Taking It To The Streets: Using The Arts To Transform Your Community

    -- by J. Nathan Corbitt & Vivian Nix-Early. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books (2003).

The focus of this book is using arts to minister to the "tough places" of American inner cities, and is a particularly valuable resource for churches that are struggling to relate effectively to multi-ethnic urban contexts and the growing societal divide between rich and poor. Clearly, Christians need to find new approaches to creative mission and worship, stepping out from the comfort zones of the evangelical church and discovering what 'speaks' on the streets. The authors interview a number of artists who are living out their faith in marginalized communities, and we glimpse how effective the accompanying affirmation of art forms can be. Whether reggae, street theatre, mime, a simple drawing or even a web-site, all are effective vehicles for God's redemptive message. An arts-centered ministry is also vital for education, mobilization, tolerance-building, healing and nurturing. 

The perspective of "horizontal theology" (p.20) is particularly relevant, reminding us of the commandment to love our neighbour as ourself (Luke 10:27). We are also challenged to consider the practical applications of a "theology of marginality" (p.48), reaching out to those who exist on the fringes of the church with art forms that speak most convincingly to their hearts. The authors create a model for social change that links stages of social response with appropriate art typologies, starting with developing human critical awareness through prophetic arts. Personal relationships and societal transformation are then nurtured by arts of an agape nature, culminating in celebrative arts that help develop new core values and artistic traditions.

Although the authors do not extend their research beyond American city/urban environments, I would urge readers to ponder how the core challenges for a holistic ministry in communicative arts can be applied to a wider range of contexts and nations. A tiny rural African village may seem a world apart, yet the rejection of cultural art forms by many churches results in the same alienation that urban city dwellers sense of western churches. A thought-provoking book, and highly recommended. 

    --reviewed by Julie Taylor (SIL International Arts Consultant)

Published in Vol.4, No.3 of


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Artists in Christian Testimony