See - Isa 64:8 & Jer 18:6

Dear friends,

Worship and art are ever on my mind. They always are, as you know, but at present with a more poignant tone. Cynthia and I spent the last year on an interim music team for a church where our colleague is director – Cynthia as organist/violinist/pianist and I as choral conductor/violist/singer and sometimes worship planner. It is a church with deep needs for healing. So as I prepare to share this second installment on the topic of artist “health”, my heart is full and somewhat heavy with how important and serious a topic the spiritual well being of artists in the church is. I’m aware more than ever that many artists aren’t even thinking about it – many clergy are apprehensive to address it – and the people worshipping surely haven’t considered it. This happens not by purpose, but more times than not by avoidance.

It must be said, that as worship so deeply depends on art and the artists who create it, we ALL need to talk, think, and pray about spiritual transformation and health of the artists. They need prayer, support, and sometimes a good swift, but loving kick! I wonder what the community of Levites was really like in the Old Testament - artists of all kinds and talents – living together, practicing, planning, and executing art together. Since we know of battles mentioned in the Old Testament where these artists were at the front to sound God’s call, I would venture their spiritual state was always a matter of concern. After all, how could one face front line work without considering the cost? There isn’t a great deal of detail about their daily life but I’m thinking it was quite a bit different than most of us artists these days. One thing seems clear to me – it was an honor to be in their company. I think it still is! And, as I’ve taught my sons for years, with honor comes responsibility, hardship, and the nagging need for humility.

Last time, we began discussing the need and reasons for healing for those who do art in God’s house. Next, while praying for God’s wisdom, let’s look with greater detail at some crucial questions in the matter. How should we best live as artists in God’s service? What kind of people are we if we are not growing and being transformed? Where should we give our art if we find ourselves in a worship house that is unwelcoming? Let’s see...

Working for The Designer II

bulletWe live and move and have our being in the church as artists first by seeking and adoring God through His son Jesus. Period. There is no other way. Studying Jesus’ life, knowing Him intimately, and loving Him is paramount. The kind of transformation we discussed last time can and will happen only when a vibrant quest for knowing, serving, and pleasing God is the artist’ number one goal. Not having this, the artist comes to worship, rehearsal, planning, and teamwork crippled in a myriad of ways. Second, living rightly in God’s service as an artist necessitates a good mixture of the following - a fairly healthy self image, an ego in check, a sense of humor, passion, creativity, the ability to choose battles carefully, partnering skills, and a genuine love of people. We artists also do well to know our shape and how God wants to use it. Rick Warren writes about this in the final chapters of “The Purpose Driven Life” – a must read for Christians and especially fruitful reading for this discussion. Warren entreats us to look gently but honestly at ourselves, our spiritual gifts, our strengths/weaknesses, and our talents to ensure we are following God’s unique plan for each special life. To be sure, it is a high calling and the way is narrow. I could fill volumes with the mistakes I’ve made along this path and in my best moments know full well there is room to grow. Only in marrying all I do artistically to who I am supposed to be in Christ has there been fruit – Spirit guided, fed, watered, and gathered. So we are bound by truth to seek a life in the church as artists that is transformative and authentic to whom God has created us to be. It must be our goal to live with integrity in this journey. The idea is not to be self serving but self aware – on an intimate level with God and in some measure with a select group of trusted friends who will support and exhort when necessary.

What kind of people are we in the worship leading mix if all this isn’t major in our pilgrimage as artists? I’m sure each of you has tales about the dysfunctional behavior that comes from artists who are misguided and/or lacking spiritual movement! We could tell them and have a good laugh – but more times than not, a good cry. And, some of them are about ourselves – let’s be honest. The stories involve egos out of check, critical spirits running people into the ground, my way or the highway leadership that kills creative hearts, spiritual shallowness that is unfit to be discerning in planning and leading worship, lazy work ethics, etc. But my friends, and this is a most crucial point, the problem producing and unfruitful things are frequently the hidden hurts and broken places that fester in many of us. These are the shadows of those who have wounded us, taken our self worth, and convinced us we are of no value. Untended to, these shadows send fissures of negative behavior into everyday life that are self deprecating and painful to all. THIS is the main reason we must commit to spiritual transformation – openly, honestly, linked arm in arm, and with Christ as head counselor/healer/hope. He alone points the way to freedom – and that road is paved with forgiveness.

Finding and then living in a house of worship that fosters this spiritual transformation in a healthy way can be mildly frustrating to impossible. Furthermore in many places the platform people, with all their artistic gifts in worship design and leading, are held accountable only to please the likes and dislikes of their congregations and not to the pilgrimage of spiritual wholeness. It would be dishonest not to admit that the church universal is rarely the “house of healing” Jesus means it to be. I would encourage artists, at whatever stage you are in this discussion of working for the Designer, to seek a place to share your gifts that openly holds you lovingly accountable for spiritual growth and healing. Next time I want to focus our discussion on this very point – how to find a good “work space”, when to do art in the church and when not to. It might be time to move on – it might be time to hunker down and “bloom where you’re planted” – no matter if you’re presently a rose, a weed, or just a seedling



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The Journey
God and Ron Connecting

bulletRecently Cynthia and I were privileged to speak at a Christian “trade show”. I was amazed at how little there was available on worship – let alone the arts! However, God blessed mightily in my little workshops and we had great times of sharing the struggles and joys of worship life. People are amazing, aren’t they? When I asked, in an opening session about word definitions to promote healthy conversation, how you would define “contemporary”, a worship leader/youth pastor said “That’s what you do to make people angry.” The room erupted in laughter – knowing laughter, compassionate laughter - we know exactly what you mean laughter! Of course in a session like this, I am attempting to get folks to use words correctly and to understand how not doing so creates problems and tensions and hurt. This guy’s response revealed raw honesty – working in worship for churches can be brutal!

I came away from this show convinced more than ever about the need for artists to find healing. But I also was struck by memories of how I have said and done things that hurt others while expressing myself as a worship leader. When I came to Christ I was in need of abundant tender grace. Now, with my heart so much freer and whole than it was, it is my duty of love to give that grace however and wherever I am able. Lord give me strength and humility – I am in deep need.



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From the Other Side

Your responses to these musings are deeply needed and appreciated. Please drop me a line or pick up the phone. I could talk all day about worship! And I pray that you will be blessed in some way by what God is doing here – so much so that you will share this with others and maybe even bring me to your worship space….for sharing, coffee, great music, fellowship, and strength in the journeying.

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News from the website

Please note that we now have audio clips from all three discs at the product page and that we also have Pay Pal for you to conveniently purchase those discs! Enjoy this new feature yourself and send a friend, a pastor, or a fellow artist to the site for a brief listen to the sound of A CrossBetween!

Ron and Cynthia ArdenMy deepest thanks for your time spent here. I would be blessed even more if you’d pass this onto friends and church folk. Also, visit the website for tasty news about cds, workshops, and concerts available:

bulletRon & Cynthia Arden
A Cross Between Concert Ministries
2729 Enoch
Zion, Il 60099