Byron Spradlin

Artists In Ministry & Missions

Category: Evangelism (page 1 of 3)

Embodying Grace

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. Psalm 17:6a, 7 & 15 (ESV)

When it comes to personal evangelism, feelings of obligation, guilt, and duty have never been effective motivators for me. On the other hand, experiences of God’s provision, accessibility, love, and forgiveness naturally flow out of me in Gospel witness to others.

This is probably true for most of us. After encountering God in loving, unhindered ways, sincere believers earnestly desire to tell their friends and family what the Lord has done in their lives. This is an example of a clear Gospel witness that embodies God’s abundant grace.

The truth is if we don’t “embody” His grace (i.e., actually experience it, feel it, viscerally connect with it) we will not fully trust in and love Him. I find this “embodied experience” of God’s reality creates more affection for Him, more trust in Him, and more attraction to Him. And evangelism easily flows out of these experiences. In fact, I’m convinced that unless we experience God’s love for us, in us, and through us, we won’t really “do” evangelism at all.

So, in practical terms, what does this mean for believers? In brief, it’s clear to me that to grow in evangelism we actually don’t need to focus on evangelism. We need, rather, to practice focusing on God, in Christ, who works through His Spirit and into and through the circumstances of our every-day lives. This transaction, in a very real sense, is “the embodying grace” or the grace of God moving into and through our being.

So how can we experience this perfect and loving embodiment of God’s grace?

Let me suggest three practices based on the dynamic reality of God …


FIRST, practice focusing on the reality of God’s love to reclaim us to Himself. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;” 2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV). Paul was so overwhelmed by God’s active love that he was “controlled” by it. He was so moved by God’s love that he could do nothing else but love God back and then, as it were, spontaneous serve Him.

He writes earlier, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God,” 1 Corinthians 8:3 (ESV). C.S. Lewis sites this passage as “the motive for worship” in his 1941 sermon, The Weight of His Glory. Each one of us is honored if some famous person knows us and lets it be known that they know us. Imagine then, how honored we ought to be when we realize that we are known by God!  Practice running this reality through your whole mind over and over.

SECOND, practice faithing in the presence of God. I define “faithing,” a terms I’ve coined, as the moment-by-moment exercising of one’s faith. For instance, I often tell the Lord out loud, “Father, I am exercising my faith in You this very moment.” Then, without telling Him how He should work, I imagine His perfect will being fulfilled. I process both my rational knowledge of Scripture and my actual faithing in Him that moment.

Typically I soon thereafter see the results of my faithing and His working. And the result? I’m deeply moved by the fact God worked as a result of 1) my trusting in His love, and 2) my faithing in the fact of His presence and His powerful working. This sense of His presence, coupled with the sight of His working, overwhelms me with a deepened sense of His Love in me and my delight-filled response and love for Him. I am filled with joy, gladness, and delight – all the manifestations of how we love someone.

THIRD, practice declaring the works of God that He’s demonstrated in your life to others. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (ESV). Isn’t “proclaim(ing) the excellencies of him who called you” the work of evangelism? Isn’t this what “evangelism” means?


You and I don’t need to be theologians (in the technical sense). We just need to know and be interactively involved with Jesus in and through every day. We just need lean into His love for us every minute of every day. And when we see Him work – in so many ways and in so many of our circumstances – we cannot help but declare the works we’ve seen Him doing.

Since, though, this habit doesn’t automatically happen; we must practice it. That is, we must intentionally set about telling others what we are seeing God do in our lives. Evangelism isn’t a debate. Evangelism is simply telling others about your interactions with God through Christ and His Spirit—and then, His interactions with you. In other words, don’t make it so complicated!


SUMMARY: When we are overwhelmed with the loving work of God in our daily lives, we will spontaneously tell others. But to reverse the life-patterns of self-reliance we must trust in two ground-zero realities about Him over and over again: God loves us and God indwells us. Then, based on these two realities about GOD, we must . . .

  1. Practice focusing on the reality of GOD’s love; then
  2. Practice faithing in the fact of God’s presence in the moment; then
  3. Practice declaring the works of God He’s demonstrated in our lives to others.

When you practice these three things you will see three other things happening in your life:

  1. You will experience the embodied love of God,
  2. You will love God more for it; and
  3. You will then love others with that same kind of love.

