10.19.2005

art apart from the artist

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“self portrait, 1889” Vincent Van Gogh


I got a phone call the other day from a producer in the music industry. He was talking with me about a recent trip he had made to California and specifically the time that he had been at a worship service where I was leading the musical worship. He said that normally he would be unable to enjoy listening to music at churches because he would be analyzing the mix, or the musicians, or the arrangement, or whatever. But he said that he was able to fully relax and enjoy the service. Then he said that he experienced something that had never happened to him before. He said (in hushed tones, almost embarrassed, like he didn’t know if he should be admitting this) “I felt a warmth, a physical warmth wash over my body.” He said, “I’m not the type of guy who believes in that stuff, but it really happened.” He said that the musical worship was really amazing, and that he could really “feel” something special there.

I remember meeting him after that service and I specifically remember what I felt during that service. You know what I felt?


nothing.


I hadn’t put in any extra special effort, or extra prayer time or anything like that. I was just doing my thing. That got me to thinking about the “art apart from the artist”.

How much do our acts of worship actually have to do with us?

I can remember several times of musical worship where I felt like the music sucked, or I lost my voice, or I was in a bad mood, or I felt like my personal sin would negate my acts of worship, and in those times people would say that they had never been so moved in worship. I’ve come to the conclusion that our acts of worship have very little to do with us. I think God will use vessels that are willing, I’m pretty sure that’s the main qualifier in His eyes. Even hugely flawed vessels are used by God, myself included!!!

My dear friend Dean and I have been talking about this lately. He pointed me to an excellent article “art apart from the artist” by musician/writer Manuel Luz on this subject.

Manuel writes, “There must be some aspect of art that has the potential for expression, interpretation, and ministry separate from the artist who created it. For art is a painting apart from the painter, a story apart from the storyteller, an expression apart from the expresser. It is as if art has a life of it’s own, used by God at his discretion, for His purposes, in His timing. In a sense, art becomes alive, self-existent, legitimate. And we as artists have an obligation to birth the art, and set it free.

The work of an artist can have meaning and ministry outside of the scope of the artist who created it. Because the nature of God is that He can and does not only redeem the artist, but the work of the artist as well. He can use the work of a psychologically flawed, self-destructive painter in spite of himself. He can use the work of a sinful, prideful king in spite of himself. And He can use my music in spite of myself.”


CLICK HERE for the full article from www.manuelluz.com


14 comments:

Hidden Valley Girl said...

I have led worship so many times in the circumstances that you have portrayed. I have had similar experiences with people coming up to me with the same comments. It is such a wonderful reminder that God doesn't measure our hearts or our acts of service by how we "feel". It's also good to know that God sees us through His eyes, not ours. . .

Jeremy said...

It's not up to us how or when we are used of God ... it's completely in His hands. Exciting stuff.

ben said...

The most amazing example of this type of use-of-a-broken-vessel story is one that I remember hearing several years ago about a man that grew up in the church and kept to himself about his faith; except when he was blind drunk. So drunk that he could barely stand, the man would go to the nearest street corner and begin declaring the "good news" and the opportunity for salvation through Jesus Christ. The story ends by saying that several hundred people came to Christ through this broken (Read: Drunk) vessel's ministry.

From my own time in ministry I do believe that God successfully uses people that are willing to be used...regardless of their drive, talent or ability.

TGL said...

I too learned this lesson over the last eight years of singing in our church choir. Some of the songs really touched me, and led me to worship. Other songs did nothing for me and were a struggle to stay focused on. Regardless of my feelings about a particular song or Sunday service, others would comment on how the song reached their hearts and brought them closer to Jesus. He works when we are obedient to His call on our lives.

Crissi said...

Jimmy, I can fully understand your feelings at times of worship, how this is your job, and it can be mundane. But I have to agree with that producer. As someone on the other side of the stage, I have found myself fully captured in worship, to the point of wanting to be on my knees. The Lord speaks through your music, and it moves many of us to tears as we sing the words tha Lord has chosen for us through you. It's even more powerful to know that at times when you are just doing your job, the Lord is totally moving through you still. So, thank you!

Crissi said...

Mundane is a bad word, but you know what I mean, right? What I meant was just going through the motions.

jimmy said...

Thanks Crissi, it's pretty rare for me to feel mundane about leading musical worship. There is the occasional time that I don't really feel like being there. But for the most part I really enjoy it, and have a great time doing it.

The day that this gentlemen talked to me I wasn't feeling mundane or bored or whatever, I just didn't feel anything out of the ordinary, nothing special. I'm very appreciative that I'm able to help lead my family in musical worship. I just wanted to make that clear.

Natala said...

i've been there a lot, when i just feel blah, and someone will come up to me in tears ... about the music i played. when i thought it sucked, or could have been better - and then that person reminds me that it was never about me in the first place.
their tears and emotions becomes so much of the worship i expierence - i don't know if that makes sense. it's as though i expierence worship through others - at times.

Gina said...

Crissi, my friend, when you are brought to the point of getting down on your knees, then get down on your knees! Do it! Most of the time the word worship is used in the Bible it's referred to prostrating yourself before God. Sometimes it takes more than just yielding your will. Sometimes you've physically got to get down and yield your body as well.

Crissi said...

Gina, my friend, you are so right. I'm not the type to want to "make a spectacle" of myself, so I find myself holding back, even with tears streaming down my face. Don't worry, my self focus is being slowly stripped away. When the Lord moves me, I'll move.

Jeff said...

I dig it that you make it a point to put "musical" in front of worship.
I am confident that if i was closer to CA, we would share a Honey Brown Ale to the Glory of our Father.

jimmy said...

Come on over Bro! Wilma's about to blow down your door anyway!!! It's the perfect time to come to the West Coast for a visit.

Riana said...

There was one event that has remained with me for many years. We had a gathering for a friend who left to become a missioanry. Singing, prayer, giving cards and book marks. The person who led the worship thought she could play guitar by ear, but actually, she couldn't. We were of key. We didn't know all the words. It was such a blessed evening, I still remember it after 15 years.

Jenny Jorg said...

It's really awesome to hear other people's experience with leading some sort of musical worship because I'm just starting! I even wrote a post about it just now, check it out if you feel so inclined. http://jennyjorgensen.blogspot.com/