J Scott McElroy

Archive for the ‘Church Art’ Category

Summer 2014 Update

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on June 23, 2014 at 6:39 pm

(Note: You’ve come upon an archive site. Scott is now blogging at JScottMcElroy.com. These and fresh posts can be seen there! )

After spending 7 months sitting at the writing-table with the new book, I’m venturing out for a couple of great speaking opportunities in July.

Karitos 2014

If you are in the Midwest, consider attending Karitos 2014 in Chicago, July 10-12. It’s their 20th anniversary and I’m honored to give a featured address and lead three workshops: “How to karitosBetter Hear God’s Voice in Your Creativity”, “The Joy of Personal Prophetic Art”, and “Practical Ideas for Bringing the New Creative Renaissance into Your Church and Your Culture”. More information at http://Karitos.com.

The Creative Church Conference 2014

Then it’s on to the long-awaited Creative creative church logoChurch Conference 2014 in Boise, July 25-27!  If you at all interested in encouraging the arts and creativity in the church, you should join us! This year’s lineup of speakers and activities is stellar. This year’s theme is “The Artist in Community”.  Speakers include:

  • Dr. Colin Harbinson (Stoneworks Global Art Initiative)
  • Jessie Nilo (VineArts Boise)
  • Jason Leith (Artist, Director of Arts, Saddleback Church )
  • Manuel Luz (Imagine That, Worship Director at Oak Hills Church)
  • Dave Blakeslee (Potter and Pastor)
  • Bryn Gillette (Artist)
  • Andrew Nemr (Dance Artist)
  • Cecilia Brie Tschoepe (Actor, Writer, Director)
  • Me
  • and many more.

(Look for profiles on each speaker over the next couple of weeks on the New Renaissance Facebook page. )

Plus, plenty of workshops, creative free time, performances, interaction with other artists and leaders, and more.

And, it’s only $75!

Go to the website to register and for more information: http://TheNewR.com

The event is sponsored by VineArts Boise and The New Renaissance Arts Movement (a department of ACT Intl).

New book on the way!

You may have noticed that we had planned to do a Creative Church Conference in Indy this year, as well.  The New Renaissance Arts Movement, which I direct, is the main intervarsity-press-IMPRINTSsponsor of the Indy event, and one of our biggest priorities is to get a new book out about the arts in the church. IVP (InterVarsity Press) offered to publish the book last year and I began working on it full time last November. That process took considerably longer than expected and the first draft was completed in May. Since I was tied up writing, we decided to consolidate this year’s Creative Church Conferences into the one in Boise. (We plan to do Indy again in 2016.)

Now the new book is in the editing process at IVP and we have an official title: The Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation. We expect it to release in Spring 2015. Thanks to all who have prayed and contributed during this process!

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Redeeming the Arts

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity on February 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

(Note: You’ve come upon an archive site. Scott is now blogging at JScottMcElroy.com. These and fresh posts can be seen there! )

I’ve just been re-visiting the wonderful Redeeming the Arts paper and had to share it with you. Belhaven University and Colin Harbinson, editor of their magazine Creative Spirit, published this amazing work in 2005. One of the most thoughtful and comprehensive statements on the role of the arts in the church and culture to date, it was commissioned by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism, an international organization founded by Billy Graham in 1974. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in how God designed the arts and creativity to play a role in his redemption of the world. Here is a link to the complete PDF copy of it. My suggestion: print, underline, and savor it. (It’s the size of a small book.) Enjoy!

 http://stoneworks-arts.org/stoneworks/wp-content/uploads/2010/Creative_Spirit_Redeeming_the_Arts.pdf

“The gospel comes to us as a living word and draws us to think imaginatively of how things could be different. Imagination is capable of moving us closer to the truth about the world as we look through the lens of scripture. As an imaginative activity, art too can open our eyes to see old things in new ways. This important role for imagination suggests that our faith communities need to do their part in cultivating an imagination well rooted in the biblical narrative and the images of scripture.”–Redeeming the Arts

BTW, the mention of Billy Graham reminded me of his quote about the arts I post on FB a few days ago:

“All the masterpieces of art contain both light and shadow. A happy life is not one filled with only sunshine, but one which uses both light and shadow to produce beauty.”
-Billy Graham

Yes.

