Substance: The real physical matter of which a person or thing consists and which has a tangible, solid presence.
— Oxford Dictionary

The idea of Substance has really been on my mind lately. When we say something has substance, what do we mean? You know, things like that. The definition above is one of a few in regards to the word substance. Mainly, those definitions revolve around the idea of something being "real" and "tangible."

When I think in terms of creativity, design and art...I often wonder if it has any substance. Is there anything real or tangible the client or audience can take from it? Does it have a presence that makes the audience take notice?

Oftentimes, I feel as though I am guilty of creating works with no substance. Art that has no tangible presence or feeling. It can be too easy to find the formula for creating the same work week in and week out, and as a result, there is nothing real that comes out in the end. It is work, yes, but it is not work of any substance.

When I bring this concept into Church art, I think it is even more lacking. As creatives in the church world, we are to bring to life the message and hope of Christ. We are to make it something that the people can feel and sense at the moment of their arrival to the sanctuaries. Obviously, I am not talking about emotionalism or manipulation here. I am talking about creating art that moves people closer to God. Moves them into His love. 

The Story of Christ is one that has substance. It is real and tangible in many ways.

How can we create works that carry that substance to the people? 

In my opinion, we start at the moment people arrive. Our sanctuaries and worship spaces should be such that they point people heavenward. Why were all those cathedrals in the 16th century so vast? Why were they so ornate and full of vibrant works of art? Because the leaders of the day believed that these spaces would create a sense of wonder in the people who attended. As they entered the space, they would be "taken from this world" and placed into the heavens with their Creator.

In many ways, we have removed the sense of wonder in our spaces and replaced them with things of little to no substance. People are not moved closer to God when they enter. We need to provide substance in the environment our people worship in. 

I believe we can also work to create art that is through the lens of Christ. In other words, as Pastor Glenn Packiam says, we create works that are Christ Centered. If our art, videos, songs, graphics and messages are presented through the centering lens of Christ and his story; then we will provide substance in our art. 

The church can produce a ton of great media today. But if it is not presented in a way that points people to Christ, I believe it has no substance. As creatives, it is so important that we provide something real in our art. And that only comes through presenting Christ. 

As I mentioned, this is a thought that I've been dwelling on for a while now. What are we creating that provides substance? How are we providing real and tangible art to people? 

I would love to hear your thoughts about the subject. Where do you find substance in art? What moves you? How do you make sure your works are real?


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