Tag Archives: Word

Colossians 3:14; Brief Thoughts

14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

The distinguishing mark of a believer in Christ Jesus is love. The word used for “love” is the Greek word “agape.” This specific word refers to a love that is self-sacrificing and is focused on the benefit of others. This is a truly divine love modeled by Jesus’ death on the cross. Taking all the sin of man upon Himself, He willingly laid down His own life, suffering death on a cross for the sake of God’s love for us. That is the example of love Christians follow. Christians are to exemplify dying to self so that others can delight in life! Paul explains the nature of Christians’ ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:11-12. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” The love that Paul exhorts Christians to display is intense. It goes beyond feelings and simple displays of affections. This kind of love gives itself over to death for that sake of others. Is there a greater binding power than this kind of love?

The love of Jesus breaks through every barrier and creates a connection that transcends this earth. When Jesus died on the cross, he bore the sins of all mankind on the cross. He bore the sins of all nationalities, all dispositions, all types of people. John states it well when he says that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus’ love does not select types or races of people. Rather, His love breaks through barriers of all types and brings salvation to any who believe. Galatians 3:28 states, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christ has removed all divisions and segregations that mankind has been beholden to.

In considering this kind of love, the church ought to be the place in which every tribe, tongue, and nation brings their own unique expression of worship into the symphony of love for God’s glory and presence. The love of Jesus not only removes all barriers, it also unites those who believe in praise to God. The church should mirror that reality. It is a sad reality that churches in the west do not reflect the variety of God’s creation. Our churches lack diversity and yet we proclaim a love that transcends cultural divides. So, to my brothers and sisters in leadership in the American church, we must do better. We must love well every person in our neighborhood and seek out those who do not have the same cultural background. This is not simply a justice issue! This is more than that. This is a love issue. We cannot rightly display the love of God if we are unwilling to express that love beyond our own race, culture, or creed.

Moreover, those who direct worship must exemplify this kind of love by displaying the various creative methodologies for worship! Incorporate art and poetry into your services. Utilize dance and drama to the display of His glorious might! Paul uses the musical metaphor to describe love here because the display of love is inherently musical to God! As we display His love on this earth, we join the symphony of praise in creation and display His very creative nature. I contend that we can do more! We can express the praise of God through art, speeches, poetry, displays of kindness, giving, service… etc. Explore the avenues to express the love of Christ and do not tie yourself or your people down to songs, prayer, and sermons alone. God is infinitely giving His love, our praise of His glory ought to display that love infinitely!

Notice, this love that has set us free from sin also binds all things together. Indeed, in the end, all things will be bound together by the love of God. As God restores and re-creates the earth in the book of Revelation, all things will be united in worship of His glory. Yet, this unity need not wait in the heart of Christian community. It is possible, now, for the church to mirror such radical culture defying love. As people join the true Christian community through faith in Jesus Christ, that community should so radically reflect the love of Jesus that diversity of culture and expression would be explosively manifest in the church! Let us strive for such a love. A love that transcends all else – the love of Jesus made manifest in His people, revealing the very nature of God to a dying world.

There is much more to say about the implications of the transcendent love as the greatest mark of a Christian. It is not my intention to exhaust the inexhaustible love of God and the subsequent manifestation of that divine attribute. What are some of the implications and applications that you see? Let’s chat about them! Put them in the comments below!

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Colossians 3:13, Brief Thoughts

13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

The final three marks of the new nature of a Christian listed in verses 12-14 are identified as longsuffering, forgiveness, and love (in verse 14, to be considered in the next post).

The seventh character trait Paul exhorts Christians to is that of long-suffering. The Christian community ought to be the most welcoming and hospitable group that one can identify with. As believers, Christians have experienced a forgiveness that transcends all reason. They have been forgiven an offense that is so great as to warrant eternal damnation. Further, they were not seeking to be forgiven, nor acknowledging their need for forgiveness (Rom. 3:9-20). Instead, it was lavished upon them by the grace of God (1 John 3:1). In this forgiven state, Christians must recognize that they were in no way better or wiser than another person. Rather, they were enemies of God whom God bore with great patience until the day of their repentance (C.f. Rom. 5:8 and 2 Peter 3:19). In this recognition, there is no one that Christians are incapable of “bearing with.”

