Editor's Note
: The following is a report on the practical applications of W. David O. Taylor 's recent book,
 For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, (Baker Books, 2010).  

Early in the church's history, Christians created art that glorified God and drew people closer to His Son, Jesus Christ. From Michelangelo's sculptures and paintings to Bach's symphonies, art helped pull people both inside and outside the church into something bigger than themselves, and shaped the culture in ways that encouraged them to pursue faith

Today, however, too many churches neglect the arts, squandering opportunities to present the Gospel message in creative ways that draw people closer to Christ. If your church invests resources in the arts, you can create sacred art that God can use to reach out to others in powerful ways. Here's how: 

Look beyond usefulness for art's true value.  If you think that art must have a practical use to be valuable, you're missing out on its real significance.  Just like worship, art's value goes far beyond whether or not you deem it useful for your own ends. Art brings people into contact with the pain and play of life in fresh ways, helping them to learn more about themselves, other people, and God. Art is valuable even when it's not practical because it shows that God's grace will penetrate any situation in this fallen world. Art matters because it reveals more about God to the people who encounter it. 

Let art deepen your congregation's worship.  Art can be a powerful means for people to strengthen their covenantal relationship between God and themselves.  Different types of artwork can help the congregation worship in different ways. A dance can help illustrate a story that the pastor is preaching so people can understand it in more tangible ways. A song can help the congregation express their sorrow and concern about an injustice in deeper ways than they could by simply talking about it. People can look through art to perceive something new about God's beauty, love, and grace.  Art can show people new facets of God than can break the idols people have made of Him in their imaginations and discover more of what's true about Him. 

Recognize the difference between success and significance.  Artists often pursue their work even without financial payments or acclaim from others, because their work isn't just a job - it's a vocation, a calling from God to which they seek to be faithful, even when they're not considered successful from the world's perspective. Everyone in your congregation can follow artists' examples of faithfulness by pursuing the callings God gives them - whether or not their work is deemed successful by others - and trusting that God will use their work to fulfill His purposes. 

Use art to make abstract concepts more tangible.  People in your church can understand abstract spiritual concepts more if those concepts are illustrated through art in concrete ways. Create art that illustrates your church's sermons through details made out of everyday materials such as fabrics, wood, and glass. Use beautiful, artistic materials to help tell the story of who God is and who the people in your church are as you worship together, such as banners that proclaim a particular message or silver Communion goblets that shine with a glorious radiance. Let art help your congregation see, hear, smell, touch, and taste biblical truths in fresh ways that break up clichés about faith and lead them to discover more about Christ.  Let art inspire people to pursue Christ with passion.