I think there is room for variety here. Why can't we have churches painting in the service and others not using any visual art at all - and not criticise each other. Just a thought. Perhaps tolerance is an art form too...
Phil (and whoever else),
I don't think I am an intolerant person for suggesting that churches think through the theological implications of their modes of worship. Or if anything, I am intolerant of ignorance and especially of faulty worship.
My questions about having painting in a service are: what exactly is it accomplishing? Who is receiving the glory of the action? Is the worship experience of painting something that the community is a part of or is it just for the artist? Do we want to encourage private forms of personal devotion within our corporate worship? Is the painting something that is leading every person in that congregation towards God? What is the biblical, traditional or reasonable basis for including this art form as part of worship?
I'm not saying churches can't include it. But they should think through it. The same goes for lighting candles, putting up a cross, singing a Taize, using Ignatian prayer, etc. etc. etc. I am witnessing an alarming lack of preparation and theological basis when it comes to worship. Sadly, this seems to be the trend in the emerging churches most of all.
Are we doing the things we do in worship for God's glory, or for our own?
Even the desire to fill our church can be to our own glory, along with more obvious things like doing something "cool", or different than our parents did. Motivation, people. Dig into the why.
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Yes, you are absolutely right, we have to get our hearts right and check our motivation. I wonder though if you can have a theologically correct form of worship. This seems to be one of the roots of many disputes in the church - should we paint, should we sing choruses or hymns, should we dance, should we have music at all. I wonder does God care at all. As you say, God looks on the heart.
I guess I'm also nervous about looking in on another church and trying to determine whether they have got their motivation right or not. I've planted a couple of churches and I know we often got it wrong, but God was gracious and blessed us. I'm sure we looked odd from the outside (actually they were African churches in the centre of London and I know for a fact that people thought we were very odd!). I have enough trouble struggling to get my own heart right in worship. I'm not against thinking these things through, but to pick out movements in the church as suspect, I don't know if I can do it.
Sorry to write two comments like this - the only reason I am commenting is that I enjoy reading your blog!
"My questions about having painting in a service are: what exactly is it accomplishing?"
I appreciate what you're trying to say, but so much of what we do today (and have done for decades/centuries) has gone unquestioned and unexamined too.
I could ask what exactly is anything accomplishing that we do in worship today?
Why do we (Epsicopalians) sing?
Why do we have choirs?
Why do we have million dollar church organs? (whose glory is that to, exactly?)
Why do we venerate ancient hymns set to centuries old German drinking songs and English folk tunes?
Why doe we call it the 1982 Hymnal when we should call it the 1882 Hymnal?
The fact is in my parish we have people who are not at all musically inclined, but who are very visual and artistic. Trying some different visual arts ideas in an alt worship type setting gave them an outlet for expressing worship that they'd never felt before. A hundred times more thought went into devising that one service than goes into the average Sunday morning service.
Even people who I really didn't expect to be there and who I didn't think would understand what we were trying to do were amazed and very appreciative.
Emergent/alt worship can be done poorly and without proper motivation.
Just like "normal" worship.
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