Accompanying the long-suffering of a Christian community is forgiveness. True believers forgive. As mentioned with long-suffering, Christians forgive much because they have been forgiven much. Jesus explains that one who recognizes the depth of forgiveness they have received will lavish love and forgiveness upon others because they have experienced it themselves (Luke 7:47). Therefore, a lack of forgiveness might serve as a test of the authenticity of one’s faith. Christians forgive, it is part of their nature to do so.

Living in community together guarantees that there will be conflict. When human beings gather together, whether, for worship, labor, or leisure, there will inevitably be opportunity for sin and subsequent complaint against others within the community. Though in an ideal situation, no one will feel the need to complain against another brother or sister, we live in a sinful world in which ideal situations do not truly exist. When one person is upset by another, there is struggle and frustration. However, God has renewed the spirit of Christians and given them new natures from which Christians can love each other in spite of sinful desires that cause quarrels (James 4). So, Christians ought to be marked by a forgiveness that transcends their own need to be right or their need to fulfill their own desires.

This overcoming of desires in favor of forgiveness is only achievable when the community realizes that God has empowered every individual to forgive the way Christ has forgiven. Consider for a moment what extent of love and forgiveness that Christ has poured out upon those who believe. The eternal Christ made Himself mortal and put on human frailty (Philippians 2:1-11). He lowered Himself from exalted heights to love a people who despise and reject Him (John 13). He lives perfectly, forgives extravagantly, serves humbly, and surrenders Himself to the charges of the wicked, in order to save the lowly. After accomplishing all of that, He grants those who believe in Him a new nature that is clean and then consistently renews that nature after His own image until He completes it (Col. 3:9-10 and Philippians 1:6). This is why Christians must forgive – they have been forgiven.

It is not enough for a Christian to forgive alone. They must forgive in the same way Christ forgave. A Christian’s forgiveness must transcend the simplistic forgiveness that the world affords. The forgiveness of the world is transactional – I’ll forgive A if B is done. The forgiveness of Christ says I’ll forgive A no matter what. The forgiveness of Christ does not complain about past grievances or hold a record of wrongs. The forgiveness of Christ separates the sin from the person as far as east from west. This is a mark of Christianity – the Christian forgives with love. If someone claims Christ, but cannot forgive in this way, then that person needs to examine themselves to see if they really know Christ, for it is by the fruit of our hearts that we testify that He has changed us and that He is our Lord.

Colossians 3:12; Brief Thoughts

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

Having put off the old nature, Christians strive to live the lifestyle of holiness that develops feeds and satisfies their new nature. The phrase translated “put on then” is an exhortation that is based on the assumption that the reader has already been changed.[1] Having removed the death that once enshrouded their soul, Christians ought to put on the new life in Christ. This apparent change of attire is not surprising. As one has removed the old self, the new-self has become the defining wardrobe.

This change of natures is due to God’s choice. Least any reader consider him or herself to be wise and boast in their own strength, Paul reassures us that God is the one who has accomplished the work of salvation and He is also the one who has brought life to the previously dead soul. God has chosen to save and set-apart believers because He loves them. The Creator has deemed that He will love His creation and redeem those who believe simply because they are His (1 John 4:10). If therefore, we have been chosen as His and if we are His holy and beloved, then we will look and behave as such.

Evidence of a changed nature bears obvious manifestation in the actions of interpersonal relationships. When one has become changed and has been given a new nature that is capable of pursuing holiness, they will inevitably become more like Christ. So Paul exhorts the believer to pursue divine love and grace within the context of their relationships.

Let us take the next words slowly, that we may feast on the richness of the exhortation.

First, a believer must recognize that they are “chosen ones, holy and beloved.” Consider for a moment what that means. God saw fit to rescue and set believers apart.[2] He set them apart (“holy”) because they are beloved by Him. God has lavished His love upon His believers. The recognition that God has redeemed and saved Christians by His own will, ought to lead believers to a sense of equality and grace style living as a result. The manifest characteristics that follow are a result of the truth that God has redeemed a lost soul, has changed that soul and has given life to that soul.

