BY: Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Creating art without developing a heart of worship, is a meaningless exercise for Christian artists. Worship is the inevitable response of gratitude, flowing from hearts set free in Christ. When we, as artists, acquire the habit of viewing all artistic endeavors through the prism of eternity, then the art we create has the potential to be the overflow of our jubilant worship to a gracious God.
The subject of worship in a post-Christian culture is a somewhat strange topic. Modern society seems to consider worship as an archaic phenomenon, oblivious to the fact that worship of all sorts is ever present in the culture. Worship of God is considered odd while fawning over celebrities or demonstrating unrestrained enthusiasm at athletic events, is perfectly acceptable. That God is worthy of worship is an unusual idea to most because He remains silent. His presence is not intrusive or forceful. He simply IS. When one becomes conscious of His presence in the beauty of a landscape, the magnificence of a sunset, or the miracle of a new life, full hearts have only one expression that is authentic – worship. Yet, without drawing attention to it, in a society that refuses to acknowledge God as the source of laughter, the velvety softness of a petal or the shimmering beauty of a snowflake, worship remains a bland expression of general appreciation. Yet worship is far more than that.
I have encountered two kinds of worship in the art world – the worship of the art itself, and worship of the artist. Both these could arguably fall into the category of a glorified sort of appreciation rather than worship, yet they are not without fault.
I am convinced that both are distasteful in the Lord’s eyes. He gives us some rather stringent guidelines for worship. Developing a heart of worship is so important to Him, that the Bible is peppered with examples of genuine and spurious worship.
As artists, we have enjoyed creative moments when our hearts soared and worship was effortless. Our language of worship is most authentic when it flows from our spirits in response to our awe of God. Art, like music, can be a potent language to express what is essentially the vocabulary of the praising spirit. When your art develops into that unique language of praise, you will know and sense its precious worth. Having tasted its sweetness, beware of excluding Him when creating art, or looking elsewhere for ways to worship.
Deut 12:29, although addressed to the Israelites, highlights a principle relevant to us as Christian artists today,
‘… be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.”
There exists art that boasts a novel language, devoid of any consideration of God, art that is a slick form of expression, speaking a different dialect, serving different gods, bowing to the gods of acclaim, or simply a chasing after the perfection of beauty. Such art is lovely, yet empty. Seeking direction for our artistic journeys from others who hold a different worldview from us, who have been bought with a high price, is akin to inquiring “how they serve their gods”. Heeding their instruction (except for learning technique or use of materials), valuing their opinions and following their definitions of what constitutes ‘great art’, is to callously overlook the One who created it all.
Developing a heart of worship is a deeply personal journey. It takes its shape from our most private conversations with God. To express our individual hearts of worship wordlessly in the language of art is a unique privilege. Private conversations are not meant to be shared, and when eavesdropped upon, are often misunderstood. Conversations that are meant for His ears only, when spoken for everyone to hear, lose their intimacy. Their integrity also becomes suspect. Have we ever spoken openly to someone, knowing that others were listening? Have we not then tempered our conversation for the larger audience?
As vital as the integrity of a support is to a work of art, I believe that true worship is the foundation on which great art should be built.
A bumpy, ragged, poorly stretched canvas can never deliver excellence, as a carefully prepared, wonderfully smooth one. On such a surface, the brush is not hindered but dances freely at the impulse of the artist. Approaching the creation of art with a keen sense of worship in our hearts is much the same.
What is conceived in secret affects what is birthed in public?
Art is by its nature ultimately very public. Art speaks in a loud, strident voice – boldly expressing opinions held fiercely by their creators. Art shouts from walls of galleries as the outpouring of personal tastes, opinions, and philosophies of the artists.
In such a forum, should not our voice as Christian artists be heard as well? Our role is not to stay silent, or even worse, to imitate. Instead, with our collective heart of worship, why not carry the lessons learned from our private, divine conversations with God to the public arena?
Then we can, in the words of David, “serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you..” 1 Chronicles 28:9
So I urge you to make every effort to develop a heart of worship. Spend lavishly your most valuable resource of time on this one pursuit. You may be surprised by the quality of your work begins to shimmer with His blessing and presence. Our collective heart of worship will result in a resounding visual symphony of praise, each voice unique and necessary in a world starved for the authentic.
“For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commendeth.” 2 Corinthians 10: 18