Archives for category: art

Restoration - by Jin ChoIn addition to my pastoral work with Anchor City, I’ve had the privilege recently of working also with the good people of Flourish San Diego. As implied by our name, the mission of Flourish is:

to help people and churches flourish into the fullness of who they were created to be so they can join God in flourishing our city and world.

One of the frameworks we use to describe how we see the world is The Four-Chapter Gospel (for reference: A two-chapter Gospel basically summarizes life as 1. You’re a sinner and 2. Jesus died for you—nothing false at all, but certainly lacking a broad biblical picture of the fullness of Christ’s love to restore, redeem, and renew all things). In brief:

  1. Ought: God created the world in goodness, love, and holiness. Deep down, many of us feel that longing for the world as it ought to be.
  2. Is: The world, and our own lives, are broken. Every relationship that makes life meaningful (with God, others, ourselves, and creation) has been broken and marred by sin.
  3. Can: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection make it possible for us to live as citizens and representatives of the Kingdom of God (which, somehow, is already here but not yet fully realized).
  4. Will: One day, rather than burning up the world He so loves in a Nicolas Cage-worthy apocalyptic trainwreck, God will restore all things. As Samwise wonders in Lord of the Rings, we live for the day when our King will make everything sad come untrue.

“Christian” art can be a tricky thing, often being reduced to “successory” style motivational posters or saccharine nostalgia. Culture critic Frank Guan makes the following important observation about art:

To my mind, great art fails to embody a better world, but it carries the promise of such a world and encourages its audience to be worthy of it. Mediocre art, on the other hand, reiterates the world as it already is: Lacking transformative energy, it can only reflect the stinginess and squeamishness of its society of origin.

To my knowledge, Frank has no allegiance to the way of Jesus, but he manages to powerfully advocate for a Four Chapter Gospel understanding of art.

Flourish commissioned my friend Jin Cho for a series of original photos inspired by the Four Chapter Gospel called The Big Story Project. The results are stunning. Each photo of our city (SD forever!) was painstakingly well-thought out and beautifully executed.

The photo at the top of this page is the final photos from The Big Story Project series, “Restoration.” Jin can tell the story better than I can, but there are several ways this embodies the story of Revelation 21 in which God restores all things:

  • There is an ethereal, liminal sense of heaven touching earth—the bridge of reconciliation God builds
  • In the coming Kingdom, work still exists (notice the cranes in the skyline) and is redeemed
  • The light (as described in Revelation 21:23-26) is coming from the city; in fact, God Himself shines as our light forever
  • There is a palpable love for this great city throughout the entire The Big Story Project series
  • After several weeks of trying to line up this shot, Jin was able to capture this beautiful image—at sunrise on Easter Sunday!

Please consider purchasing these prints here. You will be a supporter of the good work of Flourish San Diego, a patron to the artwork of Jin, and a storyteller of the Four Chapter Gospel in your home (or wherever you choose to display these wonderful photos!).

One of the hallmarks of our postmodern, internet-driven culture is that communication is moving away from the written word toward images. Just check your social media streams — the perpetual-motion reblog machine that is Tumblr, the Ecards filling up your Facebook news feed, the ubiquity of infographics. We live and breathe images today.

Design matters.

Not simply for the sake of an aesthetically-pleasing picture (which, I would argue, does matter) but in order to communicate effectively.

That’s why I’m always intrigued by efforts to redesign documents and forms we use every day. Simply put, many of them are a cluttered mess — the unspoken message, when a person picks one up, is often, “What, exactly, am I filling out now?”

This is an interesting take on redesigning the British birth certificate. Granted, there is some unnecessary information here, but your eye can easily find what’s most important on this document.

Think how much easier it would be to understand the most important information (i.e., where I am going and when) if your airplane ticket looked more like this?

Apparently, sometimes these things work. Perhaps American Airlines took several of the suggested principles from this designer in their recent rebranding/website re-launch.

.   .   .   .   .

Pastors, we are called to share the Word of God, which endures forever.

In service to this high calling, I encourage you to learn to communicate the Word of God visually.  You don’t have to be an artist, and you don’t have to ride a motorcycle into the main sanctuary (for reals), but tying together visual elements will help you deliver more effective sermons.

Keep it simple. Too much information per slide is kind of overwhelming. You don’t have to go ultra-simple, full-on Pecha Kucha — 20 slides, 20 seconds each — but please don’t use any of these cluttered, crazy presentations as your guides.

Seriously, you’ll end up with this.

Although this is ancient history (2007!), Seth Godin’s tips on simple, effective presentations still work today.

These days, I’ve been creating graphics to highlight Scripture verses and quotes (which I believe is more effective than simply putting the words onto a blank screen):

Beautiful feet

I’ve been inspired by several friends who have made a daily commitment to developing their God-given creativity, whether it’s through drawing, photography, or writing. While I don’t have the time (read: discipline) to commit daily to this practice, I’ve been interested in handlettered art.

A few sources of inspiration: You’ve probably seen the work of Dana Tanamachi, or at least pale imitations of her work on Pinterest. I also love the work by the designers and artists who display their work on Typographic Verses.

