I have no idea how many parts this series of posts will eventually include. This is the beginning of a journey that has started here, here, and here. The first link got me thinking about discipleship as conspiracy. The second is my attempt to elaborate on the subject against the notion of empire, and the third link was my proposal that every follower of Jesus is a conspiring artist and that art is a way for the church to express who God is and where he is at work in our neighbourhoods.
Today is the summary of the first experience of moving toward liberating the artist in the course of discipleship for the purpose of kingdom discernment and mission.
But I need to clarify my motivation here a bit more before I dive in….
A fundamental part of my proposal is the recognition that the artistic is not taken seriously in missiological discourse in the church because of its open ended nature. Much of the ecclesial imagination in the West is held captive by the empire's language of market capitalization (read strategy) and as a result becomes anxious about the mystery of art. Whereas market language deals with notions of “how”, the artistic can express notions of “who” and “where” in mission. The artist can evoke an alternative vision expressing who God is and where he is located, while at the same time forming criticism of injustice embedded within the status quo. Where there is predictability and strategy there is no room for art. In this equation dominated by “how”, art is airy-fairy and at a loss to contribute toward God's Kingdom advancing. These questions of “how” grip the imaginations of God's people toward utilitarian ends in a negative way.
But I don't need to hash that out further at this point. I want to share an experiment with art that our mission group engaged yesterday.
I was asked to lead our worship time last night. Although I love playing the guitar, last night I wanted to draw the artist out of people. We did that by building up toward an exercise of each of us writing a four line poem.
I started by asking for a show of hands for the following questions.
- How many of you feel you are creative?
- How many of you consider yourselves an artist?
- How many of you consider yourselves a leader?
About half saw themselves as having some creative impulse, less than a quarter as artistic and about the same as a leader. Then I asked the following questions.
- How many of you think God is creative?
- How many of you believe God is an artist?
- How many of you believe you were made in God's image?
We then entered a time of prayer and listened to a Steve Bell song. I thought it important to give the group something to anchor this experience in. So, I guided the group to consider their life without God while we reflected in the song. I wanted people to consider the emotions, color, and details of this. Then we transitioned to reading Isaiah 65:17-25 as a way to encounter poetry that summarizes the nature of the hope we have in Christ in vivid ways. This served to contrast the experience. Again, I asked that people consider the emotions, color and details of this.
We then began our process of writing a four line poem. There was no pressure to share it with anyone else. This would hijack the experience by introducing anxiety about what others think. I challenged people to work through the feeling of difficulty by going over their words and making it as good as they possibly could. I offered for people to share only if they wanted to. One person did share and the words were beautiful…encouraging. The rest were encouraged to keep their poems in their hearts as an expression of prayer in the spirit of the psalmist.
The night was a good opportunity to grow as artists in the Kingdom. More to come as the journey continues.