Outreach and the Arts: Sharing the Gospel with the Arts

Outreach and the Arts: Sharing the Gospel with the Arts, by Constantine Campbell. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013. 116 pp. $16.99.

“If the arts are a God-given tool to express our humanity, they are necessarily connected to Jesus, because our humanity is connected to Him,” asserts Constantine Campbell in a statement concerning his theology of the arts (35). Campbell is a multi-published author currently serving as associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has also toured throughout Australia combining evangelism with jazz performances. His degrees include an Advanced Diploma in Jazz from the Canberra School of Music at the Australian National University, a bachelor’s degree from Moore Theological College, and a PhD from Macquarie University. In his book Campbell attempts to link the arts with the spreading of the gospel to today’s generation. His thesis argues for a three-tiered approach to outreach and the arts: evangelism with, through, and to the arts (12). He identifies the purpose for his writing: “I hope to encourage artists to make use of their gifts for evangelism and help them to think through the issues involved in doing that. I also want to encourage pastors and ‘ordinary’ church folk to engage with the arts and the artistic people in their midst for the sake of outreach” (12).

Campbell recognizes the variety in art forms as well as his limitations in understanding those outside the realm of jazz (13–14). He gives a concise theology of the arts that leave the reader desiring deeper insight, yet offers enough information to preface his discussion. The first chapter contains Campbell’s personal testimony of salvation, call to ministry, and how God has used and continues to use music in his life. The remaining chapters speak to the three different approaches the arts bring to “evangelism,” a term used interchangeably with “outreach” throughout. Each chapter ends with an “Artist Profile” in which Campbell interviews different artists, portraying ways to reach non-believing artists with the Gospel.

The connection between the arts and ministry are an often pondered question, one that cannot be ignored in Campbell’s writing. This relationship is also viewed from the perspective of the artist and the church as they try to minister together, or as the church attempts to minister to the artist.

Campbell believes that “the arts are part of God’s good creation” and that any immoral connection to them should be contributed to the fallen depravity of sinful man (15). God bestowed humanity with the ability to create so that we could truly be made in His image, but our sin often finds expression in our art. However, because there is no morality expressed by the art forms themselves, the connections between the arts and gospel are all but limitless (35).

Creativity is what makes humans distinctly in the image of God, its purpose being to express the human condition or experience (34–35). Because there is no moral construction within the art form itself, Campbell asserts that there is a connection between the gospel and the arts regardless of the medium, obscurity of art form, or whether it is aural or visual (34). There is a connection to Jesus Himself in the arts because the humanity we express resonates with His humanity as well (35).

Through interviews with various artists and his discussion on evangelism to the arts, Campbell depicts the artist as misunderstood by a church and the rest of the non-artistic community. This alienation of the arts often drives those with creativity away from the local Body instead of into the arms of Christ.

Often society sees devoted practice time, late nights, and sleeping in as overly indulgent and self-absorbed. This lifestyle that Campbell presents as a norm for those in the artistic community often deters churches from ministering to artists. Taking jobs late on Saturday nights or Sundays hinder them from attending the normal weekly worship service, but these times are when the majority of work is available (89).

However, the lifestyle and career choice of an artist can have a negative aspect. Campbell attempts to address the immorality that is often dominant within the artistic culture, where drugs, alcohol abuse, and loose sexual morals are rampant (88). This perpetual practice of sin that makes artists feel accepted within the artistic community often causes them to feel judged by the Christian community and causes division between them.

While a theology of the arts is addressed in blanket statements, the subject requires more explanation than Campbell offers. How do arts function within a ministry? Is this function consistent with biblical sources? Additional content would aid the reader in understanding the relationship between ministry and the arts. While it was not Campbell’s intent to write a theological guide to the arts in ministry, more attention is needed in this area given that he desires to bond the two in practice.

Campbell does well in speaking to both sides of the artist and church relationship. He places responsibility on the church to reach the artist, but also calls artists to reject the worldliness of the arts community. It is difficult to live in the world but not be of it, but it can be done through a mutually beneficial partnership. Although some arguments need more elaboration, those that are expounded upon are stimulating. Campbell makes bold statements without providing sufficient reasoning for his arguments.

This book is thought provoking despite this reader’s desire for some arguments to be explained in greater detail. It gives the local ministry an interesting insight into the artistic mind while appealing to the artist to realize the purpose behind the gift of art (35). The target audience is mentioned within Campbell’s stated purpose: artists, pastors, and “‘ordinary’ church folk” (12). Evangelism can be a daunting task, and Campbell challenges the artist to participate through the unique gift with which God has blessed them.

 

Benjamin Little

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Fort Worth, TX

Posted in Book Reviews

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