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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Stirring Up Gifts

Christian artists seek a place in church ministry

By Christina Quick
April 18, 2010

Even as a young child, Kathy Self had a penchant for drawing and painting. But growing up in church, she assumed her artistic gift had no place in ministry.

“I’ve been selling my art for close to 20 years,” says Self, of Springfield, Mo. “But as far as linking it into actual ministry, that’s something I’ve been working on only for the past five years.”

Self knew visual art had a prominent place in church history. Some of the great masterpieces of all time, from Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, depict characters and scenes from the Bible. But she wasn’t sure how to merge her own art and Christian faith.

“I didn’t know where I could plug in as an artist,” Self says. “There was no obvious place for me, so I decided to start making a place.”

Self asked her husband, Charles, if she could set up an easel on the platform and paint during one of his sermons at Valley Christian Center, an AG church in Dublin, Calif., where he served as interim pastor. As he preached about Jesus turning water into wine, she illustrated the message by creating a series of stone jars, the first ones filled with water and the final one brimming with wine. The oil painting was later sold to raise money for missions.

“People are trained to respond to what they see,” Self says. “Art can resonate with people in a way that’s new and fresh for this generation.”

Over the past few years, Self has found other ways to use her creative talent in ministry, including painting a mural for a church in San Jose, Calif., and volunteering as an art instructor at a family violence center in Springfield.

“The church needs to encourage people who have a gift in the arts to stir it up and use it for God,” Self says. “It may be as simple as setting up an art gallery in a church hallway or fellowship hall where local Christian artists can showcase their work.”

Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., is the only AG school that offers an art major. Michael Buesking, associate professor of art at Evangel, hopes other schools in the Fellowship start similar programs.

“There are many Christian teenagers out there who have creative, artistic abilities,” Buesking says. “In many cases, they will go to a secular university and not see a connection between their talents and how God might be able to use them. Art can be a calling from God.”

In 2006, the Assemblies of God Executive Leadership Team gave a nod to the power of visual art when it dedicated four original paintings depicting the Fellowship’s core beliefs: salvation, divine healing, baptism in the Holy Spirit and the Second Coming. The paintings, by Christian artist Ron DiCianni, are displayed in the lobby of the AG national headquarters in Springfield.

“Centuries ago, images were used by the church to point a preliterate public to Christ,” says Juleen Turnage, AG Communications and Office of Public Relations director. “In today’s hi-tech, information-overloaded world, you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention. We wanted people to walk into our national headquarters and instantly know this is what the Assemblies of God is all about.”

DiCianni says God told him early in his career he would one day devote his talents to the Christian community. Yet when DiCianni shared his vision with an art instructor, the teacher dismissed the idea.

“I was told it would never happen — the church would never be interested,” DiCianni says.

Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield uses art to make a visual statement about its beliefs with a life-sized sculpture in the school’s entryway. The Divine Servant, by Christian artist Max Greiner Jr., depicts Jesus washing Peter’s feet. Strikingly, observers cannot see Jesus’ downturned face without assuming a humble, stooped posture.

“The sculpture serves as a daily reminder of God’s mission for AGTS: shaping servant leaders with knowledge, skill and passion to revitalize the church and evangelize the world in the power of the Spirit,” says Byron Klaus, AGTS president.

In addition to visual art, the church could benefit by incorporating a broad spectrum of creative arts in ministry, according to Danny Alexander, communications professor at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. He says Scriptures sanction the expression of performing arts.

SAGU and other AG schools offer a degree in drama, which includes courses in acting, directing and script writing. SAGU’s program has grown since its inception in 2006 with more than 50 students now involved in classic dramatic presentations.

“Every gift in the performing arts can be used for God’s glory,” Alexander says.

A short film produced in 2008 by SAGU’s Digital Media Arts program recently received a first-place award for best cinematography at the Houston Worldfest Film Festival and aired nationally on the National Religious Broadcasters network.

SAGU drama student Melissa Todd recently toured with the Jeremiah People Theatre Company performing The Hiding Place, based on the book by Christian author Corrie ten Boom. A recording of the production received two Chicago/Midwest Emmy nominations.

“Just as one gifted in business should use their God-given gifts and talents for the purpose of being salt and light in the marketplace, so those gifted in the arts should use their talents to influence our Christ-less culture,” says SAGU President Kermit S. Bridges.

James River Assembly in Ozark, Mo., incorporates the arts into its ministries through a variety of programs, including a School of Fine Arts that serves 150 students ages 3 to adult. Amy Housewright, the school’s director, says it is rewarding to help students realize their talents have a place in the church.

“The arts are a way of expressing our love for God and leading others into His presence,” Housewright says.

CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer and former Pentecostal Evangel staff writer. She lives in Springfield, Mo., and attends Central Assembly of God.

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