Churches offering classes is nothing new. You’ve likely been part of a church that offers topical classes or bible studies, from The Seventeen Most Amazing Biblical Archaeology Discoveries to Christ-Centered Karate. But at Seacoast Church, they’re up to something different. I had the opportunity to talk with Brad Singleton and Jeanne Radekopf of the Mount Pleasant, S.C., campus about the Seacoast Worship Arts Academy.
Classes have only recently started, and the initial run of courses it aimed at current Seacoast attendees. Brad and Jeanne were quick to point out that they’re not the first church to try something of this sort. So why feature it on a site that focuses on local churches sharing the gospel with their communities?
It’s as simple as this: Seacoast believes the arts are an absolutely vital way to reach their community. That manifests itself in a few ways.
Promoting the arts gives people entry-points to your church beyond Sunday morning.
For now, the Worship Arts Academy is aimed primarily at Seacoast attendees, but this won’t be the case forever, or even for long. They’re hoping that folks who would never show up on Sunday morning might be interested in guitar lessons or oil painting.
Before crying, “Bait and switch!” consider this: if you have attendees at your church who you believe are kind, generous and loving, wouldn’t you want to connect your community with them in whatever way possible? Sunday morning can be off-putting to the unchurched and dechurched, but they can still experience the heart of your church through peripheral offerings focused on the arts.
Promoting the arts among attendees helps create disciples that can make a huge impact.
I would be remiss not to mention Makoto Fujimara and his The Four Holy Gospels project in a discussion about the impact artists can have. From a community theater in southern Georgia to an art gallery in New York City, encouraging artists in your church helps the gospel become part of the conversation in areas where it has become more-or-less mute.
And there’s more than one level of impact here. Artists don’t simply have creator-to-creator relationships. They also have creator-to-consumer relationships that can result in the observers of created work experiencing the gospel in new ways. Imagine the impact if your local art galleries regularly featured work from members of your church community.
Promoting the arts gives your community new ways to connect with God.
A few years ago, I spent a summer at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles. I’ll never forget some of the paintings I saw as responses to sermons or songs, the turntable-based worship sets or the crowds at church-organized poetry readings. And many first-time visitors had never known the God could be experienced through the media they already knew and loved.
For many of us, the default reaction is, “Well, we don’t have people like that at our church.” But the reality is, most churches do. They just need to give them freedom and permission to worship in these ways. This isn’t a switch churches flip; this is an investment to make over time. That’s what Seacoast is doing. They’re saying, “We’re going to invest our time, energy and resources into supporting your passions and helping our church provide diverse ways for people to connect with God.”
We’ll have to wait and see exactly what happens with the Seacoast Worship Academy, but I think all churches can look to their model for some great lessons on the value of the arts.