs artists!
If you’re a musician, or a potter, a chef, an actor, or any kind of artist, hope these posts encouraged you to get in the church. Last post I mentioned a young lady who said, “We don’t go to a church. The band is our church.” I hope she’s flourishing in a church now. For her sake and for the church’s sake. If she’s not, then she’s missing out on all kinds of blessings and benefits and some church is missing out on wonderful gifts God has given her to share with others. I’m sure glad the band is not my church. And I’m really glad my church is my church!