We were terrified as we stepped into the spotlight on a stage in Stockholm. All at once feelings of uncertainty, fear, and calling swirled around in my heart. For the first time, my husband and I were performing original music at an open mic for songwriters in the city. We were frightened, yet filled with God’s peace. A hush came over the audience, and we felt the Holy Spirit take control.
That evening we saw how other artists connected with our songs, but we wanted to connect on a deeper level. We began to pray, asking God how we could create community among artists in a natural way.
Over the last six years, God has opened doors for us in our city as we’ve seen a creative community form. Creatives—songwriters, painters, sculptors, chefs, poets—are the ones shaping the culture in which we live. God began to show us that if we ministered to artists and saw their lives transformed by the gospel, then the art and music they create would begin to impact culture.
Here are some of the things God has been teaching us through arts ministry.
Connection Begins with Attention
When my husband and I moved to Europe in 2011, we contemplated how we could use our artistic gifts as songwriters and musicians to share the love of Christ and connect with other creatives. While my husband was out running one day, God spoke to him about interviewing artists in our community.
So we began to film music videos and interviews with fellow songwriters, asking them questions about their music, writing process, and their inspiration. In return, they began to open their hearts to us and invite us into their lives.
“Music and art breathe life and beauty into our souls.”
God showed us that taking a genuine interest in other artists was a key to becoming a part of their lives. As we listened lovingly to their stories, they often asked us our story—a natural bridge to gospel conversations.
Art Brings People Together
Music and art have an ability to bring people together. People gather to go to a concert and listen to their favorite bands. They come together to see art and visit galleries, see plays, and watch movies. They meet to eat food that has been prepared by creative chefs who see their cuisine as a work of art.
In our experience, many of the artists we meet just want to belong and be a part of a family. One band even asked my husband to be the spiritual leader of their community. Since then, two creatives who were in that band came to faith, and we baptized one of them in our bathtub.
We try to create a feeling of family in our community. We go to each other’s concerts, hang out together, and we collaborate with one another. We try to encourage and reflect the love of God to everyone who comes to our scene and invite him or her into our family. Belonging is a gateway to believing.
Good Art Inspires Worship
We have seen the impact good art can have. So we encourage artists in our community to create, share, and inspire. We want them to continue to work on their craft, to share it, and in so doing, inspire others. In the process, they shape culture.
We gave a Bible to a songwriter who was open to the gospel. He began to read it and wrote music to one of the Psalms. He performed the psalm on our stage without realizing he was being a vehicle for the gospel. The song was beautiful, powerful, and well received.
Later, we invited him to sing the psalm at our church. He had the congregation singing with him by the end. As he sang, we could see that God was speaking to him and using him to spread truth and inspire hope.
Art Can Become a Catalyst for Faith
God has shown us firsthand the power that music and art have in communicating his message. There was an instance when a new songwriter to our group performed. Unbeknownst to us, he was a believer and he sang about Christ. His message might not have been well received by the crowd if he hadn’t been such a gifted musician. But because his song was so well written with a great melody and full of the Spirit, people applauded and wanted to hear more from him.
God continues to amaze us by how he can use art and music to get his message deeper into hearts. We’ve seen music melt some of the hardest of hearts. We’ve been there when artists were ready to enter into a dialogue about the ultimate Creative—God—for the first time.
Scripture talks about the power of song, saying, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in God” (Ps. 40:3). A new song—whether it be music, art, or poetry—can be a catalyst in moving people to put their faith in God.
Arts Ministry and Gospel Opportunity
Music and art breathe life and beauty into our souls. They can transport us back to a memory or a feeling. They can go where words cannot go. This is why I believe music and art are one of the most effective vehicles for sparking gospel conversations. They tear down fortresses that people build around their hearts and leave them vulnerable and open to hearing and receiving the love of Christ.
I want to encourage you to think about how you can be influencers in artists’ lives. What would happen if all the artists, songwriters, screenwriters, poets, and chefs in your community gave their lives to Christ? What if they began to create art inspired by the love of Christ? I believe we would see an organic movement of the gospel in our cities.
Anna Rose is a singer and songwriter who has served with the IMB for the past six years. She lives in Europe with her husband and three sons.