The Embedded Church Podcast

Art and the Church

Episode Summary

How can a church intentionally support the creative callings of artists in their local community? What is the value of art in conveying the beauty and goodness of the Gospel? In episode 4 of Season 5, Sara Joy and Eric tackle these questions through an interview with Gabe Coyle, Campus Pastor of Christ Community Church, which has curated gallery space in their artsy neighborhood in Kansas City, MO. Sandra Bowden, an artist and curator based in Chatham, Massachusetts, and David Taylor, Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, serve as our field guides for this episode to help us better understand how to develop thoughtful art space and how the appreciation and value of art has taken shape throughout the course of church history.

Episode Notes

In this episode, Sara Joy and Eric talk with Pastor Gabe Coyle about the fruition of Four Chapter Gallery, an art space developed, curated, and managed by Christ Community Church in downtown Kansas City. As an artist himself, Gabe discusses how his passions and dreams have taken on new shape by planting a church with the intention of connecting with the local arts community. The Four Chapter Gallery was born in 2013 from both the passion of church staff and the neighborhood request to see gallery space as part of the church development. 

Using the biblical framework of four chapters (movements): creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, the Four Chapter Gallery seeks to bring flourishing to the local arts community by offering beautiful gallery space and valuable support in promoting the work of the artist and treating each artist with care and dignity. Additionally, Christ Community Church has chosen to make the art gallery a significant budget line item so that everything is funded by the church, which provides the flexibility to not take a percentage from the artists. The gallery has gained a respected reputation among artists and their shows are currently booked out through January 2024. 

The Four Chapter Gallery hosts concept-based art exhibitions that engage culturally relevant themes and ideas. They have three core values when it comes to the kind of work they desire to present in their space. These values are:

Art with ideas - artwork that has been created around particular themes, ideas, or research.

The work of emerging artists - they has a special desire to boost emerging artists.

Art that creates generative conversation - they love exhibiting work that presses into issues relevant to the culture, city, and neighborhood in a generative way. 

Eric and Sara Joy also speak with two field guides who provide more insight into the value and characteristics of good gallery space and programming for art and the ways that churches have engaged art throughout history. Sandra Bowden, an artist and curator, discusses the value of gallery space and programming that supports the artist and provides thoughtful, educational connections with the art to steward a viewer's experience with the art itself. David Taylor from Fuller Theological Seminary provides the historical framework on the connections between art and the church, highlighting various movements in history and within specific theological traditions that have come to shape the way churches engage with art. 

Episode Contributors

Gabe Coyle is the Campus Pastor of Christ Community Church in downtown Kansas City, MO. 

Sandra Bowden is a visual artist based in Chatham, MA. She has been interpreting Scripture and her own spiritual walk through mixed media for more than forty years. She has been acclaimed as one of the most unique, impressive and inspiring Christian artists in America. Bowden’s work has been featured in books, magazines and gallery shows across the United States, Canada, Italy and Jerusalem. She is co-author of Seeing the Unseen: Launching and Managing a Church Gallery.

David Taylor is Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Prior to his appointment at Fuller, Dr. Taylor served as a pastor for ten years in Austin, Texas. Taylor serves on the advisory board for Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts as well as IVP Academic’s series, “Studies in Theology and the Arts” and has served as board member of Christians In the Visual Arts (CIVA). He is the author of Glimpses of the New Creation: Worship and the Formative Power of the Arts  and The Theater of God’s Glory: Calvin, Creation and the Liturgical Arts. He is editor of For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts.

Access more Show Notes with pictures and resources related to this episode. Sign up for the free online Community Forum on August 23, 2022 to discuss this episode with Eric, Sara Joy, and Chris and other podcast listeners. Register today!

More information about this podcast and helpful church and urbanism resources can be found on The Embedded Church website.

Related Resources

Christ Community Church - Downtown KC

Four Chapter Gallery

Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)

Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA)

Agents of Flourishing by Amy Sherman

Seeing the Unseen: Launching and Managing a Church Gallery by Sandra Bowden and Marianne Lettieri

Show Credits

Hosted and Produced by Eric O. Jacobsen and Sara Joy Proppe

Edited by Adam Higgins | Odd Dad Out Voice Productions

Theme Music by Jacob Shaffer

Artwork by Lance Kagey | Rotator Creative