Second, believers exhibit compassionate hearts. They have a genuine concern for others. Most often this particular attribute is manifested in the activity of prayer and social action. When a truly converted Christian hears of devastation, they weep. It is, therefore, reasonable to gauge the hearts of a Christian community by their prayer concerns for those who are persecuted (Romans 12:15).

Third, kindness overflows from the compassionate heart. As a believer is confronted with tragedy and difficulty, they will respond in kind acts. A compassionate heart without kindness is hypocritical. Therefore, the genuineness of the heart is made evident in the kind actions of the hands.

Fourth, Christians ought to bear a humble disposition. When a person realizes that salvation is by grace through faith granted from God, then there is no room for haughty self-righteousness. Rather a Christian recognizes that they are no better than the darkest of sinners. There is no room for self-righteous pride in the life of a believer. If any is found, God will certainly sanctify that malady out of the Christian’s life (Hebrews 12:6).

Fifth, the meekness of Christ is evident in the life of a believer. It is evident because Christ lives within. If Jesus’ spirit is indwelling the Christian, the Christian will manifest meekness. They will think of the needs of others first, refuse to dominate or subdue others, and will have a generally gentle and hospitable demeanor.

Sixth, patience is often accepted as a key character trait of Christianity but dismissed because of circumstance. For instance, a Christian will find themselves frustrated with circumstance caused by others and will vent that frustration in unholy gossip or slander. Yet, it is generally accepted that patience is a fruit of the Spirit that ought to characterize a Christian (Galatians 5:22-24). So, the true believer is without excuse for such ventilation. The true Christian ought to bear with circumstances and with others in patience and the evidence of that patience will be a lack of grumbling or complaining (Phil. 2:14).

We will consider the rest of Paul’s list tomorrow.

[1] This verb is in the Aorist Imperative tense. Often aorist imperatives can be understood as delivering an exhortation that is based on a condition apparent from the past. For example: If a man becomes an engineer, goes to school and achieves the degree. The aorist tense imperative might appear when one says, “Let him work in the engineering field.” It is a command based on a condition that became him in the past.

[2] I am not here entering into a discussion of election, though that would be appropriate. That is a long discussion for another passage.

Colossians 3:9-11; Brief thoughts

9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

The most damaging subterfuge a Christian can suffer is that of self-deception. When a true follower of Christ agrees with a lie, that believer denies the power of their own identity as granted by Christ. In that denial, Christians fail to exercise their God-given strength and power to overcome sins. The acceptance of falsehood brings further damage when the Christian begins to believe deceptions that are about their identity. One of the greatest attacks of the adversary is the attack on the Christian’s victorious nature.

For many Christians, the identity that has been established for them through the work and efforts of Christ has been masked and held captive by an erroneous belief that their “old self” or “sin nature” or “flesh” has some authority or ability to conquer them. However, when confronted with these verses in Colossians, Christians are empowered to trust in the power of Christ within them!

In order for truth to reign as truth in the life of a Christian community, it must be ever present on the lips and in the hearts of believers. This is why Paul admonishes us not to lie. The one who has trusted Christ has removed the garment of the old self. The word for put off indicates a removal as if stripping off clothing. So here, one who has believed in Christ Jesus has taken off the old and has dressed in the new. It is important to recognize the tenses used in this passage. The putting off of the old is a past tense verb that focuses on a single time action.[1] So the Christian has “put off” the old self and has dressed in the new nature that has been given to them in Christ Jesus. This changing of one’s spiritual clothing occurs when Christ has redeemed the Christian. Indeed, it is part of the justification of a believer. (Ongoing sanctification is present at the end of verse 10, we will address that below.)

