I was going to save the video, below, for the Open Thread Friday this week, but as I’ve thought about it, and discussed it with a number of folks, I think it deserves a focused post of its own.

http://www.vimeo.com/11501569

Context, Context

Before any further discussion on the video, I think it’s important to have a little bit of context around it:

  1. The video was produced by the media staff at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA (where Andy Stanley is the senior pastor).
  2. The Sunday morning worship style being lampooned is the style used by NPCC.  They are making fun of themselves (not somebody else), while making a point.
  3. The video was specifically produced for last week’s Drive Conference, which North Point sponsors for church leaders and creative teams.

Kudos

First off, I’d like to applaud NPCC for 1) being able to laugh at themselves; 2) for being aware of the dangers of church-as-entertainment; and 3) for making this video available, since it has a message that should be heard, but also because it could be misused by their armchair critics who can roll out their favorite whipping boys w/ this video and use it as a misguided indictment on style, rather than a message that could have been produced for any “worship style” used by American churches.

Style vs. Substance

I think that quite often, the critics within the church – across the spectrum of styles – like to play off of a style-versus-substance meme, creating a competition where none need exist.  As I noted above, this video could have been produced to skewer ANY Sunday morning worship style – be it hymns-hymnals-and-pews, Contempervent (I love that term), high church, or incense-and-icons.  One can have substance in any “style”, but when it becomes a show or a rote pattern – tradition for the sake of tradition – it has strayed from the path.

I believe that all forms of artistice creativity can be used for the glory of God in worship: painting, music, dance, drama, sculpture, writing.

One danger is making it the focus of worship rather than a method of worship.  This is just as true of well-done interpretive dance as it is of skillful oratory.

Another danger is making it a distraction from worship rather than an enabler of worship, which is why if something cannot reach a certain level of artistic quality, it might be best not to insert it within corporate worship settings.

Sidebar on Giving

Next, one of the tangential points they bring up is around tithing.  I’ve always found it interesting that the basic message you hear in the church is “what you give is between you and God”, but you know that your giving is being tracked – by law – by the church, for the purposes of tax reporting.  So, the question becomes – what is being done with the tracked giving data?

I know some churches who make it common knowledge that the church treasurer shares NONE of the individual giving data with the leaders of the church.  That way, there is no danger of “playing favorites”, based upon someone’s giving history.  On the flip side, though, it also has a lesser degree of community accountability.

At the other end of the spectrum, I know of churches (and a larger number of non-Christian religious groups) who ask for your pay-stubs and/or W-2’s, in order to make sure that each family is giving its 10%.  To me, this degree of accountability seems to go against the “free-will” nature of giving, and the heart of giving, itself.

Most of the churches I’m familiar with, though, have no spoken policy on who – leadership-wise – knows the details of individual giving, and how those details are used.  In some ways, this ambiguity can be good, but can also be cynically viewed (as elicited in the video).

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 at 9:35 am and is filed under Music and Art, Original Articles, Worship. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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14 Comments(+Add)

1   Mike    
May 12th, 2010 at 11:33 am

Okay, funny video and very true, in some ways. I think churches must always walk a fine line be careful to be relevant but Bible centered, concerned about the style that enable worship but doesn’t distract from Christ. Tough, balancing act.

2   Eric    
May 12th, 2010 at 11:40 am

Hi Chris,

Thoughtful post, and I agree fully that whatever is included in worship must not become the focus of worship, as the focus of worship must always be on God. As you noted, this is a danger for all worship settings.

I am interested to hear from you a little bit further on how in a corporate worship setting you feel painting and sculpture fit with a Biblical model of worship where worth and praise are ascribed to God and God’s people are edified with further knowledge and understanding of God. I can more easily see the Biblical roots of dance, music, drama (perhaps to a lesser extent), and writing (reading of writing) in corporate worship in the Bible. How do you see things such as sculpture and painting being used to speak of God’s attributes and edify His people in the context of corporate worship? Do you see Biblical precedent for such activities in corporate worship?

I’m not trying to be obtuse, just interested in your further thoughts in that area.

3   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 12th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Eric – Here’s a partial answer:

I’ve seen a number of ways that painting/mosaic/sculpture have been incorporated into worship settings. A guy I’ve met a few times, Mike Lewis, is a painter who does this quite a bit. Here’s an example (done in his studio, though you can search “Jesus Painter” on YouTube and see some of the settings he’s done this in):

I should note that these three pieces are ones that he’s done most often in worship settings, with the second one (”All My Sin”) being the one I’ve seen most often.

4   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 12th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

In terms of sculpting, there’s Sand Table (here’s a couple of examples):

The Passion:

Creation:

5   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
May 12th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I’d also say that those things don’t have to be done during a service to be incorporated into a time of corporate worship.

6   Neil    
May 12th, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Chris L., the style they say they have is “contemporvant” – not as you say “contempervent.”

I think “contempervent” – particularly the “perve” would referent a whole other alternative style…

7   Neil    
May 12th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I like the idea of incorporating art in worship. Sometimes it speaks a very clear message – like the sand art… other times it is a lot more vague/interpretive – like dance.

Just as our God is not so much colorblind and he is colorful… I like the involvement of varied aspect of our beings in the worship experience.

8   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
May 12th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Isn’t the artwork found in stained glass windows sort of the same idea? I mean the kind that features stories?

We are all different. We learn differently…some learn visually, some through sound, some through touch. Art is another way of teaching, as well as a way of worshiping: Whatever you do, do it for the glory of Christ.

Why, then, should ‘whatever we do’ be confined to those times outside of sunday morning worship? Why shouldn’t we bring the gifts that we use every day to the altar, to the table, to the worship and offer them back to Jesus?

Great videos.

9   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
May 12th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I also like the idea of someone interpreting the word of God this way. Or maybe he is translating the sermon into pictures. (I’m talking about the first video in #3)

10   Neil    
May 12th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Jerry,

On the one hand stained glass windows is an artistic form of communicating and worship… the difference would be having the artist create the window during the service, as a form of worship as well.

11   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
May 12th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

See, and I think that would be cool. I really do. And why shouldn’t he/she do such a thing?

Do we expect a mute to worship the same as others? Can a deaf person worship the same? Does worship only consist of one form? What about the person who cannot carry a tune with their voice, but can with a kazoo? How can the person with no hands lift up holy hands? How can a person with no legs stand or kneel or anything n between?

I think we expect too little of ourselves when it comes to worship, frankly. I think we have settled for something far smaller than God intended. I think we have no imagination: Sit in your pews. Sing our songs. Stand. Sit. Stand. Sit.

If it’s boring to me, I don’t imagine it’s any more uplifting to God who asks us to worship.

(I’m not arguing with you Neil. I’m just thinking out loud. :-) )

12   Neil    
May 12th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

When I said, in comment 7, that I liked incorporating art into worship, I meant the creation of it as well… so I am with ya on that.

13   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
May 12th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

The cynical part of me would like to play the first song in this video along with the words up on the screen and see how many people would start singing along – it’s pretty catchy!

14   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 13th, 2010 at 9:59 am

The cynical part of me would like to play the first song in this video along with the words up on the screen and see how many people would start singing along – it’s pretty catchy!

Make sure you’ve got the “big lights and big drums” to go along with it.