Theology

How to Celebrate the Church’s Birthday through Art

The Church frustrates me.

Or I should say the way we abuse and misrepresent the Church frustrates me. I’m deeply troubled every time I read a news story about Christians speaking in a way that doesn’t represent Jesus, every time I watch a congregation that looks more like a business, every time I hear about another pastor chewed up and spat out by the world’s ideas of success.

And this frustration makes me want to act, to speak. To post an opinion, to shake a fist, to write a letter, to point a finger. I want to fix it.

So it makes no sense that my hope for the church is being healed through a total “waste of time.” And yet, in the light of the nature of our beautiful Ecclesia, it makes perfect sense.

Stirred for the Church in Art

It began one day when my heart was broken by another story of the Church not living up to her calling. It prompted this blog post.

As I lamented, I didn’t even know I was doodling. The mindless doodling became strangely calming. And as I looked among the lines I’d made across the page, I couldn’t help but see a woman, dancing.

I knew who she was. She was the beautiful bride of Christ, slipping free of the chains we’ve placed on her, the ways we’ve used her for our own purposes. Her hair was streaming, her skirts swept around her as she danced like a woman dances when she knows she is whole and free. As much as I see what we’ve done to Ecclesia, she is still His Bride, filled with His Spirit, longing to live according to her identity, to fulfill her calling.

And so I added color to bring her to life. She felt like something I’d had part in making and yet like an undeserved gift.

Over the months since that, whenever I long to see the Church, I make another piece of this art as my prayer that she might be seen. There have been days when she has been so hard to find in all the scribbles that it made me weep. Because that’s how it feels some days as I look for a sign that the Church is still alive. There have been days when she surprised me and was more beautiful and alive than I ever expected. The Church can be like that too.

Make Your Own in 3 Easy Steps

With some trepidation (“Will this seem silly, small, strange?”) I decided to invite others into this praying and art-making with me, including at a workshop at the recent Missio Alliance Awakenings gathering. And as others have joined in, I’ve watched how we all long for this healing of our Church.

This art takes no skill or special supplies and actually teaches us the postures that will heal our church. Let me share the steps:

Step one

Take a sheet of paper and with a pencil or pen, draw long, sweeping lines that intersect at random. Don’t overthink it. Breathe and slow yourself. This is a practice of rest, of peace, of releasing anxiety and control.

Step two

Sit with it. It often takes 15 or 30 minutes for me to find something in the doodles.

Often it’s a woman, dancing. Sometimes it’s flames or leaves.

Set aside your expectations and see what wants to show itself in the lines. It may help to turn it in different directions. This is a practice of receiving, setting aside our assumption that it’s all up to us. This is a time to trust that there are forces at work, revealing and creating, which are outside of our own power.

Step three

With colored pens or pencils, paint or pastels, fill in the images you find in the doodles.

Don’t worry about whether or not it’s “good.” This is prayer and it’s all good in the eyes of the One hearing (seeing?) it. How does your image resonate with your longings and hopes? Are there experiences or songs or bible passages that come to mind?

Beckoning Revival

Last Pentecost, Missio Alliance invited prayer for revival.

In the conversations that grew out of those blog posts, it was good to discover how much fear and baggage we have about the word.

Does “revival” mean a return to empire and institution? Even when we long for the right kind of revival—a turning of our hearts away from human power and back to the Lord—it’s surprisingly scary. What if we hope for something that never happens? Will we be disappointed?

In it I saw a strange paradox: If we will take the risk to hope and pray that the Church can be restored to her calling and wholeness, we will become the beginning of the answer to that hopeful prayer. Because we each are a part of that Ecclesia, and our healing is her healing. At the Awakenings Gathering in DC in April, I began to see many hearts willing to voice this kind of longing and even in the longing, I saw the healing begin.

If we pray for the Church, we will begin to be the answer to that hopeful prayer. Click To Tweet

In the eyes of the world, this kind of art activity seems like a waste of time. But over and over again, in my own prayer life and in the lives of others, it’s revealing itself to be a way to heal our hope. As I take part in it, I’m being invited into a pace and posture that reflect the ways of our Ecclesia.

As I slow, I empty myself of my own frustrations and efforts. As I watch and wait, I’m practicing the life of watching and waiting for the Spirit. As I color what I find, I’m reminded that I have a part to play, a way to respond to what the Spirit is doing in my life and the world. And so this seemingly small, unimportant practice is not only healing my hope as I find Ecclesia dancing with joy, even in a desert. It’s also teaching me what it means to be part of this Ecclesia, faithfully resting, listening and responding to her Lord. And if I am one small part of Ecclesia, as I am healed, she is healed.

Join me in this to celebrate the birthday (and new birth) of our beautiful Ecclesia.

To see more Ecclesia art and a video with instructions and to share your own creations, check out the Ecclesia Dances Facebook page.

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