TransFORM - a missional community formation network

One of the dichotomies experienced especially in church life, is that of the demands of the community (to agree, cohere, empathise) and the artist (to challenge and create). It might be expressed as the pastoral vs the prophetic.

As an artist, how well do you relate to the creative? Are you fully yourself inside a community? Or are you serving an agenda at odds with your calling?

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I think definition is the biggest issue. If the church struggles with defining the arts then it can't relate in how to implement arts and the artists; then follows the natural progression that it can't define culture -- which I know is outside of your question, but I think is worth mentioning.

However, I think often the gap between arts and church has also created the problem that the arts can't define the church. Since artists are the cultural prophets of the human soul and live in the spiritual realm via their natural expression of spirit, then they let loose wild spiritual energy in search of direction. The church is the natural lightening rod for this energy since it is God's revelation of spiritual purpose, yet there is an obstruction of communication so it flows through other channels trying to find it's ground.

As far as pastoral vs prophetic... I don't know what you mean by that but I am interested.

As an artist, I live as a creative person and I don't succeed as much else. I am in a strong community which took me 37 years to find. And I am finally not serving an agenda at odds with my calling but I have for most of my life. ~j
Lovely Jay.

I'd like to mutate your call for "definition" into one for "inclusion". Whereas one might try to intelectually define the concept of "art", and we indeed should do that, at heart, the question for me is are we inclusive. Not only of people, but do we include the artist in our view of ministry, for example. Most in conventional church structures are not able to do this. At best, they tolerate the artist.

I see a pattern with the prophet. Existing on the edges of community, speaking and doing the word of G-d from a position of weakness and remove, the prophet pushes the same boundaries as the fully flowering artist. I agree with you in your claim that "artists are the cultural prophets of the human soul".

I celebrate with you your treasure in a field : costly community, especailly as an artist.
What if Church is a culture? I think that the place for art and music in the church is to participate in and articulate the culture of the church...whether a specific congregation or a larger tradition within Christianity.

What do you all think about that?
Hi Tripp - I agree that "church" is a culture, and that one role for the arts is to be active therein. However, while I rejoice when Creatives are fully accepted in that culture, I often find that they do not thrive there, precisely because of the problem I am trying to discuss : the creative is kept controlled by conventional, anti-creative ways of being.

So, what if the place for "church" is to participate in and articulate the culture of art and music? Even just as an experiement? What if Culture is a "church"?
Jay, can you talk more specifically about Convergence in this thread (I know your reply was talking about it a bit, but can you get more specific about what Convergence is already doing)? I think it would be interesting to Nic and Tripp. I'd also *love* it if Mr. Pete Bulanow would speak up. I know he's got something to say...
Sure Amy.

Well first let me say that I think Nic is right on with his ideas, at least from our perspective. At Convergence, we have adopted a perspective of Belong, Behave and Believe where as the Church usually asks outsiders to Believe, Behave and THEN Belong. We feel the latter asks a lot of someone when we are trying to facilitate a deep and delicate change in their life.

This is a huge reason that we are flipped in our ratio to seekers/resistors vs believers compared to most churches. We have a church of about 30 and an outside community of several hundred, because we invite people to belong before we ask them to behave or believe. Many people at the far reaches of the church are desperate for spiritual conversations, but have no idea how to start them or where to have them. Because of this, our curriculum starts at the resister and tries to provide resources all of the way through the spiritual spectrum to fully mature believer. Because we are a newer plant we have a lot of gaps but we are working hard to fill them.

How do we address the artistic culture? Our mission is to the artist. Just as some churches send equipped missionaries to other countries, we equip artists and send them out to their artistic culture, which is often very spiritually dry. Our church starts in the club, galleries and theatres and extends to our studio spaces and small groups to the center which is the church body. We are essentially trying to place the church in the middle of the local art world so we can dialogue with those that are creating the cultural messages of tomorrow.

It's a very aggressive outward strategy that is working well. Too well in some ways, as we are having trouble growing our church body fast enough to keep up with discussions happening in our art community.

There is a lot more but this is the main idea.

Yup. Convergence pretty much rawks. You can check them out here.
Thanks Jay. We have also adopted the Belonging first approach.

I am very excited to hear about your flipped ratios. Providing "resources along the way" for the seeker are as far as I now read it, the very message of Jesus. Its all about hospitality, especially for the "stranger". And we find that as we engage that stranger we are both changed, and the Kingdom of God appears in our midst through that transaction.

I also note the acknowledgement of an "aggresive outward strategy", and this is a self acknowledged caution to be sustainable - that we do not fall for the classic destroyer of enterprizes - overextention / overambition. But its a nice problem to have.
Thanks for the reflections, gang. And I too like the belong-behave-believe m.o. The question I have is how the church (and any subset like a congregation) might understand it's own culture so that it can be in dialogue with the artist. If an artist goes to Haiti, for example, they don't expect the Haitians to stop whatever they are doing to make them feel comfortable. But there are ways to be hospitable, to share what we have, to invite a dialogue etc where everyone can belong and new ways of being together can emerge.

So, let me reframe the question: How can any existing Christian community show hospitality to its artists?
Great Tripp, this conversation has a solid trajectory. Lets take a stab at some "answers":
- Stop seeing them as a threat, but as a blessing.
- Stop seeing them as appendages to be tolerated but as potential prophets and leaders.
- Developing a healthy, "realworld" critique, stop ghettoised sentimentality, mature the aesthetic.
- Support them in their careers and vocations, assist them to get more business savvy, see their potential to act as flags for fellowship.
- Create opportunities for them to show, perform, workshop, discuss their vision.
- Help them to get saved from the nascissim so often associated with "delicate genius" by providing solid discipling.
Yeah I agree. I don't think it's that difficult to embrace the artist and they have a whole lot to teach us so it's a worthwhile approach.

I think, as with a lot of outreach, the problem we have is in our genuineness when it comes to love. We come into the relationship with an agenda and we generally have no grace when people's moral ideas don't match our own. It's kind of impossible to truly have a relationship with so many walls up. We can't create a relationship on our terms, we have to do it on theirs. My deeper talks usually happen in a bar in the middle of a month long tour over several beers in some beat down Midwest town. Most musicians I know don't respect what I believe, but they deeply respect me. That causes a pause for them, in their isolated world they can create an image of Christians that is pretty extreme, but when a Christian they respect is present then that ideal doesn't hold up anymore and that opens up all sorts of conversation.

An interesting point though; we have noticed that younger artists -- this next generation -- don't necessarily possess all of the same angst towards the church as older artists. And the older artists, 50's - 60's seem to have more angst than the Gen X and Y. There does seem to be a cultural shift. I could theorize why this is but that's probably a long conversation.


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