“I would think that most educated atheists are much more likely to be suddenly ambushed in the heart by poetry than they are ever likely to be converted by reasoned argument.”
– Peter Hitchens, former atheist and brother of late atheist Christopher Hitchens
I remember an acquaintance dismissing the church we are planting out of hand, right from the get-go, because he perceived that it was “a niche arts church”.
An ‘Arts’ Church?
For just a moment, I thought “wow, that would be really cool. Could I plant a church that was so saturated in the arts that all the cool, young artists in the area came in droves?” But of course I quickly realized that our community didn’t need a spiritual support group for struggling artists. It needed a struggling community of faith that expressed its struggle very often through more or less artistic means.
I say “more or less” because, of course, a community need not be primarily engaged in the production of things to be hung on walls in order to have an artistic approach to communal life.
There is a both a merely prosaic, as well as a curiously poetic, way to live together in community. The life of a church can be shaped like an argument, or it can be shaped like a story. It can be described visually through bar graphs and pie charts, or it can be caught on film and—better still—experienced first hand.
Perceptions and Impressions
I’ve had the pleasure of hearing reports of outsiders to Christian orthodoxy who have told the poetic misfits and starving artists among us that, indeed, there is something different about our church community that is hard to put into words.
Is there something of the puzzlement of abstract painting running through the life of your church plant? Is there something of Bach’s music, which he said was ‘for the glory of God and the refreshment of souls’, echoing out into the neighborhoods inhabited by your congregation? Is there something of the punchy poem, which makes its readers stumble and stagger under the disorientation of suddenly seeing everything differently, when your neighbors come within earshot of your church fellowship?
Turn, Turn, Turn…
There will be plenty of time and usefulness for argumentation and prose. Plenty of moments that call for straight-forward Q-and-A. Times for precision, rigor, and clarity in the life of a disciple-making church plant.
But the life of your church will need to sound like a song. It will need to pierce like a poem. It will need to perplex like a painting.
Your church’s life will need to be shaped like a story, and not like an argument.
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