Posts tagged ‘The Great Commission’

July 5, 2012

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.

June 28, 2012

Art That Edifies: Discipleship

Before FortyOne20 Ministries was even a blip on my radar, I read a book called The Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland. I think it is a great book, and it radically changed my thinking about artists and art, but I disagreed with Mr. Noland on a key point.  He asserts that art is innately good as a gift from God and therefore art shouldn’t necessarily have to serve a specific purpose in the church. While I believe art is good as a gift of God, I also believe it can take on moral and immoral characteristics. Like all good things, our Enemy seeks to pervert it constantly. I also believe that art in God’s church must serve one or both of the following: it must glorify God (as we discussed last week) and it must edify His church.

To “edify” means to “build up.” It implies instruction and improvement, either moral or intellectual. Edification is an important topic in the New Testament. In regard to spiritual gifts, Paul addresses edification many times: “Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12).  I do not believe that the arts are spiritual gifts, but I do believe that when they are used in the church, they should be used to build up the church.

So how exactly is the church built up? In Matthew 28, Jesus gives specifics as to how He wants His church built up: Go and make disciples. I believe the church is built up when believers use their spiritual gifts and God-given talents to evangelize and disciple. Evangelism and discipleship by believing artists in the arts occur on an individual level and involve instructional relationships.  I will address evangelism later this week, but for today I want to focus on discipleship.

During my last two years in college, four women (shout out Meredith, Susan, Jenna and Hannah) modeled community and vulnerability for me, spurred me on in my walk with the Lord, gave valuable life advice as I came up on graduation and had to put my big girl shoes on, and encouraged me to do the same for others. They spent time with me (still spend time with me when busy life permits), built into my life – they discipled me. I know there are other churches that are intentional about discipleship as well. Unfortunately, these churches are the blessed exception to the general rule.

Discipleship in general  is lacking in the church. A lot of this has to do with our unwillingness to interact with people outside of our age group and season of life. We want to be with people who are going through what we’re going through and dealing with what we’re dealing with. (Not judging, there are days when I want the same thing).  Churches have groups and programs for just about every season of life. The problem with this model is that we’re circumventing the older and more experienced coming alongside the younger and less experienced (2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 2:3-5). In other words, we’re bypassing discipleship.

Further troubling, and more to our point, is the lack of discipleship of artists in our churches. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to write and produce a play for our Christmas program at my old church. There were difficult patches as our team was given direction by our elders, but overall it was a positive experience for me. I loved it!  Before I graduated, Susan (the same discipler mentioned above) asked me about my ministry dreams. Writing and producing plays for evangelistic events was my response. We talked a bit about how it can become more about the production than the evangelism, and Susan said something to the effect of, “Well, if people are being discipled in the process, it can be good.”  That was profound for me because I had never thought about how producing the arts could be used for discipleship. I had only ever thought about how you could produce art and it would have an effect on the people experiencing it.

I majored in Radio, Television, and Film in college because I wanted to be  the next Peter Jackson. (Please don’t ask how that’s working out for me). I remember watching The Lord of the Rings‘ special features and being wowed at the number and variety of artists involved.  When producing a film, you have the opportunity to bring a lot of different artists together for a common purpose. It’s just really cool and exciting and fun.  When I personally take on a video project, I make sure to bring somebody along with me.  It’s not only an opportunity to teach them about the industry, but how we as believing artists should conduct ourselves while producing.

Although my productions have largely taken place outside of the church, I believe the same discipleship opportunities exist for artists within the church. Whether we’re working on the music for praise and worship, producing a video clip or a skit, drawing, painting, or sketching we can give the members of our teams the opportunity to learn more about the craft they are engaging in and teach them how to do it in a way that glorifies God and ministers to others.

Some ideas for cultivating discipleship for artists:

– Diverse teams of artists in range of experience and spiritual maturity

– Artists are encouraged to work as teams instead of on their own

– More experienced artists are encouraged to walk alongside and train less experienced artists

– Artists are encouraged to build community

– Artists pray and praise together

– Artists are encouraged to do a devotion on the project at hand and share it with each other

This is not to say believing artists should only interact with people on their teams, because discipleship must take place outside of the arts as well.  BUT we do need to be discipling artists specifically in the arts if we expect God to use artists and art to glorify Him and reach the lost.

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