When I consider what it looks like to fulfill the great commission I can get overwhelmed. Jesus commands us to make disciples, bring them into fellowship in the Church, and provide places for them to grow to maturity. In my life context, I have been considering how to be part of Jesus’ plan by investing in people who share a love for creativity and art. This whole Atlanta Arts Network idea is at the root a movement of artistic believers who understand the need to grow in their faith and to live out the vision of Christ. But getting my mind around how this works in just my own local church is daunting at best. This is why my focus at first has been on a few leaders both in my church and also in Atlanta.
While this blog isn’t about our methods of building a ministry or the overall philosophy, it is important to remind myself at times that Atlanta Arts Network is a Network, made up of individual churches who are capturing a vision to build arts communities. For this to happen I am praying for a grass roots movement of individuals who love creative people and love to invest in them.
I am convinced that one of the tools that must be embraced for this to work is Life Coaching. For a pastor or lay person to begin to see artists join the community of Christ, they must first know how to determine where a person is in their spiritual journey. They must also know where they need to go next. I serve in a larger ministry, Worldwide Discipleship Association, that has been building mature disciples for 40 years. One of the tools we use is called Life Coaching.
For Arts Communities to grow in our churches we will need creatives who have a heart to pour their lives into others. Life Coaching teaches how to make this happen. But what do you have to know to be a life coach? I think there are four points that are helpful to remember: Relationship, Promise, Faith, and Plan.
Life Coaching is Relational.
WDA* believes that it all starts with Relationships! Relationships take time. Time is the critical component for discipleship and Life Coaching. Jesus called the disciples at first to come and see. He went into their world. (John 1:38-40)
Life Coaches know God’s promises.
Jesus understood that they needed to know the promises of God. They would have heard his pronouncement that the kingdom of God was in their midst. (Luke 4:16-18)
A Life Coach has to have faith in God.
Jesus begins the great commission by stating that He is the one with authority. It is not faith in myself, but trust in Him. He, the King, is building people to Christlikeness. He is the one who also will be with me! (Matthew 28:18-20)
A Life Coach has to have a plan.
Jesus modeled for all of us how to help people grow to maturity. He spent 3 years taking time in relationship, teaching content, helping them apply truth and holding the disciples accountable, praying for and with them, as well as creating situations where they could put into practice what He was teaching them.
WDA Life Coaching is a great tool for anyone who has a heart to help someone grow but might not know how to go about it. It takes time to invest in someone else. It will cost us. In the process, I learn to remember God’s promises, live by faith and follow His plan.
Sure, not everyone feels like they are gifted as a disciple maker. There are those who might be called to pursue making disciples as their primary calling. For the artist, Life Coaching is an art too! For us to be part of God’s work in our churches, we will need creativity in how to make disciples. It might not be a formal program but it might be one person who God has brought into our lives. It might be a musician who plays in worship. It might be someone who shares a similar love for our form of art. It might also grow to a community of artists who are living in community together, creating, serving, loving and contributing to the flourishing of our world.
What do you think? How could life coaching be part of the life of the artist? What ways do you see that you could invest in the lives of others? What benefits to your church could there be if you and other creatives began to share this kind of life together?
The Atlanta Arts Network exists to connect artists and worship artists, to encourage people who create and share art and cultivate a love for the arts as well as to aspire artists in the context of Christian community.
One of the joys of my job as coordinator of the Atlanta Arts Network is meeting and partnering with other Creative Artists and in this case Worship Artists.
Jay and Abby Akins have just released a Album called Trust.
You might be saying, yeah another CD from a worship leader. Isn’t that par for the course. Everyone who leads worship these days pretty much has to record as well as lead worship.
This is where Jay and Abby are a bit different from the rest! Jay and Abby see this Album as an extension of their ministry to worship leaders as well as a way to serve the church by providing great songs for worship.
From the first time I met Jay at a Chick-fil-a (the original one in Hapeville GA) I realized that Jay’s heart was for building disciples as well as making music. Abby and Jay are part of our South Atlanta Worship Leaders Community. Jay has been a big part of our getting that group going and he really loves investing his time in people.
Trust is a testimony of a Jay and Abby’s vibrant heart for God and a desire to cultivate worshippers of God. While many people focus on styles of worship, Jay has been at the forefront of helping his congregation learn to focus on Christ and the message of the gospel. In a culture that looks at the church and what it offers as products and services to be consumed, Jay is quick to point to the fact that their focus is engaging the worshippers in such a way as to point to Christ and to challenge them to vibrant walk with God, and be owners of the church rather than be a merely a member who comes to church!
