Artistic Expression & Evangelism

When an entire village of Bolivian Indian ranch workers came to the Lord a few years ago, some missionary friends of mine were faced with some steep questions. What do we do with this entire village of people that now know the Lord as Savior? How do we teach them to study the Bible when most of them don’t read? And when they have no Christian music, what do we suggest they sing?

My missionary friends encouraged the Bolivian Indians to make up their own musical expression. They understood the importance of culturally appropriate communication and affirmed the leadership in the village, that it would be appropriate to sing songs they composed themselves.

Artistic Expression In Evangelism

Where the Great Commission has truly been carried out, the penetrated cultures most often worship and proclaim their faith in their own mother tongues, heart-music, and cultural styles.

When evangelization happens in its fullness, culturally appropriate and sensitive communication is crucial. In many parts of the world, due to lack of literacy, such communication will be through artistic or imaginative expression. Music, drama, storytelling, painting, architecture, mime, puppets, crafts, festivals, movement, ritual, and on and on, are all forms of artistic expression.

Artistic communicators are Christians endowed by God with unusual wisdom in creative things. They may be pastors, teachers, musicians, painters, writers, managers, factory workers, farmers, or housewives. They are simply Christians with a vision and ability for actively incorporating appropriate artistic forms and methods into worship and evangelism.

People generally hear and understand with their hearts long before they hear and understand with their heads. And their heartstrings are generally plucked, not by the academic and the apologist, but by the artist and the poet. This reality leads me to shout from the rooftops that Christian musicians and artists play a critical role in world evangelization these days.

Where the Great Commission has truly been carried out, the penetrated cultures most often worship and proclaim their faith in their own mother tongues, heart-music, and cultural styles. These heart-languages and cultural styles are very often uncovered by indigenous artists or better stated, arts ministry specialists. Whether in ceremonies, liturgy, pageants, visual or movement expression, music, storytelling, or other dynamics of gathered expression, it is usually the arts ministry specialist who helps facilitate the believing community in its public and private expressions of worship.

The jewel of human activity is worship, worship that makes sense in the context of one’s own culture. It requires symbols and metaphors and rituals that help connect the people with the invisible realities of God himself. Those kinds of worship activities demand that we take the realities of God and His truths beyond the languages of the head into the languages of the heart. And that realm is so often the realm of artistic expression.

God has specially equipped present-day worshiping artists to express beyond words the realities of God’s supernatural person and Kingdom. We need to proactively recruit and deploy these worship and arts ministry specialists into the fabric of the church and its mission.

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