I am an artist. I am also studying to be a pastor. Last year the artist and aspiring pastor fused together in worship.
During Lenten worship, I painted as the service was conducted. Yes! For six weeks I painted a large eight foot tall Jesus coming out of the darkness of a black canvas. The word spread quickly! Visitors and new worshipers entered the doors of church. Hundreds of people attended week after week. Children and adults came to witness the painting take shape. They wanted to see Jesus! The pastor preached the Word of God and at the same time I proclaimed the crucified Word of God on a canvas! It was a spectacular moment of worship. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Afterwards I asked myself, “Was this something new?” No. God always intended art to accompany His worship. This was demonstrated in the rich beauty of Eden. The colorful radiance of Moses’ tabernacle. The beautifully furnished temple of Solomon. The flutes and stringed instruments of David’s songs. The Emerging Church wants to take this back.

a return to vintage Christianity

The Emerging Church is convinced that something has been lost. Something has been ignored. Overlooked. Even discounted. The Emerging Church wants to put their finger on it. They are looking intently at the current painting of Christianity. They want to experience the deep roots of the Christian faith. The people of Yahweh on their knees. The Way of the original followers of Jesus. The unleashed worship of the Coming Messiah. Unprocessed, unrefined, uncooked worship of an extremely raw Creator. A return to Eden. A visit to the radiant tabernacle where Yahweh dwells. A voyage to the grandiose nature of God’s Presence. The Emerging Church is interested in experiencing the fullness of God. His beauty. His majesty. His radiance. His greatness. His forgiveness. His prevailing grace. His story.

painting God’s sketch of saving grace

For any painting to be a masterpiece, it needs the right paints. The precise colors must be on the palette. The canvas must be fully-stretched. The finely pointed tips of the brushes must be moistened. But most of all, the painting must first be sketched. As artists would say, “First we need to draw on the paper before we can paint the masterpiece.” Thankfully, others before us have also sought the paints, brushes and canvas of the raw Christian faith. Many bold Christians have observed God’s sketch of salvation painted by the Church and stepped back from the canvas asking, “Is this really what God had in mind?” Almost five hundred years ago, Martin Luther recognized the Church using the wrong brushes when painting a portrait of God. God’s sketch of saving grace through faith was warped by the religious leaders of his day. During this time the noble people couldn’t read. Since they couldn’t read they did not know what the painting should look like, yet they longed to experience the fullness of God. Peasants and princes questioned if God loved them. The Church calculated God’s love by good works! The consciences of precious people were twisted. Things got ugly! The Pope and priests altered God’s sketch of salvation and used the wrong brushes to manipulate the masterpiece for their own benefit. After years of anguish, Luther had enough. The teaching of the Church did not align with what Luther found in Scripture–God’s saving grace!

emerging from God’s sketch

Throughout the next twelve months this column will address God’s sketch for Christianity and the troubles that plague the current Christian painting. These upcoming columns will explore the raw, unaltered intentions for God’s people–the new creations of God dwelling in His Holy Presence; the ever-living faith of Christians chasing after Jesus. After all, Jesus is the fullness of God revealed in skin, breath and blood; Jesus–the Holy Temple where God radiates in complete brilliance and beauty. The Beautiful Garden who delivers the fruits of the Holy Spirit; the Possessor of all wisdom, understanding and knowledge.

So what can twenty-first century Christians, especially youth, gain from returning to the canvas and living out Gods sketch of life? Worshiping God with all five senses. Fleeing from the entanglement of sin and chasing after the quest for holiness! If Jesus is the fullness of all wisdom, the source of all life, the Son of God who defeated death and rose to new life, what sketch of life did He paint for us to experience?
This voyage of returning to vintage Christianity will disturb many. It will raise many questions for you. From sermons to romance, money to friendships, God has an opinion and it will make you uncomfortable. This column will point you to the mysteries of God that invigorate The Emerging Church. I invite you to contribute to the discussion. So grab your palette. Moisten your brushes. Stretch your canvas. Join me in the voyage to life the way Jesus painted it.