I was invited to speak and paint at a conference once. (Keep the word “invited” in your mind.) The painting they wanted was very large, the largest I have done live so far. We discussed the design in advance and I even shared sketches. I told the people who brought me in that in order to get a piece so large done I would need to work through the rest of the service, with the exception of the prayers. I usually don’t paint during the corporate prayer. One man stood up to share a few reflections and he started off by saying “ignore the painting.” Laughable, if it wasn’t so troubling.

Remember that word “invited?” Here’s why, they invited me. Knowing full well what I do, they asked me to come to their event and do what I do. There were no surprises. For the most part, it was a wonderful experience, I loved serving at the conference and many people reported being blessed. I am not sharing this to complain but to share a resistance that you may come up against as you use your creativity to serve the Lord. People may see it as a distraction.

Here’s the thing… those people are “wrong.” Art in a service is not a distraction. As a matter of fact, I am prepared to say its no more a distraction than the music. I guess I better explain. I love music, I even like to sing. Problem is, I am not very good. I’m also very conscious that people around me may be able to hear me. I don’t want my lack of singing ability to detract from someone else’s worship, so I become both conscious and self conscious, until eventually my focus is more on trying to sing well than it is on praise. Talk about distraction.

Now because I get distracted in the whole singing process, should I lobby my pastor to cut the band or the organist? God forbid, because while I an become distracted, there are also times where I feel escorted to the throne of God by the worship music and even if I didn’t feel that, I know others do. Art can be the same way. In a world full of visual learners, and near constant visual stimulation, art can be a door, an entry point into worship and a way to help people to learn and remember. And it works.

I first became aware of the power of this media when I was pastoring. Our church met in a small rented space. We really weren’t able to do much in the way of decorating, but I was allowed to hang art on the walls. I began painting in my services, creating paintings related to the message. I was amazed by how often I would hear one of my people showing a visitor a piece of my art and telling them something I preached on weeks, months, maybe even years before. When I am live painting at a church or a camp, I love hearing the people behind me trying to guess what I’m painting. Are they distracted? Maybe, but when I am ready to preach, they are locked in and ready to hear the story behind the art.

Art is not a distraction, it’s an entry point to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

Don’t ignore the painting!

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