Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Nurturing Art in the Church

Written by: on September 9, 2015

As long as I have lived in Kansas there has been an ongoing Kansas School Board debate about school funding. Like many other States, Kansas never seems to have enough funding and no more wants to raise taxes for education. A few years ago the School Board threatened to defund the theater/arts/music programs in our schools. It ended up being an empty threat but it stirred something in our church that has continued to this day. The threat to defund theater/arts/music programs left us asking why we ever allowed the schools to be the primary teachers of Art in our community. Since then we’ve started weekly displaying Art based on the weekly teachings, we are encouraging song writing, and we are teaching photography classes. It’s been tough to initiate because as William Dyrness states in his book Visual Faith, “in recent history at least, art and Christian church have not been on good terms.[1]

A member of our church did this a few weeks ago when we taught Eph. 5:1-14

A member of our church did this a few weeks ago when we taught Eph. 5:1-14

Art and the church have become separated and specialized and I appreciate Dyrness pointing out the impact this has had on our ability to influence culture. As churches get larger and larger it becomes more difficult for your average Joe to contribute in worship through the Arts. Unless you’re a highly skilled musician, or have been painting for years and years, there’s little to no chance you’ll be visible to the corporate body. Some how this needs to change and our churches should create a nurturing atmosphere for those looking to develop their gifting’s in the Arts.

I really appreciated how Dyrness points out the critical importance of this issue for the Church. Dryness states, “this period of history…offers some unique opportunities for Christian witness and spirituality—not only to renew themselves but in doing so to impact the larger culture.[2]” Dryness goes on to say, “Art, then, may be a means, indeed one of the only means, that will catch the attention of this generation.[3]” I think Dryness may be overstating the significance of Art, yet I think he is onto something very important. Art/Theater/Music can grab the attention of culture and I would hope by releasing our imaginations to the work of the Holy Spirit we would strive for more then low budget B movies.

Steve Scott says, “Unless we are moving forward in seeking the genuine transformation of culture, then we are standing still and it is transforming us.[4]” I wonder how history will look back on us in regards to the arts? I wonder what the lasting pieces of Art will be from my generation? I wonder where the next great artists are going for their development and inspirations? I sure hope they are being given the opportunity in the Church.

I tend to hope, along with Dyrness, that the Spirit is coming upon God’s people in fresh ways and restoring a passion for the Arts that can have a positive impact on our culture[5]. I look forward to seeing this play out and I hope I am not one standing in the way of making it happen for others.


[1] William A. Dyrness, Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 11.

[2] Ibid., 21

[3] Ibid., 22

[4] Ibid., 23

[5] Ibid., 159

About the Author

Nick Martineau

Nick is a pastor at Hope Community Church in Andover, KS, founder of ILoveOrphans.com, and part of the LGP5 cohort.

8 responses to “Nurturing Art in the Church”

  1. Jon Spellman says:

    Nick, kudos to you and your team for enlarging the expressions of worship there in your church! It’s those kinds of creative, and a little bit risky steps that open the doors for more people to find their ways to Jesus.


  2. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Nick, On the topic of low budget B movies … aren’t they the worst. They make me cringe and want to run and hide. I have not thought of it in the culture sense, but it is important to consider how producing bad movies does cast a darkened shadow on the Church and Christianity when it comes to where you think of the art culture of the film industry. I am hoping to do a film project of some sort for my dissertation and my primary hope is that it is not a cheesy over simplified bad reflection on the arts in Christianity. Good thoughts and I love the painting based off of Eph 5.

    • Brian Yost says:

      I think there are things we present to others and things that are just between us and God. God gifts some people with abilities that need to be shared in the church and community. Others may create just for the experience of being a creative person made in the image of God. I have a sketch book that I use occasionally to draw a psalm that I am meditating on. It is a great experience and really helps me engage with the imagery used by the psalmist. They look like a 3-year-old drew them. I simply can’t draw. I will never display them to others. They are just for me and my Father.

  3. Dave Young says:

    Nick, That the church assessed it has a role in Art/Music/Theater, and that the body can and should value the part it plays is significant, and formative. I have two teenage daughters, the younger is a budding author, the older loves the visual arts and theater. Neither necessarily relate their artistic interests with what God is doing through them. If the church believed in and communicated the value of such art, and helped them connect the dots to how art can be their ministry it would help them look at the eternal value of how God has gifted them and can use them. Very helpful post.

  4. Travis Biglow says:

    Nick Like you the siginifiance of art today is something we would have to see how it would change things or inspire imagination. I do believe it could if it reached out to peoples problems and illustrated it out in Biblical ways. I like the photo that the guy preached on. I think that is a meaning ful way of utilizing art and visual messages do speak volumes. I just hope our generation does not become to boring and lacking in art and expression!

  5. Mary Pandiani says:

    Agree with your words, Nick. Especially love the responsiveness of your church to culture about art. Pretty amazing.
    What struck me, tho’, almost unrelated to art per-se was this statement: “I hope I am not one standing in the way of making it happen for others.” As pastors, shepherds of others, we desire to open up ways to “make things happen” for them. That means the other side of the coin happens too, standing in the way. It causes me to pause and remember, in any way that I hope to see God expressed, may it be offered in humility – whether in art, music, God’s word, dance, nature, coffee, and all the other ways that connect to people. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Brian Yost says:

    I love the way you are incorporating art into church. When we lived in Costa Rica, our church offered a twice weekly oil painting class. It was a hit with people from the church, but drew a lot of people from outside of the church as well. People like to create—and what better place to do so than in the church.

Leave a Reply