Psalm 19:1 exclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Each day provides him a new canvas to paint an original design from his endless palate.
God’s creative handiwork is intentional. And we are the embodiment of our Creator, specifically designed to declare his glory. Throughout church history the arts have been used to draw people closer to Christ and reveal his glory. In today’s world of rapidly changing technologies and visual arts, we can powerfully enhance the church’s worship ministry. Use of projected graphics and videos, live creation of artwork, sacred movement, poetry, stage design, and many other forms of visual arts can work with all the other methods of proclaiming God’s Word.
God delights in creativity. The pressing question for our time is how can we help them to see?
1. People of the Second Chance
At Impact Church in Lowell, Michigan, a powerful way to tell the stories of changed lives has become an event that everyone looks forward to. They regularly show videos of people whose lives were completely transformed by Jesus Christ: people of the “second chance.”
According to Technical Director Dave Van Kuelen, people come to church anticipating these compelling stories and they consistently receive the highest feedback. The process is fairly simple. They establish the video theme, prepare the interviewee and shape questions to fit the theme, interview them for 25-40 minutes, and edit it down to 3-4 minutes. It is filmed with one camera, multiple lenses, and natural light. They can interview on a Thursday and have the final video ready for a Saturday night service.
Dave says, “Yes, it is possible! Powerful, compelling, and affordable videos can be done. And will captivate and move an audience.”
2. Stations of the Cross
At First Wesleyan Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the gospel story of the crucifixion and resurrection is told through the “stations of the cross.” Christians all over the world have worshipped and prayed through the stations of the cross since the early church. The eight stations of the cross in Tuscaloosa are one giant step removed from traditional worship in the sanctuary. The physical journey of each person and the visual artwork help to strengthen the message of the cross being both very personal and part of the journey of life.
Many of the early Christians made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and walked in the footsteps of Jesus. As the church spread far and wide, the steps of the sacrifice of Jesus began to be observed in countless churches and locations.
Because of the Tuscaloosa church’s school, day care, discipleship classes, and other events throughout each week, people are present in the building. Over time, many of them are drawn to the stations, and pray and worship through them, often following a printed guide.
The large, welded metal sculptures are a story in themselves. The basic pictorial content of each sculpture is possibly ancient, reflecting the stations at a church in Warsaw, Poland. Yet each is a unique work of art today, and reflects the love and sacrifice of many different people who worked to see each one come into being, especially sculptor Tim Lunceford.
Brad Hodges, media director/worship leader, said those who come to church often remark that the compelling love of Christ is powerfully felt in the series of stations. And those who take the time to journey and pray through all the stations find that they cannot do it without being changed. Some end the journey with quiet tears. All draw nearer to Christ.
3. Prayer labyrinth
At College Wesleyan Church, in Marion, Indiana, people had a special opportunity to slow down, worship, and pray through the pathway of a “prayer labyrinth.” For forty days before Easter during the Lenten season, the 60-foot-diameter labyrinth was seen on the floor of the large circular atrium. Throughout each week, whenever the building was open, people came one-by-one to walk through the labyrinth and pray, most taking 5-10 minutes. Many used a prayer guide, which contained a prayer list, thoughts from the Lenten sermon series, and some great prayers by people such as John Wesley, Mother Theresa, and St. Francis of Assisi.
There was value in having a sacred space to pray that was unprogrammed, providing a different kind of personal worship experience.
Staff pastors Jordan Brown and Daniel Rife commented that it is best to have a group of people working together to lay out the prayer labyrinth (done with gaff tape). Templates are available for different sizes and shapes of labyrinth design.
4. Jesus paid it all
At Mt. Zion Wesleyan Church in Thomasville, North Carolina, right before the Easter sermon, people were moved by the live painting of the hands, feet, and face of Jesus Christ. While an arrangement of “Jesus Paid it All” was being beautifully played by the worship team, members of the youth group brushed paint onto the six-foot canvases in bold red and black colors.
Worship Arts Pastor Matt Brady revealed that guidelines for the brush strokes were penciled onto the canvases ahead of time and were carefully practiced so that they meshed with the music. None of that was seen by the congregation, however. The bold images effortlessly seemed to appear. Live art and music stirred the hearts of worshipers.
Many church members posted pictures and videos of the paintings in social media, extending the witness far beyond the four walls of the church.
5. Living a Brand
A rebranded vision and name for the church has kindled creative worship. Branden and Jenn Petersen, deeply involved in a rebranding of Collin Creek Church to Sent Church, in Plano, Tex., are now living out the vision by church planting in New York City.
The “rebranding” was more than a logo. It was very intentional in the impact that was expected. Imagine a church whose vision is to constantly be making missionaries and sending them out, a church that is totally about others in its purpose. In a church like this, if people are living their lives like people who are sent by God to others, it also changes worship.
The rebranding fueled new creativity in worship arts. For example, a spoken word performance was part of the launch service, with this poetry installed in the lobby as an artistic chalkboard design. A great deal of significance was placed on the visuals of the new brand message. Solidifying the vision with greater clarity drew in vision-focused worshipers.
In the first year after launch, one hundred bold new stories/testimonies were told in worship times, videos, and various other media, reflecting its new identity.
Get an insider look at the brand guide and creativity that flowed on launch Sunday.
6. Evoke emotion with creative graphics
Mark Courtney, creative arts director at Daybreak Church in Hudsonville, Michigan, noted that God gave us our senses to experience life. Vision, especially, is our window to the world. Through imagery, graphics, and other visual arts we can more powerfully reveal God’s character, his message, and his love. Using the best possible graphics communicates the importance of the message. Some practical tips:
- For each new sermon series, alter the imagery
- Use original photography and graphics
- Connect with local design schools as a resource
- Keep text large and simple, using simple backgrounds
- Use white text over rich, saturated colors such as blue or purple
- Do printing on a digital press
- Stylize your logo in a unique way to reflect the series design
- Ask outlandish questions that stimulate new ideas (e.g., How can we evoke emotions visually without using clichés? What if we could not use words? What are five new ways to use silence?)
Our culture today is riveted by imagery, graphics, and media. Through imagination and visual artistry we can better connect people to God’s character and message.