Art and Faith Survey

In our recent VOX Readers' Survey we asked you about Art, Faith and the church.   Here are the full results of the survey which attracted 83 responses from all over Ireland and Northern Ireland.

If "Other" please give details:

  • Stained-glass windows
  • Hand drawn/written 'banners' as decoration
  • The church appreciates the artwork produced by the Sunday School children.
  • Flags & banners
  • Arts & Crafts - Messy Church
  • Gracefully serving refreshments, while making friends
  • Art group for all ages as a fellowship event
  • Music: specifically seeking the New Sound of the Lord. Writing: we have held Poetery Workshops for our own people as another language in listening to God, and in outreach. Dance: not really dance as such, but Movement in Worship is a high value for us. Art: we also occasionally have some of our people do prophetic painting..
  • Banners to decorate church and give messages
  • Abstract banners based on Psalms and Job
  • Poetry

Comments?

  • Personally the arts play a big role in how I understand. experience and express my faith but in my church life they play little or no role at all. It saddens me that something that is such a crucial part of my make up and how I understand the world has no place in my church family. I know this is not deliberate ,rather it is just not seen as relevant.
  • I used to be quite iconophobic, but I had an encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy that changed my whole perspective on it. While I decided not to join the Eastern Orthodox Church in the end, I still have great respect for it, and appreciate religious art on a whole other level now.
  • Creative arts such as pictures on a powerpoint slide or a drama can be used to explain a Biblical concept which might be difficult to understand. Seeing a message as opposed to just hearing a message can help people of all ages to gain a better grasp of a subject.
  • images of nature's beauty reminds worshipers of creator God and the world outside
  • All of the above though we are not using it all the time!
  • I'm dubious about using art to entertain. Generally 'the World' does it better. There is art in teaching/preaching in such a way as to make systematic Bible teaching accessible and compelling, to hearers who aren't familiar with such teaching, as well as presenting new truths to people who've grown up on Scripture. Gifted treaching is most surely a Godly Art..
  • We also use Movement in Worship as a powerful tool in intercession.
  • I fear the church I attend is an arid business though the church building is magnificent and dates from the 13th.Century. It is largely treated as a museum but it could be used with imagination and be a great teaching experience .
  • None of these things have any relevance to real Biblical Worship...all they can do is pander to the senses, but the Lord Jesus said to the woman of Samaria in John 4:24, "God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth"
  • It is useful to use cinema/films to reflect on faith and explore issues. Films can reflect contemporary life and issues and be a source of discussion. Art as images/paintings or poems can be very powerful during meditation or quiet time and enable God to speak to us through images.
  • Art and visual images are so good as we are more & more driven and challenged by what we see.
  • Art can have all the above, and more uses, or roles, although the question 'what use is art?' deserves the quip - 'art for art's sake' as I think that in nature art often has no utilitarian purpose, but creates wonder nonetheless...
  • Because God is the author of art its use brings people into connection with the creator by examining and enjoying the result of His creation. His gifting of people to express themselves further enhances the beauty of art and connects the artist to others.

Q6: Please share your thoughts: What is the role of art in faith? In what ways could (or should?) the Arts be embraced by Christians in Ireland?

