We have taught and demonstrated for years that Word and Spirit need to go hand in hand; that one without the other is simply not going to reach whole groups of unchurched people today. Those used to more conventional ways of preaching may struggle with ways of doing evangelism that seem to omit many of the central planks of Christian doctrine – but look at how Jesus Himself worked: He told stories and healed the sick! He certainly did not attempt to present the whole counsel of God at one go. In other words, the Lord wants us to find creative ways to express and put what He has given us to good use.
Without creating such a massively sensory experience that Christ Himself is hidden behind the sound and visual effects, the Lord honours those who are seeking to ways to present Jesus to people in creative ways, using ways and idioms that are familiar to our contemporaries.
As Linda wrote to me some months ago,
“When we begin to start playing and singing for people outside the church, our creativity grows in the process. When we’re inside the church, expecting people to come to us, our music seems to stagnate. God pours out His creativity when we step out of the box! Hallelujah!”
That is precisely what Richard Williamson and Epiphany are attempting to do, as you will see from Richard’s recent message.
New Year Message 2015 – Richard Williamson
The Importance of the Arts in Contemporary Culture
Happy New Year to you all!
As we look forward to the coming year, what may God be saying to us as musicians and artists and is there a role we can play to help the people we meet to discover more about faith?
God is bringing about a resurgence of the arts today in parts of the Christian community – but what does this mean and how can it impact our culture today?
The Old Ways Don’t Work Any More
Sharing faith in 2015 is very different to what it was even 30 – 40 years ago. Methods that worked well in the past (especially word-based evangelism) aren’t having anything like the impact they had in years past. When Billy Graham came to Britain several years ago, he frequently declared ‘the Bible says…’ and that brought great authority to what he shared and many came to faith. If those words are used now, the majority of non-believers will say ‘so what?’ and dismiss the message behind that declaration.
It is very interesting to read the comments people make when anything about faith appears on the internet. These comments show that many see religion as ‘fairy stories from a less enlightened age’ or even as the reason behind all of the world’s problems. Many now completely reject faith and lump all religions together as a problem rather than having anything useful to say. There is a very militant and vociferous secularist agenda holding sway. It is not uncommon to hear people expressing the view that faith should barely be tolerated – some going as far as saying it should be eliminated altogether!
Songs Without Words
So how do we ‘speak’ to such a strongly faith – rejecting society?
I believe that we need to capture people’s hearts with the presence of God in a way that they can’t deny. The arts are perfect for this. They have the power, if anointed by God’s Spirit, to get under the radar of people’s preconceived ideas of church and their prejudice against anything to do with religion. The church needs to see that the arts are at the forefront of how God wants to reach out into the world today. Words are important, but shouldn’t usually be the prime way of sharing faith – at least initially.
Here’s a well – known quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi: Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.
The quote may not actually be from St Francis – but it makes a very good point!
God revealed Himself as a creator even before He revealed Himself as a God of love, healing, forgiveness etc. Just look again at the story Genesis 1 & 2.
The first person God filled with His Spirit was an artisan, Bezalel (see Exodus 31). At least a third of the Bible uses creative ways of communicating: prophecy, music, art, poetry – much more than prose! Even Jesus didn’t use plain speech a lot of the time, but used parables. The evangelical church has tended to try to appeal mainly to the mind – God has many other ways of communicating than reason alone and the Bible is full of examples of this.
How Far We Have Fallen
The church used to lead the world in terms of the arts. Almost all great art – painting, music etc, came from the church. The reformation changed all that and the arts became regarded in some parts of the church as idolatrous. The secular world eventually stepped into the vacuum and is now vastly more creative in terms of the arts than the church.
Christians are gradually waking up to what it has lost – but there’s a huge amount of ground to catch up on. Unfortunately much that is coming out of the church in terms of arts is not going to have much of an impact on our contemporary culture. Pictures of waterfalls, flowers and sunsets are very beautiful and definitely have their place – and God can use them, but they’re hardly going to shape culture! ‘Christian’ music is similar. It again has its place, and it is good to see the resurgence of worship (and intercession) in recent years. However if it is attempting to match the quality of what the world is producing, it lamentably fails in most cases.
Outside – Not Inside
Much of what we do still remains within church doors. The clear message to us as Christians and musicians is that we need to get out of the church building and meet people where they are!
I believe God is looking for high quality, Spirit infused arts and artists – music/visual art/dance etc. that will stand up to scrutiny in a world which now believes it has a monopoly on the arts and that the church has nothing to say. We also need risk takers who can, with the inspiration of God’s Spirit, find creative new ways to bring something that is not only very high quality and captivating – but also full of the presence of God. We have the potential capacity through the arts to bring Kingdom values that are desperately needed today: beauty, hope etc.etc. to a world that is fed quite the opposite by many art forms that celebrate anything but a Christian world – view or Christian values.
So here’s the challenge as we move into this New Year. . . What is God saying to you and are you willing to take risks with the gifts God has given you? Will you explore the creativity that God has placed inside of you and ask how you can impact the world around you with the beauty, truth and hope of God’s Kingdom?
Richard Williamson, Jan 2015
Richard is always keen to hear from people who would like to keep in touch with the work of Epiphany, please contact him at epiphanymusic.org.uk/contact/