Art is the product of creative human activity in which materials are shaped or selected to convey an idea, emotion, or visually interesting form. The word art can refer to the visual arts, including painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, decorative arts, crafts, and other visual works that combine materials or forms. We also use the word art in a more general sense to encompass other forms of creative activity, such as dance, drama and music.
Evangelism has its origin from the Bible when Jesus admonishes His disciples in Matthew 28:19: ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…’ In modern times, every Christian is encouraged; sometimes mandated to evangelise. To do this (evangelise) successfully, there is need to explore all and every avenue available. Thus we as Christians often use whatever means at hand or convenient to reach out to our audience. Those that can sing, write or act drama often use their professions as mediums to reach out to the souls that need to be saved.
The visual artist is not left out in this aspect; hence art is used as one of the tools for evangelism.
Surprisingly, the use of art to evangelise is not new at all as several may have used it without even knowing. Going by its definition, art, which is a creation of beautiful and thought-provoking works, has several branches as painting, poster making and other mediums which Christians sub-consciously or unconsciously deploy for the purpose of spreading the good news about the kingdom of God.
With the pace of technological development and civilisation level in the present day, the crude way of evangelism may not be given general acceptance and the exercise might end in futility and frustration on the part on the evangelicals; hence the need to use modern artistic tools – visual and literature – to disseminate the gospel.
Visual or graphic arts which include drawing, painting and poster printing have shown to be wonderful and long-lasting tool in evangelism. This is because, people tend to remember and recall more clearly any appealing information they come across in illustrated format unlike when such information or message is passed to them in ordinary spoken or written method. Also the lasting impression created by pictures, actions and emotion in art works (posters and movies) are unquantifiable and incomparable to mere message preached from the pulpit or a television broadcast. Several posters, comics, picture books and movies on Bible heroes – their call and submissiveness to the will of God and the exploits they wrought – can play a major role in convincing a sinner about the love of God and the goodness in believing and serving him.
A striking tool of art that just comes to mind is comics – these are stories or tracts in pictures. They appeal more to children and help them relive the heroic deeds and great demonstration of faith of Bible patriarchs and personalities.
Artistic literature uses the mediums of prose, poetry and drama with the primary purpose of projecting societal or people’s thoughts and feelings in such a way that the target audience will have a clearer view about those societies or people. Knowing fully well that the Christians in any setting is regarded as a community or society and in this case, a restricted, law-bound and overly sober group of people (from the view-point of the misinformed unbelievers), a professional or skilful use of any of these three mediums of artistic literature to evangelise will go a long way to enlighten, convince and convict unbelievers (sinners) to surrender their lives fully to Jesus. Take for instance, a situation where interesting and suspenseful Christian’s novels – fiction and non-fiction – are written and published by established and proven Christian’s authors to filtrate the market. A larger percentage of the young population in the country who are addicted to reading wild novels will be snatched from the claws of these sensual and pornographic books.
Again, poetry, regarded as literature in verse, is a very god tool in evangelism simply because it sums several messages in a few lines of stanzas and appeals greatly to intellectual minds. Its simplicity, when composed by a highly skilful poet, can present the message of salvation and eternal life in a down-to-earth manner. This poem, written by a unanimous poet:
“God came through His son for all
that through Him we might stand and not fall
and be possessors of all
Through a virgin was He conceived,
though many not a word believed.
Then the devil tried to have Him deceived
But the Living Word He had for relieve
When He died and went to hell
And the devil thought He fell
Before their victory they could tell
He had risen and all was well
Glory to the risen Christ”
sums up the whole mission of Jesus on earth and its purpose. This is exactly what an art tool can do in evangelism.
A more impressive one, which has gained popularity and exerted a very great influence on peoples’ lifestyles in the present day world of art, is drama. In the last few years, say almost two decades, drama evangelism has contented perfectly well with secular drama. Far above the contention, it has attracted several audience and subsequent converts to the Christian fold thereby discouraging them from exposing themselves to the negative emotional and psychological control the wild home videos have had on them (the public audience) before its invention. The likes of Mount Zion Faith Drama Ministry and Evangelical Drama Ministry (EVOM) from Nigeria among others are a god example. Foreign examples are movies such as Burning Hell; Pilgrim Progress; The Passion of Christ, etc. All these are pure evangelical fictions and they have achieved monumental result in converting souls to God’s kingdom.
Another feature of art is the uniqueness of style. Style can be described as a distinctive form in an artistic medium such as music or literature; a way of writing or publishing conventions. This has been extensively used in the Bible with examples from the Psalms, the Songs of Solomon presented in a poetic form, the publishing of the Bible in various versions and can still be used to project the good news (Gospel) and get converts for the kingdom. All is about change in style – from the old convention to an acceptable one – without compromising the content of the message.
Suffice it to say that this tool can be used to pursue a righteous cause or mission does not negate its extensive manipulation by the devil and his depraved cohorts to communicate wild and obscene messages to the people.
The fact that they use it in this manner further establishes a strong reason why people on the righteous side of the living God should hijack and maximally utilise the advantage and fast producing effect of the medium in reaching out to the lost souls of the kingdom of God. If the devil had, in a long time, used art works (which is actually a brain-child or product of divine creativity) to project evil, violence and abominable acts and thoughts into the heart of mankind, those of us who have reconciled with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ and who have burden to propagate his words (the gospel) should stand up to the challenge with all ingenuity and spiritually refine the same art works to bring back these perishing souls. Remember the words of Christ in Matthew 18:11 when He says:
‘For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.’
and the apostle, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 corroborates and expands further to say that:
‘For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you
At this point, there is a need to quickly declare void and correct the notion that experts of arts or users of arts, as a professional tool, must acquaint themselves with near-identity or real form or structures of their intended image among which is nudity of both human sexes. Several misguided artists, have on this premise, opened themselves to pornography all in the name of study or self- training. This is an error and a deceit of the enemy to sweep such off the path of righteousness. Remember, as said earlier, that this same tool can be manipulated by the devil to pursue and achieve his evil motives.
Remember, art is all about creativity and the Bible says in Proverbs 11:30,
‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.’
So get creative and wisely evangelise to win souls for the kingdom of our Lord.