Artistry: Team Building
“No One Has Hired Us”
The Role of the Artist in the Mission of the Church
About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
Matthew 20:6-7 NIV
They were “standing in the marketplace doing nothing.” Matt 20:3 NIV In these last days, I believe the Lord wants us to go into the marketplace and find those whose gifts and skills are not involved in the work of the harvest. They are there to be engaged in the ministry. Their gifts came from God and their skills are useful to the Lord of the Harvest. They do not come to the doors of our houses of worship demanding to be let in. They are in the world and sadly, they are of the world. Yet, in the parable Jesus told, they are readily hired for the harvest. (I use the word “hired” in the context of the parable. This article is about engagement in ministry, not compensation for ministry.)
Today there is a moment of opportunity to be seized by the church. This article will explore that moment, its perils and its potential, by asking these questions:
- What is the mission of the church?
- Who are these people standing idle in the marketplace?
- How can we better understand the marketplace?
- How can we share the passion of the harvest?
WHAT IS THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH?
The Church has a three-fold mission in the world:
- To Worship God,
- To Make Disciples,
- To Win Souls.
This is seen clearly in the Scriptures:
To Worship God:
The Great Commandment—Matt 22:37-38 NIV
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
The Father’s Search—John 4:23-24 NIV
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The Holy-Royal Priesthood—1 Peter 2:4,5, 9 NIV
As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
To Make Disciples:
The Great Commission—Matt 28:18-20 NIVThen Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Second Commandment—Matt 22:37-38 NIV
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The pastor as shepherd—John 21:15-17 NIV Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs…Take care of my sheep…Feed my sheep.’
To Win Souls:
Preach the Good News—Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Evangelize in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit—Mark 17-18; Acts 1:8NIV
And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Summary in Hebrews: Heb 13:15-16 NIV
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Worship God) And do not forget to do good (Make Disciples) and to share with others, (Win Souls) for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Italics mine)
This is ONE MISSION in THREE DIMENSIONS. A healthy local church must be a worshiping church, a community of true followers of Jesus, and a holy counterculture speaking to the surrounding culture. A healthy denomination encourages the whole mission from a trans-congregational level.
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE STANDING IDLE IN THE MARKETPLACE?
They are artists.
They have an artistic sensitivity. They feel life as well as live it. They observe life as they live it. They have something to say. They are original thinkers. They make fresh connections. They see how something should be, not just how it is. They are informed by but not bound by the past. Many of them are skillful at forms of communication. They have their own versions of an artistic temperament.
The Artistic life is a challenge to the artist and to those know and love him.
It is an emotional way of life full of super highs and super lows. The acceptance of others is extremely important. (Do they like my song?, painting?, story?, etc.) Works of art are meant to be shared. The acceptance of the public has unavoidable implications. This is more than ego—It is a measure of the work itself and the artist himself. Works of art are like children of the soul; precious to the artist.
God is the Creator and has shared this nature with man. In God’s heart the creative spirit comes to rest. Knowing God understands helps us ride out the storms of emotion. Pleasing Him is a more manageable goal than pleasing the public. Leaving our works in His hands to promote or to hide is the only sane way to look at one’s body of work.
Building a body of work is a major motivation of the artist. Each work is like a chunk of his heart. He is forever collecting them and organizing them. They make up a major part of the legacy he will pass on when he is gone. They are part of the record of his life and work. This should not be seen as a pre-occupation with the past.
There are two basic types of artists: the Interpreter and the Originator.
- The Interpreter is a craftsman who brings works of art to life: (The singer or player makes the music someone else has written. The conductor brings the arrangement to life. The arranger takes the song and interprets it as an arrangement. The director takes a play and brings it to life on stage as the actor crafts an interpretation of the character he plays.)
- The Originator is a craftsman who brings new works into the world. He writes the song the arranger, conductor, the singers and the players interpret. He writes the script the producer, director and actors bring to life. The originator, while he may have an active life as an Interpreter, has an inborn need to produce something new. The interpreter has no such need. The originator must be given time to create new things if he is to grow in the way God wants him to. His great challenge is to be a good interpreter of the works of others.
The interpreter is quite content to do the works of others and make them his own through his interpretation. His great challenge is to find new ways to work and new pieces to interpret so that his work remains fresh. There are fewer originators than Interpreters because one originator produces work for many interpreters. the Israelites as the sign of their Covenant with God. This was the glory that departed from the Temple (Ezek 10:18-19) and this would be the glory promised to return with the Messiah (Hag 1:8; Zech 2:10).