Someone will object at this point, “But if I have been given a new nature, why do I still struggle with sin?!” This question presupposes that one requires an “old self” in order for sin to be present. Consider for a moment the state of our first patriarch, Adam. Adam need not have a sinful disposition to rebel against God’s command. He had no need for original sin to derive sins origination in himself. He simply volitionally chose to sin. So it is with one who has been given a new nature. We sin because we choose to do so. If it were not so, then why would Paul assert that this new nature is “being renewed?” Being renewed is a present tense passive verb, indicating a continuous action being done from an external source. If a sinful nature were required for sin to exist, then the new nature would not need continuous renewing. Yet, Paul’s reminder is that sin is still present in this world and therefore still effects a redeemed Christian but, not in the same manner with which it used to rule over that Christian. Rather, now the Christian is capable of overcoming sin! Praise the Lord!

Christians are given a new nature that they must now learn to live in. Much like the fairy tails in which a prince or princess is plucked from the position of a pauper and thrust into a royal court, a Christian must learn to live in the royal court of God’s majesty. The one who was once a slave must now learn to live as one who has been made free. The adjustment to freedom from sin takes time. This is called sanctification and it provides the evidence of salvation. Once one has been justified in Christ and the old clothes have been cast off, now the believer must learn to live in their freedom, pursuing the fulfillment of God’s image on this earth!

What a joy to be free from sin and to know that we have been set free! We have been set free! Because of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection, we have been set free from sin and are made new! Do not believe the lie that you are still bound! You are free.

In this freedom, all worldly definitions of your identity fall by the side. All definitions that would confine you to this life are removed. Indeed, your nature is no longer bound to cultural identities or monikers of society. Your identity is found in Christ and in Christ alone. So, Christians regard each other as family, no matter the background or history. Christians are united in the restoration of the image of God within their souls! What a freeing delight to ponder. No matter what your background or difficulty may be, you’ve been granted freedom in Christ Jesus to live as the image of God on this earth, unhindered by any nature, history, cultural baggage, or generational sin. You have been set free in Christ Jesus, live like it!

[1] This is called an aorist tense in Greek. The aorist tense can be used rather loosely in translation, however, it typically indicates a past tense action that happened once. The emphasis of an aorist verb is most often on a single time action.

Featured image Photo by Paweł Furman on Unsplash

Colossians 3:6-7; Brief Thoughts

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  6On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

The wrath of God is genuinely coming upon the earth. This phrase in verse six ought to give the reader pause. It is a terrifying statement that the wrath of God is coming upon the earth. It is even more terrifying to realize the reason for that wrath. The vices listed as “earthly” are so prominent in modern culture that it is difficult to call anyone innocent of them. Everywhere a person turns, there is sexual immorality and sinfulness driven by base human desires. Our entertainment, politics, and businesses are controlled by wicked and sinful desires. Our world has rejected God as the one who is worthy of worship and has insisted that satisfaction can be achieved by asserting our own definitions of good and evil in place of His. Humanity has rejected Christ as Lord and has decided to determine what is good or evil on our own. Indeed, our own idolatry of self-satisfaction demands recompense from the Almighty Creator. So Paul warns: “the wrath of God is coming.”

Take note that wrath has not yet arrived. There is great hope in this truth. Wrath is not yet here, there is still time for you to repent. There is still time for nations to repent. Wrath has not yet arrived. This simple present tense verb packs within itself a great deal of hope! We have time, though it is short, to call the world to repent and find salvation.

While it has not come upon this world yet, wrath is certain because of these things. Further, this world’s calamity does not compare to the coming wrath of God. Paul was living in an age of paganism. Death and corruption were norms in the Roman empire. So it is here in our time. Political scandals fill our eyes as we strive to hide the wickedness we indulge in ourselves. Even the religious leaders allow themselves indulgences and sinful satisfactions that bring shame to the Lord. Wrath is coming and it will level all of us. God, the perfectly just Judge, will punish every infraction and destroy every idolatrous, law-breaker. Yet, there is a way out of this wrath. Trust in Jesus for your righteousness: confess to God that you have not done what you should do and are in need of Him to forgive you, trust that Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection takes the wrath of God on your behalf and grants you new life. This is how one avoids wrath: through faith in Jesus.

