Artistic Expression in World Evangelization

When an entire village of Bolivian Indian ranch workers came to the Lord awhile ago, some missionary friends of mine were faced with very big questions. What do we do with this entire village of people that now know the Lord as Savior?  In what ways do they worship?  How do we teach them to study the Bible when most of them don’t read? And when they have no Bible-base music in their own heart-expressions, what do we suggest they sing?

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

When evangelization happens in its fullness, culturally appropriate and sensitive communication is crucial. In many parts of the world, due to lack of literacy, much 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.

That said, artists passionate for God because they’re overwhelmed by their own salvation through His work in Jesus, are essential in the Church’s strategies, methods and efforts in world evangelization.


Author: Byron Spradlin

GOD has used Byron, since he surrendered his life to Christ’s service at age 19, as a musician, recording artist, published songwriter (ASCAP & NARAS), youth pastor, worship pastor, evangelist, church planter, senior pastor, Bible teacher, professor, and artists-in-missions strategist.byron tweet pic Dr. Spradlin is a graduate of Western Seminary, Portland, OR; with a Master of Divinity degree (heavy in Missions, and biblical languages); and there he was the co-founder of the Master of Church Music degree—which he also received there, and for which he served on adjunct faculty for two years in the late 1970’s. He also has done ThM studies (abd) at Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, CA; and in 2012, was awarded the Doctor of Ministry degree (in Worship Studies) from Liberty University’s Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, VA – where he has also teaches courses from time to time in the Worship Studies department. Also, he serves as the international Senior Associate for the ARTS for the global Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He is professor of Worship, Imagination & the Arts at Williamson College in Franklin TN (USA). He also serves as Vice-Board-Chair of the international Jews for Jesus mission, having previously served 35 years as Board Chair and the performance coach for their first music-evangelism team, The Liberated Wailing Wall; and, since 2014, he is serving on the Board of World Venture mission agency based in Denver, CO His ministry experience ranges through almost 50 nations, and from arts in evangelism, missions and ministry, to Jewish & Muslim Evangelism, to church planting, to worship ministry and coaching, and the theology of worship, imagination and the arts. His wife, Pam, and he have been married for since 1974; their two grown children are married, and they have four amazing grand children. Connect with Byron! Byron’s Blog: ByronSpradlin.ComByron at Podium Twitter: @byronspradlin Facebook: YouTube: Byron’s YouTube Channel

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