Friday, May 1, 2015

The Art of Evangelism

Several recent studies have underscored the role of art in helping relieve stress, of helping seniors retain memory functions, and cognitive clarity, and its apparent impact on people dealing with severe health problems. The church and the world of art have often gazed at each other across a wary canyon of mutual distrust. The church, often too concerned about issues of appropriateness and subject matters, limited subject matter and ways of representing spiritual themes or topics. The art world, often filled with extreme individualists rankled at such and turned their back on spiritual aspects in a search for expressions of their inner vision.  As Francis Schaeffer pointed out in "Art and the Bible", the inner spirit and motives of the artist will shine out of whatever they do.  As the 20th century waned, it was clear there was a deficiency in what was feeding many of the artists of the world. Jars of urine with crucifixes in them were called proudly 'art'.  The source of this problem was a general move by the church world to remove spiritual issues and expression from its own sphere and leave it for others to shape.

Responding to that was a flowering of artists who explored the rich field of the spiritual with new and expressive eyes. 

One such place was the Visual Arts Center at Wilkes Ave. Blvd. UMC in Columbia, Missouri.  Here art melded with evangelism and spiritual healing to offer a way to make disciples of Jesus Christ. 
Another program is Paint and Pray at Wesley UMC, Oklahoma City. Here the program was originally intent on using interest in art to introduce Jesus Christ to a new group of people. In the pilot project, it was found that there was so much more such a program could and did offer: creative discovery, fellowship, friendship, distressing and devotions that touched hearts.  Offered as a pilot for a $5 a week donation to support the unfunded program, those who could soon gave more in support, and then a grant was awarded that would allow a summer program targeting the community to enjoy the lessons and spiritually rich environment for free.  As part of the process, students create 'random works of art' that they leave for people to find, have an art show, and create a group work to reflect their journey through the lessons.

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