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I have been leading the Vineyard Columbus Visual Arts Ministry called Visual Sanctuary,  going on 3 years now. God has specifically called me to this ministry because he highlighted a need for it when I was in college over 7 years ago. My church as big as it is struggles with the fact that art has been painfully neglected.
Many of the pastors, though nice about it, can make obtuse comments
about culture and especially the arts. The biggest issue is that leaders are
often not aware of any artists or creative people in their
congregations let alone the fact that they too have a purpose to serve.

My friends and I have a passion to see artists particularly visual artists restored in the church. We do not believe it should be as it was in the Catholic Church almost 500 years ago. Rather, God has revealed to us that the vocation of artist is of the same caliber of calling as a doctor, accountant, teacher, lawyer, etc.. God can use anyone and will use anyone. As stated in 1Cor. 12 about spiritual gifts. Our gifts are viable to the Kingdom work. Specifically, our role is the eyes as stated in Matthew 6:22-23. We are called to be the lamp of the body. This means that we will not only have a profound impact on our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also an impact on the world.

What has been your experience in your respective churches? How have pastors and leaders approached your artistic talent or the talent of your friends? Is anyone seeing your church take a new path using the arts? I would like to hear any comments on this matter. I am always looking for new ideas, but most of all it is encouraging to hear about people who are having a positive impact because of their calling.

For more information on my ministry visit: www.VisualSanctuary.org

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I look at the visual arts, as pertaining to the Kingdom of God, as being on a par with 'helps' materials. Art very often draws attention to itself, and Christians need to be careful to not try to craft something that distracts believers. Myself, I prefer to keep art out of the sanctuary, except for what is decorative perhaps, on the walls round about. We want people to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, and to not focus on the works of man's hands.

If, for example, I were commissioned to do a large painting of a Bible scene, even a scene from our Lord's earthly ministry, I would not want such to be set on the altar, or to be the centerpiece in a church. I would decline such a commission immediately. "All the earth and the works therein shall be burned up." That is a great verse for every Christian artist to have ingrained in his/her memory. The works of our hands are only temporary. They may be useful in helping to encourage believers, or even in communicating Gospel truths to the lost or wavering, but we should not be so emotionally invested in something that will surely burn.

Produce art, as God leads, and cling to HIm with all that you have, but not to the work of your hands; it's fleeting. Lastly, all the cultivated talent in the world is nothing if we don't have character that is wrought in Christ. We are His workmanship.

Kind regards in Christ Jesus,

Alec
My experience with visual art as a ministry in church has been quite disappointing unfortunately, and even more so when I was freelancing full time. Most of the time the leadership doesn't understand art a lot or consider it seriously as a ministry, except for the ad-hoc occasions where they want an illustration or stage props. It's probably mostly up to the artist to suggest how the art can be used for ministry.

Where I'm from, art can be very cheap and ministry leaders can expect the artist to do things for free even if they know he does it for a living (and probably has to charge other Christian organizations who commission a piece of work). If you do it for free for one, others would expect the same. Other artists friends also face similar frustrations in church, and we find people often take our service in this area for granted, even to the point of asking for repeated changes to designs with little show of appreciation for our sacrifice of time and effort at times. It becomes something like dealing with clients, but without getting paid, and instead being expected to serve in view of some obscure idea of a heavenly reward. As a result I avoided doing illustrations for church ministries and members for free most of the time and only agreed on very rare occasions. Even now though I've stopped freelancing, I'm still very wary when people ask me to volunteer my artistic talents in church, and am very selective with what I agree to.

That being said, my visual arts ministry at this point operates outside the church. I produce illustrated stationery for sale, and most of the illustrations are based on Scripture (www.wensworld.com). It's as close to being a steward of my gifts as I can get to for now as it allows me the freedom of illustrating what's on my heart and reaching a wide audience at my own pace.

