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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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Sacred Pathways

Worship Language: Intellectual

Well, everyone, we are at the end of our journey through the Worship Languages. Here are the other eight we’ve been through already:

Naturalist
Sensate
Traditionalist
Ascetic
Activist
Caregiver
Enthusiast
Contemplative

And today, we are going to explore the brainy bunch: The Intellectuals!

Intellectuals worship God with their minds. They love to learn new things about God and are closest to Him during study or while digging into apologetics or theology.

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In church, our Intellectuals are going to be very engaged during a good, thinky sermon. Biblical exegesis, complex theology, or church history may be exactly what they need to connect with God and feel closer to Him. Hymns or worship songs with great theology or scriptural references can also draw the Intellectual in. Hearing a solid philosophical debate can also help the Intellectual to cement their beliefs and feel even closer to God.

Outside of church, a good Bible college can really help the Intellectual. I spent four years at Ambrose University and loved it dearly. Getting concentrated time to sift through Greek texts and the writings of the church fathers and mothers fed my soul in ways that I have not felt since. (Intellectual is one of my top 3 languages, in case you missed that). I still enjoy reading old text and new ideas and hope to go back for my next degree soon.

Intellectual artists (capital I) should allow their study to influence their work. Perhaps a Bible reading can inspire the painter to play with Scriptural themes in their work. A choreographer can try to capture as much of the Trinity that they can in their next piece. A writer can make allusions to older works or church history in their stories. Whatever inspires and draws you closer to God, study it!

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Intellectuals need to be aware, however, that there is a difference between knowing ABOUT God and knowing God. We are called into community with our Creator and we need to spend time in prayer with Him to truly get to know Him. Just as it is not enough for me to study my wife’s likes, dislikes, history, and dreams; I also have to spend time with her, journeying together though life. It is the same with God.

Bottom line for Intellectuals: spend time often in study, but also spend time often in prayer.

If you are an Intellectual, how do you best connect to God?

Worship Language: Contemplative

Hello everyone,

We’re nearing the end of our journey through the Worship Languages. We have two left. It’s been a great experience for me to dig into each of these with you and really think about how we can support our artists who connect to God in different ways, and how artists themselves can better connect with their Creator.

Today, we’re going to be talking about the quiet worshippers: the Contemplatives.

The Contemplative worships God through adoration, meditation, and prayer. They spend their time thinking deeply on the persons of God and speaking to Him at length. They get up early in the morning or stay up late for their devotional time. Contemplatives can sit for a long time just basking in the glow of the face of his or her Father.

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The musical worship of a church service can be helpful for the Contemplative if it allows the worshipper to pour out his or her heart authentically before God. Dedicated prayer time, perhaps with leading questions or statements will also serve our Contemplatives. The sermon can feed a Contemplative if it gives the worshipper more reasons to pour out love and adoration to the Creator. Contemplatives can serve on a prayer team, standing before God on behalf of individuals or the congregation at large, praising Him and asking for His help.

The Contemplative artist should spend much time in prayer before, during, and after the creation of his or her art. Seeking God’s face and His will for your work will allow each brush stroke, each dance step, each shutter click to become an outpouring of one’s adoration. Speak to God as you create, out loud if need be, and listen for His voice in your work.

If you can, get away from life for a time. Like the Ascetic, the Contemplative may find regular life distracting and a retreat can offer an extended time to speak with God and to listen as He responds. Unlike the Ascetic, the Contemplative may enjoy retreating with others and can feed off the words of love and adoration of others. Use this and allow it to push you deeper into God’s love.

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The Contemplative must remember, however, that we live in a world populated with people who need God’s love. If the Contemplative spends all of his or her day gazing into the face of God, he or she runs the risk of forgetting about the mission He has entrusted to His Church. We must love God AND love people.

Bottom line for Contemplatives: create space to spend time with your loving Father, and pour out your love to others as an offering to Him.

If you are a Contemplative, how do you best connect with God?

Blessings

Worship Language: Enthusiast

Happy Easter everyone!

Depending on how your Easter services went (if you attend church, that is), today seems like a very appropriate day to talk about our next Worship Language: the Enthusiast!

(For those just tuning in, here are the other languages we’ve covered so far: the Naturalist, the Sensate, the Traditionalist, the Ascetic, the Activist, and the Caregiver).

The Enthusiast worships God through mystery and celebration. They are looking for an experience with God that going beyond what we can explain or what makes sense. Like the name suggests, enthusiasts love God dramatically and emotionally. They might spend a lot of time with their eyes closed and hands raised while listening to worship music. They may be highly interested in the manifestations of God’s gifts, like tongues or healings or prophecy. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it with enthusiasm!

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The standard weekend service at many evangelical services starts with half an hour or so of worship music, followed by a sermon. It’s during the first half that an Enthusiast will feel closest to God. Surrounded by the bride of Christ, pouring out his or her heart to God in song, the Enthusiast seeks the face of their loving Father. While the structure of a larger church service may hinder the Enthusiast, the combination of light and sound and the collection of the body can usher this worshipper into the presence of God.

For the Enthusiast artist, allow your art into the mystery and celebration. Put on some worship music and spend time seeking God’s face before you pick up pen or brush. Create dance pieces that are uninhibited, full-body acts of praise to the King. Pick up a flag and wave it with all you’ve got. Allow God’s presence to seep into your art, and then allow your art to ooze God back into the lives of others. Perhaps you can create as part of a worship service, or have your art as part of a gallery focused on faith and worship.

