"But to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.' It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
He gave gifts to men! This powerful statement from scripture is the basis of our work as worship designers. You have been given a gift, a gift that is embodied in the form of artistic expression. Your planning and leading of worship services is driven by the creative art form that has been placed in your heart. It is being used to build up and strengthen the people of God.
The famous late choral director Robert Lawson Shaw who was considered a minister of music to all people maintained that the church has a responsibility to the arts. Shaw commented that in a world beset with a multitude of problems,
“The arts may provide the day-by-day confirmation of Creation’s finger still at work in the lives and affairs of men…the church, if it wants to keep in touch with the Creator, must provide a home for all that is and all who are created, lest the church itself wither and drift into irrelevance.”
I have always believed that the impact of the arts in the church is a viable component to the success of nurturing true worship within the local congregation. The use of the arts can offer a congregation that which it cannot do for itself. Is it possible that the use of arts in the church helps us to better understand our relationship to one another and our connection to God? “This is where the arts knock on the church door,” states Shaw.
The use of an art form for worship must be defined and properly categorized. The art forms may vary from congregation to congregation, but I am convinced that the art forms that we use must allow for corporate consideration. Possibly our use of the art form to enhance the worshipper’s experience could be encapsulated in the following elements:
Inform: Exactly what are its value and meaning?
Inspire: Does this create a “God-to-man” experience?
Instruct: What kind of behavioral response can we expect?
I love and appreciate the art form. It was the use of music and dance in the church that captured my own heart and turned it to live for Christ. The church as a whole is blessed with the gifts of many fine artists who have made significant contributions to the building of the Kingdom of God.
I wholeheartedly agree with Robert Shaw that we are responsible for keeping art forms within the church, but at the same time, I realize the need to challenge us all to seek not the art but the giver of the art. We must respect those gifts that God has given us as well as the individuals that embody the gifts. I encourage you the reader to uphold those substantial gifts. The gifts that I speak of are as varied as today’s American culture but nonetheless important to the make-up of worship in the church.
You have the immense task of leading your local congregations into that sacred place where a true corporate connection to God can be made. The idea of executing these gifts to the body of Christ as we approach the table of worship must be done with excellence and anointing. The Lord is the only one who can issue the anointing, and we are left with the task of excellence.
The combination of these two elements will bring about powerful results. How many times have we all experienced the overwhelming sense of Gods spirit resting on a well-performed piece of music or dance? What a wonderful opportunity we have to raise the standard of worship by using the form of art in worship.
Let us faithfully be about our Father’s business.
Tom Matrone has been a minister of music for the past 25 years with the Assemblies of God Fellowship. A graduate of Northwest College (B.A., Biblical Studies) and Drake University (Master of Music, Choral Conducting), Matrone has envisioned bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary worship formats in church music. Since 1996, Matrone has been the Music Director at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, MO.
In addition to his church staff responsibilities, Matrone is Director of the National Music Department of the Assemblies of God. He is a resource to music pastors and district music directors throughout the United States. Matrone has been guest conductor and seminar speaker at the local level as well as national and international platforms in the United States, Canada, South Africa and Asia.
Matrone conducted the National Fine Arts Choirs in Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado. He has served as worship leader at General Council, the Pentecostal Preacher’s Conference, National Prayer Summit and various other national events. His commitment to American Choral Directors Association is evident in his unique ability to utilize the choral venue within congregational worship.
He is an adjunct professor at Evangel University and Central Bible College. He teaches Conducting courses, Worship Leadership, Hymnology and is the conductor of the CBC College and Chamber choirs.