Byron Spradlin

Artists In Ministry & Missions

3 Things Worship Ought Be

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What Worship Ought Be

Three Broad Goals of the Worship Lifestyle
 (Categories for Worship Consideration)

Below, I suggest three “ought’s” related to worship. In doing so, at the same time, you need to stay aware of the reality that Ought-ness is a tricky issue.
I heard some place someone say that when we use the terms “ought” and “should” we put things and issues into the realm of morality. And that’s not always correct or emotionally healthy. You best not say to a work associate, “Oh, you ought not have spoken so harshly to that delivery person.” May be should have, because the delivery person was wrong to be 30 minutes late. Or, to a church friend, “Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way about incident.” Maybe they should have been outraged by the abusive treatment they received.
OUGHT-ness is a tricky area.


At the same time, you have heard the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer emphasize that human kind–given the moral beings that we, the fallen beings we remain in this life, and the fallen but free choice we possess–always have the choice between doing ‘what we ought do’ and ‘what we can do.’ That choice–between ‘what we ought do’ and ‘what we can do’–is always essential to consider. I must frequently face issues and situations that force me to choose between what I know I can do (and probably can get away with, and still preserve my reputation), and what I ought do to do; that which is right in terms of Godly righteousness (whether or not I can get away with it)..
Well, I vote with Schaeffer. Ought-ness is something the believer must face, especially in the area of worship . . . because we are dealing with the highest of moral issues, the issue of worship.


Three Things Worship Ought Be
I’m convinced there stand three oughts related to worship. I’m convinced of these oughts by virtue of the Bible’s presumptions about worship, about life before the Fall, about the LORD’s redemptive (reclamation) program, and about our ultimate state-of-relating-with-God in eternity.
So in summary we could say that:

First, worship is the environment in which we were created to live . . . and therefore, the realm which we ought strive to live in each moment of the day (e.g. Hebrews 9: 14).
Second, worship is the core focus we were created to hold . . . and therefore, the center we ought strive to maintain from each moment to the next (e.g. John 6:38-40).
Third, worship is the lifestyle we were created to manifest . . . and therefore, the reservoir we ought strive to draw from for every endeavor of life (e.g. Romans 12:1).


Keep these broad definitions related to worship in mind, and you will move much more quickly on your way to clearing much confusion that surrounds the topic of worship; and at the same time move on in developing a more healthy lifestyle of worship.

Suggested Reading
Engaging God; A Biblical Theology of Worship, by David Peterson. Grand Rapids, MI
Eerdmans Publishing, 1992
Desiring God; Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, by John Piper. Portland, OR
Multnomah Press. 1986 (Specifically Chapters One, Two, & Three
Experiencing God; How to Live the Adventure of Knowing and Doing God’s Will [the book, not the workbook], by Henry Blackaby. Nashville, TN. Broadman & Holmes. 1994 (Specifically Chapters Seven, Eight, & Nine)

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Three Truths God Reveals About Artistic Specialists

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Three  Truths God Reveals About Artistic Specialists

So, with those things in mind, note three biblical truths God reveals about these uniquely capacitated artistic specialists. It is God who is the prime mover in all this. And God did this for the sake of the worship vitality of His community of worshipers.

One, God specially equipped some people (here it was Bezalel and Oholiab) “. . . with wisdom, with understanding, and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in . . . all kinds of artistic crafts [craftsmanship] . . . He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as [craftsmen]” (Ex 30:31-33, 35 NIV). Here, the focus is not so much on the “craftsman” issue but on why they were creatively endowed and gifted for the design of worship environments; particularly for the Tabernacle.

Bezalel was equipped as an artist, and called into a specialized assignment, all for the purpose of creating a worship environment. God called him to oversee the design and making of the Tabernacle. Bezalel was actually helping to lead the entire worshipping community into the actual worship transaction itself, by designing the environment in which the community would do their worship—the Tabernacle.

Two, God commanded the involvement of artistic specialists in creating the context (environment) for the believing community’s (Israel’s) worship. Exodus 35:1, 10-11 states, “Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, ‘These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: . . . All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the LORD has commanded: the tabernacle with its tent . . .” (NIV).

God knows how He made humans and the human community to work. They need more than just “information”—they must deal with objective truth. Therefore He designed, then directed, “human expression specialists” (what current culture labels “artists”) to lead the community into touching and interacting with Him, the Transcendent Living God! And that interaction with Him requires more than just rational reasoning. Interaction with God is intercourse, not simply information.

Interacting with God requires all of the faculties He gave to humans—rationality, imaginality, and emotionality. He did this so that to enjoy relationship with the crown of His Creation—His people! That interaction is a multi-dimensional mystery. So He created a specialized kind of person, the artist (the person unusually wise at imaginative expression) to creatively rearrange human metaphors, symbols and human signal systems in such a way that the whole of their creative rearrangement provides a kind of miracle. Those creative expressions allow for finite people to hold and interact with transcendent reality.

Three, God directs the artistic specialist to lead the congregation into the activities of worship. God directs the “human expression specialists” (artists) to lead the believing community into the “experience” of worship, both by creating the environments where that worship happens and by leading them into those experiences.

Here in this Exodus 35 passage, the craftsmen were leading the entire community into a worship way of life—by virtue of their work of forming the actually structure, equipment, and furniture of the Tabernacle, which then became the environment around which revolved the worship life of the community. The Tabernacle was to be in the middle of the camp, symbolizing that God Himself was dwelling with them in the middle of the life of the community.

His presence would be visibly with them (e.g., see Ex. 40:36-38—the Tabernacle, the Ark, the Cloud by day and the Fire by night). These “expressions” were far more than entertainment, far more than novelty, far more than just pretty things.

These expressions, and the activities the Israelis were later to “practice,” were environments in which their hearts would be shaped—through the Tabernacle worship practices—toward God. As we saw in Chapter Three, their Tabernacle-centered living comprised the spiritual disciplines (liturgies) that God used to train Israel and the rest of the world to understand Himself and the ways He requires (or desires) of all peoples to relate to Him.

Later, one sees the Levitical musicians and other specialists leading the congregation
in regular worship (Asaph and his associates before the Ark “. . . regularly, according to each day’s requirements . . .” 1 Chron 16:37ff),in celebration (e.g. bring the Ark to Jerusalem, properly in line with God’s directives, 1 Ch 15:19ff); in worship-related ministry assignments (e.g. the Battle of Jericho, Josh 6:3ff).

Artistic leadership was also necessary for instruction and admonition. Throughout the Prophetic Books of the Bible one sees serious dramatic teaching, instructing, and admonishing. This was done through media (vision), story and parable and with a view to engaging both the content/information God wanted communicated and the relational interaction God expects from His believers.

Concluding Statements

The Church in the postmodern cultures of today’s world faces the challenge of making God’s reality through Jesus Christ an unavoidable issue. Consequently, the Church should realize that contextualized worship and artistic ministry strategies are central to accomplishing the biblical mandates of world evangelization before it. So many things about God—His accessibility, His worship, His reality, His healing, His help—must be addressed artistically. There is no doubt that God is stimulating contextual worship and arts ministry and raising up artistic Christians who want to make a difference for Him in today’s world.

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Definitions of the Arts & the Artist

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Definitions of the Arts & the Artist

There are several questions related to the area of artistic expression that might help answer, at least briefly, the question, “Why are artistic specialists…in general so important to and needed by human community and culture; and specifically so important to and needed by the Church as primary worship and ministry leadership

What are the ARTS, generically?

Biblically speaking, and in summary, the arts are in general terms,

… imaginative human expression.

What are the ARTS, technically?

… the imaginative rearrangement of creative human expressions (metaphors, symbols, and signal systems).

what specifically are ‘human signal systems’?

The best help here I’ve found comes from Dr. Don Smith’s good list:

verbal expression
writing
numbers
pictures
things [objects and artifacts]
sound and silence

movement, [motions, expressions, posture]
optics [light, color]
touch
space
time
taste & smell

(p. 146 of Donald K. Smith’s book, Creating Understanding: A Handbook for Christian Communication Across Cultural Landscapes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992).

Dr. Smith explains how these human signal systems work:

“All human communication occurs through the use of (these) twelve signal systems. . . . (And) as you move down the list, you see decreasing consciousness (but) increasing believability.”

Therefore (to review), note that “art” or “artistic expression” is:

. . . the imaginative and creative rearrangement of these human signal systems, done so by human expression specialists.

Why this definition is “controversial” to some art-thinkers today:

This definition of “artist expression” may be controversial to some scholars and practitioners of biblical theologies of art. First, the modern view of what now is called art or the Arts is a notion very new to human culture, and a very different view than one held by people in Biblical times. One in the Second Millennium BC (the times of Abraham, Moses, and Joshua) would never have the sort of discussion artistic expression accepted as common dialogue in 21st century society.

Second, the question posed by many Church Leaders, “Do artists and artistic expression fit in the Church these days?” is a question that only a Modern Westerner would even think to ask. But it is asked because today the Modern cultures of the world have developed a cultural institution that before the 1800’s had never existed before in world history: the “institution of high art.”

Dr. Nicolas Wolterstorff, respected philosopher, aesthetics professional and educator, lists four different ideas for the way works of art could be defined today: 1) as one of the fine arts; 2) for its aesthetic goodness; 3) as a human artifact; and by others; and, 4) as something produced as an object of aesthetic contemplation. Wolterstorff contends that a combination of two or more of the ideas is what constitutes a work of art.

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Who Are Artists? What Does the Bible Say?

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Who Are Artists? What Does the Bible Say?

The best biblical TERM for what we today label an “artist” is … Craftsman

Let me expand on this a bit more in the following way:

The best biblical term in the Bible for what we today call Artists is the word craftsmen (Hebrew = machashabah, machashebeth). The term is a wisdom word, and literally means a person unusually wise at imaginative design. Actually in the Old Testament alone there are at least nineteen (19) artistic CRAFTS mentioned, four (4) words (really word-areas) that label Specialist creative types—those we today label as artists, two (2) words (verbs) that describe specialized artistic activityfour (4) words (adjectives) that describe creative types as specialized.

To the Hebrew-speaking mindset in 1500 BC, all of these terms seem to hold the basic idea that the people we these days call ‘artists’ are people endowed by God to be unusually wise and able in creative, imaginative human expression.

 

Bigger Labels for Artist

Sometimes I also label these people in general . . .
-human expression specialists, or
-imaginative expression specialists
and when specifically talking about creative Christian specialists…
-creative-Kingdom servants, or
-arts-ministry specialists.

Artists are “Specialized” but not “Special”

Now note three particulars here related to why we’re using the term “specialists.”

First, artistic specialists are ‘specialized’ in that they have God-given capacities related to imaginative expression that are clearly larger and greater than those the “normal” person possess. But . . .

Second, so-called “artists” are not essentially more valuable or better people in God’s economy, than people gifted by God in other ways. This distinction is sometimes overlooked, but very important.

Many often automatically embrace the popular but incorrect (and unbiblical, and more modern) notion that ‘artists’ are the creative elites, and everyone else is NOT creative at all. No. Nothing could be further from reality—which leads us to a third consideration.

Third, though artistic specialists are unusually creative in one way or another, ALL people are creative (every person has the capacity to imagine—they are imaginative) by virtue of being made in God’s image. The capacity to imagine is central to being human, and a wonder-filled reality of God’s design OF human nature.

Animals do not possess the capacity to imagine. Rather, animals have instinct—which is wonderful, beautiful and amazing. But still instinct is a lower and far more limited ‘capacity’ than the capacity humans possess of imagination.

By nature, each person exercises great creativity all throughout every day!! This fact must always be underscored.

So therefore, it should be clearly noted that “artists”—those people possessing “unusual wisdom and ability in some area of imaginative design and expression”—certainly are “specialized.”

They do possess extra-ordinary capacities and abilities of certain kinds of creative expression; but they are NOT essentially more “special” than any other ‘kind’ of human God has created and capacitied in other ways.

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40 Million Downloads & Counting

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I’d like to introduce  Brian Hardin, founder & creator of the Daily Audio Bible. Brian appeared at the Nashville Gathering this last November and shared his journey as he created the Daily Audio Bible. To date, the response has been explosive with over 40 Million downloads of the Daily Audio Bible.

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