The Arts and Church Planting: An Act of Creating Beauty
by Bill Drake
The triune God of the Bible timelessly exists in perfect love, unity and community. He reveals Himself to man through His Word, His prophets, His Son and His creation. His glory shown throughout the universe is the manifestation of His presence, the majestic expression of His divine person and character. That He is ‘beautiful’ is without dispute. 1
God’s beauty in Creation
Beauty is the reflection of this beautiful God in His creation. He is its author and arbiter (Ps. 19, Phil. 4:8, Song of Songs 4:7, Psalm 27:4). He spoke creation into being, but He did more than that: He universally and majestically decorated it and, after thousands of years and billions of words, the human race has still not run out of ways to describe it. “Beauty finds its roots in order…it brings order out of anarchy, harmony out of cacophony.” 2
God’s beauty in the Incarnation
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ embodies the Godhead in human form; the Word and image of the invisible God (Jn. 1:1, Col. 1:15). The Incarnation of Jesus Christ was the ultimate creative work of the Divine—His humanity being the pinnacle of God’s creation. 3 This has far-reaching theological and practical implications for the Church as His Body on earth. It also directly validates incarnational ministries such as the arts, business, medicine, and relief and development.
God’s beauty reflected in Human Culture
As image bearers made in imago dei, humans have the intrinsic ability to create beauty that reflects the Creator and His creation, and in the cultural mandate we have been given authority by God to create. Creation did not stop on the sixth day; human beings have been offered the privilege of participation with the Creator in His ongoing creative acts. The aesthetic value of art therefore finds its theological roots in both the image of God and the cultural mandate. 4
“The cultural mandate establishes that human creative activity is an act of obedience in response to a command of God and not just a superfluous pursuit that stands apart from man’s purpose on earth. Without finding its origin in this biblical command, art can be reduced to a mere luxury, hobby, or unnecessary element of life. Identifying how art comes from the image of God in man gives a clue to why man has the desire to create, and the cultural mandate brings to light art’s legitimacy, worth, and necessity in the world.” 5
Art is worldview incarnate, the reflection of the heart of a culture. We can understand a culture through its art. God, of course, has the final say on beauty, but He has given humans the ability and authority to create and measure what is beautiful subjectively, and to engage with it to reflect His greater purposes. Humans are therefore given the task of bringing beauty to a fallen world within every facet of culture—be it justice, worship or art.
“…to effectively reach our world for Christ, the leadership of the global church must regain a biblically based understanding of the role of the arts and the imagination in the proclamation of truth, and the discipleship of nations. World missions can no longer ignore…the place of the arts and the imagination in God’s world, the central role they play in the shaping of ideas and worldviews, and in culture formation and transformation.” 6
God’s Beauty Reflected in Redeemed- Community Worship
Indigenous art forms are employed in the worship of every religious system; in this sense, they are the universal human language of devotional expression. As an expression of the heart through the aesthetic of picture or song, as a prophetic signpost to the deeper implications of truth having transformed a life, or as a meditative aid to focusing one’s mind and heart on God’s revelation, the arts are indispensable when it comes to worship. For the Body of Christ, one need look no farther than the scriptures and church history to see that the people of God have throughout time employed song, lyrics, instruments, poetry, sculpture, weaving, engraving, painting, drama, and dance as vehicles for worship.
But there is also the beauty of the Church. The expression, diversity and ultimate manifestation on earth of the beauty of God is His Bride: unified, justified, sanctified, glorified. From the beauty of the wedding story—the bridegroom who passionately loves His bride to the death—to beautiful expressions of gratitude that pour from the hearts of the redeemed, beauty pervades ecclesiology. Thus, engaging in planting vibrant communities of Jesus followers is an act of proliferating beauty in a world so deeply bereft of it. The birthing of the Body and Bride of Christ in areas of the world where it is not creates beauty on many levels, not just aesthetically, but also in virtue, in order, in compassion and in justice.
Bill Drake is the Director of Catalytic Ministries for OM International, working with those who oversee Arts, Business, Sports, HIV+, Trafficking and Relief & Development Ministry. Bill lives with his wife Teresa in Atlanta, GA (USA). Bill’s passion is to engage with Jesus followers all over the world to empower them to express their faith and worship through their God-given gifts, talents, and expertise.
1. Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters
2. Sam Sinns, Art As Originating in the image of God, in man, and the Cultural Mandate, quoting Leland Ryken p.45
3. Bill Drake, Art In The Bible
4. Sam Sinns, Art As Originating in the image of God, in man, and the Cultural Mandate, p.43
5. Ibid p.27
6. Colin Harbinson, The Arts & Missions: The Recovery of the Arts & the Imagination
Photography by Dileep Ratnaike