The Creative Church Conference Recordings Are Now Available!

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on November 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Here is the news from our non-profit, The New Renaissance Arts Movement.

New Renaissance

At the New Renaissance Arts Movement, we’re about connecting, equipping, and inspiring artists and churches for a New Renaissance. We believe that God is releasing a renewal of the arts and creativity in the local church and an infusion of spiritually powerful art into the culture. We believe this movement will connect artists with the ultimate Creator and their true selves, invigorate the Body of Christ, and convey God’s love to the world in authentic and creative ways.

To that end, last summer we hosted The Creative Church Conferences in Indianapolis and Boise; ground-breaking forums for ideas and inspiration about the role of the arts and artists in the church. Creative leaders liked Rory Noland (Heart of the Artist), Theresa Dedmon (Bethel Church, CA), J. Scott McElroy (Finding Divine Inspiration), Beth Booram (Awaken Your Senses), Jessie Nilo (VineArts Boise), Joe Boyd (Vineyard Cincinnati) and others shared visionary ideas and practical applications in 15 sessions and workshops!

Now, we are making the complete recordings from the Indianapolis conference available on DVD, CD and MP3 download.

Topics include:Creative_Church_Conference_DVD

Examples of the Power of the Arts in Community Outreach

Leading Your Congregation in Sensory Worship

Starting an Arts Ministry in Your Church

Healing Through the Arts

Creating Sacred Space

Thriving as an Artist in the Church

Painting Live for Church Services

Telling the Kingdom Story Creatively

Designing and Running a Church Gallery

Panel Discussions full of practical applications

and much more!

These recordings are full of ideas and inspiration for artists, church leaders, arts supporters, arts groups, and more. Order the complete set at a discount or choose individual sessions and workshops on DVD, CD or Mp3 download at http://www.TheNewR.org/.

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—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Now Non-Profit!

The New Renaissance Arts Movement became a 501(c)3 non-profit in 2012, through ACT International!

We are supported by people who want to see creativity, the arts, and artists thrive in local churches, for the purpose of making God’s incredible love know in the world.

To make a tax-deductible donation click here or you may also contribute by check by making it out to: “New Renaissance/ACT” and emailing us for the address at : thenewr@thenewr.org

Please consider us in your year-end giving.

Over the Rainbow Transcendence in Church

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity on September 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm

“Imagine if the local church became the place in culture to experience creativity, transcendence, and beauty.”

That’s one of the thoughts behind The New Renaissance Arts Movement  that I’m part of.  Honestly, these are things that are not often experienced in many churches. At least not yet.  So, over the summer we presented The Creative Church Conferences in Indy and Boise to create forums for ideas that could inspire artists and church leaders to be facilitators of God’s creativity in local churches.  To our joy, inspiration did happen on many levels.

One moment that particularly thrilled me came during one of our worship sets in Indianapolis. Before the Saturday evening session with Theresa Dedmon, Jason Barrows and The Heritage led us in a beautiful worship set made up of many of their original songs.  A sweet, restful spirit washed through the place.  We’d absorbed nearly two full days of teaching and discussion up to that point and the chance to settle in God’s presence during worship was serene. Then Jason took it to another level. He and the band surprised us with a nearly a capella rendition of “Over the Rainbow”.

I’ve been to a number of “seeker-sensitive” churches that will use “secular” songs during worship for various reasons. Sometimes it works better than others. I’ve heard some songs that felt completely out of place and forced, and a few that did add something special to the worship. At our church we’ve worked songs like “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel (1) into the mix with good results, and we often integrate a chorus from “Babylon” by David Gray (2) into the worship song  “I Love Your Presence”(3), which is wonderful and often brings me to tears.

