Archive for the ‘church art ministry resources’ Category

I had a great night last night. I had a great time of ministry. A few months back, I preached a series of revival meetings. One of the things that I love about using art in ministry is that the art connects with the kids. Well this time, the kids said they should have me back to do something for them. The pastor, liked the idea so they had me back. Last night I did the first of a series of four services based on the animals of the Bible. It was wonderful. Rather than doing the event in the sanctuary, we did it in their fellowship hall. The kids were seated at tables. I started with doing a painting, then told the story, and then we allowed the kids to do their own painting based on the story and the painting I did. Basically they created their own reminder of the teaching that night. I have to say it was so rewarding, just a night of pure joy.

I had a couple of observations from the evening. The first was, at the end of the night, when the kids were busy painting, I went back to the adults in the back of the room and joked that on the last night the kids were going to sit in the back and the adults were going to paint. These are great folks who I have ministered to several times, and we have a really good rapport, but quite a few folks seemed kind of nervous that I might be serious. I wasn’t, but it struck me. Children are quick to create at just about every opportunity, but the older we get, the people willing to create, especially publicly, shrinks. It bears out what Picasso said, “All children are artists, the problem is to remain one as one grows up.” I honestly would love to know why that is. I can’t imagine life without creating. It’s such an outlet. I’m not saying everyone has to be a professional or that everyone should seek to get a gallery show, or whatever, I just wish everyone would allow themselves the opportunity to get what’s going on inside them, out, not to mention the fun of creating.

My big observation though was this. This was a church event that started in the heart and mind of a child, that the church leadership took seriously and ran with it. I think that is huge and important. The church is consistently losing the next generation. Churches like this one, that give their young people a voice, and take them seriously, have a much better chance of keeping that same generation and all the ones to follow. Next time a kid comes to you with an idea for the church, rather than looking for the problems, look to what can be gained and give it a try. You might be surprised.


Talent is great. Gifting is awesome. And they’re useless…

I know that gives you a question, then what is the point of this exercise.

Okay they’re not really useless, and that was a little bit of hyperbole, but here’s the point if you don’t use it, it is literally useless. Talent and gifting are important, but there is no substitute for doing the work. I know this seems obvious, but so many people talk about all they’d like to do, all they think they can do, but that’s as far as it goes.

There’s an old truism in the music world. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” And the answer, “practice, practice, practice.” In any creative discipline the same rules apply. There is no substitute for hard work.

So create, create, create. Seek out opportunities, and if no one will give you one, make your own. Think about what you would love to do and start working to that end. Be your own client. Look around your neighborhood and see who could use what you do, and create as if they were  your client. Build a portfolio, make samples, post your work to the net. Join online groups, find a mentor, whatever it takes, do the work.

Assignment: Find something to do, and do it to the best of your ability.

One of my favorite parables in the Bible is The Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25. This is a story that Jesus told as an illustration. It’s not a true story, per se, though it reveals a great spiritual truth. The story has three main characters, a master and three servants. The master is about to go away on a journey but before he goes, he entrusts each of his servants with a portion of his wealth for the purpose of investing it on his behalf. Now again, this is a made-up story for the purpose of illustrating a point. The master in the story represents God, the servants represent His followers, and the talents… Well a talent was a unit of measure, a sum of money, yet somehow, I believe the principle is perfectly transferrable to what we call talents today.

As mentioned above, the servants are given differing sums of money, dependent on their ability. This is crucial to the application of the story. The talents are the master’s investment in his servants. He gives them based on what he knows to be the capabilities of his servants. Are you beginning to see the application. If the master represents God and the servants represent us, then our talents represent God’s investment in us. This investment is based on the knowledge the One who created us, has about us. This should be both liberating and gratifying. It’s liberating because once we understand this principle we should come to realize that we never have to compare ourselves with anyone else every again. What God desires from us is not so much success as it is faithfulness. If you have done your best, you have done enough. The extra added benefit of this is, if you continually serve and continually bring your best to the table,  your best cannot help but improve.

