Being a painter at a church is a puzzling thing to describe. Pretty much every time I tell people what I am and where I work (artist and I work at a church in Houston as an artist) they always follow with a “So what is it you actually do?” And rightly so, I think.
I mean who’s heard of a painter working at a church?
As I’ve answered this question over and over and I’ve explained how I came to be at Ecclesia, I’ve started to realize that something atypical happened in the hiring process.
I had been working with churches and para-church organizations for the last few years partnering the process of making art with music, speakers, and conferences. I happened to do a conference in Portland, OR with Chris Seay, head pastor at Ecclesia. We got to be friends over the 5 days of working together (him preaching me painting) and he invited me down to Houston to meet the community down there. After visiting for four days he told me that they would like to offer me a job. Here’s how our conversation went:
Me- “What do you want me to do?”
Chris – “I think what you are doing is important and I want you to keep doing it but do it with us and let us support you.”
Me – “Okay but what would I do at the church?”
Chris- “I don’t know. Just do what you think you’re suppose to do.”
So there you go. Tough job interview.
My first day at Ecclesia was to write my own job description letting them know what I was going to be doing. You gotta understand that I had and still don’t have any role models on what it’s suppose to look like for an artist to work at a church. But I had been deep in prayer over months as I was preparing to take the job at Ecclesia so I wrote down my guesses at what I would be doing. And I’ve been praying and guessing ever since.
But back to what I was getting at before. What was peculiar about my hiring to this position is that Ecclesia
and not a position.
The work that I do at the church is in direct connection with who I am and what I am passionate about. I’m at the church to create a visual culture… in that everything we do we are always representing are journey as a community with God is some kind of visual form- photography, painting, video, etc. Along with that I’m also at the church to be around to respond to the work of God in our community. I create from what goes on.
So since being at ecclesia I’ve created series of paintings based on lent, created a multi-media presentation on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, have created over a hundred images based on biblical teaching during our communal gatherings, preached, written made films, thrown dances for clean water pumps, and much much more.
This has all come around not cause there is a job like this that’s needs to be filled. This has all come about because this is who I am and what I am interested in.
If you are a church community and you want to progress the arts in your community, I would say your steps of actions are less about creating a role and more about finding someone you can help free up to do what they are passionate about.
I’m not writing any books on leadership in churches nor do I have a ton of experience in the way of church organization, but from my small experiences it seems to me that churches decide on the pre-determined roles and then search for people to fill those roles. And I would say that this isn’t inherently bad. All organizations need accountants, leaders, managers, etc. But it’s been amazing working at Ecclesia and seeing the balance between finding needed roles and unleashing peoples interests and passions in particular ways.
What I’ve created and what’s being created is coming out of 2 places: my passions and the road of obedience the Almighty is asking me to walk on. What’s happening is coming out of the will of God and the things he’s placed in me to bring out in the world. In some ways, this can only be done by me. Not art in the church, but who I am, what I care about, and what God has asked me to do are particular… so this becomes a particular happening in a particular place.
What’s reproducible is finding people in your midst who are going to make stuff happen and freeing them to do that… for you and the world.
So who’s in your midst who you know is going to do some amazing stuff?
How can you free them to do it?
What’s God asking you to be obedient in? Are you doing it?