But this version of “Over the Rainbow” knocked my socks off. In the situation it seemed like the perfect song; just sublime and peaceful, at the same time nostalgic and heavenly minded. You could feel the Holy Spirit’s hand on it, comforting us, giving us a pure and simple gift. Really, a beautiful, creative, and transcendent experience–just what we were there to talk about creating.   A number of attendees just “lost it” with joyful tears.

At that moment I realized that there might not be another song that captures the basic human longing for heaven so well, “Christian” songs included. It’s made up of rainbows, dreams, happy Bluebirds, simple lyrics, clear voices and lovely harmonies. No deep theology, just truth that our heart can connect with. No evangelism, just the desire to be with our Father in a better place.

I wonder if we wouldn’t do well to introduce that kind of childlike joy and longing into our churches and services a little more often.

Here is that rendition of “Over the Rainbow” by The Heritage. I haven’t been able to stop watching and listening to it. Enjoy!


(1)See “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, HERE

(2)See “Babylon” by David Gray, HERE

(3)See “I Love Your Presence” w/”Babylon” chorus from Bethel Worship, HERE

Creative Conferences on the Arts in the Church are Full of Inspiration

In Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on June 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

“I think it will take me a lifetime to fully understand and express what God did during the Creative Church Conference. …(it is) allowing so many of us to finally find our creative tribe!!!! The effects this will have in the kingdom will ripple through eternity.” Tammy, Duluth, MN

“The sheer number of gifts that I received at the conference are STILL being revealed! God’s blow’n my hair back!” deAnn, York, PA

When The Creative Church Conference Indianapolis: Embracing the Arts in Your Church wrapped up, it was evident that God had pulled off something special. From the eclectic mix of speakers and their unique perspectives, to the practical, inspiration-packed workshops, to the extras like the Creative Room, live painting, poetry, dance, live music, the Prayer Ministry Rooms, the wonderful art gallery, the Spontaneous Prophetic Art, it was a conference full of surprises, inspiration, connections, and healing. As we had hoped, the conversation reached across denominational boundaries, bringing together leading practitioners from different traditions and backgrounds and we all learned from each other. But more than that, being together to talk

AnnaRose McCabe dancing during worship at the Creative Church Conference Indianapolis. Cathy Feeman paints behind her.

about and experience what God is doing with the arts provided priceless creative fuel and refreshing for the journey ahead.

The theme of the conference, “Embracing the Arts (and Artists) in Your Church”, was based on the concept that God IS creativity, that He designed the arts and creativity as a way for us to encounter and know Him, and the embrace of these things in the local church will mature the Body of Christ and change the world.  The wide ranging discussions all touched on this theme in some way. Jessie Nilo, in her blog post about the event took a shot at describing what went on:

” (Friday) Scott challenged us to do art for the sake of maturity in the Church. Beth Booram (Awaken Your Senses) opened our eyes, ears, and senses, and our imaginations were primed to soar through being present. Rory Noland (Heart of the Artist) melted our hearts with humble encouragement, speaking on some of the challenges of being artistic. (Saturday) Joe Boyd (Artist/Pastor)… well, this improv actor had us laughing hysterically, then  slammed us with clarity and truth on behalf of artists in our churches. Theresa Dedmon (Bethel Church) joyfully led many in the room into healing; spiritually, artistically, and even physically.

“The Arts in Community Outreach” Panel Discussion. Left to right, J. Scott McElroy, Joe Boyd, Kyle Ragsdale, Theresa Dedmon, Jessie Nilo, Christopher Greco

The workshops were riveting, filled with practical advice and spiritual experience on integrating the arts into the local church.  The discussions were electric, and nobody wanted them to end! The panel discussions and creative brainstorming were vital to all the churches represented in the room as we all pondered the future of the arts in the church.

This is a true movement of God.” (Excerpts edited.)

If you missed the Creative Church Indianapolis, a full DVD and cd collection of the sessions and workshops is now available!  Click HERE.

