Effective Evangelism Needs Artistic Expression
Evangelism that works is more than just spewing ‘correct’ biblical information; correct? (Things like John 3:16, Romans 10:9 & 10, 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8.) Certainly, the objective realities of these revealed truths must be present. But their presence does not guarantee that the one(s) being evangelized will come to faith.
Effective evangelism needs artistic expression: the imaginative rearrangement of human metaphors, symbols and expressions, more technically stated, human signal systems ¹—my definition of art making.
Artistic expressions of all kinds, and at all levels of virtuosity (high or low), create environments wherein people and/or groups of people touch the transcendent realities of life IN time and place. These artistically expressed environments allow us to actually touch and interact with transcendent realities—especially the ultimate reality of GOD Himself.
And hold one more thought: evangelism that’s effective brings people to places, brings people into environments, where they actually encounter the True & Living transcendent GOD—through the work of Christ, energized by HIS Spirit– and respond to HIM in repentance and faith (e.g. Matt 21:32; Mark 1:15; John 10:9; Acts 2:21; 16:31; 19:4; Rom 10:13, and so on . . . ).
So let me press you to struggle with this reality: evangelism, at its core, is not simply information transfer ABOUT God; it’s encounter WITH and response in faith and repentance, submission and surrender TO GOD. Hmmm, that sounds a bit like worship as well, doesn’t it? But more on that later. And that kind of evangelism is not mono-dimensional, it’s multi-dimensional; and yes, it’s certainly even mysterious, beyond our human capacity to fully understand all its realities.
So, to carry out that sort of biblical evangelism—for humans to encounter both the objective and experiential truth of ‘evangelism in play’—humans must enter into environments where they actually encounter the true and living, transcendent GOD. And creating those ‘environments’ that make evangelism effective, so much of the time, requires artistic expression.
¹ Smith, Donald K. Creating Understanding: A Handbook for Christian Communication Across Cultural Landscapes. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1992. 146.