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However, the Enthusiast, like the other languages, has dangers to watch out for. In seeking an experience of God, it can become easy to chase the experience and the emotion rather than the God who should be at the heart of such events. Also, while our God is mysterious in that we can never fully know Him, we must keep our eyes open while delving into the mystical. Christian mysticism has been a thing since the earliest days of the faith, but there are those who claim to be Christian mystics who really just sell a Christian-focused New Ageism.

Bottom line for Enthusiasts: give yourself fully to the wonder and mystery of our God while being careful when straying too far from what the rest of the body is doing.

If you are an Enthusiast, how do you best connect with God?

Blessings

Worship Language: Ascetic

Hello everyone,

Today we’re going to continue our journey into the Worship Languages, which we’ve adapted from Gary Thomas’ Spiritual Pathways. If you’re just catching up, you may want to check out the Naturalist, the Sensate, and the Traditionalist. Today, however, we are going to be talking about the Ascetic.

Ascetics (not to be confused with Aesthetics, which has to do with how things look) are those who worship God through silence and solitude.

Almost the polar opposite to the Sensate, the Ascetic finds God in the still, quiet moments of the day when everyone has gone to bed, or in the dark of pre-dawn. They often find the world and other people to be distracting from the voice of God. In order to really hear from Jesus, the Ascetic needs to get away and be by her/himself. They do not need worship music or brilliant imagery to be drawn into God’s presence. In fact, the life of a monk may seem quite appealing if this is your primary worship language.

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If you find yourself overwhelmed by the distractions of the world, you may be an Ascetic. If you like to cloister yourself away to spend time in prayer without the distractions of life, this is probably one of your worship languages. 

Churches can be both incredibly helpful and quite the hinderance to an Ascetic. The church building itself is often a quiet, lonely place when services are not going on. An Ascetic can hear the voice of God in the solitude of an empty sanctuary. However, weekend services are rarely marked by moments of silence. They are filled with music and teaching and people and handshaking, which do not draw the Ascetic the same way they draw some of the other languages.

If you are an Ascetic, I suggest you show up to church early. Spend time in the sanctuary before the service starts. If you kneel and close your eyes, people will probably leave you alone. You can also get up early or stay up late to use the silence of a sleeping house to speak to God. Retreat centres are often built around the idea of getting away by oneself, so check out a centre near you. I’ve had a very fruitful time at a silent retreat and look forward to doing so again. (Side note, if the idea of a silent retreat is causing you some anxiety, you probably are not an Ascetic).

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For the artist, alone time may be vital for your creative process. As a writer, I rarely write around the house because it is loaded with distractions. I like being around people, but I need to isolate myself with music (or even just headphones with nothing playing) to get anything done. I suggest you take time by yourself to connect with Jesus, hear from Him, and then create out of that filling up.

The danger of asceticism lies in its isolation. We are a communal species and we need others to do life with. While it is healthy to get away and spend time by ourselves (even every day), we still need to spent time with others as well. If our spirituality is bound up in spending quiet time with God, we can forget that we are called to love and serve others and to take the Gospel to those in desperate need of God’s love.

Bottom line for Ascetics: Get away from life for a while to connect with your Creator and recharge your batteries, but then return to the rest of the world to spread the love and joy that you find in your solitude.

If you are an Ascetic, how do you connect with God?

Blessings

Worship Language: Traditionalist

Hello everyone, and welcome to the third Monday of Lent. How are you all doing with fasting and prayer? I ask because today we are talking about our next Worship Language: the Traditionalist.

For those who are just tuning in, you can find the Naturalist here and the Sensate here.

Traditionalist is my primary worship language. Which also makes sense, growing up in the Catholic Church. I know traditions are often viewed as stuffy, old fashioned, or even empty, but please bear with me. There’s more going on here.

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Traditionalists connect to God through tradition (shocker!), ritual, and symbol. Ancient spiritual disciplines, such as fasting, liturgy, and the sacraments draw the Traditionalist closer to God. Sacred spaces like cathedrals or the Roman catacombs will “feel” more holy because they have been set apart for worshipping God for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They may be drawn to the forms of worship that they grew up with or prefer older hymns to newer worship songs.

Our churches can do much for the Traditionalist in the congregation. Frequent observance of the sacraments (Baptism and Communion for most Protestants; Catholics will add Confirmation, Reconciliation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick) will allow the Traditionalist to feel a connection to God and His people. Observing the rhythms of the church calendar, like Lent and Advent, also help the Traditionalist to sanctify their everyday lives.

If you find your heart soaring while reciting the Apostle’s Creed, you may just be a Traditionalist. For your journey, I suggest you dig into some ancient disciplines, such as Lectio Divina or create a Rule of Life in the vein of the Rule of St. Benedict.  You may find prayer labyrinths to be useful for clearing your mind of clutter to better focus on God. If your church doesn’t follow the liturgical calendar, find ways to observe and celebrate Lent and Advent at home each year with friends and family.

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Traditionalist artists may find if useful to study the symbolism of the early church. Look into how the masters of your medium have used those symbols, whether in painting, or writing, or film, and try to incorporate some of these symbols in your practice.

Like all of the worship languages, Traditionalists have dangers they need to avoid. The comfort of a ritual can allow the act or symbol to become mundane and empty if we are not careful. We need to remember that the acts are not what is important, but the God that they point to. Traditions are only valuable so long as we continue to use them to pour our hearts out to God and allow them to enrich our lives.

This doesn’t mean we abandon our disciplines when they become rote; it means we constantly strive to ensure they continue to perform their function: to draw us into the presence of our Creator.

Bottom line for Traditionalists: create space for traditions and spiritual rituals in your life while allowing God to fill those moments with meaning by His presence.

If you are a Traditionalist, how do you best connect with God?

Blessings

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