- Worship should be both a personal and communal expression TO God. (See Framing Our Worship Expression)
- Worship expressions can and should be expected to transcend words alone (See Hearing the Spirit in Worship: Transcending Language and, Beyond Words: The Power of Art to Communicate)
- Communal worship should seek to include as many kinds of artistic expressions as are well represented in the community because each offers a unique voice that Spirit can use (see Where's Michelangelo?)
- That the worship art of a church should largely originate from the local body itself, not simply be licensed from other sources. There is a place for use of art, particularly music, from contemporary and historic Christian culture (e.g., CCLI Top-100 or traditional hymns). But a substantial portion of the worship art of a community should ideally come from the Spirit speaking TO them THROUGH them. (http://blog.realfaitharts.com/2010/09/sing-new-song-lord.html)
To make these kinds of things real means we need to make room for them in our planning. I find it a disturbing reality that this rarely happens. Part of the reason for this is that we need to become comfortable with experimentation, trying things out that may be unfamiliar. Part of it is that it's simply harder work. It also requires that we trust the Spirit and each other more. Pastors and leaders need to trust the artists in their community to be earnest and honest in the pursuit of their work and how it's expressed in public. Artists and congregations need to trust their pastors and leaders to try things that are different, that might not be familiar, and that sometimes might fail. But this is one key way we can allow the Spirit to truly lead us as we mature in our worship expressions. Rather than seeking relevance by using the same "new" material that's being used somewhere else, dare to allow your own community to find it's unique voice. This isn't the easiest road, but it will yield results like no other. But it is a test of your trust the Spirit as you have to embrace the reality that it doesn't all hinges on you. You can't control it completely.
Of course all these things assume a certain level of practical proficiency too. In order to speak, you must develop a vocabulary and know how to structure sentences. In order to write, you must learn alphabets and how to spell, and penmanship (or at least how to type ;). In order to be an artist who can readily respond to the Holy Spirit and faithfully follow the lead, a reasonable command of their discipline is needed. Knowledge of the fundamentals of your craft, be it painting, dance, filmmaking, music, etc. Is an essential element to enabling your work to be useful to others in worship. The better you are, the more useful you can be. Expanding your artistic vocabulary will enable the Spirit to speak through your work with the minimum of friction.
Being a leader in this kind of ministry environment requires that you take ministry to the artists in your community far more seriously than perhaps we often do in practice. If we are to rely on the artistic voices among us to truly help be the Holy Spirit's voice in our communities, we must start to treat them more like ministry partners than simply craftsmen or commodities. Leading, mentoring, and modeling spiritual disciplines that result in spiritual transformation needs to be a top priority — at least equal to things like scheduling rehearsals and work sessions. You'll actually need to know these people and be mindful of their spiritual growth. This is where the rubber meets the road... but I fear it rarely does.
If you're in arts ministry today, in any capacity (pastor, leader, participant, etc.), how does this line-up with your experience today? Does this reflect the way you work today? How do you engage with the artists in your ministries spiritually?