At first glance, it may seem that simple or house church would actually be a bad expression of church for people of faith who are interested in participating in the arts. (I have had more than one conversation with others stating their love to play or sing on the “worship team” as a reason that they are unable to consider starting a simple church with their spouse.) Since gatherings are usually small and lack a stage, there certainly are boundaries on the art that can be shared in the Body during “church.” However, the lack of a large crowd and a church stage creates numerous opportunities for the artist (or would be artist) who is a part of a simple church.
JD Payne, in a recent blog post over at Missiologically Thinking, echoes many of my thoughts on the subject in an article entitled Arts In Mission. J.D. states:
I have been troubled at the Church’s response to this world. While there are a few examples of healthy engagement, much of the last 60 years could be summarized as:
1. If you are a believer, then express your art in a Christian venue to other believers (and the few unbelievers present).
2. If you are a musician (who is a believer), then we will encourage and support you if you produce music for worship gatherings and Christian radio stations.
Now, there is most definitely an important place for the believer to practice his or her art in a Christian venue. I am very thankful for praise and worship music, Christian record labels, and Christian radio. Several of our members write and record some of the music we sing on Sundays. I strongly encourage this use of gifts and talents for building up the Body. But why is the Christian context the expectation for believers in the arts? Do we expect teachers to teach in a Christian school? Do we expect mechanics to practice in a Christian garage? Do we expect librarians to work in Christian libraries? Doctors in Christian hospitals? Astronomers in Christian universities? Politicians in Christian governments?
What if our expectations shift from sending our artists deeper into the Christian subculture to sending them to the lost world?
In my experience, by removing the stage from the weekly “worship” gathering, you actually can end up encouraging more people to share their art–be it song, poetry, painting etc. I often tell the story of a young girl who shared a song she had written about Christ for the very first time during a simple church gathering. Her song was a wonderful gift to the body and to her parents who had never heard the song. This likely was an opportunity that she would not have had in many churches. As simple churches grow, the lack of stage and lights and the barriers that exist to get on the stage and under the lights (seasoned experience, practice time, professional level talent, etc.) will allow more of the Body to have the opportunity to share their creative works with other believers. In addition, as you see it up close, touch it, ask questions about it simple church can allow for an interactive experience with the art that will not only benefit believers, but unbelievers who are present.
Furthermore, as more and more people share creative endeavors with small communities of believers in simple church type settings, more believers will be encouraged to share their art with the world. Simple churches will naturally encourage one another to find stages in places other than “sanctuaries.” I have seen many examples of this in our short history with simple church as believers have been encouraged to share their music in coffee shops and bars, share poetry at public poetry night events, and photography and art in public spaces.
Luke 10:16 says “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” There is something to be said for the artist who is willing to share his or her God-given talents with a few close brothers and sisters in a small setting that I believe prepares one’s heart and craft to be shared with the masses and to be used by the Creator to display His beauty to an increasingly ugly world.
Let us make the most of every opportunity we have in simple, organic communities of faith to encourage and produce creative works to bless the Body of Christ and then let us encourage one another, when appropriate, to find stages that can bless the world and point others to our Creator.