Arts and the Summit

The most far-reaching, and influential event offered by the WCA is the annual Leadership Summit, held in North America in early August and then in the Fall in countries literally spanning the globe. Primarily, the Summit is known for offering outstanding teaching on the gift of leadership, provided by a faculty from both the church world and the private business sector. Anchored by Bill Hybels, this year’s team of speakers is potentially the strongest ever, including Rev. Floyd Flake, John Ortberg, Carly Fiorina, Marcus Buckingham, and interviews with filmmaker Richard Curtis, President Jimmy Carter, and Colin Powell. We are praying that God will impact leaders all over the world through what we learn together; leaders who will then impact their churches and workplaces and neighborhoods for the cause of Christ.

While the Summit is primarily known for its faculty, one piece of feedback consistently stresses that the attenders are also looking for moments when they will be moved, inspired, and stretched by the arts. That is why we put two of our most creative, soulish, and skilled leaders – Corinne and Greg Ferguson – as Executive Producers of the entire event, and surround them with a team of artists. For most of the calendar year, the Fergusons are praying over, planning, and producing potential moments for God to deeply touch the Summit attenders.

What excites me most is a 13 minute piece that will open the Summit this year, a piece that began in the mind of Greg Ferguson as he reflected on the big picture of the church and our history. All too often we evangelicals neglect to recognize the thread of God’s work through time. We think only of the Here and Now, ignoring lessons of the past that can serve to inform us and perhaps keep us from making the same mistakes our ancestors made. “The first time I heard Greg’s piece I knew God had inspired him with something rare and truly stunning, a gift to all of us who bear the name of Christ. The team wrestled for weeks with how to best communicate the piece with video, with just the right cast, with a treatment that will most effectively augment the vivid truths contained in the lyrics. I can’t wait to experience the results! There’s just something about the power of the arts that transcends all other efforts to communicate truth. Yes, we need to hear the words of the incredible Summit faculty. But we also need to be refreshed, envisioned, and captured by moments that emerge from the hearts and minds of men and women who have been gifted to write songs and scripts, choreograph dances and craft videos that deeply move us. As you prepare to experience the Summit this year – which I strongly urge all of you to do, right in your area – be on the lookout for the power of the arts, and thank God for the wonder of these gifts that so beautifully minister to our souls.


Christian Performers said...

Hi, Friends at Willow Creek,
I'd like to add a link to your blog on mine at
Is that OK?

Lauren Yarger
Masterwork Productions, Inc.

Ray Pelletier said...

Lauren, we'd be happy for you to add our link. Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Hi dear brothers and sisters at Willow Creek. Looking forward to this year's Summit!

My church and ministry is based in the urban context and I would love to see some Gospel Hip Hop represented as a viable form of ministry.

One such ministry is The Storytellas out of Crossroads Tabernacle in the Bronx. I believe they are one of your sites for the Summit.

Here's a link to a video on of their ministry:

The Storytellas

Be blessed!

Christian Performers said...

Thank you, Ray. Blessings,
Lauren Yarger
Masterwork Productions, Inc.

Christian Performers said...

More and more Christians involved in the arts world are questioning whether or not they want to be labeled as "Christian." Can't I just be an artist who happens to be a Christian they are asking? A number of objections to being "labeled" have been raised:
The term "Christian" is found to be offensive by many people who do not like the conservative (and often politically "incorrect") viewpoints held by many who are Christian
Some calling themselves Christian have conducted themselves in an unloving or hypocritical manner with which some of us wouldn't want to be associated
An artist labeled as "Christian" probably won't be booked for non-Christian events

I'd like to encourage you, if you are an artist who has a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, not to be confused by the semantics. There are a number of artists out there who do not have that personal relationship, but who don't have any problem promoting themselves in the Christian market because they are "spiritual" and innocently believe that is the same thing as being a Christian. There are some performers I have met who have admitted that they don't have that relationship, but see a potential market in the Christian arts field, so they offer a performance of "clean comedy" or "spiritual songs" in the hopes of generating more revenue. So the label "Christian artist" might not even mean what you think it does to some!
The label "Christian" should be used to indicate the relationship with Jesus and a submission of our life to Him and His will as given to us in Scripture. Churches and Christian venues using the arts for outreach and hiring artists to help in that outreach, more and more want to know where a performer stands before giving them them authority to lead worship. It wouldn't be helpful for the furthering of the gospel, for example, to hire a "spiritual" actor to do a dramatic monologue from the life of Jesus only to have him comment somewhere in the monologue about being married to Mary Magdalene a la "The DaVinci Code".
There always will be Christians who "see the sin and not the sinner" and as a result of this narrow vision, will alienate the lost; there always will be Christians who sin; and Christians always will be persecuted for their beliefs, so all three objections to being labeled a Christian artist come as a result of people being people-- we all mess up.
If we are willing to abandon the label "Christian" for fear of what human associations it might attach to us, however, my fear is that we open ourselves to abandoning it for the heavenly associations it attaches to us as well. If our friend who is following a different religion would be offended, for example, if we shared that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven and that the leader of their religion couldn't provide that, would we be tempted to abandon Him in favor of being "spiritual" rather than Christian and being more tolerant of another way to preserve the friendship? I believe that possibility is real.
As for me, I stand with Christ. If that means sometimes people throw me into the same category as a televangelist who makes an unwise comment or lifestyle decision, I can always explain that I have a different opinion. If being a Christian means that I sometimes take a stand that's not "politically correct", I'll back it up with the Word of God. If being "Christian" means that I don't get hired somewhere, I'll trust the Lord to provide in some other way.
I find that I can't just be an artist who happens to be a Christian, not if I want to see my art have the most impact possible for His kingdom. For that, I have to lay down all of my life and take up a new identity with Him, not just when it's convenient or beneficial, but always.