Trust features songs that call the worshipper to consider Christ and what it means to follow Him in the midst of life! “Hope is” is a praise anthem that sets Jesus before us as the eternal son who is Himself Hope. We bring our “Golden Dreams Fragile Hopes and Simple Faith” and find that they are torn. When we look at ourselves we hear the call of Jesus to “surrender.”
Hope is Rising from the Ashes
Hope is Rising
Christ delivers Christ restores
“I Stand in Awe of You“, communicates the commitment of a follower of Christ who sees the truth of the gospel and prayerfully calls on God to work and shows a overwhelming sense of wonder of His person and work.
Jesus my Savior
I bow low before You
Carried my sin
Healed my shame
I live for You
Forever I am changed
My heart will sing Your praise
I stand in awe
I stand in awe of You
Hope in You, considers the nature of God and how He is the place to find true hope.
Trust, the title track, beginning with a lyrical feel with some nice mandolin work that a made the song flow and yet didn’t take away from the melodies and sing-ability of this song. The vocal counterpoint between Abby and Jay in chorus will translate well into congregation singing.
Invited features strong vocals from Jay and Abby’s harmonies blend well with the driving guitar which gives this song energy.
Returning is features a nice organs and guitar which complement the Abby’s vocals on this rock ballad that echoes the themes of a prodigal.
For too long now
I’ve turned my face from You
I have tasted
The bitter sinful fruit
I am longing
To feast upon Your love
I am turning
Please fix my eyes above
Ransom Song and Point of Surrender finish off this album pointing us first to the Cross of Christ where the debt was pain in full, where Jesus took our place. Point of Surrender finishes by taking lyrics of traditional hymn and re-tuning it in such a way that provides a new melody that still ties to the original and then weaving the melody of “I surrender” as a close.
Take some time to listen to “Trust” and consider getting a copy and spreading the word. This review is no where near unbiased as I think Jay and Abby are pretty awesome both as musicians and partners in ministry. But listen for yourself and let us know what you think.
When my two sons were young we went to Atlanta for the groundbreaking of one of the more famous skyscrapers. We had been reading about the project for months in the local papers and were excited to watch the construction of the “tallest building in the South”. As we arrived on the scene, the bulldozers were already clearing the site, but there was a viewing area for spectators with an architectural rendering of the completed structure emblazoned on the side of the construction fencing. “Wow!” my oldest exclaimed, “It’s humongous!” And indeed it was, soaring nearly seventy stories above Peachtree Street, it certainly promised to be a focal point of the city skyline. We faithfully trekked to the site and watched trucks haul away dirt and debris while other trucks delivered steel girders and other building materials. After several weeks of this vigil, one of the boys exclaimed in frustration, “Dad, when are they going to start working on the building?” (It was a question that I had pondered myself, because all that existed was a large hole and lots of mud.) Approaching a worker with a set of plans under his arm, I inquired, “Can you give us some idea when the building is going to begin?” His chuckle made it obvious the question had come up before.
“It’s hard to believe it,” he said, “but this hole is the most important part of the building. We have to dig down several hundred feet and build a solid foundation to support a structure that’s over seventy stories tall. It will take several months to pour the concrete and sink the steel pillars, but then we’ll start going up. Once we start, it will rise pretty fast!”
The Bible compares living the Christian life with constructing a building. Just as there are phases in building a building, there are phases in the growth of a Christian, and the first phase is: “laying a foundation”. Our initial salvation experience is the beginning of a process of growth that lasts a lifetime. The success of our Christian walk is determined by the strength of our spiritual foundation. Matthew 7: 24-27 asserts that the Christian life built on a solid foundation will withstand the storms of life. The tallest building in the South is still standing today. Believers who lay solid foundations are more likely to stand tall than those who fail to establish a solid base for growth.
This foundations phase actually consists of four interconnecting parts:
relating to God,
relating to other Christians,
understanding truth, and
applying truth so that it transforms us.
Let’s explore these together!
The success of our Christian walk is determined by the strength of our spiritual foundation.
Relating to God
Unlike other religions, the essence of Christianity is a relationship with God, not a set of rules. In John 17: 3 the Scripture affirms that eternal life is all about knowing God. It is thrilling to remember that God desires a relationship with us that will never end. The great news is that believers don’t have to wait for heaven to experience this. It begins the moment we accept Christ!
