One month each year, my church, Oak Hills in Folsom, California, takes the time to emphasize the arts during our services and in the many other activities of the church. Though we have the arts in many different forms all year long, July is a time when we throw the doors wide open and allow other artistic forms to have a venue. We have visual artists participating in worship, musicians performing between services, and other artistic elements like dance and multimedia and art gallery. And the reasons for this are straightforward—we believe that we are made in the image of the All-Creative God, and part of our journey as disciples of Jesus includes understanding and expressing who He made us to be.
While it seems obvious to us, it is not something often found in many churches. The arts in the evangelical church are somewhat misunderstood and often commodified. The arts are a medium for a message, a hook to bring people into the doors, the bling before the sermon. And unfortunately, that attitude extends to how the artists in many churches are treated as well.
Thankfully, we understand the arts to be more than a novelty or a medium for a message. It is who God made us to be, and how we can express our lives in Christ to one another and to the world. So if you come to Oak Hills during the month of July, you may see a variety of different artists, and you’ll know why.
If you see a painter or a dancer on stage, you’ll understand that they are painting or dancing as an expression of worship, and in a sense, they are worship leaders, pointing people to God just like the people singing and playing instruments. If you see musicians performing between services, you’ll understand that they are expressing a unique and God-given gift which needs to be celebrated in the church. If you pass by the Art & Soul Gallery (which features art from our Arts Camp children), you’ll understand that the artwork is an expression of young minds who are learning about God and his love for them. God is glorified in the diversity of expression, and in the diversity of the those who are expressing. It is a very cool thing.
Our scheduled artists for the month are many and varied, and include: Jacquelyn Venter (classical harpist), Mary M. Fong (visual artist), Ashley Hansen (dancer), Artistic License (vocal/barbershop quartet), Allison Carlos (painter), Anna Agundez (sculptor), Pneuma (professional dance company under the direction of Kelly Archer), Michaela Nasello (artist/songwriter), Proclaim! International Musicianary Steve Liberti, Steven Randal (guitarist), Melinda Word (painter), Billy J. Walsh (guitarist/vocalist), The Prime Time Drama Team, and my band, the Manuel Luz Trio. Most all of these people spring from the pews at Oak Hills. In other words, they’re simply an expression of our local body of Christ.
As we stated earlier, the arts are expressed not just in July, but throughout the year. But it is a good thing for the church to be a venue to, an audience for, and a community with the artist of faith. Even more so, I believe it is part of the church’s calling.