Believers throughout the centuries have experienced this. And you can too.  In fact:  the more you “embody the grace of God” (experience His loving gracious working in you) you’ll become more and more a true evangelist—‘declaring the glory of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.’

 

Dr. Byron Spradlin

President, Artists in Christian Testimony


 

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Lang Bliss: Our Days Are Numbered, Make a Difference!

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Artistic Expression In World Evangelism

When an entire village of Bolivian Indian ranch workers came to the Lord awhile ago, some missionary friends of mine were faced with very big questions. What do we do with this entire village of people that now know the Lord as Savior?  In what ways do they worship?  How do we teach them to study the Bible when most of them don’t read? And when they have no Bible-base music in their own heart-expressions, what do we suggest they sing?

My missionary friends encouraged the Bolivian Indians to make up their own musical expression using texts right from the Bible. They understood the importance of culturally appropriate communication and affirmed the leadership in the village, that it would be best to sing songs they composed themselves.


When evangelization happens in its fullness, culturally appropriate and sensitive communication is crucial. In many parts of the world, due to lack of literacy, much communication will be through artistic or imaginative expression. Music, drama, storytelling, painting, architecture, mime, puppets, crafts, festivals, movement, ritual, and on and on, are all forms of artistic expression.

Artistic communicators are Christians endowed by God with unusual wisdom in creative things. They may be pastors, teachers, musicians, painters, writers, managers, factory workers, farmers, or housewives. They are simply Christians with a vision and ability for actively incorporating appropriate artistic forms and methods into worship and evangelism.


People generally hear and understand with their hearts long before they hear and understand with their heads. And their heartstrings are generally plucked, not by the academic and the apologist, but by the artist and the poet.

This reality leads me to shout from the rooftops that Christian musicians and artists play a critical role in world evangelization these days. Where the Great Commission has truly been carried out, the penetrated cultures most often worship and proclaim their faith in their own mother tongues, heart-music and cultural styles. These heart-languages and cultural styles are very often uncovered by indigenous artists, or better stated, arts ministry specialists.


Whether in ceremonies, liturgy, pageants, visual or movement expression, music, storytelling, or other dynamics of gathered expression, it is usually the arts ministry specialist who helps facilitate the believing community in its public and private expressions of worship.

That said, artists passionate for God because they’re overwhelmed by their own salvation through His work in Jesus, are essential in the Church’s strategies, methods and efforts in world evangelization.


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Art & Integrity In Capetown

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7 Evangelism Environments Artists Create (Part 1 of 2)

Given the objective Truth of the Gospel never changes, the PROCESS of evangelism is much more about helping people encounter Christ than it is explaining Christ—and ARTISTS are some of the most powerful God-designed servants God uses to create the environments wherein people experience the God-desired fruit of evangelism—people reconciled to God through the work of Christ.

In fact when we emphasize explaining over encountering God’s Gospel, we raise at least two barriers to witnessing (1). The first barrier is the fear that I’ll make a mistake, that I’ll miss something.  The second barrier is the fear that I’ll be rejected.  Plus, these barriers are both about me, not about the one or ones I’m praying will access God’s help, healing, love, forgiveness and life.

All this to say, and the point of this blog post: if church and mission leadership strategically turn to the artistic Kingdom servants in their networks, they will embrace untold creative resource for designing at least seven environments wherein they and their vast army of normal Jesus-loved-people-loving volunteer Christians can meet with, pray for, care for and share (2) with people in their neighborhoods and communities the Bible mandates us to evangelize.


So let me suggest at least these seven evangelism environments artists (3) are God-designed to create:

  1. Environment-Designers—artists are the ones God capacitied to imagine, then design, the culturally appropriate gathered events of the community—worship liturgies, celebration rituals & memorializations:  all the various community gatherings, funerals, weddings, rites-of-passage; any GATHERINGS in which the community manifests its ‘heart & soul’ (its transcendent reality—the expressions of the sum of its participants) in tangible terms.  Community cannot do design these gatherings well without the artistically gifted.
  1. Heart-Strikers of Humanity—artists are the specialists God has given humanity to sculpt “environments” wherein people’s hearts can enter and touch the Transcendent Realities of life, and of GOD.
  1. Relationship-Makers—the environments artists design always promote human interaction that produces relationships.  Remember that artists are hardwired to be . . .
    • curious about culture expressions (yes there are exceptions)
    • intrigued by & interested in cultures’ ways (yes there are exceptions)

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