Jason Leith ~ How Art Transformed Community Part 1

storyJason, a 2015 Edgie

Introduction: An Historic Marriage

This last summer, eleven passionate artists from Saddleback Church took a step of faith into a trip that broke the boundary between art and missions. It was a pioneering of the partnership between Saddleback’s movement of creative ministry happening through Ex Creatis Arts and Rick Warren’s Global PEACE Plan—a plan that empowers the local church all over the world to respond to the five global giants that negatively affect our world. Bringing these two movements together meant putting the power of creativity into an engine of global change.

We have all experienced the powerful and beautifully indescribable changes the arts make in our hearts and in our communities. This trip too classifies as indescribable, but I want to do my best at painting a picture of the powerful beginning Arts-driven PEACE trip was for our church. There are some things that stand as clear-cut testimonies of how God used the arts and creativity to change people’s lives on this trip and other moments and will remain indescribable. Still, I can’t help but give my best in recounting the groundbreaking work that was done through Saddleback artists during our twenty-six days in Europe on Saddleback’s first arts-focused PEACE Trip.

The one thing that drives Ex Creatis Arts Initiative is our purpose of reflecting God’s creative soul in his church body. If our churches are a representation of God, if we are his hands and feet in the world, then we ought to be doing everything we can to reflect him clearly and accurately. And since our God is Creator, should we not be doing everything we can to reflect him in our creativity?

So, one hope for this trip was to grow in our capacity to bring creativity and art into our church and out to the city. We wanted to better reflect our creator God as creatives in the church and culture. We then wanted to take that learning, along with our last three years of experience of using the arts in Lake Forest, and empower the artists of Saddleback Berlin to start reaching their city with through art. I can say with confidence that God worked so much in so little time that we were able to see fruit in both these areas.

The atmosphere shifted even more than expected when we touched down in Altea, Spain where we spent our first thirteen days with EDGE Project, an organization committed to discipling artists to use their creative gifts to reach the larger culture for Christ. We knew Berlin was going to be big, and we couldn’t go right into our first time ministering through the arts overseas with no training or preparation. So for us, being in Spain with Edge became all about growing closer as a team, a unit of creatives, and preparing for what God was leading us to in Berlin and beyond.

This was a historic trip for Saddleback. This is the first time we know of that our central campus members came together with an international campus to serve in another country. This was not just Lake Forest members going to serve the Berliners. Two artists from Saddleback Berlin, Marius and Hannah, flew down to Spain to train and serve in Spain alongside us. This was a true partnership between Saddleback Lake Forest and Saddleback Berlin. Our international church was made so much smaller by the unified mission we had together in Spain, where we prepared together to bring better art and a brighter light back to their hometown of Berlin.

This trip was truly a Saddleback PEACE trip because the focus was on empowering our church family in another country. It was not about the artists from California coming in and making arts ministry happen for a month and then leaving. It was about teaching and empowering those from our Berlin Church during those three weeks, so they could continue to carry it out in the long run. We did this in three ways. We began by building relationship and skills together in Spain through Edge Project, we went on to teach an Arts Ministry class to their church, and finally we led by example in several kinds of arts outreaches throughout the trip.

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