Evangelism, Artists and Art

In order to make disciples, we must first see individuals come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and cultivate personal relationships with Him. Jesus told His followers to go and teach all nations what He had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). As we know, the Great Commission is Jesus’ will for His church.  Although edification and discipleship are specific to equipping believers, teaching Jesus’ commands also involves reaching unbelievers with the good news about Him!  Evangelism particularly requires going – getting out of our comfort zone and meeting people where they are at.

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 What is the good news of Jesus Christ?

God created humans as whole beings, designed to be in fellowship with Him. That fellowship was lost for all human beings when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12). Since then, all human beings are born into this separation from God – unwhole, with a void in our souls. God desires to restore His relationship with human beings, but because He is Holy (completely perfect, nothing deficient or lacking), He cannot tolerate sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Since He is also Just, He requires a payment for sin. In the Old Testament, this payment was made through the sacrifices of animals, but these sacrifices had to be made again and again (Hebrews 10:1). The good news is that God then prepared a way for us to know Him through His Holy Son Jesus Christ who meets the requirements of the law for sin payment. Jesus bore the sin and separation from God on our behalf through His death, burial and resurrection so we can have personal relationships with God. Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6). If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin, you will be saved from a lost eternity (that’s forever, folks) separated from God (Romans 10:9, Acts 16:31, John 3:16). When you believe, God begins His work of transforming you into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29) and making you a whole person, while enjoying restored fellowship with Him.

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This is an artist’s depiction of Jesus dying on a cross.  I think it is a beautiful image, capturing the moment when Jesus took my sin and separation from God so that I could have a personal relationship with Him. This image relays a part of the good news to me.

Let’s say I’ve never heard the gospel message before. I have no idea who Jesus is or what He has done. Is this image going to bear the same significance for me? Absolutely not.

You see, God has chosen to use believers with their spiritual gifts and God-given talents to reach the lost for Jesus Christ. That’s not to say art and conversations about art can’t be used by believers or that it won’t touch somebody, it’s just that we must take tremendous care not to put art in the position of ministry.  Believers minister and evangelize, the arts do not.

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The question I come upon in my mind is this: If the arts in and of themselves do not minister, in what context and to what extent should the arts be used in a local church’s evangelism?

And I’m sorry if it seems like I’m belaboring a point here, but we have to review some of the principles mentioned in earlier articles to answer this question.

1. Christ is Supreme. The universal church and local gatherings of believers are His. When art is used in any church, it’s primary purpose must be to glorify and draw attention to Him.

2. Discipleship is necessary. When the arts are used in the church, they must foster communities of artists who edify each other and the local body.

3. Art should be pursued in excellence and integrity. In the local church, this means the arts must be morally good, artistically good, and reject secular forms.

4. Evangelism includes going. Evangelistic art by local church artists must not be restricted to the local church building. 

In an evangelistic context, the arts in the local church should clearly display the good news of Jesus Christ.  In creating evangelistic art, it is helpful to work together to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ – having a common purpose fosters strong relationships.  Evangelistc art that is excellent and created in integrity should be Holy Spirit-prompted and will be used by the Him to touch people’s hearts. Local churches should have teams of artists going out and being involved in community arts districts and events.

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Well, here we are.  At the end of “The Arts and the Local Church” series. As with the topic of excellence, we will revisit this series in the future as more topics arise.

To recap: Local churches should be community leaders in honoring Christ, discipling believers, and reaching unbelievers with the good news of Jesus Christ and in many instances they are.  The arts are areas where many local churches are not leading the way.

Dear believing artists, I leave you with a challenge to glorify Christ in your art and make Him known. I challenge you to instruct and disciple other believers in the arts – show them how to make Christ known through art and how to use art and conversations about art as evangelistic tools. I challenge you to be reaching unbelievers (artists and non-artists alike) using your God-given artistic talents.

Dear local church leaders, I challenge you to raise up artists surrendered to the Lordship of Christ – who seek Him first above all else.  I challenge you to raise up leading artists who are committed to teaching others about the arts, and more specifically, teaching others how to praise God and make Him known in the arts they produce. I challenge you to have a presence in your local art community (everybody has one, you generally just have to find it): send artists out to participate in community art events and classes.

Let’s make a difference in the arts for Jesus Christ as communities of Jesus’ followers! Starting now…

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, Film. She is passionate about reaching and equipping artists for Jesus Christ.

