All posts tagged: art

This season at Rancho, we are doing a series titled “Greater” (No Guilt in Life, No Fear in Death), leading up to Easter 2015. The art for the series was developed attempting to be more future-leaning and bold as we wanted to make a statement and invite the community to something interesting for this series and Easter.

The black speaks towards darkness/despair and the red towards the redeeming blood of Christ. The “greater than” sign speaks to how the grace and life in Christ is greater than sin, death, guilt, darkness – and the Church, by this power is greater than and overcoming darkness in this world – lot’s of hope in a seemingly dark place.

Hidden in the background of the design is a portrait of Jesus, hand drawn by our graphic designer. We used it last summer (2014) in a series called “Portrait” as we looked at the person and life of Christ. We then used that same graphic to create a participatory project for another series call “I Was Here”. We setup the outline of Christ (from the previous series) on a large banner and invited people to put their thumbprint in a “paint by numbers” type layout. A large portrait of Jesus Christ began to emerge. I pulled that final project into Photoshop and screened it into the background of “Greater” – so there literally hundreds (if not thousands) of our church family’s thumb prints embedded within this design…

A lot goes on behind the scenes when we launch a teaching series at Rancho Community – It never really starts the same way however. This particular series started with a trifecta of:

  1. A conversation with our lead pastor about a “foundational” teaching series for fall
  2. The song “Cornerstone“, which I actually heard for the first time by our Murrieta Campus worship team
  3. Coldplay’s Live 2012 album & concert art

From that point on I had a pretty good idea what this should look and feel like… just didn’t know exactly how.

The concept would be build around the stage backdrop design – that’s where everything would kind of spring from. I wanted to create a kind of back alley, block wall kind of feel – real strong and bold. So I started with something like this:

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Then I added grunge and some elements to the wall – and added the text.

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Then I added some fluorescent light bulbs…

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After that came the real fun – the hand-drawn art. For that, I just used a pencil first and then a sharpie…

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After the hand drawing it was time to get the images into Photoshop. I used my iPhone 4s to shoot the drawings and bring them into Photoshop.
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After some work with masking and coloring we ended up with this:

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No light bulbs on this version because this is the stage backdrop – 16′ x 32′ for our Temecula Campus. In order to do that we printed 16) 4′ x 8′ pieces and then our Tech team put it all together. Preparing the file for this almost killed my 2009 MBP…

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Here’s a pic of one of the 4×8’s right off the press…

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After the pieces were delivered, it was time for construction by our tech team…

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While our Temecula Campus got the real thing, our Murrieta Campus got the digital version…

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And last but not least, the bulletin…

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I’m hoping to get some better pics of the stage from both campuses – it’s awesome how the lighting really changes the look of this graphic.

Julianna, one of our former worship leaders at Rancho Community Church who is currently planting a church in LA with her husband and company, sent me this link:

Why Creatives Leave the Church

And this email:

My favorite line:
the church needs to embrace creativity beyond sermon series graphics and the occasional live painting (to the newest Casting Crowns song?)

Ok, my real favorite line:
Art can’t redeem the world, and that is why we must be modest about it. But it can show us what redemption would look like, and this is why it matters.

Thoughts? Alex, I know you’ve tried the collective thing in the past, why do you think that didn’t work out as well?

After reading through the article, I wrote this response:

Completely agree with a lot of it.

My thoughts:

  • We’ve lost the sacred spaces – churches are now multi-use, multi-functional, mostly secular spaces… there’s no forum for art to be displayed, developed, appreciated
  • We don’t have time – the church is doing so many things that it doesn’t have time to make space for art
  • Art/Artists tend to be weird, quirky, not main-stream, so they get left out of the “vision” of the church (other than series graphics & live painting circus show)
  • The Modern/Western Church has distanced itself from “art” because it’s not safe (where we used to lead)
  • Art can be expensive, the Church is notoriously cheap (unless the lead pastor gets fired up about something/program)
  • How can we redeem art in our life-time? without being overly-weird, where we scare away main-stream society? Well, that’s a book, but I have seen some churches that have permanent and temporary spaces/cultures do it. It just has to be a core value of the church… and the core value doesn’t need to be “art” but more of a celebration and real living into Romans 12.
I realize now that I didn’t really answer Julianna’s question.
We tried a Collective at Rancho once – I think we had two meetings and then it faded away. But as I look at what I wrote, I think that’s exactly why it didn’t work. For those reasons. And the fact that I just didn’t have the capacity to push it through.
Anyway, any more thoughts?