  • Art is part of life. People experience life as they live it. People experience God in many ways. Art is part of every day living.
  • God is the greatest Creator. He created arts too. And I believe He created it to connect and to express who we are and what we believe. Arts should be fully embraced in the churches instead of thought of as suspicious or secular. Arts can be done in godly ways too.
  • I think art can be used as a neutral, engaging and thought provoking medium. I think it should be used more by Christians in Ireland to explore faith, evangelise and engage with others.
  • Art can help us understand the truths and the working out of the gospel at a deeper and more heartfelt level than words alone. Jesus was creative in the way that he got the message of the gospel across to people. In the form of storytelling or parables he touched people with the gospel at a heart level as well as a head level in a way that went much deeper than an academic acknowledgement of the truth of the gospel.
  • Through history art has expressed Biblical truth both very positively and also less so. We do ourselves a dis-service if we remove creativity from our relationship with God and our church buildings and services. Sometimes, especially in the evangelical community we have over reacted to what we have seen as ostentatious and extravagant and therefore have failed to see the beauty and creativity of both creation and how God has made us with the creativity we have.
  • We should be less afraid of it. Less literalistic in our cherry picked verses that supposedly condemn all form of religious art when other passages clearly show that god had ordained art for religious purposes (such as the building of the tabernacle).
  • Pictures can say much more than words and can be interpreted differently by the viewer creating a personal experience and connection with God through various art forms or expressions.
  • It's an expression of our creativity as people made in the image of a creative God. God given artistic gifts need to be used like other gifts - for the building up of the Church and for God's glory.
  • Art is such a part of how God made us that we should be expressing our Christian life in the arts. Corporate worship and learning should use the arts to enhance both experiences.
  • Only in so far as the arts do not distract from the Gospel message
  • I have never thought of 'art' as being part of a church, but 'creative arts' would be a term I better understand. I think creative arts is something that just happens in a church and isn't something that would be planned by a committee as such, but it is just there in the service, in the church, and in the people who are gifted in these 'arty' ways. Some more traditional type churches may be more resistant to creative arts.
  • Art can be another voice in the proclamation of the gospel--inside the church (anywhere) and outside, reaching people in ways that the spoken word doesn't.
  • The power of art to communicate a message can of often convey messages which are too deep/magnificent to convey merely through ordinary words
  • It is an essential part of my life/faith. Without it we are impoverished.
  • It inspires me and gives me visuals to think about my faith also in music the words of certain songs can speak to me at certain times in my life
  • As a means of communicating questions or truth, all forms of art can express the deep thoughts of the soul. Our church life is usually very limited in its modes of expression. The catholic churches have wonderful Modern Expressions of Art in their new modern churches. Very beautiful. These express the love and worship of the artists and the community to god, and are very good at speaking and encouraging others who see them. The evangelical world is very North American in its Artistic expression, and usually focus on Music so much that it is almost overdone to become a show, and not worship. We need to get back to true expressions of Man relating to God, in many ways.
  • Communication, communication, communication
  • The Arts can connect us the Church with God.
  • I never really think about arts in connection with the life of the church except in music. Maybe it's because our services are structured so there is not much space for drama or things like this. Some of the ladies have been very creative with making cloth banners with a Bible truth and pictures on them. These are displayed on the walls to make the church look nice but it's not a regular thing that they make these banners.
  • I am so far removed from right-brained thinking and the arts that I really have no opinion regarding how the arts could play a role in Christianity in Ireland. I am not against it at all, but except for music it would not enhance my personal worship.
  • Music - instrumental and sung, dance possibly, have a place in church, but back to my first comment above. If 'worship music' is not done well, it's dishonouring to God, but if it's wonderful music it can come too close to honouring the performers. Leading 'worship' from the front by bellowing or muttering an interminable song, with mystically closed eyes, is not God-honouring. Drama can be helpful and inspiring, but done in a modest spirit, focused on its primary purpose. Visual art, paintings, activity materials for children, can be effective. Writing is an essential art form that isn't perhaps sufficiently developed, for ordinary people to learn from, to be comforted, encouraged, and prompted to think.
  • Much church worship has been merely through sound in the past. Now people benefit from visual accompaniment to sermons, children's messages, etc.
  • Not an 'arty' person myself and I don't really see the point; especially in faith unless you count the written word (Bible) as art?
  • What do we suppose art is in a church context? Perhaps God is the greatest artist and his creation (including humans) the greatest masterpiece? Can church art in a modern situation ever be idolatrous?
  • God created our creativity so I believe it is a facet of our image of Him. When we use music, dance, painting, poetry to connect with each other we are showing God as Creator of us and of all beautiful things. It is encouraging and uplifting.
  • I think it would be nice to have some adults as well as children sketching or drawing at the service on Sunday mornings and explain their works to the congregation
  • Ireland has a culture and history full of artistic gifting. There should be a natural outflow of this in the church.
  • It is a means by which the spirit is lifted from the everyday things of life to a higher plain where the things of heaven hover behind the horizon. Investing in art is investing in faith enhancement and challenge. A barren church indicates a barren faith.
  • It is relevant to the modern society because the people are use to high quality creative art in the schools, offices and general market place. The church is to matchup so as to retain, maintain and reach out to new people.
