A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away . . . I was an art student. In fact, I was once certified to teach art in grades K-12. Why didn’t I pursue this career? A deciding factor was a grade on a watercolor painting.
The painting was a collection of nondescript bottles gathered from my dorm room to quickly complete an end-of-the-semester assignment. The instructor picked up my haphazard approach and wrote on the back of the painting, “Trite and unimaginative. C-“ I thought to myself, “This captures my art career — trite and unimaginative!”
The Lord took me on a different career path. Instead of teaching art, I’ve been a missionary for forty-eight years. But my brief art career shaped my ministry; I’ve always tried to bring the touch of the artist to the Great Commission. I call this artful ministry — ministry that’s full of art.
What does artful ministry look like? I’m not going to attempt to define art. Nor am I going to justify art and its place in ministry. We serve a Lord of immeasurable creativity so it’s only natural that as His image-bearers we’re creative creatures. My goal is to demonstrate how we can bring an artful touch to disciplemaking.
At its most basic level, good art does three things: it grabs our souls, it captures our imaginations, and it reflects a disciplined craft. These three elements shape artful disciplemaking.
Artful disciplemaking grabs our souls. Whether it’s visual, musical, or dramatic, there’s something about art that grabs our souls; capturing our emotions and touching our life’s core.
We revel in the majesty of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, the soaring creativity of A Day in a Life by Lennon/McCartney, or the amazing photography from the BBC Our Planet series. The core of our lives are touched as we’re drawn into these creations. We find our values challenged, our worlds enlarged, and our wonder activated. We’re enraptured and transformed in small or big ways. This is the essence of disciplemaking — a transformative experience by the Spirit of God.
Artful ministry is Holy Spirit ministry; who else can grab our hearts and souls! When the Holy Spirit captures our souls He transforms the core of our lives. Generations ago we referred to this as the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit. This anointing is hard to describe or quantify, it can’t be packaged or bottled but we know when it happens.
When we’re anointed by the Spirit, there’s an unusual presence and power that transforms the lives of others. Anointed ministry is more than completing a check list or appearing professional, it’s God creating the new through us. What is this “new” that He creates?
In Ephesians 2:10, the Apostle Paul wrote that we’re “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works“ (Ephesians 2:10). The Greek word translated “workmanship” is poiema from which we derive our English word “poem.” The Jerusalem Bible translates this phrase as His “work of art.” Disciplemaking brings forth God’s created work of art.
Want to engage in artful ministry– ministry that captures the souls of people, that creates new works of art? Ask the Holy Spirit to touch and renew the core of another’s life with His presence. Trust Him to transform people into works of art that glorifies the Creator.
Artful disciplemaking is imaginative. Imagination is derived from a Latin word meaning “to form an image of, to represent.” “Imagination,” writes pastor and author Warren Wiersbe, “is the image-making faculty in your mind, the picture galley in which you are constantly painting, sculpting, designing, and sometimes erasing.” Imagination is probably one of the first words that come to mind when I mention the word “artist.”
Artists may be specially gifted but we all have one thing in common — an imagination. “Unfortunately,” writes Cheryl Forbes, “it’s one of our God-given gifts that’s often neglected. Most of us don’t use our imagination because we don’t know God has given it to us nor have we been taught how to use it.”
Imagination enables us to picture something in a way that’s different from the common place. It creates new ways of explaining, clarifying, or illustrating the ordinary or the traditional. One of my favorite imagination tools is a thesaurus. A thesaurus provides different words to replace the ordinary; we imagine something new by using different words. Words have the power to paint new images or pictures.
Another imagination tool is using analogies. An analogy compares one thing to another; the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. The founder of The Navigators, Dawson Trotman, was rich in imagination and proficient with analogies. He imagined that the Christian life is like a wheel, our intake of the Scriptures is like a hand, and disciplemaking is like multiplication. Dawson used his imagination to create new pictures of familiar concepts. This is artful ministry at its best.
Artful disciplemaking is a craft. A craft is usually associated with making things by hand. It’s also descriptive of the skill needed to do a particular work; craftsmanship is synonymous with excellence. “Do you see a man skilled in his work?” asks the writer of Proverbs. “He will stand before kings and not obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29). When I speak of artful ministry as a craft, I mean that disciplemaking is a skilled practice done with excellence.
