How Can the Church and Artists Work Together?

HOW CAN THE CHURCH and artists work together to glorify god and advance his mission?

Brett McCracken     |     APRIL 3, 2019     |    2 MIN READ     |    3 MIN WATCH

Note from SOLA: This video was recorded during The SOLA Conference 2019. Below is a transcript of the video. It has been lightly edited for readability.

As tense and as kind of fraught the relationship between the church and artists has been in the past, there's a lot of great things the two offer each other. One thing the church offers the artist is limitation, which sounds counterintuitive that that's a good thing, but artists can be prone to be freewheeling — everywhere and nowhere. They actually need limitations. Orson Welles said, “The enemy of the art is the absence of limitation.” So you actually thrive as an artist when you have limitations.

The church offers a place where you can be grounded and focused with moral limitations and thematic limitations. That could be a great thing for artists, and they can thrive in that environment.

I also think that the church offers inspiration to artists. Throughout Christian history, the church has been a source of major inspiration. We think back to Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel and the great composers of sacred music. And it's sad that we've kind of lost that today. I would love to see the church become this source of inspiration, where the rich theology, the Bible, Scripture, the community of the church is a great environment that is fruitful for artistic creation.

The artist likewise offers some things to the church. One thing is translation. Artists can be a great ambassador-translator between the church and the culture. Especially in a post-Christian culture where increasingly the church and the culture are miles apart and a little bit indecipherable to each other, artists can be a great intermediary to help translate what’s going on in the culture. Artists have a pulse on the culture, and they sense the questions and the things that are in the ether in the culture. They can translate that to the church in a really productive way.

And another obvious thing that art and artists give to the church is beautification. Left to ourselves, churches can be these kind of ugly, message-only places where it's all about efficiency, productivity, pragmatism, and getting the message out as efficiently as possible. It's a great impulse that we have, but we need space, and we need beauty. We need to recover the idea of the Sabbath and the spacious kind of beauty that is our Creator.

Our Creator God is an extravagant God. He’s an artist, and he made the world to be so much more extravagantly beautiful than it needed to be.

As people who worship a God like that, we need to manifest that in our churches and in our lives, and artists remind us of that. They help slow us down and focus on beauty and abundance rather than just mere utility.

Brett McCracken is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. He also serves on the SOLA Editorial Board. He is the author of Hipster Christianity: When Church & Cool Collide (Baker, 2010), Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism & Liberty (Baker, 2013), and Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community (Crossway, 2017).