Having a relationship with God is not all that different from having a relationship with anyone else. As we relate to others, we get to know them better and the relationship deepens over time. There are specific situations that will help believers better experience a relationship with God. The first of these involves setting aside time for personal devotions, a quiet time each day devoted to prayer, Bible reading, and personal meditation. The Scripture promises in James 4: 8 that as we “come near to God, He will come near to us”. This “coming near to God” is not a religious duty, but a time for relational development. Of course just as good disciplines and habits can be beneficial in other areas of life, the more we remain faithfully committed to our quiet time, the more benefit we derive from it.
Another aspect of developing a relationship with God is attending public worship in a church that exalts Him. Although we can worship God any place, any time, worshipping with other Christians deepens and develops our ability to relate to God. There are many different public worship experiences and not all churches structure them in the same way.
Worship that focuses on the greatness of God and includes times of singing praise, prayerful meditation, and Biblical preaching should be a priority. Ask God to help you find a church in your community and become a part of the fellowship. This leads to another important part of laying a good foundation: relating to other Christians.
Relating to Other Christians
God has placed us in His spiritual family, the Church, to encourage us, protect us, correct us, direct us, and provide for us. Again there are specific situations that help believers experience relationships with other Christians. Each of these plays a unique role in helping to form a spiritual foundation and each will require some effort. But they all are incredibly beneficial. Christians who do not have connections with other Christians tend to stop growing. (cf. Hebrews 10: 24-25)
Unlike other religions, the essence of Christianity is a relationship with God, not a set of rules.
In the first century there were very few church buildings. Mostly the believers met together in private homes for Bible teaching, prayer, and fellowship. There are benefits to meeting with large groups in public worship, but there is also an advantage gained from being part of a small group. The intimacy of the setting provides a place for relationships to flourish. Many modern believers have learned that meeting together in small groups helps to forge close relationships as members discuss Scripture, pray for each other, and share personal matters.
The term “mentoring” was coined by the modern business community to describe a relationship where a seasoned executive tutors a younger colleague in commercial practices. But long before mentoring was introduced to the world of commerce, it had already existed in the spiritual community as “one-to-one discipleship”.
In this case it describes an intentional relationship between a young believer and a more mature Christian who models the Christian life, answers questions, gives counsel, and helps the younger Christian stay focused on the priorities of growth.
One important priority for growth (and the third part of laying good foundations) involves developing an increasing understanding of God’s truth. The Bible is the Book of Truth for Christians, but it can appear overwhelming to a new learner. It was Jesus who proclaimed that knowing truth sets people free from the bondage of sin. Therefore, it is helpful to have a basic plan of study for learning the truths that we need to build upon, a plan that focuses on specific themes and principles of foundational development. A good beginning series of studies for young believers should include the themes mentioned earlier: truth that helps someone to know more about God, truth that helps people understand other people, and truth that helps someone to grow spiritually.
There are specific approaches to gaining an understanding of these foundational truths. The first is a curriculum of systematic instruction. This is the first of a series of “Pocket Principles” that are designed specifically for helping new believers lay solid spiritual foundations. If you received this “Pocket Principle” from a mentor or small group leader, continue to work closely with that person to discover and apply the other truths in this series.
Another way of gaining insights into living the Christian life is by reading. There are many excellent materials and resources available in Christian bookstores, libraries, and on the Internet. Your own informal reading will supplement your growth. But be sure to focus on the foundational themes mentioned above as a starting point.
Christians who do not have connections with other Christians tend to stop growing. (Hebrews 10: 24-25)
Your local church is also an excellent source of content. Besides the weekly sermon delivered by the pastor or other teacher, many churches offer small groups devoted to helping new believers get established in the faith. Consult the churches in your area for opportunities to learn foundational truths.
But as important as truth is in the growth process, it is not the information alone that transforms us. In fact other parts of Scripture warn us that knowledge by itself can be dangerous, leading to spiritual pride and the deadening of our hearts to God. This particular sin characterized the Pharisees who were enemies of Christ. It is only truth that is obeyed or applied to our lives that changes us and causes growth. Romans 12: 2 reminds us that it is a life consecrated to obeying God that is impacted by truth. When our minds are transformed in this way we help establish the will of God on earth. This is more than just knowing the truth, it is actually doing truth.
