DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Intersection

Written by: on September 15, 2016

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Twice a week, I get the great joy of picking my girls up from school.  It is something I look forward to every time.  There is one part of the trip that I really despise though.  There is an intersection at the corner of the school that is pretty impossible to navigate.  When you are sitting at the stop sign with a flurry of cars, crossing guards, students and parents, it is hard to determine who the next person to go at the intersection is. It becomes chaotic. There are many starts and quick stops because everybody is trying to get home quickly.  Without a proper balance of cars, crossing guards, kids and moms, one can easily get injured.

 

Summary

Upon reading Visual Faith by William Dryness, I could not help but to think of harmony and balance that a church leader must have.   Dyrness does his best in his work to explain how art plays a role in worship settings and without the outward expression, the inward man is truly lacking in faith.  Dyrness traces art through the middle ages where he believes the desire for artistic pursuits of God got lost.  He states, “Protestant Christians in some ways never left the arena of the arts, but after the Reformation the arts were no longer welcomed in the church….the spaces made for worship were not friendly to elaborate visual elements, for they were seen as distractions from true worship, which always focused on the preached Word (Dyrnes, p. 13).”  Dyrness then tries to explain how the church needs to discover again art and the artist in order to propel worship to a deeper level.

 

Reflection

While I do agree with Dyrness on many levels, there must be a balance to it all.  Like the busy intersection, each particular aspect of worship must know its place.  A reliance on too much of the outward expression could lead to sentimentalism, and a church that never allows for outward expression of worship through art or other means may also become wooden and rigid.  Faith, art, and worship must operate in conjunction with one another.

My one objection to Dyrness is his thoughts on the Reformation and Protestants. I am not sure he has a handle on their belief systems.  One of the main reasons that Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and other Protestants focused so much on the preaching of the Word was due to the lack of it within their context.  The Catholic tradition prior to the Reformation bordered on idolatry with a dearth of Biblical preaching.   Their push against artistic expression in worship was to place the Word of God front and center and not art.

In a sense, Pentecostals and other Charismatic groups do the same things the Catholics did centuries ago.  Instead of art or images, Pentecostals at times place the worship song service or the move of the Holy Spirit above the preaching of the Word of God, but none of those things should replace the priority of the Word of God.  I believe the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy makes that clear.

Conclusion

The church must strike a healthy balance between outward expressions of worship and inward devotion.  The church must also find ways for the artist to unleash their worship.  As a Protestant, I side with the old reformers, the art should never distract from the word of God, and instead it should accentuate the beauty of it.  When this takes place, I believe the church can achieve Jesus’ desire and that is to worship in both Spirit and in truth.

 

About the Author

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Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

10 responses to “The Intersection”

  1. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason,

    A question prompted by your comments that Calvin et al were reacting to he Catholic church. (I agree with you about that.)

    With the need to be balanced with Word, Sacrament, Arts, etc… If you are preaching a sermon on Isaiah 6 or Revelation 4 and 5, would you consider using visual aids to those graphic descriptions of the Throne Room of heaven? If so, what might you use, and how? How would you make sure the art enhanced and did not distract from the Word of God?

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Marc,
      Great question. Those things may be best left to the author of Isaiah and Revelation. I do use visual aids at times. Today, I spoke about the widows oil, so I had pots on the stage. To me, art is an accentuater and not a distraction.

  2. Aaron Cole says:

    Jason,

    Great blog! Great point on Charismatics and Pentecostals bordering on excess in the visual art as opposed to proclaimaition of the Word. What is the balance? Any suggestions or examples of what the balance looks like in 21st century?

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      AC
      Good question. I think people can be prone to make the illustration or visual the main thing. It is a form of eisegesis. I think we must take the visual and make it the prop and not the scriptures.

  3. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason:

    I agree on many fronts with you. It does seem that the “church” has a tendency to take something expressive and “deify” it too. The iconoclasts became expressions of faith that eventually became objects of worship.

    Do you see anything in today’s culture that is approaching cross the “sacred boundary”?

    Great job.

    Phil

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Phil,
      Off hand, I think we deify experiences. Don’t miss understand me, experiences matter, but that is how we judge everything. We deify it so much that people care less about doctrine and replace it with how a place or experience makes them feel.
      Now, I did preach a message on place a couple of weeks ago. It does matter, but it matters because it helps us connect to God. Experiences matter but we at times worship at the altar of feelings.

  4. Jason,

    Do you think Pentecostal churches though have swung the other direction? Using new projectors and visual images to replace the “authentic” move of the Spirit. Waiting for the Spirit to speak and to be interpreted has been replaced, I believe, often by music or images that move people to a place of spirituality! Strange how things repeat isn’t it. Thanks for a great take on this book .

    Kevin

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Kev,
      Yes. I do think that is it at times. I think we as churches should unplug completely from time to time.

      Visuals are props. Great props. But props nonetheless.

  5. Hi Jason. Nice blog. I like how you relate a bit of church history to current pentecostals and charismatics. The Word of God must be central. I know that has been a critique of the Vineyard in the past. Some said the Vineyard was too focussed on music and worship and not the Word. I wonder where we are at now? Thanks for the thought provoking reflection.

  6. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Jason,
    You stated that “Pentecostals at times place the worship song service or the move of the Holy Spirit above the preaching of the Word of God, but none of those things should replace the priority of the Word of God.” I’ve seen that on many occasions throughout my ministry. One of the reasons I’ve noticed that most churches don’t know the pulse or worship culture of their congregation so when something seems effective, they try to hold onto it. I used to get offended when people say, “worship was great today” because I immediately wondered about the other days. At one of our campus sites that I frequent, we have great worship almost every week. I don’t lead worship there but the people tells every week. In those “off” weeks, they’d tell us something us “off” and we’d know it as well.

    I oversee the music for all our campus sites and while I have the option to try and duplicate systems, I allow the culture to help shape our worship theology. If we create a predetermined worship without cultural permission, inconsistency is inevitable. Since God’s Word is central, we are intentional in singing songs that create a seamless transition into the sermon. As you suggested, everything requires balance.

    Great blog with historical context.
    Garfield

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