This is the series art for Rancho Community Church’s Fall 2011 series, “4D: Seeing the Bigger Picture”. Here’s the story.

We read the book, “The Big Idea”, as a staff a few months ago. Unfortunately, we never finished it – we just felt is wasn’t quite a good fit for our church. What we did take away from it was the general idea that our whole church could embrace a teaching series and teach through it together. So we decided to do that with our fall series.

4D: Seeing the Bigger Picture came from a big brainstorm meeting with our teaching pastors, worship leaders, and creative types. The series will focus on Christian worldview, it’s also our lead into church membership. The basic idea is that there are truths from the Bible that show us the ‘bigger picture’ – things like: how God sees us, how we see God, how we see others, how we see church, how we see history, and how we see eternity. It’s a great series to teach basics about Christianity and the Gospel. And lastly, these verses from Ephesians kind of wrap it up:

 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Just as a little history context – I’ve been at Rancho for about three years, and I started doing series graphics from the get go. Since then we’ve started getting into a rhythm of series art for promotion, utilizing the arts more and more, and being creative in our presentation. This series features (hopefully):

  • Screen graphics (for both campuses, and for our Murrieta Campus the screen is actually the stage backdrop)
  • Invite cards
  • Bulletin shells
  • Rancho Kidz take home sheets
I also am always trying to use the creative talent that is in our church (I KNOW you’re out there!). This time I asked a buddy who goes to Rancho and is a graphic designer if he would be interested in helping. Jason DeArmond (follow him on Twitter here) took some white board drawings and a lot of descriptive emails and created the conceptual art – he did a fantastic job! All I had to do was put some skin on the art and we were good to go. I love being able to collaborate with artists and see God using the gifts and talents of people in the church.
A follow up post on this will show what we did with the stage. I’m excited about that.


I’ve been thinking a lot about “creativity” lately. It’s in my blood. It’s who I am. I mean, I’m not way out there (I don’t think), but I do love new ideas, solving problems, dreaming of how things should and could be better.

The Church has a little bit of a sordid history with creativity. At some points in history, the Church has embraced creatives, artists, thinkers, and dreamers. At other times it has burned, tortured, hung, and crushed the same people.

Here’s what I think, for what it’s worth:

Creativity is what keeps a church moving forward. Without creativity, things are done the same way for years on end. Churches become museums and the only “art” on display tells stories of years-gone-by rather than dreams of the future. The world is constantly changing, cultures are changing, new problems arise, new paradigms are born and we need to have answers and solutions in real-time.

What kills creativity at churches?

  • Fear of the unknown: Creative endeavors often have unknown outcomes. What will that song sound like? What will that art look like? There must be a great deal of trust built between the creative and the leader or leadership.
  • Fear of failure: Will people like it? Will the artist pull it off? Will we offend people? Will it even work? But we’ve all heard the quote, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying anything new”.
  • Fear of change: Ah yes, change. For most people in my demographic change is just how life is experienced. Things change all the time and change faster as time goes on. Just consider the last 100 years: cars, computers, phones, travel. Successful organizations have figured out how to embrace change and use it to their advantage. The church, well some do, some don’t. Those who don’t end up dying slow and painful deaths.
  • Fear of emotion: This one’s tough. Men don’t cry. Passion is overused. Emotional decisions never last. It’s easy to stir people up. Blah, blah, blah. We are just as much emotional as we are physical as we are spiritual. Ignoring emotion, quenching passion will result in a culture that is heady, out of touch with reality, and unfeeling. Passion is what sells the dream.

I loved this quote from a comment on Vicky Beeching’s blog:

There was a time when the Church was known for artistic innovation. At a time when the music industry is imploding, a great opportunity exists for the Church to reclaim her historical place in supporting the arts…

Now for those who know me, I’m not lobbying for more drama’s on our church stages, or body painting during worship, or worship flags. That’s not the point. The point is, creativity is what solves problems in ways that move things forward. Creative thinking, dreaming, collaboration – these are like connectors between what is and what should and could be. And it’s not the Bible’s fault, or even the idea of the Church (the Gospel). The Gospel is transcendent, applicable to all cultures and all generations. But it’s our charge to live it out and present it in a powerful and convincing way to each generation, whether thru words, deeds, tweets, songs, art, etc.

I know, I’m not saying anything new. Or maybe I am. Either way, dream more…

(commenting doesn’t seem too popular anymore, but if you did comment, I’d love to hear how your church does or doesn’t embrace creative endeavors?)