Most Christian art feels more like propaganda than truth.
Why is this?
Why is it that so much of the art I make/we make feels this way?
We’re afraid of our stories, so we give facts.
We’re afraid of an eternal end, so we push.
We’ve trained our church artists to be more like programmers & producers instead of prophets & pastors.
We’re afraid of being boring and un-attractional.
We’re overinformed (through blogs, Twitter, Vimeo, asking what other churches are doing, Google is our best friend) and we’re under-reflective (we don’t know our own stories anymore).
And in so doing, we default to creating slick, fancy, emotion-laden programs that often lack richness and depth.
I believe our work could be much more potent, truthful, and effective if we viewed ourselves more as pastors and prophets than as programmers and producers; if we turned inward for our ideas instead killing ourselves trying to create something more grand than the place down the street; and if we used our own stories to begin our work instead of someone else’s.
Many of you make art every week that asks people to reflect on and consider their own stories. Every week you invite your communities to enter the deepest recesses of their souls. If you aren’t willing to do this as well, your art will lack the truth and authenticity that you’re asking for from your congregation. If you desire to create art that truly opens people up to these places of deep pain and joy, then you must be willing to do the same.
How deep into your own story are you willing to go? Is it enough to say you’re “on the other side,” in between capo changes? Or should you tell us something more?
“Without a richer understanding of who we are and the full range of needs we must address, we’ll remain insufficiently equipped to address the huge challenges we face.” – Tony Schwarz, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working
When we don’t take the time to reflect on how our story is intersecting with our community’s, the urgency of Sunday takes over and we default.
We become powerless. We phone it in. We steal each other’s ideas.
We get in a bind and start tying simple emotions to simple ideas, which in turn become the very dangerous, beginning elements of propaganda.
And so I beg of you not to see yourself as only a producer creating programs filled with happy-clappy hands and good feelings that awaken your audience to an idea, however life changing.
The sacred spaces you work in were meant for so much more than this.
I beg of you instead to see yourself as a prophet and a pastor who has been called to “bear witness” to the light and darkness present in your story and in mine. I beg of you to enter your own story in such a way that allows for a complexity that isn’t currently present.
I beg of you to tell us more, because the propaganda isn’t working.
The facts won’t matter, the lights will never be bright enough, the music will never move us, your hell-houses will never scare us.
None of these things will matter unless we’ve heard your story.