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Creative Arts in Missions

By Suzy Abrahams

I once taught movement and singing to a group of Thai nationals using the song, ‘There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.’ Even though most of them were Buddhist, the Lord used that piece to bring such conviction that some started asking more about Jesus. Lifelong relationships formed, and I realized that physical actions really speak clearly to the spirits of people. As we’ve travelled worldwide portraying the message of hope through the arts— music, drama, singing, spoken word, and movement—it has proved most effective every time we used it.

Art finds its biblical basis in the nature and character of our Creator God. When God breathed into mankind the breath of life, we, too, received that creative ability. That ability is God’s power and not our own: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God … to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts” (Ex. 31:3-5).

We cannot work independently of God. God has given us his power and attributes, and provided us with the energy, materials, and technology to represent him accurately through our creative work, whether through a song, poem, spoken word, dance, mime, drama, or other art form. In the arts we have to become carriers of God’s name, his love, and his grace.

Jesus instructed his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). If we grasp the nature and purpose of the arts in every culture, tribe, and tongue, we would understand their strategic role in evangelism and missions. In some places, the Great Commission is being accomplished by integrating storytelling, baptism, and cross-cultural communication.

Art finds its biblical basis in the nature and character of our Creator God.

On the mission field, I have learnt that every people group has a redemptive purpose and role on earth, given by God. They pass their culture on to the next generation by embedding it in stories and allegories. We listen to these stories to find redemptive connections and write them into scripts and productions, thus bringing their stories to life with Christ at the centre.

The arts bear witness to the truth and are meaningful ways to engage audiences with the truth of the Gospel by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When we use arts in missions, we present God’s truth which transcends religion, culture, and language, and works powerfully in any given context.

In Africa, the arts are woven into our daily lives. When we minister through the arts, we in essence are telling our stories, which in turn become tools that God uses for the salvation of our peoples and the redemption of our true identity.

In this edition of AfriGO, discover Declare Global’s ministry of reaching the Sahel region through local music and films. For our Perspective article, Roch Ntankeh shares his experiences and insight on the power of the arts for missions. Alberic Kouassi, a Christian artist reveals the purpose of his paintings and the spiritual themes behind them. For our Training pages, we delve into the concept of ethnodoxology, and provide practical helps for anyone who wants to engage the arts for missions. Enjoy this edition of AfriGO and share with others. Happy reading!

Suzy Abrahams is the National Director of Perspectives, South Africa. She is a nurse, missions mobilizer and trainer, a dance teacher and choreographer, and a creative arts content developer.

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