 

Continued Momentum at The Creative Church Boise, July 13-15

Manuel Luz

Less than a month later we did it all again with the Creative Church Conference Boise. This conference had a different personality than Indy, but was undeniably infused with God’s presence, as well.  Rory Noland, Jessie Nilo, and I spoke at both conferences, but Boise also featured Manuel Luz (Imagine That) a wonderful  “Renaissance Man”( he probably wouldn’t like that description, but it’s true) who delivered excellent messages and also led us in an amazing arts and worship time on Friday night. It was so enjoyable to watch him freely contribute his talents to the weekend.   Brie Tschoepe came in from Austin to instruct and enlightened us on the powerful gifts of drama and physical movement, and her presence alone added a unique sense of soul to the weekend. Rory Noland, a mentor to so many Christian artists, spoke from his vast experience of working with artists in the church. His talk on “Leading Artists” was remarkably practical and helpful.  And Dave Blakeslee, a former pastor and gifted potter who illustrates with clay as he speaks, completely floored us with unique insight on the relationship between pastors and artists. It was like he opened up a treasure chest of wisdom on the subject and started doling out rare gems. (I’ll post the text from that talk soon.)

A drama exercise. These people froze in position to illustrate the disciples in the stormy sea.

We knew from the beginning that the two conferences would have different vibes.  With Boise’s large and established VineArts Ministry to artists we thought that conference would lean more toward artists, and Indy’s proximity to a much larger population and more churches would skew it more toward arts and church leaders. These assumptions were generally true, but the way everything wove together at the individual conferences was truly astounding. There was a wonderful balance of ideas and insight for artists, arts leaders, and local churches at both conferences. It was clear that the Holy Spirit had inspired and guided these events, and there was clear affirmation that the movement to integrate the arts into the church–this New Renaissance–is God’s idea.

Now the question we hear continually, “When are you going to do it again?” We’re committing that question to prayer, and we’ll let you know as soon as we do!

As the words on the conference poster said:

A historic movement is underway.

A movement that will connect artists

with the ultimate Creator,

awaken creativity in the average person,

Invigorate the local church, and convey

God’s love to the world in authentic and creative ways.

It’s a New Renaissance,

And you have a part in it.

The Creative Church Conferences were sponsored in part by The New Renaissance Arts Movement. For more information on The New Renaissance Arts Movement go to http://TheNewR.org.

Creative Church Conference Updated Schedule!

In Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity on June 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm

We just posted an updated version of the Creative Church Conference schedule, June 15-17 in Indianapolis. It’s gonna be fantastic!

 

Check in and last minute registration starts at 8:30am Friday morning. The first session gets underway at 9:30am.

Friday and Saturday will focus on teaching and workshops, with panels and round-table discussions.

Workshops include:

  • “Releasing the Healing Power of the Arts”—Theresa Dedmon
  • “Creating Sacred Space Roundtable”
  • “Awakening Your Senses: Cultivating Sensory Worship in a Congregational Setting”–Beth Booram
  • “Painting Live During Services”–Cathy Feeman
  • “Starting an Arts Ministry and Building Arts Community in Your Church”–Jessie Nilo
  • “Opening and Maintaining an Art Gallery in Your Church”–Jessie Nilo, Kyle Ragsdale
  • “Having Standards, while Being Inclusive: Helping all Levels of Creativity Flourish in Your Church”—Jessie Nilo, deAnn Roe
  • “How to Create a Drama Ministry in Your Church”–Amy Christie
  • More!

Rory Noland will be the main speaker Friday night and Saturday morning.

Theresa Dedmon will be the main speaker on Saturday night.

Then on Sunday morning we’ll “take over” both services (9:30 and 11:30) at the Indy Vineyard Community Church! It will be a time to dream what it might look like for the arts to be fully integrated into Sunday services, with a healthy dose of experimentation, as well! The conference will end after our Sunday services.

All three days will feature loads of inspiration, prayer, and encouragement for artists and art ministers, with practical, creative ideas on ministry, and open discussions where you can share what it looks like to love God and people through the arts in your church.

We’ll explore questions like: How can our churches manage the tension between inclusiveness and excellence in the arts? How can the arts be used in outreach? How can we be intentional about giving artists a place in our churches? How can we disciple and encourage them, and avoid burning them out? How can we facilitate true community among artists?, and more.

