Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ignore Your Weaknesses

I am reading a book right now about putting your strenghts to work, and focusing your energies there. It claims that I will be most effective when I am working on maximizing my strengths, rather than striving harder and harder to improve my weaknesses. This is not trying to minimize the deficiencies in my personality, only trying to improve upon my professional performance.

One activity that I am doing this week is tracking my emotional reaction to the activities I do. When I feel a strong emotion associated with a task I am doing, I am supposed to record it.

It has been interesting to do this so far. Already I have learned about some areas that I dislike [that I never realized I dislike]. Not surprisingly, I am finding my strongest positive reaction to be in the areas of creativity and artistic endeavor.

I will learn more as I continue through the book, but it is an interesting thought: the proposal that I will be more effective by focusing my work away from my weaknesses [rather than working hard to improve my weaknesses] and simply building on just a few strengths.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Future Role of the Arts in the Church, Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about my belief that the church, in the future, would more likely organize itself into smaller, organic pods of believers, and live out faith in these smaller clusters. I posed the question that given this new form of the church, how would the arts be manifested in these smaller communities and how might devotional arts impact culture from this context. Here are my opinions:

1. Worship will be less programmed. I believe that it is far more likely that, while small worship gatherings will still have times of worship and discussion of God, it will not be the programmed, polished, consumer-oriented product that we currently see. My prediction is that worship will arise more naturally and organically. I also foresee less congregational singing, and more congregational discussion.

2. More art will originate from within small community. These days, one could attend about any contemporary church and hear familiar songs. Not because great hymns of the ages are being used frequently, but because the same 50 songs are coming from the top music artists and publishers in Nashville, and local churches are simply copycatting these songs. While there are many great songs to be used from these resources, I think in the future, these smaller communities will form their own artistic expression in music, art, poetry, video, etc. The "canned" material will be less important to the faith community, and natural expressions of congregants own experiences will be more highly valued.

3. Art will be formational. We will attempt to understand [literally, stand under] art in our communities. We will stop seeing it for merely its emotional impact in supporting a theological point, and will begin to see the theology of individual artworks. We will treat them as we would a sermon or a curriculum, and attempt to derive our own spiritual anchor points from these works of arts.

4. Art will seem more secular in nature. Rather than limiting expressions of God to come through approved "Christian" channels [using approved "Christian" words and phrases], we will begin to see God's movement in art outside the church, and incorporate it into our own expression. We will allow the goodness of what is being done in the world to impact our Christian experience. We will appreciate and celebrate good art wherever it is found, even incorporating it into our communities. [We already see this at work in some circles, particularly in music and video, as many contemporary churches use secular music or box office hits to illustrate points or deepen meaning in worship services.]

5. The church [even in these small faith communities] will begin to understand itself as a steward of art, which it will use to impact the world for good. The church will more and more realize that "every good and perfect gift" comes from God, and will use the goodness and beauty inherent in its art to impact culture. I think it will not be uncommon for the church to be a regular host for art shows, concerts, ballets, movies, etc. as it begins to understand itself as an administrator and executor of goodness and beauty.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Future Role of the Arts in the Church, Part One

I don't claim to know the future, but over the next 50 years [or 10 years or 500 years], I believe that the Christian church will move away from building-centered, program-driven megachurches, and newly manifest itself in smaller, incarnational groups or networks of groups. This will allow each church to have greater flexibility and adaptation for relevance and influence in each specific context in a rapidly-changing culture. It is even possible that American megachurches will one day stand as empty tourist attractions, like the vast cathedrals of Europe. Depending on what you read, this trend is already taking place now.

The question that further interests me is this: In this new manifestation, what will the role of the arts be? How will worship and devotional arts have impact in smaller settings? How will Christian art impact culture as it breaks through the confines of the building-centered worship service? In what new ways might art impact the world around us?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Black Swan

I got to see Black Swan a few days ago. It was stunning and incredible. It was also dark and disturbing. In all, it was really good art. In that way, it was inspirational for me.

I was moved by the dancing and music onstage. I was moved by the beauty of the costumes and makeup, the lights and the production of the ballet. I was also stirred and wrenched by the composition of the movie itself. It certainly deserved all of the attention and accolades it received.

I also received it as a call to pursue excellence in my artistic endeavors. I want to create art that is moving, compelling. I want to "lose myself", as Natalie Portman's character was instructed to do by the ballet's director. I want to give my everything in pursuit of beauty and transcendence. I believe that in so doing, I will honor God.

Of course, I really don't want to go bonkers.