Pastor's Blog

Encouraging thoughts for Christian living.

Beauty Will Save The World

Matt-Head Shot-001
By Matt Sapp

In his “Letter to Artists,” Pope John Paul II wrote, “People of today and tomorrow need [the] enthusiasm [of wonder] if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us…In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world.”

Beauty will save the world. This simple observation was first made by the title character in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Idiot, and is more recently the title of a book by pastor Brian Zahnd about the overwhelming beauty of the gospel message and the transformative potential of reclaiming beauty as a Christian and American value.

Artists—painters, sculptors, film makers, authors, musicians, dancers, actors—are the presenters and interpreters of beauty in our world. Artists are blessed with the creative impulse and God-given ability to scrape away all that’s false to uncover the wonder and grace of our shared human experience in ways that are self-evidently true and undeniably beautiful.

Uncovered beauty is a gift to the world. It is by the entire community.  It remains undiminished as it is experienced in a way that defies the familiar law of supply and demand. Instead of being consumed as it is experienced, beauty is multiplied as it is experienced. 

True beauty, then, isn’t commodifiable. You can’t put a price tag on it. And it doesn’t belong to any particular person. Beauty, therefore, is too often undervalued in our capitalist, market-driven, consumer society. But beauty ought to be immensely valuable to Christians, as every glimpse of beauty is in and of itself a revelation of God, a disclosure of Christ.

Two things happened this week to make me think about the power of beauty: the massacre in Las Vegas and the death of Tom Petty. Beauty was entirely absent for a few hours in Las Vegas Sunday night and it was horrid. If ugliness is the absence of beauty, Sunday night was the definition of ugly.

The repetition of violence in our culture, and it's normalization, leaves us increasingly unable to celebrate and value beauty--and unable to recognize the presence of Christ in our world. And for that I mourn.

And then Tom Petty died. Music lives close to my soul. There’s something about a live band with a couple of guitars that resonates inside my bones. And Tom Petty was one of the artists who connected with me best. Generally spare, stripped down, and direct, his music is the truth with most everything else stripped away.

Not so long ago, Eminem encouraged us to lose ourselves in his music. And sometimes that’s just what we need. But as friend and fellow minister Aimee Yeager wrote, Tom Petty allowed us to find ourselves in his.

Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” might be my favorite album of all time. The only way to describe it is as beautiful. The guitar riff on “Honey Bee” is the definition of groovy. The melody to the title track couldn’t more aptly lead the listener to recall a favorite flower-filled meadow if it tried.

 

 

The whole album is scattered with lyrics and lines that stick in your mind, that demand to be sung or shouted with a knowing smile, that evoke a particular feeling of youthfulness and freedom, of heartache mixed with hopefulness, of lightness and beauty.

As you listen to the album, the music remains undiminished. It defies being consumed.

Also, in the last week, I had the chance to see a documentary about the Newnan, GA art community called “Artists are Welcomed Here.” It was directed and produced by Central Baptist church member Jonathan Hickman. It featured Central Baptist church members David Boyd, Sr. and David Boyd, Jr. Several other Central Baptist members were involved in and closely connected to the film’s production as well.

The film is a magnificent portrayal of the way that artists add to, uncover and reflect the beauty of our community. I’m proud that our church has so many artists and musicians among our ranks. And in this last week, as I have mourned the ugliness of violence and celebrated the beauty of a favorite musician, I have been reminded of the value of the artist—and particularly of our artists at Central—whose work of uncovering beauty is the work of disclosing Christ. And I am very grateful for their work.

As Pope John Paul II reminds us, we DO need people who can evoke in us the shared enthusiasm of wonder if we are to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Beauty WILL save the world.

ENERGY. EXCELLENCE. EXPECTATION.

Matt-Head Shot-001
By Matt Sapp

Simon Sinek  made a big splash in management and organizational leadership  a decade or so ago with his book and related TED Talk called Start With Why.  Sinek’s basic idea was that shared purpose—the "why" behind what we do--is what ultimately motivates people to align with your organizational culture or brand.

Too often, he argues, organizations communicate “what” they do, when people really buy into the “why” behind the “what.” Sinek’s principle has led to a bit of a revolution in how organizations, including churches, communicate who they are.

Rick Warren applies a similar idea to individuals in his best-selling Christian book A Purpose Driven Life. There’s great truth behind this idea, and it’s an important principle to remember.

But what I’ve also discovered over the years, is that when we represent God, HOW we do what we do is just as important as the WHY behind it.

So I’ve been guided by three core values since my first year as a youth minister to help me get the HOW right. While I don’t always live up to them, these core values have served me well so far, so I thought I’d share them with you.

I try to approach each day, each task, and each opportunity with ENERGY, with EXCELLENCE, and with EXPECTATION.  I wonder if you might try to do the same thing.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, do it with ENERGY, confident that God will renew your strength, because scripture teaches that God will (Isaiah 40:31).

ENERGY requires focus and priority. If we say yes to everything, then nothing will get the ENERGY it deserves. That means that committing to ENERGY as a value requires that we guard against being stretched too thin; that we be willing to say no to some things so that we can energetically say yes to the things most important to us; and that we give 100% to those most important things, knowing that our tanks will be replenished by a God of endurance and strength.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, do it with EXCELLENCE, as if you were doing it directly for God, because I believe you are. (Colossians 3:23)

If ENERGY requires that we choose the right things to do, EXCELLENCE requires that we choose to do them the right way. EXCELLENCE in what we do takes time, practice, and repetition. EXCELLENCE requires planning and the ability to learn. And EXCELLENCE requires diligence, patience and the willingness to be bad at something before we’re good at it. But in all that we do, God deserves nothing less than our very best.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, do it with the EXPECTATION that God will meet you in your work to encourage and uphold you, because I believe God will. (John 14:15-18)

Scripture promises that God will never leave us to face life’s challenges alone. In all the important work that you engage, remember that God is with you and prepared to help you. It’s amazing what can happen when we expect God to be present in all that we do.

Every day, my goal is to get up and approach the work I do personally with ENERGY, EXCELLENCE and EXPECTATION. As we start to serve together at Central my goal will be for everyone on our church staff—and all of our ministry volunteers and lay leaders—to approach their work with ENERGY, EXCELLENCE, and EXPECTATION, too.

I want our worship services to be characterized by ENERGY, EXCELLENCE, and EXPECTATION. I want our Bible study groups and missions projects to be marked by those qualities. And, I want our church members’ lives to be infused with ENERGY, EXCELLENCE and EXPECTATION away from church as well.

At church and at home, at work and at play, I want God to be so present in all of our lives that we can’t help but approach each day with God-inspired ENERGY, God-honoring EXCELLENCE and the EXPECTATION that God will be with us in all that we do.

We won’t always hit those marks, but we can always aspire to them. So write them on your daily calendar, put them on your bathroom mirror or stick them on the dashboard of your car. Live with them for a while and see if they help you, too.

When we bear Christ's name, HOW we do things is nearly as important to our Christian witness as WHY we do them.

See you Sunday.

Empowered by Extend, a church software solution from