How Creative Missions Changed My Life

How Creative Missions Changed My Life

May 7, 2018 by

I grew up in church, which means I served in church. (It helps that my mom often held a leadership role as the children’s choir director, AWANA commander, etc.) By the time I was 11, I knew a thing or two about setting up and tearing down chairs, teaching songs to 3- and 4-year-olds, and strategizing snacks for 30 or more kids.

But I never felt like I fit in those roles. They weren’t, to use a church word, a calling. I filled the positions because a need existed, and I possessed the abilities to meet it.

Serve the Church

There’s nothing wrong with that attitude. God wants his children to serve the church, even if they find making coffee or setting up a welcome table less than fulfilling. Plus, a funny thing happens as people pour coffee or greet guests: They experience the joy of putting others first.

Those experiences offered glimmers of what God might be calling me toward.

I felt that emotion, but I occasionally wondered if some other role awaited me. I didn’t know what it would be, so I served where I could and took advantage of opportunities as they arose. One church let me intern with them for a semester, and they assigned graphic design projects like car decals and connection cards. Another allowed me to set up an email newsletter so we could easily write and send devotionals to church members on the contact list.

Those experiences offered glimmers of what God might be calling me toward, although they didn’t register as such. Perhaps I was too young and inexperienced. Then again, I’m not sure I thought God could or would use the talents he’d given me to glorify him and bless others. I was just filling a need, helping out, the same as I’d always done. But even then God was working, preparing me for something else.

Go on Mission (Trips)

That something else occurred in December 2015. Cleve Persinger followed me on Twitter. Like a good little marketer, I visited his profile before following him back. I noticed an interesting hashtag in his bio: #CreativeMissions.

I finally felt like I fit somewhere in the church.

Creative Missions 2017 in MontanaMy curiosity grew so great that I asked Cleve what the hashtag meant. He replied by directing me to the Creative Missions website, where I discovered church communicators and creative professionals worked together to serve under-resourced churches throughout the United States and beyond. (We’re going to Canada this year.) Something clicked for me, or if I’m being more accurate and spiritual about it, the Holy Spirit prompted me to apply.

Short story, I got in. The experience shifted my perspective entirely. I finally felt like I fit somewhere in the church, and I think it happened because I saw two things:

  1. I experienced the beauty of working in unity.
  2. I witnessed how what we made for the churches helped them communicate Jesus’ love and invite broken, hurting people into their communities.

Read Some Books

But another factor played into my evolving mindset: reading. I’d found Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones through L.L. Barkat’s Rumors of Water and had brought Shaw’s book on the trip. Every page felt like finding myself. I started to have a vision for art and faith and using those two things to not only serve and build up the church but also reach out and transform local communities.

Other books built upon the Barkat-Shaw foundation. Makoto Fujimura’s Refractions illustrated how art could serve people and act as a bridge into society. Eugene Peterson taught how art, and beauty in general, invites people to consider the sacred. Francis Schaeffer showed how art pervades the Bible.

And, lest I be remiss, the ultimate book, the Bible. My church, The Austin Stone Community Church, often turns to Bezalel. He’s the best-known artist in the Bible due to his work on the tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant. But he isn’t the only artist to be found in the Bible. Lydia worked with cloth. Paul made tents. Paul’s products might have been practical, but they required artistry and skill. Without those two things, the tents wouldn’t have withstood rainstorms, shipwrecks, and wilderness journeys.

Pay Attention

In the years since Creative Missions 2016, my love for intersecting faith and art has only grown. I believe that art and faith can help the church. However, I also believe those two things can go outside the church and invite people to come and see Jesus.

But while my passion might have been growing in the past two years, I had no idea where to go with it. I spent all of 2017 asking God what he wanted me to do and where he wanted me to go. I didn’t mean going overseas, but my spirit echoed Isaiah’s: “Here I am, God. Send me, use me, do something!”

God brought an answer at the tail end of 2017: a residency with the Theological Content and Resources Team at The Austin Stone. From August 2018 to July 2020, I’ll be developed into a leader through theological study, mentorship, and hands-on experience. I can’t wait to start, and the energy must pervade my conversations with people about the program and ways they can support it—several people have said I seem excited, vibrant, happy.

I feel all those emotions, but I mostly feel grateful. The residency is an answer to a yearlong prayer, perhaps longer. If I look at my history, I see how God has guided me to this precise place. He worked on my heart, mind, and hands, giving me a desire to glorify him and serve others. God pushed me toward books and individuals with a shared passion for theology and creativity. And, he directed me to Creative Missions, a trip that forever changed my life. Through it, God grew my vision for what art could be, inside and outside the church.


Photo by Geoff Livingston.
Post By:

Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is a resident with The Austin Stone Institute at The Austin Stone Community Church. Her role as a resident is varied but includes writing, editing, illustration and design, and event planning. In the next few months, Erin will grow toward more vocal leadership roles, such as teaching and coaching writers, and will begin to work on her first novel. She volunteered with Creative Missions in 2016 and 2017 and serves as an assistant editor for Church Marketing Sucks.
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