Cohort LGP8’s Mark Peterson, in a former Zoom chat session, made a comment that I have not easily forgotten. I won’t get the wording exactly right, but he referred to aesthetic beauty enhancing worship–like stained glass, church architecture, and other scenic surroundings. I believe I remember him saying he wished we would return to more of this in worship. I had never thought of that before. It made me think…
Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue, by William Dyrness made me think even further. I must admit this topic is not my favorite (goes right up there with sharing my innermost feelings in my PLDP), but as always, I am open to my horizons expanding…
Although I might be the LEAST artistic person I know (I am more of a kinesthetic and experiential learner), my daughter is among the most creative. She has helped me see art in a whole new light, especially with worship. I think she would agree with our author who states, “Art, reflecting the order and wholeness of the world God created, can and should play an important role in modern Christianity.” 
To be honest, my background to art in worship was tainted because the athletes I hung around with rarely, if ever, appreciated artists and the artistic. To the contrary, we would make fun of anyone who did. Andrew Smith was right when he coined the phrase,
“People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” 
It took me decades to wrap my mind around what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8, bold mine). 
Thinking about the lovely as part of worship! I was thoughtfully in agreement with our author when he added:
In Churches, especially fast-growing charismatic and mega-churches, visual and dramatic arts are becoming a standard part of worship. Special effects, dramatic skits, movie clips, slides of artwork, to say nothing of worship bands, are common in “contemporary” worship services. While some may doubt whether these works of compositions will stand the test of time, or whether they are contributing to truly Biblical worship, clearly there is creative energy–and excitement–here.” 
My first introductions to artistic worship were not in the Protestant churches of my youth. Rather, I was introduced to beauty as worship by attending national conferences and participating in various examples of worship–Catalyst, Willow Creek Summit, Billion Souls, Outreach, Thrive, etc. I witnessed dancers, sand art, splash paint, acting dramas, and the video arts. My horizons were greatly expanded!
All this brings to mind another Scripture, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”(Romans 1:20).  The majesty off God’s beautiful creation draws us to recognize Him. I will be worshiping in God’s creation this Saturday for our deer opener, with my daughter…
In fairness, Brooklyn Tabernacle Pastor Jim Cymbala might disagree with this week’s book. He is famous for saying he sent his pastoral staff to conferences throughout the United States, and when his staff reported what they learned, he was appalled. They came back talking about fog machines and mood lighting, somehow focusing on man made techniques and visual trickery, rather than focusing on the Holy Spirit and kneeling in prayer. In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,Cymbala writes:
“In the church today, we are falling prey to the appeal of “New!” The old truths of the gospel don’t seem spectacular enough. We’re restless for the latest, greatest, newest teaching or technique. We pastors in particular seem to search for a shortcut or some dynamic new strategy that will fire up our churches.” 
Nonetheless, I understand how for some, visual imagery through the artistic is a valid form of worship, as long as one worships the Holy Artist rather than the art itself. We must see the art as pointing us to Christ, or else it is just eye candy.
Case in point, I visited the Vatican last year with my wife. We were absolutely amazed at the stunning imagery. Paintings, statues (by the thousands), tapestries, gold engravings, etc. We felt like we were in a worshipful setting! Pilgrims were walking on their KNEES to worship Jesus, praying diligently, carrying crosses. Unfortunately, the ornateness captured the attention of many in our group, rather than seeing the people worshipping the Savior. It was easy to be distracted and to forget why this was all here. It wasn’t for Popes (I don’t think), rather it was for the Master.
On a closing note, I have appreciated our “visual ethnography” experiences. There is something about the stories behind the pictures and videos. Our most recent zoom was fantastic hearing the thoughts behind the pictures our Cohort members chose…
 Dyrness, William A. Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. Baker Academic, 2003. 90.
 “Andrew Smith Quote.” Goodreads, Goodreads.com, Assessed 17 Oct. 2018, www.goodreads.com/quotes/612917.
 Barker, Kenneth L. Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2008. Philippians 4:8.
 Dyrness. 14.
 Barker. Romans 1:20.
 Cymbala, Jim, and Dean Merrill. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire: What Happens When God’s Spirit Invades the Heart of His People. Zondervan, 2018. 248.