This article is adapted from a Global Missions Podcast interview with Maria, an ethnomusicologist serving in a secure location. Maria offers songwriting and creative arts workshops to believers in Asia, encouraging them to spread God’s word using their own languages and creative art forms. She also serves as the point person for creative arts ministries for SIM International. Listen to the full interview here.
When Maria became a believer, she naturally wanted to share God’s word with others, but she didn’t see herself as a pastor-type person, and that’s what she thought missionaries were. When she was studying, she learned that missions organizations were looking for ethnomusicologists to serve on the mission field, and learned that she could use her passion for music to help spread the gospel. Maria says that the creative arts can support missions work in several ways.
The arts use familiar forms to share powerful truths.
In many cultures, particularly indigenous cultures, creative arts are heavily integrated into everyday life. Because important things already are communicated through creative arts, they can be a very powerful and meaningful way to communicate the gospel.
The arts go beyond head knowledge.
Arts engage with the mind and emotions. Sometimes we really need to communicate with people at a deeper level, rather than just aiming at head knowledge.
The arts spark conversation, not conflict.
Creative arts are a nonthreatening way to communicate. If someone is in a dangerous area and walked up to someone and said, “Hey, let’s talk about Jesus,” she might not get very far. But people are much more open to a question like, “Would you like to listen to this song in your own language?”
The arts are incredibly versatile.
If you think of creative arts as communication methods, they can be used in a broad range of ministries—Scripture sharing, discipleship, evangelism, worship, therapy for emotional healing, livelihood projects, medical ministries. In Uganda, for instance, indigenous songs are helping to spread the true message about how AIDS is contracted. Arts workers can help church planters establish culturally appropriate worship and help Bible translators share newly translated Scriptures through art forms.
The arts bring wholeness to the Christian life.
During Maria’s arts workshops, when people think through which elements of their culture can align with Scripture and which art forms they can use to spread God’s word and to worship God, she hears things like, “This is the first time I feel like I can be an indigenous person and a Christian at the same time. Before I felt like I was a Christian on Sunday and an indigenous person on Monday through Saturday.” Because art forms are so connected to cultural identity, when people realize they can use their art forms to worship God, they realize, “Oh, I can be from the tribe I’m from and be a Christian, 100 percent, all day, every day.”
Thank you, Maria, for opening up a less-understood aspect of global missions! Click below to listen to the full interview with Maria.
Opportunities to use your artistic talent to serve
Creative arts outreach: Musicians, performing artists, technicians, and people with media skills or logistical skills to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslim peoples through the creative arts.
Photographer/videographer: To capture and tell the story of what God’s doing through a camp in Croatia.
This article is reposted with permission from the Global Missions Toolbox, an online resource designed for “SENDers” – faithful Christ-followers who will not necessarily live on a mission field themselves yet are earnest about advancing the Great Commission. Find out more about the Global Missions Toolbox here.