I grew up on the mission field with my family in Papua New Guinea. Because of that, I had a high view of ministry, and a lot of free time in which to plan mine. There were two things that I was passionate about as a teenager: my art and ministry with at-risk children. For that reason, I was very quick to look for an outlet for both as soon as I returned home with my family.
When I was seventeen, my parents retired from the mission field to serve stateside. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work with a local ministry in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eastown Ministries offered mentoring, basketball and after-school programs throughout the week for kids in the low-income areas of Grand Rapids. Every Wednesday, the ministry would open its doors for children of all ages for a short lesson, songs and games.
I loved every second that I was serving at Eastown, but I was most eager for a chance to use my art. Thankfully, the Missionaries who ran Eastown were more than willing to let me indulge. One of the projects I was most fond of in my time there was the work I did on a huge mural that covered one of the walls. Many kids from around the neighborhood joined it to help me depict a sprawling desert scene. On one side, we painted an ancient city, and on the other, the whole scene faded into a nightscape of a modern city. Between the two, the cross stood under a setting sun.
One of my favorite parts about the mural was the addition of a tree where the children could put their handprints and sign their names. The kids squealed with delight as I painted their hands with the chosen color and proudly showed off the result.
Through the years, I have had many chances to use my art for the church and ministry. I taught art classes, hosted arts and crafts at a Christian camp, and painted for local churches. I’ve donated efforts to decorating for events and painting faces. Through it all, I’ve seen one thing come back over and over again.
Art helps people see God.
While most churches are eager to include art in their ministry, there seems to be a lot of mixed feelings about the role of art in the church. Where music is involved, debates have raged about what kind of music is appropriate in a service, or even in the car ride to and from church. Some people sit in awe of the architecture of ancient Catholic churches and new mega churches, while others view it as a waste of precious resources. Some churches feature beautiful paintings in their lobbies while others view any image as an idol. The church’s relationship with art and artists has had a long and storied past. What place, then, should we hope to give art in our Christian walk?
If we were to trust in the church alone for an answer I think we would be hard pressed to find one stable guideline. Thankfully, we have the Word of God Himself to guide us in this matter as it does in every part of life.
In the Old Testament we see God making provisions for the building of His tabernacle. Among the laws and instructions given in Exodus, God also provides something that we might see today as frivolous: Artisans and artists.
In Exodus 31:1-11 God lists a group of men whom He has specifically gifted with skills for craftsmanship to make his tabernacle beautiful. Art was something that was important enough to the God of the universe that not only would He give specific instruction about it to His people, but He recorded those instructions for all eternity.
Stronger still, we find art and creativity imbedded into the very character of God. In Genesis, we see God speaking the world into existence. If God’s first recorded action is to create, we as people who long to be like Him are just in our creativity.
Unlike God, we are not perfect in our creativity. Art is, at its root, an expression of beauty. In creating art, we seek to show the world what we find most precious and most real in the world. For those of us who know God, we know real beauty. If we are outside of Christ, we can attempt to show beauty, maybe even find a faint whisper, but we cannot hope to express it in all its fullness.
I firmly believe that the art a Christian produces should be the most beautiful. Not that it is always clean or perfectly executed, but if it is done for the glory of God, it will show beauty in a very real way. As Christians, we should also strive for quality work as unto the Lord. Colossians 3:23 reminds us that everything we set our hands to should be done with all our hearts as unto God.
For these reasons and more, I also believe that art should be an integral part of ministry. However we choose to involve it, art in ministry offers a glimpse of the beauty of the creator God to a world that is cut off from Him. If used correctly, art can give us a chance to show the world the wonders that wait for them when they open their eyes to God.
God is the one who gives us our talents. It’s God who places us in ministry and who lays our path of service before us. If you feel like God has given you a talent with art, be brave in seeking out a way to use it. Even if it feels small or insignificant, do not hold back. You never know how God could be using your talent to show Himself to the world.
About The Author
Whether it be in art or writing, Jillane is always trying to live multiple lives at once. You can usually find her lost in a maze of thoughts, occasionally emerging for her full-time job as a Nanny and the common distractions of being a housewife, church member, and mama’s girl.
Jillane lives in sunny Florida where she never visits the beach and avoids going out of doors in summer. She is at her best huddling in the air conditioning with her genius of a husband, an overly talkative cat, a toe-chewing ferret, and gallons upon gallons of fish tanks while she spends hours being distracted instead of being creative. SEE HER WEBSITE