Evangelism, Imagination, and Artists

No one can believe anything they can’t imagine!!  That reality intimately makes artists and evangelism 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 who’s death paid the penalty for my and your sin—1 Cor. 15, Romans 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, then, 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; moving on into creating at least three kinds of contexts wherein evangelism can happen:

-contexts for RELATIONSHIPS—believers (the Church community) with non-believers,

-contexts for ENCOUNTER—GOD with non-believers,

-contexts for ILLUMINATION—GOD in non-believers.

And here—creating these CONTEXTS wherein occur these relationships, encounter and illumination—is where artistic specialists play a strategic role—in at least two ways.

First, GOD created artistic people unusually wise at imaginative design and expression—the Hebrew definition of craftsman (cf. Ex. 31 or Ex 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 & Mission leadership should deeply involve as they pray, plan and implement ministry and missions.

Second, GOD purposed artistic people with the assignment to create environments wherein people ‘touch’ the transcendent realities of life, and especially GOD.  

Artists lead people into touching the transcendent realities of life—including the reality of GOD Himself. Therefore it’s clear, at least to me, that GOD intends artistic people to serve as more than “entertainers” or “decorators.”  The Bible clearly reveals they are not ‘optional.’   He intended 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).

Note in the Bible the many places where artistic expression and specialists appear: note that 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), to name just a few of these environments.

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, to be most effective, beautiful, and dynamic, need artistic specialists at every level to imagine them, curate them, and lead them.   Leave artists out at your own risk.  

Oh yes:  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; you too must chill a bit.  

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 art-making 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 (read Truth) that will engage others with marvel, wonder, delight, ‘sensation’, and more, all of which will declare the glory of GOD  (Psalm 19) and provide environments (individually and communally) wherein HE will touch others.  

How do I know that?  Because that’s how HE created us—in HIS image!  All people work that way.  The Bible tells us so.  Count on it.  

So like I said above:  no one can believe anything they can’t imagine!!  So that reality intimately makes artists and evangelism go together.

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: https://www.facebook.com/byronlspradlin/ YouTube: Byron’s YouTube Channel

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