As an artist, and as a Levite, I have clarified my mission at the intersection of church life and art. Our God is a Redeemer, and He uses His people – sometimes His artists – to bring about the work of redemption.
My mission: to REDEEM the phrase “good enough for church.”
I used to cringe every time I heard that phrase… “Well, I know she’s not that great a singer. But she loves Jesus, and she wants to sing. I mean, it’s good enough for church.” Ouch. “We’re not a publishing company. We have limited resources. Our newsletter can’t look like a magazine, or what does that say about our priorities? This is good enough for church.” Whack! “Bobby’s just learning the guitar and he wants to be on the Worship Team. He’ll make some mistakes, but he’ll learn as he goes. I’m sure he’s good enough for church…” *sigh*
Seems like the only time I heard that phrase, for many years, it was being used as an excuse for mediocrity. That somehow, because the local church is a family, full of grace with each other, half-baked (or downright bad) art is not only acceptable, in some cases it is seen as a more humble and, therefore, better offering than truly excellent art. The excellent offering of an artist who has invested heart and soul into creating something deeply beautiful has been written off as prideful indulgence. After all, art that is “too good” glorifies the artist. It smacks of pride. It is distracting. It is idolatrous. All we really need art to be is… right. “Good enough for church.”
This is a lie, and it has been bought and propagated by many well-meaning Christ followers. Art, after all, falls into the “whatever you do” category…
“Whatever you do, work at it WITH ALL YOUR HEART, as working for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
God made artists. Kingdom artists reflect HIS creativity, and they point people God-ward. Let them make great art for Him. Let artists serve with excellence. And let them set the bar HIGH. I honestly believe that CHURCHES ought to be the pace-setters in the art world. If ever there was a place for deep expression, purpose-driven creation, and joyful play, the CHURCH ought to be a support community for art like no other. And the church should expect the BEST possible work from their artists.
The Old Testament affirms this value. Read Moses’ account of the building of the tabernacle in Exodus 26-40 with a highlighter in hand. Notice how many times the phrases “skilled craftsmen” or “skillfully made” or “finely woven” are used. Similar adulatory commendations are used throughout the book to command creation of the accoutrements of worship for the tabernacle – always with the highest regard for artistic excellence. It’s in there. God wrote it.
And who does God pick to lead the artistic design ministry for the tabernacle? See Chapter 35, starting in verse 30…
“See the Lord has chosen Bezalel… and He has filled Him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts… in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. And He has given both him and Oholiab… the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers… all of them master craftsmen and designers.”
And, by the way, this God-infused passion for excellence and beauty and “master-craftsmanship” doesn’t just apply to visual arts. Look at the account of the Levite musicians who were set apart by God for the “church music” of the day. Who was chosen to be the head of the tabernacle choir?
“Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was His responsibility because he was skillful at it.” (I Chronicles 15:22)
I love that God wrote that little sidebar after the semicolon. Do you suppose He foresaw some of our churches filling the choir director slot with the pastor’s wife because, well, that’s how we’ve always done it… and she can play the piano a little bit… and it’ll be good enough for church.
God is worthy of excellent art. Nothing less. Can you see the obvious connection with design?
The DESIGN elements used in your church most often provide the “first impression” of the heart of your church to the surrounding community. They are a tool that can either further your goal or hinder your ministry. So we take design seriously at Living Hope Church.
And the REASON that we care how things look and feel is NOT that we prioritize style over content. On the contrary. The CONTENT of our vision and values DRIVES style, determines visual direction, and (we hope) reflects our belief that excellence honors God and inspires people. We have the greatest and most important message to share in all of recorded history. Shouldn’t that inspire our deepest creative efforts? The best possible art? Inspiring, excellent, high-quality design work?
Recalibrating your excellence meter is a long, slow process. It takes grace, patience, humility – but it also takes conviction and intentional direction setting. The next time you produce a bulletin or newspaper ad or banner for your ministry, think twice before tagging on that circa 1978 clip art cross or cartoon easter lily with a bow on it. And no doves, please. Take a look around at the stores, the advertising, the well-crafted marketing campaigns that vie for the attention of every soul that lives within driving distance of your church.
Then ask yourself, “what would it take to get MY attention – to make me look twice.” Work hard. Find a team of artists who love God and are skilled in their field. Design with the understanding that eternal souls are on the line – as working for the Lord and not for men. And then with fear and trembling, ask yourself again… “Is THIS good enough for church?”
How can your church take one step forward in making your design work reflect God-honoring, attention grabbing excellence?
>> Note: read “designing ministry, part one” HERE.
“designing ministry, part two :: good enough for church” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.