There will be opportunities to share and hear different ways churches can embrace the visual arts, film, street art, dances, writing, poetry, theater, and much more.

We’ve designed this conference to be not only a unique time of gathering ideas and inspiration from creative leaders, discovering resources, and sharing with peers, but also a time of spiritual and mental refreshing. In addition to the many valuable workshops, each day you’ll  have the opportunity to take a creative break in the Creative Room, connect with other attendees, or get specific prayer. And from the time you register for the Indianapolis conference, someone will be praying specifically for you what God has called you to.  We hope you leave spiritually energized and full of new ideas and inspiration.

Here is a schedule of the conference timing and main sessions topics.

Creative Church Indianapolis

Conference Schedule

Friday, June 15

9:30am- 10:45am            Session One—J. Scott McElroy–“A Vision for the Flourishing of Art and Creativity in the Local Church”

10:45am-11:00am            Break

11:00am-12:00pm           Session Two—Beth Booram–“Awakening Your Senses: Cultivating Sensory Worship in a Congregational Setting”

12:00pm-1:30pm             Lunch Break

1:30pm-2:30pm               Choice of:

  • Workshops
  • Peer Round Table Discussion
  • Creative Room
  • Prayer Rooms

2:30pm-2:45pm                Break

2:45pm-3:45pm                Choice of:

  • Workshops
  • Creative Room
  • Prayer Rooms

3:45pm-4:00pm                 Break

4:00pm-5:30pm                 Session 3–Panel Discussion–“The Power of the Arts in Community Outreach”–Theresa Dedmon, Jessie Nilo, Joe Boyd, Kyle Ragsdale, Christopher Greco

5:30pm-7:30pm                  Dinner Break

7:30pm–8:00pm               Worship—Steven Potaczek and 1000 Generations (Plus the Grace Community Church drama team)

8:00–9:30pm                     Session Four—Rory Noland–“Thriving as an Artist in the Church”

Saturday, June, 16

8:30am-9:30am                (Registration for single day attendees only)

9:30am- 10:45am              Session Five—Rory Noland–“Cultivating the Heart of the Artist and Dealing with Perfectionism”

10:45am-11:00am              Break

11:00am-12:00pm             Session Six–Joe Boyd–“Telling the Kingdom Story Creatively: Thoughts from an Artist/Pastor”

12:00pm-1:30pm               Lunch Break

1:30pm-2:30pm                 Choice of:

  • Workshops
  • Creative Room
  • Prayer Rooms

2:30pm-2:45pm                 Break

2:45pm-3:45pm                 Choice of:

  • Workshops
  • Creative Room
  • Prayer Rooms

3:45pm-4:00pm                 Break

4:00pm-5:30pm                 Session Seven–Panel Discussion–“Group Brainstorm: Ideas and Inspiration for the Arts in the Church”–Rory Noland, Theresa Dedmon, Joe Boyd, J. Scott McElroy, Jessie Nilo, Christopher Greco, Cathy Howie, deAnn Roe, The Audience

5:30pm-7:30pm                  Dinner Break

7:30pm-8:00pm                 Worship—Jason Barrows and The Heritage

8:00-9:30pm                       Session Eight—Theresa Dedmon–“The Creativity of God Released in His People to Change the World”

Sunday, June, 17

9:30am-11:00am                 Special Arts Service

11:30am-1:00pm                 Special Arts Service

1:00pm                                  Conference officially ends

More about the The Creative Church Conference, Indianapolis!

In Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on May 4, 2012 at 4:26 pm

There are about 40 days to go before the Creative Church Conference June 15-17 in Indianapolis! I’m amazed at what God has put together.  Seriously.

The vision for this unique conference and its sister event in Boise in July is to amplify the conversation about what God is doing with the arts and creativity in the church. We hope to create a sumptuous smorgasbord of inspiring and practical ideas about how to integrate creativity and the arts into the community, services, and outreach of the local church. And to offer inspiration and refreshment for artists and creative leaders.

