Today’s appointment was a fifty minute conversation with David Arcos, the Artistic Director at Mosaic church, where Erwin McManus is Lead Pastor. The Mosaic administrative office is tucked away on the third floor of McGavran Hall in the charming William Carey International University. I was surprised to find a smallish classroom with a few desks, a sagging red sectional, some great art, a coffee table… and a wall chalkboard… was it. The office, singular. Huh. Let’s just say there are some highly developed elements to Mosaic, and other things, obviously less important, that apparently get a cursory shrug. Alrighty then.
David is a passionate artist, Christ follower, and husband. A neat guy. Let me highlight a few moments that stood out to me.
David explained to me that early on, especially when Erwin arrived as Lead Pastor, Mosaic shifted from “Christian” arts for Christians to more edgy, true-to-life art that was aimed at speaking to and possibly even changing culture. Their traditional Christmas/Easter ditties were shut down in favour of making every Sunday a worthy creative offering. Which is cool, since that’s what I’ve been dreaming of.
He also said that most churches who engage the arts think in terms of a creative team who’s mission is to develop things like drama, visual arts, and dance. At Mosaic, Erwin fought early on to weave creativity into the warp and woof of the church, insisting that every person on the planet is, or can be, beautifully creative as God’s image bearers.
As I listened to David talk about their (and in particular, his) approach to the arts in their ministry, I asked him now they navigated the pendulum swings between “art for its own sake” and “Jesus art” that always has to incorporate obvious Christian symbolism, scripture, and the gospel. I was surprised to hear him say, “We don’t use the arts to evangelize.” In other words, they don’t think every song and painting has to lead people toward God. Rather, the relationships they forge within their creative community are the bridges for sharing the gospel.
I have to admit, I see his point, but I’m not entirely comfortable with that. The way I see it, art doesn’t have to preach. In fact, art probably shouldn’t preach. But it should evoke something intentional, should provoke questions, invite seeking, awaken people’s awareness of something transcendent. In a church service, I don’t think a drama sketch has to have a punchline. It can be used to create tension, to ask a question. Then the sermon can go about trying to answer that question.
What David believes, and here I’d have to mostly agree, is that if we “Help people live the life they’re born to live, they’ll crash into God” – because he’s the author of that life. Don’t get me wrong, he clearly said Mosaic is relentlessly evangelistic. It’s just that they use relationships as gospel vehicles, not the arts per se. Hmmm.
When I asked him about helping a more traditional congregation (like mine) become more creative, he suggested I “introduce them to their imaginations.” In other words, don’t just talk about how creative they are, show them. Give them something to do, and then point to their creativity and say, “See, I told you so!” I like that. I’m going to do that. It dovetails nicely with what David Parker said yesterday: Our task in our church services is not to give people information. It’s to give them an experience. A supernatural encounter with God. Or at least, to make it available if they choose to step into the pool.
His advice on helping a traditional church move more fully into its calling? A refrain I’m hearing over and over again, in various forms:
“You don’t get to keep everyone if you want to move into the future God has for you.”