In the American Midwest, you will find areas populated with free range cattle. These bovine roam and graze unencumbered by fencing or corrals. When they think that the grass is greener on the other side of the road, they cross that road and eat the greener grass. If you happen to be driving along that road, you might discover livestock meandering across the pavement in front of you. Just like pedestrians in suburban and metro locales, those cows have the right of way.
Free range cattle have the good life. They go where they want. They are liberated from the pressures of cowboys and barking herd dogs. No stampedes. No cattle drives. Just food and exercise.
We as artists need to allow our creativity to roam. Free range imagination. Feed our creative muscles and give them exercise. Give it room to wander and see where it finds greener pastures.
When I close my eyes and think of what is possible in the free range of my imagination, I envision a modern church where artists are not only accepted, but encouraged. I see church lobbies turned into a book reading for authors. I see multi-purpose rooms transformed into temporary art galleries. I see film screenings in church gymnasiums and concerts in sanctuaries. I see photographers and painters and singers and thespians all using their chosen forms of expression to speak truth and beauty.
I crave a church that opens its doors to the starving artists and all their eccentricities. A church that welcomes piercings and tattoos and dreadlocks. A church that treasures the stick figure scribblings of a five year old kid, and fosters their talent into a productive and artistic career when that child is no longer a child. A church that ministers to those who spend their lives ministering to others. A church where creative professionals can step off the stage of their day jobs and feel no demands to be on stage in the house of worship. A church that embraces the artist and tells them, “welcome home.”
It is easy for me to look at the relationship between the church and the artist and see the ways in which the church is doing it wrong. I count the errors that are roadblocks to creating the kind of church I long to see.
However, there are people who understand these challenges. There are organizations that are getting it right. These seven entities are either cultivating or propagating artistic expression. They are using creative elements to communicate God’s love. Visit their websites. Support them if you are able. Get involved if at all possible. At least let them inspire you. The church that I dream of is led by groups like these.
People of the Second Chance – Social media, photography, graphic design, short form video, storytelling, and a book. POTSC is a community founded on the principles of living life in light of second chances. Everything that they do is built on the concept that we have been given radical grace and in turn should give grace to others.
Art House America – Books, music, crafts, visual art, theater, culinary art, environmental care, travel, and much more. AHA is the brainchild of Charlie Peacock and his wife Andi Ashworth. They started by providing hospitality to those exploring art, faith, and what they call creative living. They now provide counseling, discipleship, mentoring, and community engagement for a wide variety of artistic pursuits.
To Write Love On Her Arms – Social media, short form video, music, fashion, photography, and public speaking. TWLOHA started as a mission of hope for a suicidal friend. Their connection to a community of musicians gave them a spotlight to fight against suicide and addiction. Through various campaigns, their purpose has grown to battle self mutilation and depression, increase mental health awareness, and encourage treatment for addicts.
I am Second – Short films, digital media, storytelling, public speaking, and a book. Primarily an online community, I am Second is supported by short films from notable celebrities and small groups across the nation telling personal stories of redemption. The films on the website feature musicians, actors, athletes, and politicians. Each tells their perspective of overcoming their struggles or tragedies through God’s intervention.
Hello Somebody – Fashion, music. Hello Somebody markets their own products as a means to fund relief projects. You buy a watch and they give much needed support elsewhere. Their campaigns include providing livestock to a school in Rwanda, helping the victims of sex trafficking, bringing clean water and sanitation to a community in Guatemala, and rebuilding efforts in Joplin, MO after tornadoes devastated the area last year. And their watches are snazzy.
The Identity Shift – Visual media, multi-media, short form video, animation, written word. The Identity Shift provides encouragement and support for the understanding and application of the gospel.
Lights Out – Lights Out is unique on my list because it isn’t ministering through artists but instead is ministering to artists. They provide pastoral support and hospitality to travelling musicians.