To me, art is a powerful means of communication. I've been reading this book Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by Rookmaaker, and realise how the church needs to reclaim this gift of God for His glory instead of allow the secular world to dictate what art ought to be. The book is a definite must-read for Christian artists to understand how history has influenced art and culture and vice versa. It reminded me of Ecclesiastes and Romans 1 where in the world's rejection of God, it has stumbled blind while professing to be wise and resulted only in greater ignorance and darkness. The church today is all the poorer for its failure to realise the importance of art in the work of God.
Favian,

Thank you for telling me about your experience. One of the things, I believe, a good arts ministry should do is protect the artist from misuse and abuse from the church while at the same time coming along side the artists to help them develop artistically and spiritually to work with the church. I have seen both the artists burned by the church and the church burned by the artist. Favian, I applaud your discernment.

Its a shame in this day and age that it has work that way. We are all God's people. It should be easier than that. However, we are often caught up in our own interests and fail to listen to our brother. Should the church be willing to pay for good art? Absolutely, if they want to be open to affect the world as we are called to as a community of believers, that means that they should respect everyone and not always ask for freebies from lesser parties. The world won't take our message seriously unless their is value in what we do. Giving away art often requires not only a commitment of money, but of time. If in all parts of the world it were lucrative to be an artist this problem probably wouldn't exist. If it is hard to give up that time, because you need to feed your family or pay the bills that has to take priority. The world only understands the value of art a little better than the church. They are willing to pay for it if it is good, but often you have to claw your way to the top to get there at the expense of everything else good in your life. Even artists who are bad can be exalted by the world because of peer pressure. It is not a better circumstance, necessarily, just different. As you stated that you pick and choose based on what God is calling you to, that is what is required of us. What Christian should do anything, except out of obedience to God.

The only answer to that problem that I can see is that the church as must become educated in what the arts are all about. It is sad. We should not have fallen off the wagon so long ago, but in order lead the culture according to God's plan it must be done.

I will look for the book you recommended. It sounds interesting. Your website looks good as well. I hope that you change many lives with it.

God bless,
Alex

Favian Ee said:
My experience with visual art as a ministry in church has been quite disappointing unfortunately, and even more so when I was freelancing full time. Most of the time the leadership doesn't understand art a lot or consider it seriously as a ministry, except for the ad-hoc occasions where they want an illustration or stage props. It's probably mostly up to the artist to suggest how the art can be used for ministry.

Where I'm from, art can be very cheap and ministry leaders can expect the artist to do things for free even if they know he does it for a living (and probably has to charge other Christian organizations who commission a piece of work). If you do it for free for one, others would expect the same. Other artists friends also face similar frustrations in church, and we find people often take our service in this area for granted, even to the point of asking for repeated changes to designs with little show of appreciation for our sacrifice of time and effort at times. It becomes something like dealing with clients, but without getting paid, and instead being expected to serve in view of some obscure idea of a heavenly reward. As a result I avoided doing illustrations for church ministries and members for free most of the time and only agreed on very rare occasions. Even now though I've stopped freelancing, I'm still very wary when people ask me to volunteer my artistic talents in church, and am very selective with what I agree to.

That being said, my visual arts ministry at this point operates outside the church. I produce illustrated stationery for sale, and most of the illustrations are based on Scripture (www.wensworld.com). It's as close to being a steward of my gifts as I can get to for now as it allows me the freedom of illustrating what's on my heart and reaching a wide audience at my own pace.

To me, art is a powerful means of communication. I've been reading this book Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by Rookmaaker, and realise how the church needs to reclaim this gift of God for His glory instead of allow the secular world to dictate what art ought to be. The book is a definite must-read for Christian artists to understand how history has influenced art and culture and vice versa. It reminded me of Ecclesiastes and Romans 1 where in the world's rejection of God, it has stumbled blind while professing to be wise and resulted only in greater ignorance and darkness. The church today is all the poorer for its failure to realise the importance of art in the work of God.

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