Carver Project Wash-U, April 5

carver conversation-23

Photo courtesy of my friend Neil Das

Carver is a faculty group at Washington University in St. Louis whose aim is “to cultivate Christian leaders at the intersection of the university, the church and society.”  My GFM staff member there George Stulac is on the Carver leadership team and was instrumental in assembling the faculty members that are a part of the project.  This year their spring event focused on the arts, culture and the mission of the church.   Click here to read more about the panel – John Hendrix, professor of art at Wash-U interviewed Sho Baraka, Sara Groves and Mako Fujimura.  Check out a few other Carver events while you’re there including last year’s conversation with Tim Keller.

Generative Practice and the Church

There were two ideas that made an impression on me throughout the night.  Mako spoke about the difference between the church as a machine and the church as a body of persons capable of generative practice.  “Jesus didn’t come to build a machine.  Instead of a body of gifted people making and redeeming culture, the church risks becoming mere commerce masquerading as orthodoxy.”

carver conversation-25

Thanks for the pics Neil!

Sho Baraka affirmed that “music is the only way our emerging adults are going to see the connection between beauty and justice – sermons aren’t going to do it.”  He talked about how vital it is for the church to let artists speak with full voice.  All three agreed that the commercial pressures of the church on generative practice  severely limit the impact artists can make.

Books, books, books.

Culture Care – Mako Fujimura

culture care

What Money Can’t Buy – Michael Sandel

what money can't buy

The Locust Effect – Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros


locust effect

The other idea that stuck with me came from Sara Groves sharing about her project Floodplain.  Plagued with a paralzying bout of depression her work had been sidelined for some time.  She drew insights for her life as an artist from the lives of immigrant families living in floodplains- people trying to gather enough resources to move to a place of safety and sustainability.  “These people amazed me because this was not just a temporary situation.  They had to live there under the threat of further flooding without any immediate hope for rescue or opportunity.”

Maybe Christians need to rethink things like natural disaster and how to respond.  What would it look like for artists to arrive at ground zero and give shape to recovery efforts?  How could art play a role in remaking life and culture where devastation is compounded by poverty?  In the words of Gary Haugen founder of the International Justice Mission, “How will the church continue to develop the object permanence required to sustain the mission of Jesus to the needy?”  Will the church live close enough to the needs it’s called in Jesus’ name to help meet?


Some hearts are built on a floodplain
Keeping one eye on the sky for rain
You work for the ground that gets washed away
When you live closer
Closer to the life and the ebb and flow
Closer to the edge of I don’t know
Closer to that’s the way it goes
Some hearts are built on a floodplain
And it’s easy to sigh on a high bluff
Look down and ask when you’ve had enough
Will you have the sense to come on up
Or will you stay closer
Closer to the danger and the rolling deep
Closer to the run and the losing streak
And what brings us to our knees
Some hearts live here
Oh the river it rushes to madness
And the water it spreads like sadness
And there’s no high ground
And there’s no high ground
Closer to the danger and the rolling deep
Closer to the run and the losing streak
And what brings us to our knees
Closer to the life and the ebb and flow
Closer to the edge of I don’t know
Closer to Lord please send a boat
Some hearts are built here



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