Letting the arts come to church

pottery-makingI’m not a cultured person, at least when it comes to the arts. I’m not interested in ballet, nor opera. Most classical music leaves me cold; symphony tickets feel like an upcoming jail sentence. A visit to an art museum is typically wasted on me.

It doesn’t help that I come from a church tradition that downplays the role of artisic expression in worship. We tend to have utilitarian buildings, with little focus on aesthetic values. (Though it’s interesting that I grew up in a church that breaks from that mold and attend one that has a cathedral-like feel to the architecture). Historically, we have rejected the use of musical instruments and “special” music (choirs, solists, etc.). An artist finds little room for expression in most congregations within our fellowship. (Outside of children’s Sunday school, of course)

I think we need to recapture God’s love of beauty and creativity. We need to see that God’s Word addresses the senses and not just the mind. We need to find a way for individual Christians to share their artistic gifts with the rest of body; special times and spaces could be created for any such expressions that don’t fit our corporate worship time.

Even those with a lack of general culture can appreciate the giftedness of others in our midst. We can encourage them to use their talents for the glory of God, rather than making them feel that such things only belong to the world. Our churches will be all the richer for it.

Church like Christ

puzzle-pieceThe stated goal of the Restoration Movement is to restore Christianity to its earliest form. The more I think about it, the more I think we’ve gone about it wrong.

Restoring the plan of salvation is important, vitally important. But it won’t restore the church.

Eliminating manmade traditions and creeds helps us return to the beliefs of the early church, but it won’t bring us back to what that church was.

Fixing doctrine. Correcting worship practices. Correcting misused vocabulary. Good things in and of themselves, but they won’t get us to our goal.

I’ve come to believe that the most important thing we can do to restore the early church is to restore the goal of the early church: becoming like Christ.

We need churches that are growing to be more Christlike. In biblical terms, we need churches that are Christ in this world, that Christ is formed in them, and they are the body of Christ.

Our focus needs to be less on what and how and more on why. More on Who.

That’s what I want my focus to be: following Christ and helping others do the same.

There’s always another side to the story

US-00010-One_Cent_(1974)_AluminumAlong the lines of yesterday’s post, I need to say that every story has at least two ways of telling it. I hear elders talk about ministers that were lazy or manipulative. I hear ministers talk about elders that made decisions for no good reason. I hear church members say that leadership has chosen to abandon the Bible or chosen to appease complainers. And I know that there is another side to each of those stories.

Few ministers set out to shirk their duties or destroy the church. It’s rare that an eldership decides that a ministry is doing too much good for the Kingdom and must be stopped. The vast majority of those in church leadership want to do what’s right and best for the church.

There are evil people with bad intentions. Even good people can do things for the wrong reasons; I can look back and see times when I was motivated by jealousy or selfishness. But many times, conflict results out of a lack of understanding between the two parties involved, not any desire to cause harm.

If you set up a website asking women to tell how they’ve been mistreated by men, you’d have no trouble filling it with anecdotes of woe. If you asked men to tell of times when women have done wrong by them, you’d get an equally long list. Ask members to complain about ministers, ministers about elders, elders about staff… you’ll have no trouble determining that lots of Christians have grievances.

But don’t forget that there’s always another side to the story. If you hear it, you just might see things differently

Might makes right

The stronger get to dominate the weaker. That’s the way of the world. Power gives permission. Might makes right. Unless the weaker can organize themselves to create a new, equally powerful, base.

In the church, money plays the same role. Those with money feel themselves entitled to get their way. Riches give permission. Money makes right.

Unless… Jesus gets his way.

A letter to the UCC elders

I don’t like open letters, but I’m about to write one. Largely because I want to publicly thank and applaud the elders of the church I attend: University Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas

*****

Dear elders,

I know this is a bit impersonal, and I hope to speak with each of you personally. For now, let me publicly thank you for the statement you issued on Sunday about the participation of women in our Sunday assembly. It was a milestone on a long road, one that many of us had grown weary of. I’m sure that you especially have longed to reach a resting point in this discussion.

You’ve had my prayers, as always. I’ve prayed even harder as I’ve realized how especially difficult this process had begun. To be honest, I despaired of a solution that wouldn’t tear our congregation apart. You showed great wisdom, Spirit-filled discernment, in reaching a compromise.

No, I didn’t agree with every word in that statement. But I heartily agree with the expression of love and unity found in those pages.

We members have not behaved well. Many reacted without knowing the facts. Assumptions were made, conclusions drawn. You were attacked for moving too fast and for moving too slow. You were criticized for being too backwards and too progressive. Your motives were questioned.

Some chose to leave rather than work through the messiness that is church life; I pray they’ll be better prepared for disagreements that will come up in their new church home.

We’ve given lip service to Bible study while actually following our feelings and preferences. We’ve hard a hard time differentiating between “thus saith the Lord” and our own druthers. That’s hard to admit, but it’s true.

You’ve been publicly attacked and privately criticized. Too little grace has been extended your way.

Through it all, you’ve behaved like gentlemen. More than that, you’ve behaved like Spirit-led Christian shepherds. I’m proud to be part of your flock.

Thank you for your service.

 

Grace and peace,
Tim Archer