Wrath is coming on this earth because of sin and all those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ will be subject to that wrath. It is important for Christians to remember that we have not been righteous. Christians were enslaved to the same sinful disposition that everyone else is enslaved to. Notice Paul doesn’t just say that Christians were engaged in the characteristics of verse five, but that they “live” that way.

Bearing this in mind, Christians have the unique ability to relate to others. There is no room for arrogance in the life of a believer. Indeed, true believers recognize that they are no greater than anyone else. They have not done the right thing, they have not lived a righteous life. This is the great equalizer. Recognizing that salvation is not due to our works, but only due to faith changes the way we relate to everyone. Christian, make up in your heart that you have been rescued because God is good, not because you are. You did not make a better decision than others. You were rescued, and anyone can be rescued.

Colossians 3:5; Brief thoughts

5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Throughout his letters, Paul issues instructions pertaining to the Christian life. When modern readers read these instructions, our natural tendency is to read them as corrective commands (e.g. “stop doing what you are doing and do this instead!”). It is easy for the reader to understand these instructions as commands to be fulfilled or something that must be corrected. After all, they are instructions to the Christian life. Yet, all of Paul’s instructions are based on a previously established theological truth about the person he is addressing. These instructions, therefore, are better understood as exhortations or encouragements rather than corrective commands. Paul is not scolding the reader for failing to live up to some sort of law. Rather, Paul is encouraging the believers to live a life that matches the reality of who they are in Christ.

This particular exhortation begins with the encouragement to “put to death.” The word here indicates a complete cessation of activity with regard to that which is “earthly” (v.5). Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (Cost of Discipleship. London: SCM Press, 2001 p44). The Christian life is one of complete surrender to the will and work of Christ. It is an exchange of kingdoms. Believers have traded the glory of this earth for the glory of Heaven. In such an exchange, the kingdom of earth is thrown off for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. So Paul calls the believer to put to death the things that are earthly. Notice there is no softening of this exhortation. He does not say, try to put to death or strive to put to death. No, Paul says “put to death.” This imperative drives the point that Christian is to completely cut off the influence of these earthly things. These earthly things have no place in the Christian life (Ephesians 5:3). They are to be cut off and destroyed. The mind of the Christian and the life of the Christian is focused on Heavenly truths and must have no association with these lower earthly things.

It is the tragedy of modern Christian culture that there is little that differentiates the world from the church. When Christians are supposed to be pointing people toward a radical heavenly mindset, the best that many modern churches offer is simplistic moralism. There is little call to holiness in our pulpits and seldom a demand to turn away from earthly things. Yet, Paul’s call for a heavenly mindset is immediately followed by the complement of rejection of earthly things. Christian, we cannot serve in two worlds. We must recognize that we are “resident aliens” on this earth and we do not and cannot fit into this world’s passions and pleasures. Our Kingdom is far too great to be subject to such base desires.

Paul provides us a list of that which is “earthly” for the reader to identify. Interestingly, each word has some connection to sexuality. The first word is “pornea” where we get our word porn from. In our sex-saturated culture, there is little need for elaboration on this subject. Pornography is one of the greatest blights on the soul of man in modern times. It has shaped the way our culture views women, marred the nature of man and degraded the value of sexuality in the human spirit. Our modern struggles with sexual harassment, gender identity, and gender toxicity can be directly linked to the hidden obsession with this idolatrous activity. This practice of sexual immorality must NOT be present in the life of a Christian.

The second word Paul uses is “akatharsia.” This is the negation of the word catharsis, meaning clean. Adding the alpha to the front of the word negates the word in its definition. So catharsis or clean becomes akatharsia- meaning unclean. In this way, Paul calls Christians to think about the innate value of what they fill themselves with. Believers must fill themselves with that which is clean and not that which is unclean. Connected with the definition of akatharsia is a sense of worthlessness. That which is unclean is that which is worthless to the Christian. It has no weight in the Kingdom of God and serves no purpose.

The third word Paul uses to describe earthly things is pathos, meaning lusts or lustful desires. This word is closely related to the concept of misfortune or calamity. Indeed, when we surrender to our baser lusts and desires, we often find that calamity follows. So Paul exhorts the believer to change their focus from the lower earthly passions and seek to be consumed by the greater passions of God’s heavenly kingdom.

