The Age of the Artist

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“What those thinking about emergent churches grasp is that the Bible is the most exciting book in the world, and we need to present it in ways that speak today. We’re no longer the culture of the orator; we’re the culture of the artist.” – Eddie Gibbs in Theology New and Notes, Winter 2007

It astounds me that anyone would continue to believe that monologuing (called “preaching” in the institutional church world) is the most effective way to communicate. That may have been true in centuries past, but it is could not be further from reality today. Being “talked at” is just plain boring. Even the very best monologue can’t begin to compare in effectiveness with the visual and virtual experiences that are the norm in public and personal communication.

Gibbs is absolutely right. We live in the age of the artist. It’s one of the great cultural/technological shifts of the latter half of the 20th century. All of the senses must be employed for communication to be effective.

May God produce multitudes of the artistic who can traffic with ease—and with spiritual authority—in the social currency of our day.

3 Responses to “The Age of the Artist”

  1. Steve Bagdanov Says:

    I have sat through many a boring sermon myself, and have preached probably more than I want to admit.

    Are you saying we should give up on preaching altogether? There have also been many moving messages, orations, sermons that have caused change and understanding. I am all for better ways to communicate, ways to make the message clearer and more cogent, more compelling – but you seem to be saying that oration is passe, and should be discarded. I could be reading this wrong.

    I have a few concerns.

    Pragmatism – utilitarianism is not necessarily our primary motivation.

    Maybe what is missing in our modern oration is what used to be referred to as “unction.” I heard Os Guinness make this point in an interview. The spiritual component (rather the Spirit) is truly the agent of change, not the methodology. And this will be the challenge facing the artist or the orator.

    There is an anti-intellectualism that is rising up in our churches as well. Some things just cannot be communicated visually or virtually (I am not totally sure what that means). Some concepts do not lend themselves to an artistic presentation, I think, I may just be too naive. But I am having a hard time seeing an effective presentation of the trinity without some “boring” element involved.

    This also tends toward elitism. The rural pastor, small church pastor may not have the resources available to him to pull off the artistic presentation, but nonetheless God has called and equipped him to be successful. It may not be the most effective way, but it may be the most effective way at his disposal.

    Finally, there really is no need for bifurcation here. Can we not simply state that there are many viable ways of communicating the gospel, and we need to improve all of our methodologies, and keep finding new ways to seek and save the lost.

  2. Dangers of the “Relevant” Church « The Temple Says:

    [...] Whatever we do to improve the church’s outreach potential and community potential cannot be at the cost of truth and the centrality of Christ.  Check out this challenge to preaching in favor of artistic expression: Under the Iceberg [...]

  3. Patrick Says:

    “But I am having a hard time seeing an effective presentation of the trinity without some “boring” element involved.”
    Oddly enough I’ve never heard an effective presentation of the Trinity that was boring. I’ve heard boring presentations but they weren’t effective. Indeed, I can’t even remember the last time I heard any presentation on the Trinity outside of a classroom. It’s not taught. Which is the curious thing about the charge of anti-intellectualism. I think it’s one of the most pressing problems in the church precisely because there is a passive reception of a once a week half hour lecture in which the task is to both teach and motivate. Imagine if this was applied to exercise, in which we watched someone work out for a half hour once a week then wondered why we weren’t more fit.

    By saying artistic it’s not about staring at a painting, it’s about participation, getting into the mix, becoming a actor rather than an observer. Which is how Jesus taught. He told stories that invited questions, and had a forum where questions, hard questions, could be asked. He was doing it everyday, in a variety of settings, letting the context become a tool. Everything, then, became a resource for his preaching. Everyone became involved.

    The artist sees words as just one medium among many, blending a whole life of discussion together in a variety of expressions all circling around a single teaching, involving nature, and creativity, and music.

    Which, of course, brings us back to the Celtic methodology, in which the Trinity was celebrated and understood precisely through art. All their whorls and knots and unbroken lines had meaning.

    All of this is why my Theology and Art class I had in seminary remains one of the most enlightening classes I took.

    I don’t think preaching should be thrown out entirely but I also think it needs to be taken off its theological pedestal and placed back within a broader range of approaches, each useful for specific moments and situations.

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