This conversation reaches across denominational boundaries, so the dream for this conference was to have a mix of perspectives and approaches, to bring together leading practitioners from different traditions and backgrounds, from Presbyterian to Vineyard to Lutheran to Catholic to Charismatic and everything in between. We can all learn from each other.

Rory Noland, author of the classic Heart of the Artist, probably the most widely read book on artists and faith to come out in the last 15 years, as well as the excellent follow-up Thriving as an Artist in the Church, will share about the important place of the artist and the arts in future of the church. Rory was one of the original worship leaders at the uber-influencial evangelical leader, Willow Creek Church (Chicag0) and he brings wisdom and perspective to the conversation.  Theresa Dedmon, arts leader at the charismatic powerhouse Bethel Church, Redding, CA will  share her infectious enthusiasm and thrilling stories about the power of the arts in outreach. She speaks internationally and has seen God move creativity through innovative and bold techniques. She’s also an art therapist and thrives on ability of the arts to touch individuals.   Joe Boyd, amazing storyteller, visionary filmmaker, improv actor and teaching pastor at the legendary Cincinnati Vineyard, will share his exciting takes on reaching out to community and telling kingdom stories creatively. Jessie Nilo, founder and director of VineArts Boise, one of the most vibrant church arts ministries I ever encountered, will bring her volumes of experience on leading artists, practical wisdom for running and sustaining arts ministry, and passionate heart to love people through the arts.  Beth Booram, author of the revolutionary new IVP book, Awaken the Senses, will show us how to engage our senses and right brain with our faith to magnificently enrich our encounters with God, and how to lead entire congregations in the experience.

We’ll talk about engaging the arts in outreach, building community among artists, creating atmosphere and sacred space in our churches, drawing out the creativity inherent in the “average” person, how to start and maintain arts ministry, how to run a church art gallery, and more. Panelists like deAnn Roe, Creative Arts Director at Living Word Community Church in York, PA,  and Kyle Ragsdale, Curator of the Harrison Art Center in Indianapolis, will share insight and answer questions.  I’ll contribute to the weekend with some perspective on what God is doing to awaken the arts and creativity around the world and help cast the vision for a creative church that more fully reflects His love and personality in the world.

We’ll have some creative surprises and opportunities for attendees to get refreshed and inspired with prayer and creative play. We’ve been given the unprecedented opportunity to completely design both Sunday services at the Indy Vineyard on the 17th, to dream about what church could look like with the arts fully  integrated and utilized in services. Attendees will be able to brainstorm and contribute, or just sit back and enjoy.

I’ve been to A LOT of conferences on the arts, but I’ve never seen anything like this. It has the potential to push this conversation to another level. I can not wait to connect and exchange ideas others who have felt God’s leading to reclaim the arts for His glory.

Because the truth is this: creativity, imagination, and the arts were conceived by our God.  They are inextricably intertwined with His personality and He is constantly practicing them–in every sunset, every cloud formation, every atom that dances in a cell. As beloved children created in God’s image, we can’t help but enjoy and practice creativity, too. It’s time to see it flow through the Christ’s church. We may not figure out every detail of how that all works over one weekend in June, but we’ll certainly have lots of fun collaborating with God and each other as we explore the path. And you’ll definitely leave with a better sense of how God may be awakening creativity in you and your church.

I sincerely hope you can be a part of the Creative Church in Indianapolis in June 15-17! Get more information and  register at http://TheNewR.com.

A Little Justification for Art

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Family on March 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Rookmaaker in the classroom.

In 1977 noted Christian philosopher Hans Rookmaaker wrote a small book titled Art Needs no Justification. His premise was that art, creativity, and beauty have inherent value simply because God gave them to us. In a general sense, art doesn’t need a reason to exist, any more than a tree needs a reason to exist. (I included a larger quote from it here.) It’s an inspiring thought.

But it is nice to have a little justification; an occasional confirmation that our artistic endeavors are on the right track.

Scott speaking at Bethel ’11.

