Art: The Church Off the Radar

I have recently become infatuated with performance art.

A few months I got to see Alton Brown Live and Rob Bell’s Everything is Spiritual Tour. Two very different shows, but they have moved something within me. Here’s what I noticed between the two:

1. Both came from a unique place of who they are. There was something that took their unique talents and gifts, and they put it together and offered it to the world. It was clear that each of these reflected the person who was presented.

In fact, now when I see Alton Brown on TV, I feel like I know him a little bit better. Not in a creepy stalker fan kind of way, but in the sense that I experienced some of who he is in the art.

2. Both were explored outside their typical contexts. Alton Brown kept saying: these are all the things I want to do but they won’t let me do on Food Network. Rob did a podcast recently on how he started doing his tours. He recognized he was good at this art form (again, it comes from his own unique talents) and he said: Hey, what if we try it somewhere other than a church building?

3. Neither performance had an agenda. They both came from unique places and were offered in unique contexts, but there was no agenda. They both came from places of: I want to do this and because I love it and it contains a part of me, I am going to do it. It wasn’t a gimmick. It was just something they had within them, and it was too good to keep it in.

Which is really the secret to good art.

When we see people doing things for the sake of doing them rather than for success, we experience art and life in a new way.

Art has no agenda. Art wants to bring you into an experience which is birthed out of the unique talents and gifts of the artist. Art can be transformative, but art remains beautiful no matter what effect it has on its viewers.

churchartI say all this, because perhaps a metaphor for the church is good art.

The Church has something beautiful to offer. And what is being offered is beautiful and true whether people accept it or not. It doesn’t need success.

So the Church should be a place where people’s unique talents, gifts, and stories are offered to the world. And perhaps we should be offering them not just in Church on Sunday morning, but in all the unique places we find ourselves. And we can see our offering as art: No agenda, just an experience of someone’s unique talents and gifts.

Because just like good art, when these things are done, the experience can be transformative.

Christians should be the kinds of people who find their unique talents and contexts, and offer them to the world without agenda.

But we often lose this in our local churches.

What we typically do is give people a small list of the “spiritual” gifts that “count” and are sanctioned. And then we give the approved places these gifts can be used. Because we want the gifts to contribute to the success of our institution.

Yet, sometimes the most beautiful offerings are the things that happen outside of our categories. They become beautiful because they are the unique gifts and talents poured out for other people. And they are often even more beautiful because they don’t happen in the “right” places.

Maybe you do a job you hate, but you keep going and you offer yourself to the tasks and people you have been given, and you somehow find God right in the middle of the work day.

Maybe you are a stay-at-home-parent and you pour yourself out for your kids and this is not recognized for the beautiful gift is it for those kids. But you keep going and you keep pouring because it is a beautiful thing.

Maybe all you have to offer is your story. Sometimes simply offering your own experiences of hurt, grief, pain, and grace can be the most powerful thing. Even if you don’t have someone who gives you all the right Bible verses and theology to back it up.

These are beautiful gifts being offered to the world. It doesn’t have to be recognized or church official or art for it to be a spiritual gift. And it is always a beautiful thing when you offer a bit of yourself to others.

In fact, sometimes the most beautiful gifts are the unsanctioned, unsexy gifts offered off of the radar.

They are the places where grace meets real life.

And they are the beautiful works of art our world needs.

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