Luke 5:16

The Church at Auvers

Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists.  His paintings are considered by many to be the epitome of Impressionism.  I ran across this painting by Van Gogh today, and was not only struck by its beauty, but sensed something more in the symbolism of its colors and form, so I decided to do a little research.  Here’s what I found out:

Toward the end of his life, Vincent van Gogh succumbed to his mental illness, cut off his own ear after a fight with friend Paul Gauguin, and in May 1889 committed himself to a mental hospital in Saint Remy…

In the last 10 weeks of his life, while in the care of the doctor, he created over 100 pieces including The Church at Auvers, a scene from his youth created out of memory…

The foreground seems to be in daylight, whereas the church itself and the sky seem to be in shadow, nearly a night scene. The church’s form is distorted adding a feel of gloom to the scene…A church painted in this manner may reflect van Gogh’s feeling about the church and religion after his failed studies as a preacher and missionary.  (

One other site explains it this way:

Rather than the church looking like a place of refuge and solace, Vincent has shown it as a place of impending doom and gloom. (

Early in his life, Van Gogh aspired to be a pastor and missionary.  However, he failed miserably at both callings and, even though there is no specific documentation about his spiritual crisis, it’s pretty safe to bet that he got turned off from religion because of his inability to “meet the expectations.”

This is a sad story, and comes to life through this man’s paintings.  If you notice, the church is surrounded by light, but the church itself does not create or emanate any light, which gives the impression that it is dead.

Is your church dead?

I hope that your church does not resemble Van Gogh’s Church of Auvers, nor does your own example of faith.  Christ’s view of the church is clear: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14 NLT)  I pray that, when surrounded by darkness, that we might be the light of hope and encouragement to the world around us, and not just as a church building with its lights on, but that we, ourselves, glow with the love of Christ, so that people might be drawn to us, and Him.


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