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2 Comments to “Evangelism, Artists and Art”

  1. I think you bring up a lot of great points. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I was actually discussing some of these things with one of my contributing artists two weeks ago, and I’m glad it’s coming up here.

    “Good art is any created entity that demands an emotional response from the individuals it comes in contact with. An emotional response is derived from the art communicating with the person on a personal level.”

    This is something I am wrestling with, and wrestled with writing this. I agree that the emotional response comes from a personal communication, but is it really the art that communicates? Or is it God communicating through the art? I’m thinking of Psalm 19 where it talks about all of the ways creation proclaims the glory of God. Also Romans 1:19-20 talks about God making Himself known through what has been made. So I stand corrected in terms of this statement: “Let’s say I’ve never heard the gospel message before. I have no idea who Jesus is or what He has done. Is this image going to bear the same significance for me? Absolutely not.” God can certainly use any kind of art (evangelistic or otherwise) to touch people’s lives.Certainly, God can use art to communicate something fuller, deeper or completely different than what the artist intended.

    What I was hoping to get across with this and the discipleship (https://fortyone20ministries.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/art-that-edifies-discipleship/) posts is that when Christ instituted His church, he said to, “Go and make disciples.” He was talking to people about people. The Great Commission is accomplished through personal relationships (like you were saying), even though art can be used to build these relationships in both evangelism and discipleship.

    “Ministry does not have to be explicitly evangelical to be ministry.”

    I absolutely agree that ministry does not have to be explicitly evangelical to be ministry (and am sorry if I made it sound that way)- nor does all art in the church have to serve an evangelistic purpose. I do believe that if it is to be used in the local church it should serve some purpose – not a narrow-focus purpose, but the end goal of art in the church should be either to glorify God or build up His body through evangelism or ministry. When Paul talks about the use of spiritual gifts in the church in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4, he makes it clear they should be used for edification (building up) of Christ’s body. Although the arts are not specifically mentioned in either of these passages, I believe the principal of edification should be applied to their use in the church.

    The rejection of the arts in the church really saddens me. It is my prayer that church leaders will open up their doors to artists and the arts, and use them both in the way God intended for them to be used. Rise up, church!

  2. If the arts in and of themselves do not minister, in what context and to what extent should the arts be used in a local church’s evangelism?

    I have to answer this question from the position that the arts, in and of themselves DO minister; though that individual ministry is often unbeknownst to the artist.

    Good art is any created entity that demands an emotional response from the individuals it comes in contact with. An emotional response is derived from the art communicating with the person on a personal level. Ministry does not have to be explicitly evangelical to be ministry, God communicates through all manners of art. What will inhibit the communicative ability of Christian art is how the church presents it, telling people how to receive and understand the piece. Take a very controversial photo by Andres Serrano entitled ‘Piss Christ’, for example. Serrano’s motivation behind photographing a crucifix submerged in urine was to open the eyes of nominal Christians. The intended message of the piece was a call for Christians to embrace the faith they claim through lifestyle change, not just a label to wear. Some individuals (and leaders of the church) chose to judge Serrano’s motivations negatively, labeling him a heretic. I heard of church leaders telling their congregations the “correct” way to interpret this art was that it mocked their faith. These leaders stepping in to control the minds of their followers resulted in the church being divided over the piece and the dictated perception creating dissension and anger towards Serrano as a person (his artwork was eventually vandalized by members of an extremist group while on display in Australia).

    What does that mean for the extent of the arts’ incorporation into the church and the responsibility of the church in using art? The church needs to provide opportunities for all of it’s attendees to reach and be reached. Provide visual artists with a place to display their work, poets a time to recite their words, musicians a time to play, actors a time and place to act. God places the gift of creativity into each of us and a variety of talents to express that creativity through. Artists, of all kinds, are vital parts of the body of Christ because our talents are communicative in nature. It is our job to speak (using whatever means God has placed in us to communicate), the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, and God’s job to save. Cultivating personal relationships is vitally important for successful evangelism. Life-changing understanding of Jesus Christ blooms out of a personal relationship with one of His followers. The church fails if we do not utilize all the talents God places in the body to reach the world. Our culture-changing influence has been cut out from under us by a fear-driven rejection of the arts as a vital part of the church.

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