The Missional Movement of Art
In anticipation of W. David O. Taylor’s session—”The Dynamic Relationship Between Art and Mission”—at the 2018 Intersection Conference, we asked the Rev. Lauri Diamond to share her thoughts on the sending power of beauty through art.
by Lauri Diamond
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? How do I fit into his plan as a missionary and artist?
There are no accidents in creation, but there are plenty of fallen messes. God created beauty and unity with images of his triune self to tend his world, and then creation fell into chaos and entropy by the choice of his image bearers. As a result of the fall, there is sending. From the very beginning God sent his people to be his emissaries of redemption. Jesus is our ultimate example of sending to the world. Jesus said “”Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”[i]
As Christ followers, we rarely get to stay put. Like ripples in a pond where we toss a stone, missional living starts at home and moves out. We are sent beyond our daily path. As the ripples in the pond move outward from the stone, we move into community and the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. We are moved by the action of the stone.
Where does art fit into this movement? Art is our response to beauty: “Not the kind of beauty we might call pretty or decorative, it can be strong, shocking, confusing, boundary – breaking, thrusting forward in experimental ways”.[ii] This is the kind of beauty that materializes out of missions. God pulls art out of the soul in recognition of the beauty of salvation and creation.
We are moving towards the time when all things will be made right and holy. It will be a time of perfect beauty, but until that time we get to struggle with the beauty and grotesqueness of a fallen creation. Art is responsive.
If art is our response to beauty, then the opposite of beauty drives us to mission. The fallen world, the absence of the knowledge of saving grace and the presence of horrible sin, pushes us to reach out. Art is a creative balm that counteracts the result of sin giving future believers a channel for their emotional reactions to the truth. Art is a common language that allows outpouring of frustrations and praise, or a cautious release of beauty. Jesus is the stone dropped into the pool of humanity where he changes lives one at a time and these lives change others and others until the whole world knows his love. Art is missional.
Missional art often transpires in obscure ways that go unnoticed except for the few folks that are involved. One of the local missions where I serve is Restored Hope.[iii] This ministry is for women coming out of the sex trade. They have been abused beyond what a person can imagine. The man-inflicted wounds are freshly visceral and the pain is deep.
We begin by praying together and listening to worship music. No brushes and no rules. Painting with hands and fingers, the women feel the art happen. A blank canvas and a paper plate filled with soft liquid colors provide a freedom to create. It is healing to be able to tactically experience the texture of the canvas and the cool paint sliding over it. Sometimes, creation is hesitant, and with others, it is an explosion of color and feeling. The Holy Spirit is moving through the space, the girls are responding to the beauty, and art happens. Art is healing.
God has allowed me to use artistic creativity for mission in all of my life circles. It may be a crocheting group from my neighborhood, painting with the ladies in the rescue mission, or even making handcrafts in a grass hut in Guatemala. One of my favorite times each year is art on a mission trip to Guatemala. I sit with a dozen women all slick with perspiration and smelling of cinnamon, and we happily create art together. We visit, tend babies and exclaim over each other’s designs. Art is relational.
Art and creativity bring people together as a language allowing for our image-bearing selves to connect on some otherworldly plane. Mission and art are a natural link. Part of our Imago Dei is creativity, and we are sent to our neighborhoods, communities and the world to creatively communicate God’s love. The command Jesus gave was to ‘love one another’ (John 13:34) [iv] because he loved us first. When there is too much hurt or anger or pain to communicate with words, art becomes a means of reacting to God’s love. Art is love.
[i] John 20:21
[ii] W David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2010), forward by Luci Shaw, 9.
[iii] Sam Pollinzi, “Restored Hope Ministry,” accessed April 25, 2017, http://restoredhopeministries.org.
[iv] John 13:34
The Rev. Lauri Diamond is a deacon serving as Missions and Women’s Pastor at Redemption Anglican Church in Frisco, Texas. Lauri and her husband Tom have four grown children. Lauri just graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. She loves anything involving creativity, has a passion for reaching out, and thrives on connecting church and community and helping them connect with God.