Practicing one’s craft is neither haphazard or formulaic — two temptations of contemporary disciplemaking. When we practice disciplemaking as a craft, we master four simple skills: reading people, asking questions, telling stories, and connecting the Bible to life. I wish I could elaborate more on these skills but time and space limit me.
Disciplemaking needs an artist’s touch. Pastor and author A.W. Tozer sounds the call for artful ministry when writing:
I long to see the imagination released from its prison and given to its proper place among the sons of the new creation. What I am trying to describe here is the sacred gift of seeing, the ability to peer beyond the veil and gaze with astonished wonder upon the beauties and mysteries of things holy and eternal. The stodgy pedestrian mind does no credit to Christianity.A.W. Tozer
Let’s move disciplemaking from the stodgy practice of checklists and curriculums, programs and performance to an artful practice — a practice anointed by the Holy Spirit, filled with imagination, and crafted with excellence.
Want to explore artful ministry in depth? Check out my book Conversations with Josh about Art and Ministry available on amazon.com.
Great word in this post above.
I wanted you to see a sample of one of my weekly columns that goes into The Alliance Review, our local paper, circulation 15,000
Here’s a sample of my weekly column in the Alliance Review, circulation 15,000. Also great word in your column above. I don’t include the prayer and praises in the paper. that only goes to other mailing lists of parishoners and friends and those who’ve requested to be on my mail list.
CHRIST’S CHECKMATE by Pastor Rick Sams
If you play the brain-busting game (my opinion) of chess, read on.
“Making a deal with the devil” is a deadly temptation that has been dangled before mankind since the beginning of time. Authors have written all kinds of books and dramatizations of people who have done so. Faust is likely the most famous.
My skimming of countless variations shows all the plots basically show Faust getting the devil to do any dirty deeds his wild imagination wants. In most of these Satan also empowers Faust to be able to do whatever he pleases in exchange for Faust’s soul at the end of his life.
A famous painting in the Louvre in Paris, France, has the devil and Faust sitting at a chess board as the clock ticks down toward the end of Faust’s time on earth, but the start of his damnation in eternity. For years tourists have looked and sadly shaken their heads as they understood the artist’s haunting message. Looking at the chessboard, any who know that game can see Faust has been checkmated, and the devil’s sneer only underscores that Satan is about to pounce on his prize.
But one day a tourist to the museum gazed on the painting—studying and strategizing—seeing the whole board at one time. Suddenly the visitor shouted: “It’s a lie! It’s a lie. Faust still has a move!”
Just when we think the devil has defeated us, God can do the impossible and deliver us (Luke 1:37).
That’s what the Cross of Christ was all about. In the eyes of almost all who witnessed Christ’s crucifixion—the worldly systems and values opposed to God, along with death, sin and Satan had all seemingly won.
That was (Good) Friday.
But then came Sunday when the tomb was empty. Jesus Christ rose from the dead defeating all those enemies who would destroy us. They were wrong. They still are.
Don’t believe the lies of the devil that: “It’s over, you’ve blown it, your best is never good enough, no one can forgive or forget what bad you’ve done or good you’ve left undone.”
Jesus’ best known name is Savior. That’s for good reason. He can deliver anyone from the most disastrous deals and defeats–even death, the last enemy.
I’ve read The Book and in the end, Jesus wins! And his final move on the chessboard of time and eternity can make you a winner too if you love and follow him.
Unlike the king on the chessboard who gets knocked over in defeat signaling game over, our King of kings will be still standing triumphantly at the end of the biggest “game” ever! Stand with him (Ephesians 6:13-14).
1. Significant gains in the war in Ukraine
2. Some cool heads of governments that have made wise choices that didn’t escalate that conflict to more nations and possibly take it nuclear
3. Some who are in remission for diseases that resist cures.
1. The people in harm’s way in that whole region of the world
2. For Putin to be removed from power and that he even find a true relationship with Jesus
3. Many battling cancer and anxiously awaiting a clean bill of health
4. Wisdom for the EPA leadership and rail road leaders to find ways to solve the enormous derailment problems