Part 20 in the Series:
The Bezalel Blueprint
By Don Enevoldsen
“You just had to be there.”
Most of us have said these words at one time or another. We wanted to describe an experience or something we saw, but words failed us. So to emphasize the point that it was an extraordinary moment, we resort to an expression that says, “I can’t tell you what it was like, but it was great. To really understand how great it was, you would have had to be there and experience it yourself. You just had to be there.”
Artists are people who can make you feel like you were there. Even people who don’t understand or appreciate artists still benefit from their work. Philosophers have debated for centuries whether artists mold culture or reflect it, lead culture or record it. Either way, they play an essential role in our understanding of ourselves and our world.
Which greatly enhances the place of the Christian artist. Artists include all the areas of ministry and leadership—the nurturing of pastors, the pointed critique of prophets, the responsibility of priests to lead into worship and prayer, the preservation of knowledge associated with teachers. Artists, by the very nature of what they do, are leaders in the kingdom of God. And leadership implies great responsibility far beyond just making people feel like they were there.
Yet that ability lies at the heart of what an artist does. An artist will be better for developing a high level of scholarship, but ultimately, artists deal in the realm of emotion. They make us feel—deeply. They take us to places we wouldn’t know how to go without them. They open up to us new worlds of thought, of concept and of inspiration.
Artists are essential.
Which makes it all the more egregious that church communities so often marginalize the artists in their midst. Egregious because the result is usually either the stifling of the artist’s talent or the artist’s complete exodus from church to a friendlier environment. Either way, I am convinced after decades of working with Christian artists that this marginalization is indissolubly linked to the relative ineffectiveness of the church in changing the world.
Many reasons for this link could probably be given, and if you identify others, please share them in the comments below. I’ll limit myself to a couple that come most immediately to mind.
Blindness to the message of artists derives from the same blindness to spiritual realities.
Insisting that Christian artists limit themselves to getting people to the altar rather than dealing with the issues of everyday life (marriage/divorce, family relationships, issues of abuse, depression, work ethics) results in an anemic and powerless approach to ministry. But ministries often don’t care that much about real inner change. As long as a lot of people show up on Sunday morning, they don’t want to make waves. The reason is given as not wanting to drive people away from hearing the Gospel, but the truth is usually more along the lines of not wanting to upset the status quo, which would result in empty seats, which would reduce offerings and give less opportunity for boasting at church conferences about the size of the church.
Related to this is the dominant desire on the part of the congregation for a comfortable and familiar message. Complacency does not want to change anything. We all seem to have a desire to sit in church on Sunday and hear what we’ve heard before, because it makes us feel spiritual and secure.
Worldview matters and we will never get it completely right in this life. We all must constantly grow and mature. Which means a lifetime of discovering things that we got wrong and changing them. Once one thing is finished, the Holy Spirit inevitably points out the next one. Becoming comfortable is simply not an option if we want to keep growing into the maturity to which we have been called.
Artists are never happy with the status quo. They constantly prod us toward change. And change is often not received well. As a result, artists are often not received well. They make people too uncomfortable.
These are just a couple of thoughts. As I close this study of Bezalel, I must speak to the believers who do not consider themselves artists. Take a good look at the artists in your midst and recognize the important elements they bring to the life of the church, to your life. There is far more going on than entertainment or decoration of your living space. Artists are a vehicle of life, of change, of encouragement, inspiration and education. Don’t ignore them. Rather pray for them, embrace them and support them in their efforts. Their work is for your benefit as much as for theirs.
Go to the beginning of the series, The Bezalel Blueprint: Part 1, The Artist Bezalel
Do you have an additional thought on this subject? Please join the discussion and share your insights.