Last spring, during a speaking trip to California, my daughter and I were at the Bethel School of Supernatural Creativity in Redding to lead a workshop. One of the interesting  things they do at the school is set up an “Encounter Room”, where attendees can experience a number of forms of creativity that are designed to be led by the Holy Spirit. I’ve written before about the prophetic culinary table, where chefs create a delightful treat in front of you while interpreting the meaning of each ingredient.  There’s also an area where dancers will do interpretive prophetic dance as you sit and pray, and a booth where children from the Bethel elementary school will pray for you then ask God to give them a picture or a word about your life. It’s amazing how powerful those innocent little crayon and colored pencil pictures and words are.

This kind of risky, out-of-the-box creativity is at first disorienting, then thrilling to watch. “What if it doesn’t work?” you might think. Well, what if it does! These people trust that God will inspire their creativity so that others can experience a unique personal encounter with Him. It may sound downright strange to the uninitiated, but it’s certainly not any more unusual than much of performance art you see in the world, some of which is designed to shock and disturb. This is designed to spread God’s love.

One of the encounters at this event involved a roving drama troupe that would walk around the “Encounter Room” looking for people whom God seemed to highlight. The actors would address those people and perform a little improv drama. When this troupe came across my daughter they gave her some encouraging words, then handed her a branch from a bush that they felt God had led them to collect earlier. It was some sort of holly I think, with shiny, thick leaves. This was a meaningful experience for Hailee, for reasons she couldn’t fully explain, and she kept the branch, carrying it during the last leg of our trip in California then on the plane back home to Indiana.

Somewhere along the way we noticed that the branch actually had a strange growth on it, like a very hard and reptilian-looking cocoon. At home we decided to put the branch in water and see how long the leaves would stay green, and then we pretty much forgot about it.

A couple of weeks later my wife started noticing dozens of pesky little green bugs around the kitchen. There’s nothing that Danielle hates more than bugs in the house, so my mission became to eradicate them and find the source of the infestation.  As I took a closer look at the little pests, I realized that they weren’t gnats or average, run-of-the-mill bugs; these were actually baby praying mantises! Yep, that odd cocoon had a little rip in it. They were Northern California praying mantises that had survived the multi-day journey home and a couple of weeks in our kitchen, to hatch when and where God intended!

This little miracle was a confirmation for Hailee of how God loves and cares for her and of His appreciation for her unique personality.  She loves random and odd occurrences and this turn of events brought a sense of joy and wonder to both of us.  When she looked up the meaning of a praying mantis, what jumped off the page is that they can be interpreted as a symbol of direction, to point your way home. As a 20-year old in a confusing world, she needs direction, and this was God’s confirmation that He will bring it. That He sees her.  It also served to affirm some personal things He’d been speaking to her.

This special message for my daughter started with a group of young artists, many Hailee’s age and younger, who were nurtured and encouraged by the ministry of a risk-taking church. They asked God for a little inspiration and stepped out to make an unusual improv performance art piece, hoping that it might have some impact on someone. It did, and neither of us will ever forget it.

Dear Artist of faith, keep working in the areas, on the projects that God is compelling you to. Keep seeking Him, asking for ideas and inspiration. Keep aspiring to collaborate with Him, keep taking risks. The making of art may need no justification, but sometimes, in surprising and whimsical ways, God gives it.

A baby praying mantis on Hailee’s finger.

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), and Founder and Director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.

Art Needs No Justification

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on March 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm

This quote is lifted from Hans Rookmaaker’s 1978 book, Art Needs No Justification. I’ll refer to it in an upcoming post, and thought you might find it inspiring. I know I did.

