An Army Of Artists:
A Call to Musicians and Artists to Join the Battle to Bring the Gospel to Every People
This special issue of Mission Frontiers reveals many thrilling ways that God uses worship, music and the arts as part of his global plans for the nations. The arts are one of God's mighty weapons building the kingdom. As Ronald B. Allen has said in Discipleship Journal: "Some look upon the arts as merely ornamental, like the frosting on the cake or the decoration on a truly useful object...A poem may describe the beauty of a flower or impel a revolution...The arts are God's gifts."
One purpose of this issue is to encourage those called to artistic pursuits to enlist in God's "Armies of the Arts" using their gifting and training as weapons in the hands of the Master Artist to make the greatest possible impact for the Kingdom.
1. A Call To Classical Artists:
Part of the army God is raising up are the Classical artists. Take the example of Patrick Kavanaugh who heads the Christian Performing Artists' Fellowship, a nondenominational ministry of classically trained musicians and dancers headquartered near Washington DC. In a Charisma Magazine article he shared: "God has called us to be a missionary organization to proclaim the gospel in the world of the performing arts....The world of professional music is a spiritually needy place, a virtually unreached mission field. This is a huge people group, many of whom have never heard the gospel presented in a credible way. Our job is to bring them the love of the Lord. But you can't just preach and run. Sometimes proclaiming the gospel in the world of the performing arts can be like planting seeds in concrete."
Christopher Parkening is one of the great living guitar virtuosos. He told Christianity Today recently: "My playing the guitar for the glory of God is incomplete apart from my sharing the precious gospel of Jesus Christ with friends that I meet around the world."
Beyond one's own culture, God also wants to enlist classical artists and musicians in cultures where the Christian message has barely penetrated. Salvadoran musician Gilberto Orellana, a professional violinist and orchestra conductor, became aware of the great spiritual need in Morocco. He was able to get an invitation from the National Conservatory of Music in the city of Tetuan to teach violin and study Arab music. Being a witness in sensitive parts of the world is not for the spiritually fainthearted, however. After seeing fourteen Moroccans put their faith in Christ, Gilberto was arrested, spent time in prison, was freed, then rearrested, and then expelled from the country.
Gilberto is now praying for many professional musicians to follow his example of serving in difficult areas. His advice: "before everything else, develop a life of holiness. This is the primary requirement, the most important thing. Then, study the culture and language. Read books about the area. Above all, be guided by the Holy Spirit to bring forth spiritual fruit."
God has raised up many fellowships of performing artists that can provide encouragement and direction. Contact the AD2000 Worship and Arts Track to get information about an arts or music ministry in your area.
2. A Call To Contemporary Artists:
Another part of the army is the contemporary artists. In the Worship and Arts Network we are calling on contemporary artists to impact their society. For many this means first faithfully honing artistic skills in your own culture and linking to a local church. For others it will mean taking contemporary music and artistic expressions farther afield. Marcos Witt from Mexico and Scott Wesley Brown from Nashville are servants that do both. (See the Brown article starting on page 31) They do concerts in their own countries that include strong calls to commitment and enlistment in God's overseas missions force. Both set the example by regularly going abroad themselves; Marcos to Spain and the Latin World, Scott to Asia and Africa. Witt's songs have had such a dramatic appeal that they topped both the sacred and the secular Spanish charts!!
Songwriter Freddy Gularte from Guatemala discovered that Spain was virtually untouched with the gospel compared to Central and South America and moved to Spain as a musician/church planter. Mission organizations like YWAM with its Musicians for Missions program, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth For Christ, OM, International Teams, Celebrant Singers, Continental Singers and a host of others have powerfully used contemporary music, dance and drama in evangelism. By linking with local churches for follow-up the results have been more lasting. These organizations have provided missions exposure and training to countless numbers of artists, some of whom eventually move into extensive overseas lifetime commitments of service using
their artistic skills. Chris Christiansen realized France and Belgium were almost totally unreached in comparison to his homes in South Africa and America and for many years now has poured himself into an artist/church planting ministry in Brussels. He has a vision to see French worship songs impact the entire Francophone world.
One of the most powerful attractions to Christ are contemporary artists who use worship as a tool for spiritual warfare in hostile situations. Worship and missions statesman Steve Fry shares about the time his worship service "We are Called" was performed in France. Two militant Muslim women in attendance were deeply moved by the praise, and during the finale of the musical one of them had a vision of the Lord Jesus compelling her to follow Him. She was soundly converted, and upon returning to Algeria became very active in spreading the gospel throughout the nation. While not overtly an evangelistic event, the believers gathered together in praise to the Lord allowed for the authority of Jesus to be manifest, which resulted in hostile people coming to Christ.
In reflection on this event Steve adds: "The worship of God and the expression of spiritual warfare along with the execution of effective evangelism are inseparably linked. The more we walk in this realization, not only will our evangelistic efforts take on more powerful dimensions, but we will know the peace and serenity of Jesus in the midst of the battle. We will know what David discovered, that the Lord indeed "prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies."