The fourth phrase Paul uses is “evil desires.” I trust that the careful reader can acknowledge that little exposition is needed to explain Paul’s meaning in these words. His straightforward tone is hard to dismiss. Christians are not to be controlled by desires and affections that are rooted in this world. Rather, our affections are to be manifestly different. We are to be so consummately holy (that is to say “set apart”) that we are identified as complete aberrations to this world.

The Final phrase used to describe that which is earthly level our sensibilities. Earthly is covetousness, which is idolatry. Indeed, Modern Americans have extreme difficulty here and Paul leaves no room for us to rationalize our attitudes. The spirit of greed and selfishness is bound up in covetousness. But at its root, coveting is the result of idolatry. It is the result of worshiping something other than the One True God. Further, all that is listed here in verse 5 is the result of idolatrous activity. It is an attempt to satisfy our own needs by insisting that we know better than God. It is seeking to satisfy our desires rather than deny them for the sake of greater joy.

Christians look different from the world and must be faithful to that end.

The Pastor’s Role in Art as Worship. Reasons for Art as Worship, pt. 3

(This is part of a series. The first two installments are here and here.

Pastors have a great many tools by which they can serve, teach, and love their congregation. Preaching, prayer, writing, one on one counseling, hospitality, acts of service, leadership, administrative tasks, etc…  All exist in the toolbox of the pastor for the sake of accomplishing the equipping of the body of Christ. In many modern churches, preaching is the primary tool that is used to engage the congregation and is often supplemented by blogs, writing, and activities designed to aid in discipleship. Pastors are adept at these tools and we frequently use them in powerful and meaningful ways. In our modern church, the pulpit is used mightily and songs are frequently used to enhance the ministry of the pulpit. Yet, there is another tool that the Christian community appears to have forgotten. That is: art.

Art as worship is not new

ricardo-gomez-angel-367741-unsplashArt is not a new tool in the discipleship of Christians. Francis of Assisi, Jerome, and even Luther recognized the power of art for the discipleship and worship within the Church. Ancient churches were covered with stained glass, paintings, and statues that were used to instruct and inspire! In Christian history, art was used to magnify God through worship, teach people of His great character, and even evangelize those who do not know the truth. One cannot study art history without recognizing the dominant themes of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the day of judgment, and the creative power of God. Art was used to teach, inspire worship, heal, and even console the believer in times of turmoil. Yet, in modern churches, we have reduced the use of art to backgrounds on a screen or environmental lighting.

Art is a tool for worship

markus-spiske-378490-unsplashArt can be a profound tool that can provide a balm to the soul of longing Christian. To gaze in wonder at a piece that is designed to glory in the character and nature of God, or to wander through a poem that challenges the intellect and engages the soul, or to rejoice in the motion of a dance that tells the story of redemption can engage the soul on a level that a sermon of solid conversation cannot. It cannot because it lacks the freedom to uniquely engage the audience without explanation. A freedom found in most clearly in works of art. Two people can be moved in completely unique ways by a piece of art. One can see the beauty and majesty of God in the rendering of a landscape while another can be deeply moved by the courageous-loneliness of a tree within the field of that same landscape.

The Pastor’s responsibility to utilize art.

The pastor of the local church has a profound responsibility in discipleship of their congregation. We are commissioned to love and train the souls of people. We must use all the tools afforded to us and sometimes that means stretching ourselves beyond our ability or preferences. In order to do this, I believe pastors must re-shape the way we think about our role. We must begin to understand our role within our congregation to include: pastor as creative artist, pastor as curator, and pastor as conductor.