A skyscraper is an engineering marvel, but soaring high means digging deep and laying solid foundations. A maxim of the Christian life asserts that “you can only grow as tall as you grow deep”. Laying good foundations takes time and effort, but the benefits are worth it. The new believer needs to embrace experientially the truths related to knowing and understanding God and other believers.
Applying truth will require becoming involved in specific situations that facilitate foundational growth. Establishing a time for personal devotions, joining a small group, locating an older believer who can come alongside you as an encouraging mentor, setting up a systematic plan of study , and participating in public worship are layers of spiritual brick and mortar that form this foundation. But these situations without a heart commitment to obey the truth will not suffice. Blessings to you as you grow!
It is only truth that is obeyed or applied to our lives that changes us and causes growth.
So where are you laying foundations?
Where do you find is the best place to find a mentor?
Have you made time for studying God’s word?
What are some of the things you have done to help lay foundations for growing in your faith as a Christian?
Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone from the WDA Store
One of my favorite women of the New Testament is without a doubt Mary of Bethany. When I think of Mary, I can’t help but think of her in three snapshots. In each one, she is at the feet of her beloved Jesus: first, learning, then weeping, and finally worshipping. Yes, this is the woman who to her sister Martha’s dismay, sat at the feet of Rabbi Jesus instead of manning the kitchen(Luke 10:38-42). Yes, this is the one who sobbed at the feet of a Jesus, who seemed to have come too late when her beloved Lazarus lay reeking 4-days-dead behind the stone (John 11). And yes, this is the one who unabashedly worshipped at the feet of Jesus as she anointed him with precious perfume just 6 days before Passover and the unleashing of all events that would lead him to the cross(John 12:1-10). Mary of Bethany—learning, weeping, worshipping, Mary what can you teach us about the way a heart readies itself for the climax of salvation history?
1.) Recall and celebrate what the Lord has done for you…
We find Mary’s story of anointing Jesus in John 12:1-10. A similar story appears in Matthew 26:6-10 and Mark 14:3-9 (although there is some disagreement as to whether these last two tellings represent an anointing by a different woman—since the woman in these accounts is unnamed—or whether this too is Mary of Bethany). At any rate, we know that a dinner is being thrown in Jesus’ honor, most likely as a way to thank him for having brought Lazarus back from the dead. If the woman in Matthew and Mark represent synoptic accounts, then we also know the party was hosted in the home of Simon, the Leper, a man whom in many regards had been brought back into the land of the living. Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Simon remembered what Christ had done for them and celebrated it.
As you prepare your heart this Easter, think back on what God has done for you and thank him. Celebrate the new life you have seen Him bring forth.
2.) Remember and take to heart what God has taught you…
We know Mary had spent a considerable amount of time learning at Jesus’ feet. The fact that she brought a burial perfume is either God supernaturally moving her to bring this particular gift without her understanding or a testimony that she had been listening to Jesus, and that she understood at least in part what was about to occur. I tend to think that by God’s grace, Mary had put the pieces together and brought this costly burial perfume because she had been meditating on and taking to heart what God had taught her.
As you prepare your heart this Easter, what has God been teaching you this year? Ask Him if there is something He wants you to apply or a step of faith He wants you to take.
3.) Don’t skip to the happy ending…
If Mary did understand that Jesus was about to face his death, it might have been tempting for her to skip to the happy ending. After all, she knew Jesus personally as “The Resurrection and the Life,” (John 11:25) and would have at least considered the fact that He might be able to conquer death when He Himself was in its grip. But perhaps, Mary understood more than most the importance of being with someone in the moment. Jesus, after all, had paused to weep with her when He knew that in just a few moments He would raise Lazarus to life. Likewise, Mary honored the suffering of our Lord Jesus and the solemn pain of what was to come by anointing him with this burial perfume.
As you prepare for Easter, resist the temptation to skip blithely by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Take these days to meditate on the depth of Christ’s sacrifice for you, on His pain and your sin. Let His agony and your desperate state without Him sink in and linger with you awhile before turning your attention to His victory on Easter morning.
4.) Forget about everyone around you…
Although the evening was most likely marked by a festive atmosphere—after all this was a time to honor Jesus and the new life he’d brought—Mary didn’t try to please others and keep the mood light. In fact, she ignored what everyone around her might think, and she broke open this costly perfume on the feet of Jesus. She even humbled herself to wipe his feet with her hair—when women of her day never even let their hair down in public. She refused to care about the opinion of others and instead cared about the one thing needful, worshipping Jesus.
