When Did Church Lose Its Beauty?

This is a new church that did put up art in its refurbished building. Bravo!

This is a new church [Church at the Center] that did put up art in its refurbished building. Bravo!

I visited a church yesterday because I wasn’t in town to worship at City Pres.

It’s a great church. They’re doing a great job. I’m thankful for it and its ministry. They’re reaching out to the community. They have small groups gathering throughout the week. They’re passionate about preaching and teaching the gospel. They love families and kids well, as far as I can tell. They seem to care about their presence and the way they present themselves. Their communication and vibe feel intentional and thoughtful and they have what seems like a well-crafted and professional-looking marketing strategy. Like I said – they’re doing a great job!

So maybe I’m just super snobby. And maybe I just always want to nitpick at every little thing. I’m judgmental and I want to have my cake and eat it too. I’ll admit it.

I wanted some beauty. It was heartfelt, authentic and believable. It was maybe a little to trying to be cool, but that’s okay. I want all of those things. I like those things. I also want beauty.

I think they built this building. I know they inhabited it for a long time. Instead of beauty I was sitting in  a square box. It was dark. There were a few windows in the back but those were covered with blinds. The room was painted brown. The stage was black with a few trendy cool blue and green lights. They had some pallets stacked up for some depth and the screen.

A banner hanging at Drury College in Springfield.

A banner hanging at Drury College in Springfield.

I probably have some ADHD going on but I wanted something to look at. I wanted some art on those walls. Maybe even some cheesy banners. Something that spoke of Christianity. I would have loved for it to have been something that stood for something, something that was created, something that was symbolic. I wanted – art.

Christianity isn’t just heartfelt believability. For certain – it is that. I do believe in it. I do assert it. I do confess it. I do sign up for it. But isn’t it more than that? As we form people into what it is that God has for us, don’t we also need beauty? Don’t we need something to see, something to look at, something to wonder about, some symbols to mull over, some pictures?

I think so. I think we’re missing out if we don’t have them. We’re stunting growth.

I know of many churches that have a ton of beauty without any believability. I’m not advocating for that pendulum swing. I don’t think that’s a great trade.

But when you have the chance to start a church, to build one, to inhabit one, to form one – why wouldn’t you choose to put up some art? The church has always been a benefactor, a promoter and an advocate of art. Until recently.

A church may not have gotten around to it. Every church has constraints. I’ve worshiped many times, many years in cafeterias, school gyms and makeshift rooms. We don’t always get what we want.

But do we want it? Does art still form us, does it still matter? Does the church have to scuttle this off as something secular? Shall we form our ideas, visions and making sense of the world? Shall we inspire our children? Shall we give them something so so so essentially human?

I want it! I’m starved for it. I long for beauty. It’s authentic. It’s believable. It’s important. It’s a way to form and shape what we want Christians to be, what we want nonChristians to know.