How might you reach people who would not attend your usual church outreach events? Using culture or the wider creative arts as a means of creative evangelism might be one way.
Why use creative evangelism?
Human beings are made in the image of the loving Triune God. He gives them a purpose, a creative mandate, to develop, rule, steward and be fruitful in this wonderful world. God wants us to collaborate with him in developing culture, work, imagination and saving souls – all have value in God’s kingdom, there is no secular and holy divide. Creativity is given to us as a gift from our loving heavenly Father, be that art, gardening, knitting, DIY, photography, cooking, collecting, organising or anything else.
Our culture is asking excellent questions in films, music, adverts and artworks. They are deep thoughts that question our identity, our existence, our purpose and our reality. They probe ideas about where we find our fulfillment and who could bring salvation. If only we would listen, we could engage in this dialogue. Creative evangelism allows us to do this and as God encourages his people in Jeremiah 29 to pray and ‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you’, we need to be quick to listen, ask questions and pray for our community.
God is Lord over everything, and all things were created through and for Jesus and are sustained through his common grace. He uses the world he has given us to teach, mature and bless us; nothing is accidental. This includes non-Christians and their artwork. Am I willing to allow God to change, challenge and grow me as I engage with culture or is my attitude similar to the Pharisees who thought that others had nothing to teach them?
Using the arts to reach people
What we believe shows itself outwardly, and what people see outwardly reveals what we value and treasure. Visual aspects and quality are important because they reveal what we love. An uncomfortable chair, no artwork on the walls, and poor quality food doesn’t communicate care and love towards guests. Imagine the opposite – colour, comfort, warmth and welcome. Giving thought to what your guests will see, hear, smell, taste and touch shows them how lavishly God has loved us.
Encourage Christians in the creative arts to be a good influence in our culture. Give them opportunities: the use of your building, hosting a craft or film evening, leading a workshop, painting a mural, or design work. Sputnik: Faith and Arts and Morphē Arts are two great networks that might be of help to Christian creatives.
Consider your location and find out which creative communities thrive there. Does your community enjoy poetry, books or gardening? What societies or clubs does it have already? Is your congregation involved and bearing witness in these spaces? In Crickhowell, an art fair and trail of open studios was planned and the evangelical church wanted to be a witness and a presence at this event so they could build relationships with locals. People who had never been in their building came to see artwork from members and those outside the church.
How can your church bless and love the community around it? Your community might not be ready to hear a gospel talk, but they will notice when the church loves them and their community by sharing their interests. Churches can hold poetry events, concerts or art exhibitions to engage and connect with others, blessing the community and creating an opportunity for deepening friendships. It will help people to enter the church building without stigma, and make it a place that cares and blesses the people around it.
Culture as a bridge or a point of contact
Next time you visit a gallery, the cinema or a concert, why not invite a friend with you? Make sure you have time afterwards to discuss what you’ve experienced together. Pray and trust God to bring relevant truths and topics up. Sharing thoughts and asking questions will help your friend to see how you view the world. Listen to their views and don’t jump right in with deep questions. You might find it helpful to think of things on three levels.
- Level 1: Observations What was your favourite part of …? What was the atmosphere like? How did … make you feel? How did they create …?
- Level 2: Ponder What did … mean? What was the artist trying to communicate? What subject or themes did the … and artist grapple with? What does … remind you of?
- Level 3: Digging deeper What other literature or arts discuss the same issues as …? What did … say was the problem and the solution? What morality or reality did … portray? What could you empathise, disagree or agree with? What has … taught you or challenged you about?
Follow up is not an afterthought, it’s what we aim for. Creative evangelism is often friendship focused and presenting the gospel doesn’t happen. It’s about connecting with others, creating a shared experience, putting your church on the map or busting some preconceived ideas and that is ok. Trees and birds don’t have the gospel outlined on them, but they still hold something of God’s truth, goodness and beauty. We pray that our friends will experience something of God’s character through us or the event.
Think carefully how these friendships can be followed up or deepened. After an art workshop for the family can you advertise the church children’s club, where they will hear the gospel more clearly? After visiting an exhibition with a friend, could you introduce them to some Christian friends and organise another trip? During your pop-up exhibition can you advertise Bible studies that have similar themes to the exhibition?
Our culture and the creative arts are God given opportunities to build meaningful relationships with other humans, our fellow sinners. These days, most people wouldn’t dream of entering a church or consider what Christianity has to say to the contemporary world, but we go boldly, trusting in God’s goodness and sovereignty, to the world in its ‘glorious ruins’, pointing and inviting others to see reality as it really is. Let us go and celebrate our God-given interests and skills and engage in the place where he has predestined us to be.
Ideas to encourage you
Ammanford Church has started a film club, where they watch a film and have a discussion afterwards.
During a jazz music festival a local church invited some professional musicians to perform and share their faith as part of a concert.
A church in Latvia filled their building with artworks from artists who suffered from depression and live music for people to listen to while seeing the artwork. They organised three short talks: an artist, who shared her experience with depression and her faith; a doctor who spoke about the medical facts about depression, and its treatment; and the pastor who shared about what the church and Christ can offer them and inviting people to come along to their Sunday services.
A church in Caldicot held two pop-up exhibitions in empty shops in the main street during their mission week with artworks from members, local artists and school children and daily interactive workshops. Local schools visited and it was effective to create friendships with local people and invite them to evening events – Christian in Sports Quiz Night, a Sound of Wales concert, debates and gospel talk.
At the National Eisteddfod, five small rooms were created with art, light effects, interactive elements and verses to explain the gospel to children using the colours of the Wordless Book.