  1. tim-wright-506560Pastors as Creative Artist: If we are to teach our people to utilize art in worship, we must model it. You don’t have to be a good artist to model a striving to utilize art in worship. Especially in your personal worship. Draw pictures, use visual aids when you teach, read poetry, exhibit a thirst for material that challenges the intellect and soul without blandly explaining every aspect of itself. Art engages through mystery and expression! As you strive to engage the Lord beyond words, your soul will be strengthened and your ability to lead your people to worship will be enhanced. It might be difficult to do, but your congregation will benefit from the artistic/poetic soul that will result through engaging them on a level beyond their own ability to verbally express themselves. Show them that they can create worship beyond words! Strive to model art as worship through your own efforts.
  2. dev-benjamin-219172-unsplashPastor as Curator: Pastors must curate art as worship. So you can’t paint, draw, or write poetry, and rhythm and message of dance escapes your ability. If you desire to use artistic expressions to teach your people, engage your people in worship, or provide some salve to the soul of your brothers and sisters, then stretch yourself by studying and curating a volume of art that engages the soul. Study art! (Some recommending readings are at the end of this article.) Collect a compendium of poetry, artwork, and performances that exalt the name of God in powerful ways. Then, when your people are in need of inspiration, healing, or teaching, you will have more than just an exposition. You will have an aid to your exposition that will inspire them to worship beyond your ability to verbalize God’s character.
  3. radek-grzybowski-74331-unsplashPastor as Conductor: While you may not be a competent artist, you are surrounded by people who are. I say that in utter confidence, you ARE surrounded by artists. You must enable them to express themselves. You must conduct the worship of your congregation by utilizing the gifts of your people in worship. A conductor does not play every instrument. The conductor directs the combination of the various artists to make one expression. Likewise, the pastor needs to find creative ways to combine the expressions of the various members of the congregation to display Christ! Dig deep into the expressive talents of your people. Equip your people to engage their souls in worship to God! Even if you don’t understand art and it does not resonate with you. It resonates with someone in your congregation!

Pastor, you are a talker… I get it. I’m a talker too. I preach and I value preaching. I engage the Lord through expository sermons and classic hymns of the faith. I like to read weighty theological books and sermons by old dead preachers. And still, I must recognize that my congregation is not going to be solely comprised of people who respond to reading a theological treatise on the impassibility of God or the theologically rich hymns of Martin Luther. There will be some who engage beyond words. They paint, draw, ponder, dance, create, and provide a richness to worship that is valuable and necessary to the empowerment of your congregation and the engagement of a lost world. Stretch yourself! Pastor, this is not about you! Get over your hang-ups and conduct worship, curate volumes of great art, and create expressions of art for your congregation. They will be stronger Christians because of it and you will engage the lost world on a level you would otherwise fail to realize.

What do you think? Is there another role that the pastor can play to help engage the congregation in this unique way? put it in the comments.

chasin francisChasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron 

Chasing Francis is an excellent fictional story about a mega-church pastor who leaves the ministry and is forced to re-evaluate ministry in the face of changing paradigms. He goes on a journey in which he learns about Francis of Assisi and rediscovers what church is.

Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life by Makoto Fujimurafujimura

Culture care is an excellent treatise on engaging culture beyond mere words. Many bemoan the decay of culture. But we all have a responsibility to care for culture, to nurture it in ways that help people thrive. Artist Makoto Fujimura issues a call to cultural stewardship, in which we become generative and feed our culture’s soul with beauty, creativity, and generosity. We serve others as cultural custodians of the future.

ReCreated_4Re-Created: A Poetic Walk Through The Gospel of John by J. Novis Elkins

Re-Created is my own offering to exemplify the gospel through artistic expression. It is a book of poetry intended to be read alongside the gospel of John. As the reader walks through the Gospel, it is my hope that they will encounter Jesus in a fresh and powerful new way.

Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In his letters and papers from prison, Bonhoeffer expresses the value of art in worship. He wrote poems and hymns while imprisoned and models for us the artistic soul of a Christian in captivity. That is a soul that can never really be held captive by anything other than Christ.

piperThe Misery of Job and the Mercy of God by John Piper

This book was my first introduction to the pastor’s use of art to shepherd and teach. Piper lays out a fantastic example of how to utilize poetry and art in worship. It is worth your time and labor to engage with poetry. John Piper is not an artist. His poems are simple and easy to access. He is a pastor who models the use of art in the ministry.