Worship is central because God is supreme. Most believers acknowledge this. But if worship is central to all of life because God is supreme, then it clearly follows that discipling worship leaders themselves should be strategic and high priority. Correct?
Tragically though, things are just not that way. Few pastors and other church leaders give any intentional and specialized effort to discipling worship leaders. Yet something good seems to be bubbling up.
This blog post assumes the LORD is doing something new in the hearts of Church leaders: giving some a new desire to gather artistic Kingdom servants into their congregations, and disciple them for His service; especially for the service of facilitating innovative gathered worship. So, here an acronym for six principles that, if followed, will GATHER artistic worship leaders into their congregations, and accelerate releasing them into His service of worship.
ONE, ministry leaders need to intentionally GROW their own group of artistic worship leaders. To start, put out the word that you intend to focus on artists and creatives in your network, congregation, or ministry. Gather them, specifically and often. For example, plan a dinner party or dessert meeting: artists like parties just like everyone else.
But you might ask, “So if I call a meeting for creatives, what do we do once they come?” The answer is simple: affirm them. Do three things. One, ask them to bring an example of their art-making with them; and let them know they may be a few minutes for each person to let the others at the gathering see their work. Two, give each one of them fifteen minutes to tell their story. Listen to them. Ask them questions like, “How has God wired you artistically?” “What artistic dreams has God put in your heart?” “What artistic things has God put in your heart to do?” And three, after you have let them share their story a bit, gather around them, and pray for them. Activities like these have a very special impact on artists—regardless of the denominational background the person has, if any. They will feel appreciated and very thankful.
TWO, ADVOCATE for the creatives in your ministry context. Unfortunately, within the Body of Christ, there exist several typical but incorrect attitudes toward artists. Often leadership simply does not think to involve them. Or some leaders presume artists are counter-culture critics, standing outside the general flow of the community and their church. Or, some hold a secular humanist notion that “the arts” are abstract activities and objects of creative expression; and that those artistic objects and activities are only for contemplation or entertainment. All these notions cut against the biblical understanding of artistic creativity and the biblical role of the craftsmen specialists who create the environments wherein God actually comes and meets with his believing community.
Artistic Christians need non-artistic advocates who both admire what they do and affirm the importance of their contributions to Christ’s Body. These Arts Advocates are strategically helpful, especially in helping congregational leaders discover their strategic, powerful, and beautiful contribution. Also, Arts Advocates can help the artistic Christian understand themselves, their important role in leading the congregation into touching transcendent connection with GOD Himself; and their specialty of dealing with the mysterious realities of the Human Community’s God-designed transcendence.
Many a church leader is more a Modernist than a Biblicist. That is, the wonderful Reformation goal to get the Word of God into the hands of everyday people, and it’s press for them to understand the objective truth about God that it reveals, has a dark side. The dark side was, and still is, the drift towards Modernism and Rationalism: Church leaders putting an emphasis on information rather than encounter; an emphasis on biblical reasoning about God over the biblical priority of relating to God.
So, one key challenge for Protestants is to regain an appreciation of the ways God reveals His reality and His Truth within the contexts of beauty and through our participation in the transcendence-toughing beautiful activities (metaphors, symbols, and human activities of worship) we call liturgies. And non-artistic Arts Advocates play a strategic role for both the artist and general church leadership in all of this.
THREE, church leaders must TOUCH the artist over extended periods of time. Worship practitioners are at heart, artists; those God’s designed as human-emotion-and-imagination specialists. Church leaders must not only understand this reality; they must see the value of emotional and imaginal intelligence, and how those dynamics sync with intellectual intelligence. Then they must appreciate the specialists (artists) who God has provided to lead the Church-gathered (in line with Scripture) into those contexts.
FOUR, HONOR the artist. Honoring the art-maker is much different than flattering or pandering to them (or catering to them to simply exploit their talents for the sake of your ministry). Honoring them must be done in truth. Insincerity will be picked up immediately. They will feel used, and ultimately will be put off, and most often leave. To legitimately honor the artistic dimension of your congregation or ministry you must go public. The honoring dynamic submitted here is very similar to the biblical definition of praise—to publicly acknowledge the value and virtues of the person and their work. Anything else will encourage some sort of vain conceit or selfish ambition in the artist or the discipler (see Philippians 2:3; or James 3:14, 16).
Rather we encourage true and honest appreciation of the person’s creative capacities and honed skills. If a potential discipler holds an honest appreciation for an artist’s capacities and skills, they will find public places and times where honoring them is natural, balanced, and appropriate.
FIVE, ENCOURAGE the artists around you. The tragic truth is most artists are not encouraged by the churches they attend! However, when one realizes the biblical purpose for artistic expression specialists (like Bezalel and Oholiab; Ex 35:30-36:3) to create the environments of worship wherein believers touch the transcendent mysterious reality of interaction with God, they will encourage artists.
Artistic Christians must be encouraged to carry out their artistic stewardships in their congregations. They must be loved into applying their artistic skills creatively to the life of their local parish. But that will not happen unless leadership invites them. Therefore church and mission leaders must become proactive at encouraging artist-believers to get involved. Prayerfully ask the LORD to give you meaningful, legitimate ways to encourage these creatives; and you will gather artists to you and ministry context.
SIX, RESOURCE artists. In order to see artistic Christians become more productive as general believers, and as specialized Kingdom servants in our churches and missions work, Christian leadership must resource them in at least five ways:
These resource areas are key to envisioning and enabling artistic-ministry-initiators to actually venture out in ministry—especially into the community at large.
Regretfully very few artistic Christians become the recipients of such a GATHERing embrace. But if you do repeatedly and prayerfully practice efforts to GROW your group of artists, ADVOCATE for artistic Christians, TOUCH artists regularly and legitimately, HONOR artists for the beauty of their role in leading others into touching the transcendent things of God and life, ENCOURAGE them to move forward in their biblical assignment to work out their God-designed artistic assignments (Phil 2:12-13), and RESOURCE them with Ministry Vision, Pastoral Permission, Direct Discipleship, Ministry Structures, and Finances; then you will disciple scores of worship leaders, who will in turn dynamically release God’s truth, beauty, goodness, and forgiveness in ways most congregations and ministries dream about, but only a few seem to accomplish.