Using the arts to spread the Gospel

( [email protected] ) Nov 18, 2003 10:57 AM EST

ASHEVILLE, N.C. —"Creative arts are more than just fun and games. They are legitimate vehicles for evangelizing and discipleship,” says Buddy Lamb, pastor of Shomburg Road Baptist Church in Columbus,Ga, who uses clowning as means to spread the Gospel to the people.

Lamb and others who share Lamb’s approach to reaching the masses through this unique type of ministry gathered from Nov. 7-9, 2003, to take part as either one of the 100 instructors or 1,200 partcipants in the National Creative Arts Festival at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center, Asheville, N.C. The event was sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention

The technique Lamb proved effective and helpful from the results of the church’s latest application.

"We recently had a block party at our church," said the pastor of the Columbus, Ga., church with about 80 in worship each week. "We had clowns, puppets, magic tricks and did a lot of other fun things. There were about 70 to 80 people there from the neighborhood around our church. At the end of my act, I gave a five-minute presentation of the Gospel. Nine people responded and some of those were baptized into our church.”

Christy Haines, festival director and executive director of Christian Creative Arts Association, comments on the dynamics of the creative disciplines when viewed as ministries.

"There are many events that focus on one discipline such as clowning or puppetry. This is the only one I know of where we bring together such a diversity of creative people for the purpose of leadership development and teaching how the creative arts can be effectively used in worship, ministry and missions."

Activities available during the conference included a spectrum of instructional workshops pertaining to clowning, comedy, illusion, drama, interpretive movement, mime, puppetry, visual art and technical elements of production such as lighting, sound and the use of computer technology. The instruction was focused on the religious application of the disciplines.

"That's what I appreciate about this conference," said Bob Reed of Christ the King church in Southgate, Mich. Reed has previous experience with clowning 18 years ago. However, lacking the proper religious application, he began to perform for more secular audiences because it paid better. Now, coupled with the help and encouragement from the conference, Reed is using his talent for church."I lost my focus and got out of it a few years ago. I'm back now and doing it strictly through my church. It's fun again and is very rewarding. Conferences like this help me brush up on my skills. You can go to a clowning conference every month if you want, but this goes beyond the technical and teaches the arts as a ministry."

Newcomers to the discipline looking for guidance also attended the festival. Jamie Tubbs, a member of Valley Dale Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala. She only recently began clowning and puppetry for ministry purposes but describes herself as being a "strong introvert" who is transformed once she puts on her clown makeup.

"I wanted to get more of a foundation in both and to find out where God wants me to go with it," she said. "I was hoping for some inspiration, and I'm certainly getting it."

Lamb, who also is a drama consultant for the Georgia Baptist Convention, said he believes more churches should explore ways to incorporate creative arts into their ministry approach.

"We live in a visual world," he said. "People in our culture are Web-savvy, exposed to all types of multimedia and are more visually oriented than at any time in the past. We've got to tap that, meet them where they are and use the arts to communicate God's message of love to them.

"Another reason churches need to incorporate creative arts is because not everybody in the church is a Sunday School teacher or kitchen help. There are expressive people in every church who are oriented toward the arts. Giving them this ministry outlet makes them better Christians because they have a way to express their Christianity. That makes them better church members."

For future festivals hosted by LifeWay conference centers, check the Christian Creative Arts Association's website or for more information.