Fantasy, Art, and Imagination in the Church
We live in a fantastical generation. Movies, television shows, and books all seem to center around mystical, imaginative, and fantastical creatures and creations. The latest movies and most entertaining shows are ones in which mystical creatures serve a purpose in saving the world, or fixing some sort of impossible scenario. Ironically enough, the undertones of these movies and shows are classical mirrors of some of the Biblical stories and principals. Take for instance the upcoming release of the Captain America movie. A man, with supernatural powers and abilities saves the world and the people within it from a dark evil power. Or what about the upcoming release of Noah. Even Hollywood has caught onto the truth of the Bible, and is using it to capture people. The world is looking for a vigilante, but has missed the opportunity of the story of Jesus. Instead of embracing a true victor, there are numerous stories of human attempts at being saviors and supernatural heroes (i.e Mission Impossible, The Avengers, Iron Man, The Hulk, etc.). Marvel is truly using marvel to capture people’s attention with their messages and doctrine.
Humans have incredible imaginations, and this can be seen in the arts. Unfortunately, the church has not truly understood this sort of story/postmodern world in which the church now exists. Sermons are still lecture style, and younger generations are absent of the wooden church pews. Preachers very rarely use adequate sermon illustrations and the method and construction of their sermons is so foreign to a millennial generation (a number which will surpass the Baby boomer generation) that people are going to theaters for a presentation of the gospel, because they cannot get it at the church doors. The Pentecostal church in general has missed an opportunity to appreciate the arts and involve them in their worship services. While emotions often run ramped in services, there is still a lack of remembrance through the arts. Almost all of our churches are void of symbolic imagery (images which can enhance and give life to our doctrine). Church leaders don’t usually consider how a commercialized building with no religious architecture takes away from the beauty of our worship and praise to God. We are trying to build theaters for churches, and then we are using dull methods to communicate the gospel. It’s insanity. The arts could help us get a generation back, and could bring revival to an older generation which is thirsty and hungry for the same move of God a younger generation desires.
So, how can we change this? I think the first approach we have to have is an open mind to methods and mediums. We do not need to change our doctrine, but we must be willing to appropriate our styles and conventions to those who we compete against. We are competing against billion dollar industries which have captured the attention of a younger generation with video games, incredibly graphic movies, and have offered a time where young minds can use their imaginations to escape present reality. In the church, we have to be able to offer a place where younger generations can bring their questions and concerns to us. We have to be willing to use the arts in our preaching, teaching, and discipleship. Music within the arts is not enough. We need symbols and images to help people connect to key doctrines like baptism, communion, and the conversion experience. We need art in our churches which reflects the life of humanity: the struggles, the joys, the opportunities, and the sorrows. We need the world of art to capture realism in a moment, and then we need to theologically reflect on these moments. It is then we can find transformation in the Holy Spirit. It’s when our heart, mind, soul, and all of who we are become captured by the Great One.
A few weeks ago I heard a sermon preached, and the preacher spoke against a certain form of art. The art form was said to be evil. It made me question and think. It’s not the art form which is evil; it is the message which is conveyed. The church has not traveled with postmodernism and the millennials. At least, from my perspective, the American church is lost in modernity, and by the time it finds its way to postmodernism, many of our younger generation will be gone. We will have missed the opportunity to use certain aspects of media to communicate the message which all generations, ages, and people need to hear.
My second proposal is a call to imagination. We need to sit down and brainstorm, and imagine the Church. Our imaginations are a gift from God. If we can imagine the future, we can change the future. We have to be willing to dream a little, and see where our dreams can take us. I don’t ever want to say “I once was a dreamer,” but I want to be able to say “I am a dreamer.” We can use drama, paintings, building, and other mediums to help share the gospel. One of the most powerful portrayals I have ever seen of the life of Jesus was at Winds of Pentecost when they did their Easter Drama. The acting, the effects, and the visual portrayal of the gospel changed my life. Our culture has transitioned from a reading one, to a watching one. How are we going to appreciate this challenge, and step up our defense and offense?
Thirdly, I think we have to be willing to take a risk in spite of possible failure. We have to get out there and use media to communicate the one true message. We can use Facebook, Twitter, and Google hangout. We have to be willing to take the risk; otherwise we might as well hide under a rock and let the rock do the crying and dancing for us.
There is more I could say on this topic, but for now I guess this will be all. I leave you with these last words: Don’t be afraid of fantasy, art, and imagination in the church. Embrace it, and you will embrace a younger generation and maybe a whole new demographic of people in your church. And most importantly, people will be changed and transformed by the gospel message.
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