But what about the gratifying part. Well consider this. In the church, we talk a lot about believing in God. That is still important and it is essential, but this parable bring another point to the table. You see this parable shows us that God believes in you, and your talents are evidence of that belief. God has given you something of great value that belongs to Him for you to use on His behalf, to His glory. He gave you these thing because He knows exactly what you can do with them. This is, at least in part, the essence of calling. What God has invested in you, He fully expects you to reinvest in His Kingdom by using these very special abilities to serve others in His name. if you want to understand your calling. Start there.

Assignment: Read the Parable of the Talents, and then consider what God has given you. In the parable, two of the servants act at once on what they have been given, while the third buries the master’s investment. Look back over your list of gifts and talents and then look at your life. Is there anything you have “buried?” What would faithfulness look like in each of your gifts, especially the buried ones? Begin to journal ideas of ways you can be more faithful with what you have been given, acting on anything you can.

Over the years, a few people have given me a hard time about using the terms gifts and talents interchangeably. They say things like, “Well gifts are spiritual and they are given by God, while talents are more worldly.” Here’s why I choose to ignore them:

First of all, is there any good thing that we have, that does not come from God? The answer is no. Now my naysayers will want to point out the multitude of people who are extremely talented and are not using their gifts (there I go again) in any way that glorifies God. That is absolutely true, but it in no way changes my point. Perhaps the most important thing God gives us in terms of life in this world is air. Many people who have no connection to God breathe air, as a matter of fact they all do, and none of that makes it any less precious. I see our gifts and talents the same way.

Other people would point to the various lists of Spiritual gifts, and say that out talent are not listed there. I would argue that the first person said to be filled with the Spirit in al of Scripture was a man named Bezalel. Do you know what gift the Spirit gave him was? Exodus 31:1-5 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” In other words, the first person said to be filled with the Spirit in all of Scripture was an artist and the Spirit gave him a gift my differentiating friends would call a talent.

I believe the words “gifts” and “talents” are synonymous, and if you don’t, that’s okay, but here’s what’s important. Every good thing in your life comes from God. It was given to you, by Him to be used to His glory. So whatever good things you have, whether they feel “spiritual” or not, come from God and are to be used for His sake. You are talented and you are gifted and you are supposed to use whatever gifts you have to serve others, remember? (1 Peter 4:10). So take what you have, no matter what you call it and put it to work. God deserves nothing less, and this world needs what you have. That’s why God gave it to you.

Assignment: Look over your list of gifts from an earlier assignment and add to it anything you may have missed. Have you mentally disqualified something from your list because you didn’t think it was spiritual? If it does not involve blatant sin, add it to your list.

Okay now that we’ve looked at seeking opportunities, we should probably take few moments to look at what to do if you get one. There’s a passage in the Bible that handles just such an eventuality. It’s Ephesians 5:15,16 “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Now in the broader sense, this passage deals with righteous living, but please notice it tells us to make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Talking about the evil days could be a whole book but for the sake of our discussion, let’s just day that the further the people slip from the Lord, the more glorifying Him is important, hence making the most of every opportunity to glorify Him we get.

So does this mean we have to say yes to every opportunity? No. We need to use discernment, but it probably means we should pray before saying no to anything (or for that matter, yes), at least anything good and righteous and godly. Sometimes as creative people we can pigeonhole ourselves when God wants to expand us, and, frankly sometimes we can get a little prideful and think we are too good do something “humble.” Neither of these is beneficial.

For this conversation, let’s assume that you get an opportunity and everything works and you believe you have God’s “green light.”. What does it mean to make the most of the opportunity?

First, it means bringing your best to the task. Do the best you can do. We should always serve as if we were serving God, because if you are serving, you are serving God, and the One who gave His only Son for you deserves your best.

Second, do what you’ve been asked to do. Make sure whatever you do fits the parameters of the assignment. I’ve seen creatives who think they know best, giving something different than what as asked for. That’s not what we need to do. We need to fulfill the assignment to the best of our abilities.

Third, be responsible. Some folks think being creative is an excuse to be less than dependable, or even weird, and much of society accepts it as part of the “artists’ temperament.” Frankly, that’s a crock. God is not honored by a lack of dependability and honoring God is our ultimate goal. Deliver your best, on time, with as little stress as possible.

