Church Communications resources and tips from Justin Dean

When Art Reaches a Community

I was at an audition recently, and they threw me a curve ball. I didn’t get a script to peruse and then do a reading. Instead, I showed up at the audition and they asked me to do a real-life monologue on the question, ?What does division mean to you??

I thought for a few minutes. ?When I think about division, I think about my life. I find myself at the crossroads of being a Christian and being an artist. For the artists, I?m often too Christian. And for the Christians, I?m often not Christian enough.? It can certainly feel alienating living in these two seemingly disparate cultures. The truth is, I feel close to God and people in the midst of them both. But I?ve encountered many Christians who tell me that can?t be.

There is a bigger conversation, and it?s the conversation of the nature of God and his existence. His omnipresence. His ability to permeate beyond the confines of our expectations and imposed limitations.[quote]There is a bigger conversation, and it?s the conversation of the nature of God and his existence.[/quote]

When I sing a song of worship or spend time praying with friends, God is there. When I create a piece of public art in the middle of the street with people who believe completely differently than I, God is there.

Christians, for the most part, see our end goal as ideological and religious global domination?that people would believe as we believe and, in the process, if we?re lucky, some things might get better for the people, places, and things of this earth. Therefore, our ultimate agenda is a branding one. It?s to make sure our logo appears more frequently than anyone else?s?whether that?s the name of Jesus spoken or written, or a banner with our church name on it, or a bumper sticker with a snide (often alienating) phrase, or a tract handed out, or a cross around our neck, or the Ten Commandments written on the wall of a public building. We?ve made our fight one of brand saturation, and we?ve based the health of our world on whether or not we win the brand war. And when the brand isn?t there, God must not be there.

But it seems backwards to talk about Jesus, and if the world gets better or someone gets fed or our cities are more beautiful places, those are just residual effects.

Jesus has an opposite model. Jesus started with revealing a new reality, and then he talked about salvation. He aligned the realities of earth with the realities of heaven and then talked about himself face-to-face with individuals?treating them as individuals.

Jesus healed, and then talked about himself.
Jesus touched, then talked about himself.
Jesus embraced, then talked about himself.

Jesus started by shifting reality toward heaven then followed with his message. Jesus? idea of evangelism wasn?t getting people to believe something. Jesus? idea of evangelism was to give people an irresistible encounter with heaven and let everything flow from there.[quote]Jesus started by shifting reality toward heaven then followed with his message. [/quote]

Reaching the Community of Orlando

In November of 2014, I built a 20?x20? box in the middle of the street in downtown Orlando. I filled the thing with haze and created an immersive projection experience to an instrumental song. Then I invited people inside. No words. Quite abstract. But, from what others and I experienced, powerful. I did a test run with 4 people I pulled from the sidewalk. When the 4-minute piece was over, one of the ladies looked at me and said, ?You would have never known this, but you may have saved someone?s life tonight. I often wonder if life is worth living, but to walk down the street and encounter something so beautiful?? She paused. ?It gives me hope.?

Beauty. Hope. Life. Victory over death and despair. Was God there as she pulled me in and embraced me? Absolutely.

We do this thing with our church called City Beautification Projects. The initiatives aren?t designed to promote our church or the things typically associated with the Christian ?brand?. Instead, they are designed to align earth with the realities of heaven. Our first project involved handing out balloons at a park in the middle of downtown. On the string of each balloon was a card with the hashtag #thankfulorlando. We handed them out and asked people, ?What are you thankful for?? There was complete freedom, and?if only for a moment?our city looked just a little bit more like heaven as we cultivated a spirit of gratitude amongst its residents and visitors.

?Well, anyone could do that. Where?s God?? was one of the most common pushbacks. And I can answer that question. God was in the relationship between me and a little French girl who couldn?t speak English, and all we could exchange was a smile. God was in the tears of those who were moved as they took a moment to consider what they were thankful for. God was in the fathers who answered, ?I?m so thankful for my family.? And God was in the answer to the question of ?why are you doing this?? and our willingness to talk about how beautiful God?s intentions for the earth and everything in it are.

Let me be clear. I?m not talking about a shelled bait-and-switch. I?m not talking about ulterior motives. I?m talking about reimagining what?s possible. I?m talking about an entirely different level of expectation of the bigness of God?seeing him and meeting him in the most unexpected places as we reveal heaven, and giving people an encounter with the divine.[quote]God is committed to his agenda to make earth like heaven.[/quote]

God is committed to his agenda to make earth like heaven. He?s committed to an increase of His glory on the earth. And because of his bigness, there are an unlimited number of possibilities of how that can happen. Let?s open our eyes and get surprised.

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