  • For some reason it doesn't seem to be very prominent in evangelical circles. I think this, in the past at least, was wanting to make a distinction from Catholic Churches for example and somehow feeling that images/icons were somehow wrong. The arts are a powerful way of engaging with society and encouraging Christians in their faith and I would love to see more in our churches. Perhaps even running a festival - years ago the church at the bottom of o Connell street in Dublin had one and it was great. Or things like partaking in culture night for example
  • If someone has a gift, it should be used, but not have Christianity shoehorned on to it. Copying popular trends (anyone remember rap from the 1980's?) should not be used to give worship a contemporary feel (it's usually just embarrassing)
  • Every first Friday a new art exhibit from local artists or art collectors or even an art project by children go up on our church walls. They stay up all month. The first Friday exhibit also provides music.
  • Art needs to be used more, especially painting, drama, dance which are not really used at all - they can all be used to glorify God.
  • I think I need more guidance on this subject.
  • As I intimated above all these art forms today can only appeal to the flesh, for we read in Romans 8:8, "They that in the flesh cannot please God." What we need today is not Art forms of one kind or another, but rather fro companies of God's people to get back to the simplicity of the Scriptures and follow the pattern of the early disciples in Acts 2:42, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." Then, and only then will believers today realise that the Christian Life is a life of faith and not a going after some new fangled way of engaging in so called 'worship'.
  • Art enables all people to engage their minds with faith and its impact on how we live our lives. Because people operate and understand and remember things in different ways according to their personality and make up, arts can help to engage with as many different people as possible.
  • Art is essential as a tool for addressing difficult issues, but also finding difficult issues. The problem comes when churches and our leaders are nervous about giving artists free reign to ask those questions.
  • We see Art in our everyday living and that also makes it inseparable from our faith walk. Illustrations help us effectively connect with information; visual and performing art help make our worship meaningful as well sharing the gospel. A Church without music cannot effectively worship God.
  • The church should acknowledge art as coming from the creator and useful for mission
  • I'm all for the arts in every expression of our joy in The Lord Jesus & once we aren't distracting anyone from Him. Art in many form are an encouragement to worship & causes folk to open their mind to use every sense we have (sight hearing our mind etc.) but a warning: We must not get so busy with the arts as to miss that voice we need to hear from our Heavenly Father. Thank You!!!
  • I didn’t really consider what the link was until my artist husband became a believer and brought his faith into his work. Before that it seemed to be something that was only linked in days of old where churches commissioned artworks. I haven’t attended any services that use worship as an art form. Maybe that’s down to the fact that the worship team were amateur musicians including myself who didn’t see their gift as an art form for expressing worship to the Lord.
  • Use the premises, utilities and various fora that the church has to promote and support local art...
  • When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt their camp was built around His manifest presence. In western church life our camp is built around His word. This is not an entirely bad thing. His word directs us to His presence. Art (music, media* and movement) can also direct us to His presence. Sometimes we have to make the time to understand in what ways a particular piece compliments scripture. We have been afraid to take the risk that someone else will not take the time to understand our expression. Quite often though, our expression is purely between God and ourselves. Others benefit from seeing that expression with more than words is possible. * Using the term media in its broadest sense: fine art to multimedia.
  • Art is a reflection of God's creative expression and is therefore essential.
  • Art can be expressed through humour. Clean 'Christian' Jokes or humorous cartoons show our living relationship with a personal God. God is not a distant faraway figure that we have to be all solemn when we talk about Him
  • Second question: So much so that "the arts" are not a category of activity but are so integrated into the life of the church community that we forget when we used to even ask such a question. Also when the church's art prophetically provokes the agents of injustice in our society so much that it starts to get censored. Then we'll be doing something right.
  • Art is a way we communicate with the Creator. As we create, we honour Him and His role in forming all of creation and making us in our image, and we connect with others who don't yet know Him but who are drawn to the beauty He has created and our interpretation of it. Even artists who don't believe in God express themselves to Him through their genre (their lens with which they see the world). They're in communication with Him whether they know it - or want to believe it.
  • Art should be embraced as a fundamental expression of creativity. Being made in God's image is one way of saying as artists we emulate the creator of ourselves and our expressions.
  • Art has so much to offer. Through art we can get to understand ourselves better, art teaches risk taking, develops a willingness to explore what has not existed before, it generates a love for learning and creativity, it builds community and reaches over barriers, teaches learning from mistakes, teaches problem solving, awakes the senses, opens the mind to possibilities and fuels the imagination, through art we get closer to the bigger picture view of life - art opens our way to God. Christians should not be afraid to engage with art, go to art galleries, and talk to artists. Art in Ireland needs much more Christian influence, otherwise art just gives in to secular tastemakers.
  • Art has a central place in life and culture and should therefore have a central place as a way to express, explore and engage with our faith.

About those who took the survey:

  • 83 people - 41 male and 43 female
  • 43% were from Dublin, 6% from Northern Ireland, 5% from outside of Ireland and the rest were from the remaining 25 counties of Ireland.
  • 7% of respondents were in the 18 - 30 age group, 58% were in the 31 - 50 age group, 26% were 51 - 64 and the remainder were 65 and over.
  • Interestingly, 51% of those who responded said that they consider themselves to be an artist.  

What do you think of the results?  Please share your comments below.