Art and Missions: Notes from a webinar

Last Thursday I participated in my first webinar. The topic was art and missions, something very interesting to me and a subject rarely discussed in the context of missions. The following were a few of the more interesting observations I came away with, my notes in essence.

  • Music is the artistic exception that the church has not so much ignored in the past century. While it could be argued to a degree, and I might add drama to the short list, the speaker’s mentioning this point just confirms my own observations.
  • The Bible begins and ends with God creating.
  • Christians make lists of God’s character traits. Imagination is conspicuously missing from all of these lists (so far as the speaker, Byron Spradlin, could tell). Along these lines, when God created ex nihilo all things were abstract or even non-representational by our definitions. A fish was just as abstract as a tree.
  • Christianity is not just an informational faith. Why then has so much “Christian art” aspired to be so literal? Life and ministry engage both the head and the heart (Matt. 22:37-40, Eph 3:18-19).
  • Spradlin defined an artist, per Exodus chapters 35 and 36, as someone with unusual wisdom in creative design.
  • Humans live in time and space. Art, or “icons,” help us pass through our physical existence into transcendental realities.
  • Artists need to be a part of missions as strategists (Spradlin suggested their role up to now in the past century has been relegated to that of performer), and even allowed to make mistakes *gasp*
  • Spradlin mentioned a missionary in Europe. He is a photographer. When he goes out and hands out tracts, he gets little response from the people. When he goes out to take pictures with his camera, people flock to him. Go figure.

I had one question in particular I wanted Spradlin to answer, but — not surprisingly — the webinar went long as it was and he didn’t get to it. I hoped to get a sense from the speaker what kind of interest or felt need he thought there was for my idea of a Christian artists retreat or colony that functioned to funnel artists of faith into missions. I sent the question via Facebook hoping to get an answer after the seminar ended, and am still waiting to hear back.

He concluded by suggesting that the most significant barrier to artists becoming more involved in missions is simply that agencies still believe art to be this elite, intellectual pursuit. How can we as artists or mission mobilizers change this?

art and missions poll

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

One Response to Art and Missions: Notes from a webinar

  1. Shannon says:

    Thanks for sharing your notes on this! Erik and I wanted to attend this webinar, but our schedules didn’t permit it this time around. We are going to the conference for arts pastors at the end of the month in Austin. Hope to share good notes with you on that trip.

    We are still pursuing arts ministry in Europe! 🙂
    Shannon and Erik

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