No one can believe anything they can’t imagine. This reality makes artists and evangelism intimately go together.
“But what about the importance of the content of evangelism?” one might ask. Most of you reading this blog agree with me about the content of evangelism: it IS—the objective, existing reality of God, the loving work of Christ through which we access the gospel, and the energizing of His Spirit empowering the gospel.
The reality of the content of the gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son, the righteousness of God whose death paid the penalty for my and your sin—1 Cor. 15; Rom. 3) does no good without connection with the giver of the gospel. And artists are specialists at creating environments wherein human creatures can connect with their creator.
Therefore, the dynamics of evangelism must build on the reality (the objective truth) of the content of the gospel by moving beyond a narrow focus ON the content of the gospel itself and into creating at least three kinds of contexts wherein evangelism can happen:
Contexts for RELATIONSHIPS—believers (the church community) with nonbelievers
Contexts for ENCOUNTER—God with non-believers
Contexts for ILLUMINATION—God in non-believers
In creating these contexts wherein these relationships, encounters, and illuminations occur, artistic specialists play a strategic role in at least two ways.
God created artistic people unusually wise at imaginative design and expression—the Hebrew definition of craftsman (cf. Exod. 31 or Exod. 35). Some people simply have more “imaginative” capacity than others. They have an unusual amount of imaginative skill, ability, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (in the Hebrew language all these terms are wisdom words: compound words with the term “wisdom” built into them). Artistic people are specialized strategists whom church and mission leadership should deeply involve as they pray, plan, and implement ministry and missions.
God purposed artistic people with the assignment to create environments wherein people touch the transcendent realities of life, and especially God. Therefore, it’s clear that God intends artistic people to serve as more than “entertainers” or “decorators.” The Bible clearly reveals they are not optional. He intends them to be deeply involved in strategy development—for worship, community life, outreach, compassion, education—in every part of the Christian community (and the general community as well).
No one can believe anything they can’t imagine. This reality makes artists and evangelism intimately go together.Dr. Byron Spradlin
Note in the Bible the many places where artistic expression and specialists appear they are creating environments in which they help normal people interact with worship (true and false worship), understanding (or not—cf. the parables of Jesus, the dramatizations of Jeremiah or Ezekiel), or appreciation (cf. the woman washing Jesus’ feet with perfume).
Evangelism is not simply creating contexts (personal and public) for declaration. Evangelism strategies must also look towards creating contexts for relationships, encounter, and illumination. And those contexts too must be effective, beautiful, and dynamic; and therefore, need artistic specialists to imagine, curate, and lead them. Leave artists out at your own risk.
Ministry & Imagination
God created artistic people unusually wise at imaginative design and expression!
And here’s a last word . . . for those of you artistic folks who might be bothered by the thought I’ve been focusing too strongly on a utilitarian use of artistic expression; relax.
Lean into what you know to be true. Whenever and wherever artistic believers participate in the mysteries resident in imaginatively rearranging human metaphors, symbols, and expressions (the imaginative artmaking process itself)—and are growing in a legitimate, delight-filled, lived-out worship walk with God in Christ—they will manifest experiences of beauty, goodness, and reality that will declare the glory of God (Psalm 19) and provide environments wherein He will touch others.
How do I know this? Because that’s how He created us—in His image. All people work that way. The Bible tells us so.