“God gave humanity the skill to make things beautiful, to
make music, to write poems, to make sculpture, to decorate things. The artistic
possibilities are there to be actualized, realized by us, and to be given a concrete form.
God gave this to humankind and its meaning is exactly in its givenness. It is given by
God, has to be done through God, that is, through the talents he gives, in obedience to
him and in love for him and others. In this way it is offered back to him.
If in this way art has its own meaning as Gods creation, it does not need
justification. Its justification is its being a God-given possibility. Nevertheless it can
fulfill many functions. This is a proof of the richness and unity of Gods creation. It can
be used to communicate, to stand for high values, to decorate our environment or just to
be a thing of beauty. It can be used in the church. We make a fine baptismal font; we use
good silverware for our communion service and so on. But its use is much wider than
that. Its uses are manifold. Yet, all these possibilities together do not justify art.
Art has its own meaning. A work of art can stand in the art gallery and be
cherished for its own sake. We listen to a piece of music simply to enjoy it, a kind of
enjoyment that is not merely hedonistic; it surpasses that even if in some cases it can give
great pleasure. But it has the possibility of a great number of functions that result from art
being tied to reality with a thousand ties. It is exactly this last element that has been
underrated by those people who spoke of high Art as autonomous, for its own sake.
As art does not need justification, nobody has to be excused for making art.
Artists do not need justification, just as butchers, gardeners, taxi drivers, police officers
or nurses do not need to justify with clever arguments why they are doing their work.”

The Art of Not Taking Offense

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on March 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm

"I do not think it means what you think it means."

One of my favorite lines from the Princess Bride comes when Inigo Montoya addresses Vizzini about his constant use of the word “Inconceivable!” saying, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That came to mind today when God led me to read me the story of Jeremiah and the Rekabites. In Jeremiah 35, God instructs the prophet: “Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink.” So Jeremiah got some special cups and bowls and set them out nicely before the clan, doing exactly what the Lord told him. I wonder if he had some idea of God meant to do. Maybe he thought, “It’ll be nice to get to know these folks. I hope they notice I used the good wine.”

But when the Rekabites arrived and Jeremiah invited them to drink, they actually seemed sort of angry. They said, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine!’” Duoh! “This is awkward,” Jeremiah might have thought, “Did I mishear you, Lord?”

As an artist, I’ve had this happen several times. Times when I’ve felt like God clearly instructed me to do something; to make a piece of art or work on a particular project. I’ve prepared everything just right, like Jeremiah did, only to have the whole thing seemingly jump the tracks. Maybe the reaction is the opposite of what I expected, maybe someone drops the ball or the project implodes, maybe my execution doesn’t come together or the presentation falls apart. I’m left shaking my head, wondering if I heard God right. My natural reaction is to get offended; at others, “They have no appreciation for how hard I worked!”, or God, “How could you let this happen when I’m serving you!” And if you work in any creative capacity in the church, you know that satan will bring along endless opportunities to get offended.

I heard Patricia King say, “Offenses aren’t given, they are taken”. It’s true. It is our choice whether or not to agree with satan’s suggestions to get offended about the “raw deal” we got. And taking an offense is a great way to hinder the progress God is making in your life and work. You can get stuck as you brood on it. That old artist’s lie that “no one understands me, it’s me against the world” can pop up.

It’s important to immediately give these thoughts and feelings to God when they appear. Forgive quickly, if that is needed. Remind yourself that your identity is in God, not in your work or what you can do for Him. Actually, Jeremiah was probably pretty good at that; being a full-time oracle of God he was used to the Lord’s unusual methods. For us it can be more of a challenge.

In the case of Jeremiah and Rekabites, God’s plan for the encounter was more than just a little wine tasting with the nice family from down the street. He used the Rekabites negative reaction to highlight their faithful obedience in following a generations-old command to their forefathers to not drink wine (and a list of other things, as well.) It was a perfect juxtaposition to the extreme unfaithfulness of the Israelites. In spite of having generations of prophets to guide them, the Israelites continued to rebel against God’s good plan for them.

In my case or yours, when we encounter an unexpected twist in following God’s leading, He may just be cooking up something that we couldn’t imagine. We may never know exactly what He was doing. Or it may be about our personal growth. Either way, if I choose to take offense at how things seemingly turn out, I miss out on the joy of the adventure God is including me in; that joy of letting go of control, going with His flow, and trusting Him with the results. If things happen to go south, refuse to take the offense. Things probably do not mean what you think they mean. But we can trust that God’s plan is better than anything we could come up with.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), Founder and Director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement, and Director of Arts at Vineyard Community Church, Indianapolis, IN. He blogs at https://jscottmc.wordpress.com. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.