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Raising Up An Army of Artists: A Celtic Model of Ministry

I just finished hosting an incredible weekend called “Gathering of Artisans” with artists and creative people from fourteen different states around the country. We were able to share vision and passion for who God has created us to be in the Kingdom while also being equipped for what’s next. Several times over the weekend, and in days before and since, I’ve been asked the question – “So Matt, how are you going to raise up an army of artists to reveal God’s Glory in the earth?” It’s a great question.

First of all, we are compelled to look beyond the walls of the Church as we raise up the army. The Father is passionately seeking all His creative ones – not just what we’d call “Christian Artists.”  When I see the valley of dry bones before me – millions of artists passionate for creativity and desiring a deeper meaning to this life – I have often wondered “How will they hear? How will they come to know Jesus in an authentic way?” The questions rage loudly in my head not because I don’t trust the Holy Spirit to reveal the Father through Jesus but rather my own preconceived notions of how people actually come to know Jesus.

For me and millions of others in western Christianity, we were assimilated into the Church after we became believers. Before that, we would have been termed “lost” and not easily welcomed into the community of Christ-followers because we didn’t follow all the rules, look the part, or accept blindly the myriad of standards imposed by church culture. My whole life I’ve had this sense of ‘us and them’, ‘lost and saved’, ‘secular and sacred.’ Understanding this dynamic and knowing creative people as I do has caused me to cry out to the Lord for His strategy – not man’s cookie-cutter religious system.

As Jack Taylor often says, I’m not anti-church, I’m pro-Kingdom. In my search for Kingdom ways of doing things, I’ve come to understand and appreciate what many have termed a ‘Celtic’ model of ministry as opposed to the more traditional ‘Roman’ model which most modern churches employ. Here’s a short comparison of the two from blogger, Seth McBee:

Traditional Evangelism
(Believe in Jesus then belong to the church)

  • Gospel info is presented
  • Hearers are called to make a decision about Christ
  • If an affirmative decision is made, the person is welcomed into the church.
  • Friendship is extended to the person
  • The convert is trained for service in ministry by being separated from culture

Celtic Way of Evangelism
(Belong to the church then believe in Jesus)

  • A genuine spiritual friendship between a Christian and a non-Christian is built.
  • The non-Christian sees authentic faith and ministry lived openly and participates in it.
  • The Gospel is naturally present in word and deed within the friendship.
  • The non-Christian’s conversion to Jesus follows his/hers conversion to Christian friendship and the church.
  • The church celebrates the conversion of their friend.

If you’re like me, the first time I saw this comparison I was so sad because of how I had operated for so many years and at the same time overjoyed because I now had somewhat of a framework for what I’ve always called ‘relational ministry.’ I had to stop and ask myself things like, “You mean it’s really ok just to have an authentic friendship with someone and not invite them to church, present the Roman’s Road or quiz them on their Bible knowledge in order to validate their friendship?” The answer is absolutely, unequivocally yes and the reason is not what you might think.

To many in the west this Celtic model of ministry seems like a lazy-man’s evangelism. I have to admit feeling my good old protestant work ethic coming up all the time saying, “Shouldn’t you do something?” Here’s what I’m coming to understand. I believe at the end of the day the Father’s desire is that we operate just like Jesus did – only doing what He saw the Father doing, saying what He heard the Father saying. He wants us to be in such close relationship with Him through Word and Spirit that we trust Him to bring about divine encounters with the right people at the right time in the right season to produce the maximum fruit. The problem with church people is that we go squirly on people, thinking we have to ‘do’ something when in reality all the Father’s asking us to do is love people and obey His voice.

I have a great friend here in Asheville who’s been a master potter for over twenty-five years now. She shared a story with me of a friend of hers who was a fellow potter and classmate in art school. For eighteen years they were friends – my friend, a believer, her friend, not. For eighteen years she lived a testimony of the incarnate Gospel before her friend, trusting that the Father would bring her into the Kingdom at the right time.  Eventually the friend came to know Jesus in a very powerful way and soon asked my friend, ‘Why didn’t you tell me sooner?’  The answer: “You weren’t ready to hear it.” It’s the Father that draws people to repentance, not us. It’s the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin, not us. When it’s the right time, as we trust the Father and actively co-labor with Him in His purposes, the friends we hold dear will come to know Him.

Friends, if we can learn to simply love people, colabor with the Father in our areas of influence to release the Kingdom and trust the voice of the Holy Spirit in our daily walk we’ll see thousands, even millions come into the Kingdom – not because we guilted someone into making a decision they never intended to keep, but because we trusted the Father enough to use us in His timing in the lives of people we authentically love.  Let’s let God be God and not shortchange the journey of those we walk with daily in order to get another spiritual notch in our belt. I am choosing to trust, believing that it’s worth the wait! Will you join me?


 Matt Tommey is the Founder / Executive Director of The Worship Studio and a professional basketry artist. He is also a musician and author of the book “Unlocking the Heart of the Artist: Fulfilling Your Creative Calling as an Artist in the Kingdom”.  You can see Matt’s basketry work at http://www.matttommey.com and purchase his book here.