Today I reach some of the most recent addition of City Arts magazine. I am convinced, more than ever, that the way to reach people with the gospel is through the arts. My theological base is formed, but not to be point of being really articulatable. My outreach model – well I have about six of those, and from just a pragmatic standpoint, it has never made more sense.
Here is the best I can do on the theology at the moment: God made us in His image. Being creative is part of that. Using our imagination, exploring the possible and impossible – that is part of being human. It is why having a relationship with an infinite God is so fantabulous (yes, I used the word fantabulous in a theological argument) – because He is infinite, and we can continue to get to know Him more each day…forever. We are made with a spirit and a body – to get to know God and to worship Him. What is worship but art?
Now for the practical: We are in financial difficult times. Unless things change dramatically, the first thing to get hit in these times are the arts. Art galleries around the Northwest are already closing. What service can the church provide better than an opportunity to learn the arts? To celebrate the arts? We have experts in the performing arts at every level of church life. We also have plenty of visual artists, but we might have to dig to find them because we haven’t always valued them. We have auditoriums and equipment that stand unused throughout the week. We have walls that really could be used to celebrate life.
How does this lead people toward God? Take the woman at the well for example. She went to the well a woman who was avoiding the people of her town. Something about her conversation with Jesus – his acceptance, his willingness to engage her in conversation and yet not embroil himself in pseudo arguments, but engage the real issues – changed her.
Zacchaeus was also rather unliked – he was a tax collector. But when Jesus called him out of the tree, all it took was a real encounter with Jesus, and Zacchaeus was instantly transformed from a cheat to an honest man, full of hospitality.
When we, as Christ’s representatives (and this requires people who have a real, growing relationship with God), come into relationship with others who don’t know God, we offer opportunities for them to get to know Him through us. As we walk with them, we will see what He is doing in their lives, we can pray, (they will also see how He is working in us) and eventually, we can introduce them to Him. Not in a selling way, but in a natural way, like I introduce you to the other person in the room because it is rude not to. (I also discovered over Christmas that the other people in the room will introduce themselves if I lag in that area.) Their relationship with God can grow from there, they still have to choose whether to have the relationship or not, but the introduction is made – and it started with an arts program. In a city where only 4-6% of the people even go to church on Sunday, making introductions is important – it is very perceivable that 50% of the people in our city have no one in their life who can even tell them about God.