3. A Call To Cross Cultural Artists:
A very crucial part of the army God is raising up to go to the ends of the earth is the cross-cultural artist/missionaries. Many types are enlisting. The Southern Baptists have over 100 music missionaries as part of their huge missions force, and have built scores of recording studios around the world. Greater Europe Mission and other groups have had resident teams of musician artists in cross cultural outreach and church planting for many years. Dave Hall of Pioneers mission's Worship to the Nations program is processing teams of cross cultural worship musicians to work in Ghana, Indonesia and Kyrgestan. A team called CoCreation recently formed to take worship and artistic expressions to Moscow.
Chris Hale, son of famous missionary doctor and author Tom Hale, grew up in Nepal and learned fluent Hindi. After studies at one of the world's prestigious music conservatories he returned to the subcontinent and learned the sitar. Chris and his OM team do rock concerts with lively mime and drama in India's cities, and then go to villages, sit on the ground and do classical concerts with Indian devotional music. The band recently won major awards (one of the few Christian rock bands in India ever to do so) at a national secular rock group competition. They are discipling students on a regular basis at a coffee bar near their Lucknow base.
But perhaps the greatest challenge today is for the army of daring musicians and artists willing to embrace totally alien cultures and join church planting teams in frontiers missions areas. A commitment to unreached people groups, getting deep into the language and deep into the culture will take time and much effort. But just think of the thrill to be part of a church planting team among an unreached people group, seeing congregations of believers emerge and then encouraging the artists and musicians to develop their gifts for the Lord. What a contribution to a people group to get a little recording studio established so that local worship songs can get recorded and distributed throughout an area. Frontiers Mission workers had a powerful ministry with recordings spread among the Sundanese people. Recordings in various parts of the Central Asia republics have strengthened many small groups of believers.
In addition to becoming bi-lingual God is calling into his special forces of artists those willing to become bi-musical, learning the foreign music systems as well. The ethnomusicologists serving with SIL and several other mission groups around the world are some of the truly cutting edge musicians of our time as they pay the price to get the training to analyze non-western music and distill the music into notation systems. Think of the heritage that these music servants leave behind to a generation of believers as they help them get their very own indigenous worship songs written and recorded. Think of the awesome satisfaction of workers in Nigeria, who reported recently about the astonishing demand for indigenous hymns which "spread like wildfire and cause the faces of local singers to light up like those on thirsty travelers who reach an oasis." Or the new believer in South America who stated "I enjoy the Spanish songs you taught us, but when I hear the music of my own people I weep." Or the thrill that Vida Chenoweth had to both translate the New Testament AND devise a music writing system for the 2000-member Usarufa tribe in the eastern highlands of New Guinea.
David Garrett has been at the forefront, promoting many kinds of indigenous worship expressions. He states: "As worship in spirit and truth is given back to the Creator from every tribe and in every language this will, I believe, be one of the greatest evangelistic tools ever seen. People will be confronted with the fact that Christianity is not just a Western religion; that Jesus is not just a white man. He is their own."
When people discover the unique contribution that they can make to the advance of the kingdom, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, it can be truly life changing. For me it happened a few summers ago at a Love Europe Congress in Germany. The praise band began the meeting. I was back stage with my program sheets wearily trying to get all the participants in the plenary program ready. I decided to sneak a look out front. Many were just arriving and looking around, but the majority were deeply involved in worship. I saw radiant smiles, others with eyes closed, hands folded or heads bowed in reverence. I saw others moving joyously with upraised or swaying hands. Some were standing in the aisles to have more room.
And then it happened. I felt that unmistakable strong rumbling in my stomach when something deeply emotional hits me, or when I sense God grabbing my attention with something to say to me. While I don't hear strong statements from God on a regular basis, I knew instinctively what he was saying to me at that moment when I saw thouands of people from some 70 nations wholeheartedly worshiping together: "Frank, look out and take this in. I created you for moments like this!!" I wasn't even up on the stage at my keyboard!! Here I was mostly behind the scenes just trying to help a program flow smoothly. I sensed God affirming something very special to me in that moment about his desire for my involvement in worship among the nations. Reflecting on it later I could trace the ways of the Lord from many years of worship ministry on board two ocean liner mission ships, in conferences, and other events to confirm what God had "chiseled" into my spirit that evening in Germany. While we don't necessarily need dramatic "stop-us-in our-tracks" experiences like I just described, all of us need to respond in obedience when we sense what God wants us to do.
Whether classical, contemporary, or cross-cultural, let's take up the challenge and join the army of artists and musicians God can use until "righteousness and praise will spring up before all nations." (Is. 61:11)
Frank Fortunato is the music director for Operation Mobilization as well as coordinator of the Worship and Arts Track of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. You may use the response form on the cover to indicate your desire to use your music skills for missionary work or you may contact him directly at
Operation Mobilization PO Box 444 Tyrone, GA 30290-0444 or call (770) 631-0432 x252 FAX: (770) 631-0439 Internet: [email protected]