Art in Christian Missions
In Matthew 4:19 Jesus called his disciples to follow and promised them that He would “make them fishers of men.” The Greek word for make, poieō, has some interesting implications. This word can refer to authorship, production, construction, formation, fashion, commerce, and even performance. In the same way that John the Baptist “prepared”—poieō the way for the Lord, so was Jesus planning to prepare these seemingly earthy men for works of God.
Jesus’ choice of words here is that of an artist. He wasn’t just planning to speak with a word and see things happen at his command, rather his call to disciple making is much more organic. He is promising here to take the shreds of humanities garments and turn it into robes of righteousness like that of a fashion designer. He’s vowing to collect the scatter lumber of humanities’ disheveled forests and build them into homes like a construction worker, and an interior designer. He claims here in Matthew that he will take normal people who are like clay and form like a potter. Like money is to an entrepreneur, and like performance in the hands of a gifted actor, Jesus is going to turn us into a sculpture, a play, and a treasure for the ages.
What does Art have to do with Mission?
As the source of the cosmos, Jesus claims here to make people, the greatest commodity in his kingdom, into fishermen. This is how Jesus views his mission on earth. It’s not a dry skill he undertakes, its an art. So why does this matter? It matters in how we see and do everything—it helps us interpret the very approach and nature of Christ’s ministry. He specializes in gathering dust, adding water and making it into clay, and forming it into beautiful pottery. He delights in taking what has been devalued and ascribed to have little or no purpose, what is antique, and he likes to refinish it, repurpose it and redeem it.
When we see anything “beautiful,” from a building to a movie, to poetry, to a thoughtfully crafted and shaped street corner, we are viewing God’s method for making disciples. He takes normal, everyday elements that are all too often overlooked and despised in and of themselves, and it combines them to make them beautiful TOGETHER.
The Church? Jesus’ Art…
In Ephesians 2:14 Paul picks this same word up when he’s talking about Jesus bringing the whole world together—both Jews and Gentile—to worship him when he says, “for he (Jesus) himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” This means, that today, when we see a gathering of Christ’s body—Jew, Gentile, Slave, Free, Weak, Strong, Rich, Poor, Every Creed, Every tongue etc.—we are taking a look at the result of God’s discipleship finesse. His ART!
His mission is to shape us into a Christ-Honoring people together through the gospel, and our worship is to respond as a people in joining in with him into this same mission. Will you?