Finally, come under authority. This is important everywhere but it’s essential if your venue is the church. When a pastor puts you before his or her congregation, they are giving you an endorsement and they are taking a risk. Do what they ask, and make them look good. They have put tremendous trust in you. They are giving you the opportunity to stand before people they have sworn before God to serve, care for and protect. That is huge responsibility and one no Christian should ever take lightly. Romans 13:7 says “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” A pastor putting you before his congregation is showing you an honor, be sure to return honor with honor.

Assignment: Look at any current opportunities that are before you and write down ways that you can make the most of them. Also look to see if there were times in the past where you did not handle opportunities well. How might you have handled them differently?

At my church this year for advent, I wanted to address something that worries me, that, on the surface, sounds like it shouldn’t. I sometimes worry that we know the Christmas story too well. I know, right? You might be thinking, “Cry me a river, pastor. You think people might know a text too well.” Not exactly. What concerns me is that people know the story so well that they take it for granted, and cease to be blown away by how amazing the story actually is. I mean, this is the incarnation, God becomes a man and comes to earth, born a baby, to experience all of life as we do, set a perfect example, prepare the way for us to receive eternal life, teach us all that the Lord wants us to know and dying to secure the way to God for all who will believe. It’s a beautiful, nearly scandalous story that I never want to see people miss because they think they know it. So how to present this powerful story in a way that makes people really take it to heart? Well I got creative.

I started reading through the text, selected four people intimately involved in the story and really studied all that the Scripture says about them. This led to a series I called “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” In the series I looked at four “men” (one of them was an angel, hence the quotes) and told the story as best I could, from their perspective as if I were them, dramatically. It was one of the most commented upon series I have ever done, but aside from that, it blessed me. I had to really delve into the story. I had to dig deep and I had to really put myself in their shoes, because I was going to quite literally put myself in their shoes. I had to think things like, “How would they have experienced this moment?” and “Would he really say that?” It was one of the most rewarding study experiences I have ever had.

The other thing was, I had no desire and felt no leading for costumes, but his would I get the people to forget it was me and imagine the person in question was speaking to them. I ended up doing what I do best, i.e., making art. I did a portrait of each of the people I was portraying and put them in the front of the sanctuary. Rather than speed painting these “live” since advent series’ tend to be very full, I took my time and painted them in my studio. This also ended up being a blessing, because I could really push myself artistically. I had a great time with this series, but that’s not why I share this. I share it to encourage you to take the familiar passages and find a different way to present them—a way that will be faithful to the text and yet creative enough to get people to see something they already know with fresh eyes. I believe God gave us our creative gifts for this very reason. How can you help people to really see God’s truth?

Here are the portraits. They are Gabriel, a shepherd (who I named Itzhak), John the Baptist (because if you’re going to talk about preparing the way for Jesus, he can’t be left out) and finally Joseph.

After such a busy time, you might wonder “What’s next?” Well Thursday is November 1, and my hope is to begin the next challenge NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. My dream for a long time has been to write a novel or a screenplay that can be made into a movie. At this point I am going to try to do the challenge and see if it can help me to “eat this elephant” of a project one bite at a time. However, I’m also realistic enough to know that my life is very busy. I will be preaching a brand new series at a church in West Virginia the first week of the month, and I also have a lot of work at church this time of year. My relationship with God is priority one, family is a close second and just behind that is my ministry. My goals and dreams come somewhere behind that. So if I can be faithful to all three of my top priorities, I will finish my novel in the time frame allotted. If I can’t, the side projects have to be the first thing to go.

Goals and dreams are a wonderful thing, but we need to keep them fluid enough to make sure the priorities remain the priorities. As Christian creatives, God has got to be “running the show.” If He makes the opportunities for me to finish my goals, I will finish them. If He decides to fill my life with other, more important things, I have to trust that He will allow me to get everything done in it’s time. His primary demand on my life is faithfulness. That’s what He looks for in all of us. This means I need to make efficient use of the time allotted to me. I need to eliminate the “time vampires” that suck up the time I could be using to accomplish what God has given. I also need to be certain to take care of myself by doing things like exercise, resting and devotions.

James reminds us that: “13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Set your goals, but let God move them as He sees fit. Faithfulness is priority one.