Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Betrayal Happens

“If you haven’t been betrayed in the church, you’ve been living on a desert island.” Dan Allender, author of Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness and Leading with a Limp: Turning Your Struggles into Strengths. In February Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois hosted an arts conference for Christian artists, which was simulcast all across the country. Speakers, pastors, and teachers are given permission to speak truth at conferences and retreats in ways they can’t from their own pulpit. Dan Allender was one of the presenters at the arts conference, and this was just one of his many quotes that punched me right in the gut. Church betrayal is a reality that is so often hushed in the local churches. Look, bring this truth out into the light so we can deal with it. There is freedom that comes when we acknowledge the truth of our weaknesses and then work together towards change and strength.

Willow Creek Community Church is a vibrant, growing church. While the focus of their attention has shifted a bit in recent years (wisely so), they still seem as determined as ever to give the artist a place to serve in the body of Christ. I grew up in a church where drums were not allowed in the church sanctuary, and going to the movies was strongly discouraged. I was not allowed to take dance lessons as a child because dancing was “against our religion”, and the idea of ever performing a play or monologue on the church platform was stuff of which fairy tales were made! The gift of eternal life is the most amazing gift God ever gave His kids, but talent is a close second. Whether you are an actor, dancer, painter, builder, architect, gardener, clothing designer, or short order cook, you are an artist. If you create – you are an artist.

There has been, is, and always will be a huge amount of discourse in the arts based ministries of the church. The reasons for this phenomenon are many and varied, but one thing that cannot be disputed – the heart of the artist is a sensitive one, and working with artists requires great patience and wisdom. I’ve heard people refer to the theatre as “the devil’s playground”, rock and roll as “the devil’s music”, and Hollywood as “the devil’s home”. Listen, no matter how dark the room, God’s light will always break through! It is our job to bring God’s light into the darkness. WE have kept God out of the arts. WE have done that! God does not want to be left out. We say, “Until the whole world knows”, but then we parenthetically add, “except Hollywood and The Ice Capades – no good Christian would be caught dead there.” God has called the artist to go into the art jungle!

The music and/or arts department at church is as much a jungle as the farthest corner of Africa, or the tiniest island of Indonesia. When I see betrayal happen in the church, I see it happen most often in the music and/or arts department. We argue over music styles, stage time, and the relevance of skits and dramas in the service. We disagree over the ratio of ability vs. heart (this is a whole other topic!), and we make assumptions about one another’s motivations. The artist is overly sensitive, wildly passionate, and sometimes emotionally volatile. Instead of focusing on the strengths, working through disagreements, and coming together as a team, we resort to all forms of betrayal. Shame on us!

Get off the pew and speak the truth! Betrayal happens! That is the truth! Don’t hide from it, don’t sweep it under the sanctuary carpet or bury it under the thrust stage. Deal with it! Get off the pew and deal with it.

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