Ryan Shenk explains the importance of reaching the artistic community and culture by creating great art.


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Why Christians Should Be Involved in Performing Arts

August 16, 2017

Human creativity comes in a myriad of forms and is perhaps the strongest evidence of the image of God in each of us. From our appreciation of the intricate beauty of a flower to the final flourish of a symphonic work, the sense of wonder that takes our breath away is yet another clue pointing us back to the source of everything: our divine creator. In our consumeristic and utilitarian society, artists struggle to justify the worth of their work, and beauty is seen as novelty rather than a gift from God to help us remember what is most valuable. But Jesus asks in Matthew 6:25, “Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”

The arts help us ask and answer questions of meaning with a broader vocabulary than our written and spoken languages can supply. Performing arts are unique because they are momentary, occupying finite space and time. Audio and video recording technologies are wonderful things, but nothing can fully replace the immediacy and intimacy of a live performance – thus the reason that so many will spend so much on concert experiences. In a similar way, performing arts bring a unique quality to corporate worship. The unity of heart, mind and voice that Christians experience when singing to God envisions the unity to which God calls us.

It is common to encounter protests that worship and performance are diametrically opposed, but in LBC’s Worship & Performing Arts department, we operate from a more integrated perspective. We have embraced the mission to develop highly skilled artists who influence culture with grace and truth. Every use of music and dance in a corporate setting is, by its very nature, a performance designed to focus people’s attention and facilitate collective participation. Additionally, every performance given by a follower of Jesus is an offering of worship to God, regardless of the context. We know from the biblical narratives of Cain and Abel, the widow’s mite, and Ananias and Sapphira that the orientation of the worshiper’s heart supersedes the substance of the offering. Building on this reality, we train our students to be excellent in performance, engaging in interaction and servant-minded in approach in every context through which they journey. The church sanctuary, concert hall, and theater are equal platforms for artists to offer their work as worship to God and service to the people gathered.

Some students earn roles performing with local theater organizations or at Lancaster’s Fulton Theatre. Others perform their original songs on various downtown stages. Still others will fill lead and supporting roles in church worship ministries of all sizes. Working together in LBC ensembles, students will provide music for swing dancing on one night and collaborate with the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra on another. World-class guest performers at LBC and the Trust Performing Arts Center demonstrate their passion and excellence and share their challenges in navigating work, travel, creativity, soul care and faith in their own lives. Each experience informs the others and they collectively build a practiced philosophy of worship and performing arts that views Sunday morning and every other hour of the week as ripe with potential to creatively serve and worship our God.

The reason that LBC invests in and contributes to the performing arts is the same reason for investment and contribution in any sphere of society – because God calls His people to embody Jesus there. Artist Makoto Fujimura helps us understand the redemptive potential of beauty as it “points beyond itself, beyond survival to satisfaction.” The faculty of our Worship & Performing Arts department are not only called to develop artists for work and mission, but also to contribute personally in these fields. Together with the students journeying alongside us, we want to employ the performing arts in service to God and love to the world.

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