One is not greater than the other.
- They possess artistic skill.
- ART FORMS are very important to the artist. Proper form is essential to the desired result. He has spent his life learning to understand different forms of his art. Others in leadership may not see the differences that matter so much to the artist, but the judgment of the artist needs to be respected.
- The difference between art and entertainment needs to be understood.
- Entertainment is about pleasing as many people as possible.
- Art is about expressing truth and beauty.
Art may be entertaining, and entertainment may be artfully done,
but these are two different forces in the world.
Artists operate by a set of artistic processes. The artist lives and moves and has his being through process: There is a process for life-preparation. There is a process for mastering an artistic craft.
There is a calendar for each project. There is the wonderful moment of inspiration. There are the exacting processes of the work. There is the wonderful moment of completion. These processes are essential to the well-being of the artist and the effectiveness of the work of art.
They are souls headed for eternity. They need Jesus. Their art is looking for a worthy cause. Their creativity is looking for its home. They belong in the Kingdom of God.
HOW CAN WE BETTER UNDERSTAND THE MARKETPLACE?
There are many Marketplaces in the culture:
- The Marketplace of Education—schools as cultural centers,
- The Marketplace of Entertainment—TV; film, radio, recordings; clubs,
- The Marketplace of the Arts—professional art; semi-professional art; amateur art, and,
- The Marketplace of the Church—Christian pop; Christian publishing; Worship Music Industry; Christian Broadcasting,
The relationship between Quality and Content is central to the understanding we need. Worldly art places quality over content. “Churchy” arts places content over quality. If the Church is to “hire’ these “idle” artists in the various marketplaces, we must learn to match the quality of our presentation with the quality of our content.
The “Alabaster Jar” concept is essential. (Matt. 26:7; Mark 14:3; Luke 7:37; John 12:1-8)
- It is our personal best.
- It is willingly offered.
- It is focused on Jesus.
- It has a street value.
We must see the artistry of ministry—public speaking, singing, playing, visual arts, theatre arts, literary arts, computer arts, and technical support of the arts. The church must venture out of our safe synagogues into the market place of culture.
HOW CAN WE SHARE THE PASSION OF THE HARVEST?
It is time for the Church to become a Holy Counter-Culture.
A Holy Counter-Culture: (The Alabaster Jar):
- Art is Centered on the Lord Jesus.
- Art is willingly offered to the Lord.
- The quest for the personal best is honored.
- Artistic values matter.
A Holy Counter-Culture: (Art Centered on Jesus)
- The Truth of the Word of God is the content.
- The Beauty of King Jesus is the standard.
- The Church is culturally relevant, not culture-driven.
A Holy Counter-Culture: (Art with a Street Value)
- Artistic Merit is a goal.
- Public expression and community art reflects our King and His Kingdom.
Worship centered on Jesus will reach those in the Marketplace. The Apostles took the Gentiles by one hand and the Jews by the other and made one church out of the two. Jesus tore down the walls of hostility.
For Christ himself has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us.
Eph 2:14-15 NLT
They did this by centering on the Lord Jesus, not the clashing cultures. Our music, ceremony, fellowship, and teaching/preaching, needs to be centered on Jesus. Discipleship centered on Jesus will keep those from the Marketplace. Artists learned their craft in the world’s systems. We must re-teach them their art in the context of the Kingdom of God. Humility must replace pride; artists must become servants not stars.
The Truth of the Kingdom must be acted upon as well as confessed. The will of God and the leadership of the Holy Spirit must become the goals of each artist.
Evangelism through the artists and their work will reach those in the Marketplace. Through public exposure the art of the church is presented to the Marketplace: exhibitions, performances, recordings, broadcasts, publications, festivals, publicity and advertisement. Through personal contact with those in the Marketplace, we expand our audience. Through schools of art we reach the next generation of artists.
The work of the harvest is calling. They are there in the Marketplace, idle, as far as eternity is concerned. Their gifts and skills are spent on unworthy causes. Emptiness is their portion. It is time for us to enter the Marketplace of our culture with holy expressions of God’s truth and beauty to reach those who share the Lord’s creative heart. It is time for us to love them and teach them a new context for their art. It is time for us to worship the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbors as our selves.
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved