Worship, Music and Arts Ministry Communicators
They’re Essential to Evangelism, Church Planting and Missions
The missionary’s search for culturally appropriate communication strategies leads directly to the exploration of music, art, ritual, story telling and the like within a given society. When believers worship God and express their faith in a familiar and culturally appropriate way, unbelievers do take notice. When this occurs, the heart of previously unreached peoples becomes more receptive to the Word of God and to the worship of the true creator God whom we know through Jesus Christ.
Music and the arts in missions is a topic which is receiving much more consideration these days. And that’s good. It’s good because in our generation there is an immediate need for Christian communicators out of a music and arts background to find their way onto the mission endeavor and into missionary strategy development. Christian communicators with special sensitivity in music and the arts in missions. artistic communicators are needed today to mobilize and encourage the development of culturally appropriate methods and strategies of communicating the Gospel.
WHY MUSIC and the ARTS IN MISSIONS?
Believers throughout the world need to be mobilized and equipped to communicate their faith in Christ and to worship God in ways that are geared to their own communities and culture groups. Unfortunately, Western missions generally assumes that you must read and write in order to adequately understand the Bible.
If that assumption is truly correct that leaves at least 70% of the world’s population—which is less-than-literate, and more if you factor in those who are semi-literate, but don’t regularly use written materials or formal class-room study to learn new information—unqualified to adequately understand the Bible.
Says Dr. Herbert Klem . . .
During the last 100 years or so (missions has) assumed that if people were to learn the Bible, they must first learn to read it for themselves. Yet in many parts of the world, even where the Gospel has been preached and taught for a century or more, up to three quarters of the people may not read at all.
Even in Europe and the United States which are reckoned to be quite literate, it is estimated that perhaps half of the people do not read well enough to understand when they try to read new information, or may simply avoid the printed word as a matter of habit. Perhaps as much as 70% of the world’s population is not likely to take an interest in the Bible if we take the literary approach to teaching. . . (Herbert Klem, Oral Communication of the Scripture: Insights from African Oral Art, p. xiii)
Churches and mission agencies need help in knowing how to tap into the artistic expression and communication channels that already exist in a particular community or culture group in order to break through barriers which have been difficult to penetrate with Music and the Arts in Missions traditional methods. Now more than ever before, missionaries need to discover, train, and mobilize “artistic communication specialists” so that we might increasingly avoid the unconscious mistake of promoting our forms of communication and styles of worship as the “ultimate” and “correct” forms and styles.
God has designed the human heart, the human communication process, and the human society with the basic need and capacity to express attitudes, values, and beliefs through what one may call “artistic expression.” The various manifestations of artistic expression could be called “artistic communication.”
WHAT ARE THE FORMS OF ARTISTIC COMMUNICATION?
Music, drama, story telling, painting, architecture, mime, puppets, crafts, festivals, new kinds of ceremony, chant, movement, ritual, time of day, arrangement of space, body language, and on and on, are all forms of “artistic communication.” Artistic communication, in its various forms, conveys important understanding of life, its problems, possibilities, crises, conflicts, hopes, fears, beliefs, perspectives, and mysteries germane to a particular community or culture group.
God’s Design for Worship and Communication
Worship, music and the arts are much more than dynamics of a God-endowed propaganda machine. They are the God-designed expression of human kind and human societies.
Based on those realities alone, it is clearly time for clergy, missions and local church lay leadership to understand the centrality of validating and putting to work both volunteer and professional worship, music and arts personnel … as central to the Biblical mandates of the church worshipping, evangelizing and carrying Christ’s mission to the uttermost parts of the world.
Keeping these thoughts in mind, the following summary statements will give a brief overview of why mobilizing worship, music and arts ministry communicators is central to evangelism, church planting and God’s world wide ministry and mission mandates.
1. People understand the Gospel more with their hearts than with their heads.
Our hearts are struck with the truth—which helps our heads to be convinced of the truth—through appropriate worship and artistic communication.
“Familiarity” is expressed through culturally appropriate worship, music and arts expression (or conversely: One quickly realizes things are not “familiar” through the various forms of human expression they witness or experience. Much of that “human expression” is what many of us call music and arts expression.
3. Worship is only powerful when the worship experience plucks a person’s “heart strings.”
These “heart strings” can almost always be defined in terms of familiar musical and artistic expression.
“Meaningful and celebrative worship” are greatly increased when skillful and spiritually based Christian music, arts and worship personnel contribute their aptitudes and sensitivities to those ministry endeavors.
5. Attention-grabbing evangelism rarely occurs without thought-provoking music, story telling, and other artistic communication methods.
Jesus rarely taught with a strictly academic and literary approach. His communication methods were built on relationships, and generally manifested themselves through what we would call a culturally relevant or target audience-oriented methods and forms.
In fact, Jesus methods and styles of communications were in such distinction to the contemporary intelligencia, and at the same time so powerful, that it brought amazement to almost everyone of His audiences.
6. Celebrative worship and attention-grabbing evangelism rarely occur without Biblically sound, spiritually committed music and arts communicators.
Christian leaders do too little intentional validation, affirmation, equipping and mobilizing of quality Christian musicians and artists. This omission of tapping the creative resources of potential powerful communicators—by its omission—deeply hinders the proclamation of the Gospel and the more appropriate Christian community formation that would otherwise occur if these Christian communicators were included as central to ministry strategy development and implementation.
7. The human communication process—and, in related manner, the Gospel communication process—is much more that an isolated exercise in intellectual discourse or simple declaration of statements of God’s truth.
To go beyond “speaking” into the realm of “hearing,” Christians must establish relationship with their target audience and engage their heart; and those phenomenon generally happen through the media of music and artistic expression, communication, and ritual.
Music and the Arts Can Really be Expanded to a Broad-Based Set of Categories:
Music, Art, Craft, Ritual
In that light, consider the following reasons why helping people worship and proclaim Christ through music and the arts is central to the great commission.
1. Music and the arts are central to human society. There’s no culture in the world that does not have some kind of human expression that we in the Western world would categorize as artistic expression.
That reality is significant, when realizing that God has created humanity in His image—and even fallen humanity reflects in vague terms the dynamics of God’s nature—one of those dynamics being His propensity to reveal truth through beauty and creativity.
2. People hear with their hearts more than their heads.
If we were to define “hearing” as receiving information in such a way that a persons attitudes, values and belief systems are affected to the place where their emotions, morals and behavior are changed; if that phenomenon is hearing—then it is clear the various channels of artistic expression are absolutely priority in not only the process of communication, but the dynamics of community formation and life. Artistic expression is the dimension or the channel through which we reveal who we are and interact, in truth, as we are.
3. “. . . Making disciples of all nations . . .” involves appropriate (contextualized or culturally familiar) . . .
• Communication of the Gospel
• Worship Forms
• Bible Teaching and Christian Education Methods
• Discipling Contexts
• The Development of Appropriate Christian Ceremony (including worship contexts, funerals, weddings and other ‘rites of passage’ ceremonies and rituals.
All of these contexts are impacted by the impact of Christ’s Gospel in people’s lives within any community or culture. Therefore, only when the Christian ministry initiator considers, in a serious and intentional way, how to appropriately direct the development of music, art and ritual expression, will the Christian community see itself developing in ways that truly reflect who a people really is. Universal truthes of the Gospel be perceived to make sense and have place in the personal, family and community life of the many cultures and sub-cultures around the world.
It’s clear. Worship, music and the arts are much more than dynamics of a God-endowed propaganda machine. Then too, they are much more than ‘creative ends in themselves.” They are the God-designed expressions of human kind and human societies. They are some of the most powerful human expressions manifesting God’s truth, beauty, glory and reconciliation. They are the essence of the ways human kind, in all our diversities, manifest our cultures, our worship, our hearts, our souls. Through the artistry of our various and many different metaphors, symbols, rituals and celebrations we express our cultures, our values; that is, we express who we are.
It is clearly time for clergy, missions and local church lay leadership to understand the centrality of validating and putting to work both volunteer and professional worship, music and arts personnel … as central to the Biblical mandates of the Church worshipping, evangelizing and carrying Christ mission to the uttermost parts of the world.
Rev. Byron Spradlin, Franklin, TN