The visual arts are used by the Churches every day. The cross we find at the focal point of most sanctuaries is the result of an artist’s craft. From hand-hammered brass to ceramic pieces created on a wheel, many of the communion chalices we use are beautiful works of art. These are vital pieces of the church’s function, of the Divine Service, and they are more often than not created to be visually pleasing, with rich meaning and symbolism. Altars, and even pews, are crafted with care and creativity. Banners fly proudly with symbols appropriate to the church season. Visual aids grace bulletin covers, PowerPoint presentations, and projections. Church logos are created by graphic design. The visual arts are already important to the Christian life, but we often passive with our use of them.
We have a rich and intentional tradition of music in the Christian church. Composers, accompanists, organists, instrumentalists, vocalists, are dedicated to faithfully caring for the musical life of the church. They work to produce hymns that are meaningful, beautiful, faithful to scripture, and which focus us on the true Word of God. In the same way that we have musicians who faithfully care for the musical life of the church, we need artists who care for the visual life of the church, to ensure that it is meaningful to those who view it, aesthetically congruent with the church’s mission, and aids in the faithful proclamation of the word without distracting from it. If the church is going to continue to use visual means to communicate, it is vital that we do so with purpose. We must think about how we visually represent Scripture. We must talk about how to stay faithful to the Word while making use of our God-given creativity. The church can no longer afford to be passive with its use of art.
Our culture and daily communication are becoming more and more visual every day; it is essential that we keep this in mind as we endeavor to effectively communicate the gospel. Visual art is a unique and powerful means of communication; it has the ability to be deeply moving for all who see it, regardless of age or level of literacy. It transcends language barriers and helps viewers create connections between complex ideas. It says that which may escape verbal description. It has historically been an invaluable tool for instructing centuries of church goers. It is time to return to the roots of sacred art, and to make use of every resource to which we have access in order to aid in the profound and widespread proclamation of the gospel.
If we are to be diligent about our stewardship, we must also be diligent in our stewardship of the arts. As the body of Christ, it is important that we be cognizant about how we use the resources and tools at our disposal. Everything we do says something about who we are, confesses something about what we believe, and so we must be purposeful in all things, including our use of the arts. We invest in educating our pastors in the craft of preaching so that they may bless hearts by preaching the Word of God. We invest in preparing our musicians so that they may bless ears with faithful songs of praise to our Lord. We must also take steps to invest in our artists so that they may bless eyes through the visual communication of the beauty of Scripture.