As you prepare for Easter, don’t let the fact that others take this day as one simply for chocolate and Easter Egg Hunts deter you from approaching Jesus and these special days with unashamed worship. Ignore the crowd and focus on the One who deserves all our worship.
5.) Give Him that which is most precious to you…
The perfume Mary anointed Jesus with was no trivial gesture. As Judas’ incredulously points out, this precious mixture would have been worth a year’s wages. Mary poured out one of her most precious possessions in an act of lavish love because she knew the lavish love of Christ was so much greater.
As you prepare for Easter, ask God to show you if there is any area of your life that is off limits to Him. Think about what is most precious to you and ask yourself if you are willing to lay it at the feet of Jesus as a testimony to Christ’s own lavish love for you.
6.) Bless Jesus by your unashamed worship…
For me one of the most mind-numbing aspects of this story of Mary anointing Jesus is the fact that somehow, in God’s infinite wisdom and kindness, He allowed a humble woman like Mary to actually minister to Jesus in an hour of need and bless Him. That is hard for me to wrap my mind around. Jesus was blessed by Mary’s act of faith. And because of it, He promised that wherever the Gospel would be preached her story would be told.
As you prepare for Easter, humbly ask God to allow your worship to be a pure and pleasing blessing to Him. Bless the Lord who has so mightily blessed you.
How much of our life is spent thinking about ourselves? Self-Centered. Most people wouldn’t like to be called self-centered. The most powerful in society consider themselves public servants. Yet we look at people who have influence and wonder if they are motivated by pursuit of power. Worship by its nature calls us to change.
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” William Temple’s (1881-1944) Readings in St. John’s Gospel.
Worship then isn’t just about Sunday. When I start my day remembering I am not in charge, I am not pursuing approval by my holiness and I am hungry and in need of the meat of God’s Word to nourish me, then I begin to worship. Each day begins by tuning my heart like a musician tunes his instrument. Life begins to be worship as each decision is a place to submit to God asking for wisdom and knowledge. Each moment is the place where I, filled with His Spirit, walk in fellowship and purpose.
When I create, it becomes a place for worship no matter if the artwork is expressly for worship or not. The heart connected with God is able to create and be a conduit where God can speak. The artist and his art flow from the place of worship, as imagination is purified by his beauty. So my music, my writing, my painting, dancing, sculpting, acting, creative problem solving… are pursued with the awareness that this world is not all about me. Worship involves submission, so does art. I submit to a variety of rules and laws which help me create. I work to create in a world and with the tools and abilities He gives me. I create with an awareness that He has shaped my knowledge and experience, skill and insight. Nothing that I create is created from nothing. As worship begins with God, so does my art.
This doesn’t just relate to creativity, it also connects everyone who pursues their calling and work. While much of my life involves worship and arts, I am called to teach and disciple. When I begin to consider how to minister to the needs of one of the men I disciple, it also begins with worship. For if I begin my discipling with a self-centered heart, I tend to come thinking I have all the answers or show a lack of compassion to the real needs of others. I end up thinking, “not this again, didn’t they learn it already.” Or when teaching foundational truths, I can become bored with the basics, wanting only to stimulate my desire to learn intellectually. Worship brings the Gospel to my heart again and again. In the process of preaching the simple yet profound truth of God, I am changed. My discipleship changes! You may be called to a seemingly “secular” work. For the believer, there is no difference between a sacred and secular calling. All of life under the rule of God will see His influence and be a place for kingdom work. So worship will impact the way you go about doing your work as God changes you!
It is Worship and a heart moved in submission to the Creator that changes the way I live, disciple and create. As in most things, I can’t segment my life into easy categories where worship is a religious event, my creativity and art are a personal expression without reference to the Creator and my life is for me to live. My life is better when I remember each and every moment is a form of worship. In the mundane places where I learn to submit my will to God. When I choose to act not out of self-interest but seek the well being of others. When I begin to create and find that the creative process is where I can connect with God’s Spirit as I work at one of the things He has created me to do and enjoy. Just as Olympic runner, Eric Liddell, in the movie Chariots of Fire felt the pleasure of God as he ran, so too we are able to do our work to the glory of God – as worship.
So when I begin with worship… I see my self-centered heart transformed, but not just my heart, my life and my work as well.
What would it look like for you to worship God today? How about starting by giving your life, totally, to Him in worship. You might just end up like Isaiah who is called to even greater things, “Send me!”