This past Sunday, our church celebrated our 3rd annual “Original Art Sunday”, where we put on an entire worship service with music, poetry and visual art that is created by people from within our congregation. In addition, we usually do some sort of art project as part of the message – last year it was a community visual art creation and this year it was writing poetry that emulated Psalm 84. And, right from the start, you probably have a polarized reaction to that idea – you either love it or you hate it. As you might expect, that’s exactly how our congregation feels about it, as well –
there are some who absolutely LOVE it and there are some who really LOATHE it.
This year, after receiving some constructive feedback on this project for two years, I took some time to talk about how we, as a community, engage with scripture, with God and with each other in diverse ways. In society in general, but in Austin in particular, one of those diversities is between more logically-oriented approaches and more creatively-oriented approaches. I made the note that, because Christianity largely flourished in Europe and most of American Christianity flowed out of Europe, a logical approach to God, scripture and the human experience is often considered the superior way to approach things. However, those people often struggle with the oldest parts of the Old Testament and also tend to under-appreciate the poetic/artistic parts of Scripture. So, while logical folks tend to connect with things 51 weeks out of the year, we set aside 1 where we purposely engage the right brain.
Original Art Sunday isn’t the only polarizing thing we do at our church.
We also do something called “Altogether Sundays” the first week of each month, where we cancel our regular kids program, lay down a rug right down in the middle of the sanctuary and let the kids be a visible, audible part of worship. Sometimes they run on stage, most times the speaker has to raise their decibel level and it’s just a little nuts – sort of like your last family reunion. We also finish out our year with something called “Throw-Away Sunday”, where we work on confession, resolution and leaving behaviors and attitudes that keep us far from God in the previous calendar year.
Each of these is a bit uncomfortable. There’s some folks who skip one or all of these services on purpose. And, admittedly, sometimes I really dig the results and sometimes they seem like they’re more trouble than they’re worth. But in the end, there’s something wonderful about being uncomfortable, something wonderful about knowing that there are other people in the body who are engaging in a way with Scripture and with God that they normally cannot. One of my pastor heroes, Mark DeYmaz, says that the key to multi-cultural churches is that 100% are uncomfortable 20% of the time. While he’s talking mostly about racial and ethnic divides, I think the principle still works.
When the people we’re in church community with only have a few degrees of separation from ourselves, we rob ourselves of the full experience of the Kingdom AND we often fall victim to mixing up cultural and Biblical norms because of insularity.
We also hurt our witness by showing the world that Christian community is based around agreement of culture rather than agreement about God as the Center.
So what makes you uncomfortable about your church? Why is that good for you?