With that, I’ve been trying my (ahem) hand at handlettering. The process of conceptualizing, sketching, erasing, re-drawing, editing, and final production teaches me so much not only about creativity & art, but also writing, preaching, and communication.

Sitting quietly in front of a blank page, listening, is becoming a spiritual discipline for me.

Here’s my latest — I certainly don’t do it justice, but this is one of my favorite passages for how God deals with our sin. There’s something so vivid about God heaving our sins into the deepest of oceans, to be remembered no longer:

Handlettering - Cast their sins

Great design is so much more than pretty pictures: A powerful image tells (or, in this case, re-tells) a story in a glance.

To wit:

Artist Juan Ortiz gets his Trek on with these geek-tastic designy prints.

Love these superhero prints reimagined noir:

Sometimes, in choosing to pursue what is right, we will discover the way really is narrow.

We need to stay connected to the One who is life and to each other as we pursue lives of justice, mercy, and humility.

Michael Gungor, writer of songs and melter of faces behind the umlauted liturgical post-rock musical collective Gungor, just put his arm around my shoulder and reminded me why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Figuratively, sure, through his just-released book The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse: A Book for Creators — but the truth is no less real simply for the fact that I can’t name-drop him as a friend friend.

I suppose I was already predisposed to like The Crowd, given my fondness for banjos, harmonized guitar solos, and swelling strings (all of which Gungor has in spades), but I was not prepared for the gut-level response I would have from the opening pages in which Michael describes his burnout and the pain it caused the people he loved the most.

Before I go any further, let me recommend this book — for creatives of all stripes (musicians, visual artists, graphic designers), pastors, and church leaders — not for its ability to teach you how to write a killer worship anthem (although Michael could help you with that) or how to get your song onto Christian radio playlists (see Appendix 3: A Snapshot of American Christian Music for help with that), but for the way it ushers in the hope that comes alive when our eyes are opened and we realize our God is here.


We are all creators. Those of us engaged in church work must be reminded of this again & again: We are called to build, rebuild, restore, redeem, and reconcile — to create, not destroy — in partnership with the living Christ all that sin has broken.

The common idea that there are some people who are creative and some who are not is a myth. So on some level, we are all artists. We are all creators.

In our little church community, we try to cultivate the God-given creativity in each of us for the cause of redemption. We believe that when we dream alongside our Creator, restoration becomes reality.

While “art” is notoriously difficult to define, Michael’s words sound a call to the Church to reclaim the God-given power behind it.

Art matters. It is not simply a leisure activity for the privileged or a hobby for the eccentric. It is practical good for the world. The work of the artist is an expression of hope. Art, along with all work is the ordering of creation toward the intention of the creator.

Throughout The Crowd, Michael injects these potentially heavy topics with humor and joy. From his first robot-crafted guitar to his description of  the (I’m still not convinced he’s real) stylings of The Emotron, Michael demonstrates a self-deprecating humor that is often missing from conversations about Art, Purpose, and Meaning.

The Christian music industry might play by “safe for the whole family” formulas but followers of Christ are driven by something much greater than fear:

In this story, my imagination is set free as it envisions the earth as part of the creation that will someday be set free from its bondage to decay. This is a framework in which one can anticipate the arrival of Beauty’s fullness. It is the anticipatory painting of a room that will eventually be lived in. It is the present feeding and clothing of those who are to eventually be clothed and fed. Art is not a distraction from human meaninglessness, but part of the burgeoning newness that gives our existence a hopeful and sacred meaningfulness. It speaks of incarnation. It is a future hope taking root in the present. It is a view that the Creator has not given up on his creation and an invitation to join the sculpting of creation’s dirt into something that God might breathe his very breath into.

Sounds a lot like something John wrote many years ago: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:18-19

As we seek to love God and God’s people — particularly those of us who are called into various forms of church leadership — we must hold fast to hope. Otherwise, we will burn out, becoming jaded & cynical.

The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse is a gift to those of us who believe this is not the end, that God has not given up on the world, and that we’re called to reflect His boundless, creative joy in all of life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free as part of a book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Last week, our family visited Los Angeles for a quick getaway.  Through a recommendation of a friend, we visited the Noah’s Ark exhibit at the Skirball Center.  We had a fantastic time there!

I had never heard of the Skirball, even though it’s just up the street from the Getty Center (which we’ve visited many times).  I’m so glad that we took one afternoon out to visit.

The Noah’s Ark exhibit is an immersive, interactive experience filled with creativity.  After entering the museum and finding our way to the Noah’s Ark exhibit, we waited for a couple of minutes for a quick orientation.

There, we found out that the animals on display throughout the Ark are made from recycled materials.  For example, they fashioned flamingos from spools of thread, fly swatters and combs and alligators from tires and violin cases.

Kids are free to run around, explore hands-on, and create their own animals from recycled art materials.  We used almost our entire two-hour block in the exhibit.  If you have kids, or are a kid at heart, the Noah’s Ark exhibit is a great place to spend the afternoon.