By ED VITAGLIANO
Editor’s Note: Mississippi Christian Living is pleased to reprint this article that appeared in the April issue of AFA Journal.
For Chuck Terrell, the love of Christ and the gospel took him around the world as he ministered in China, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Now that love powers artwork as a vehicle to reach souls much closer to home—Mississippi’s Choctaw Indians.
“I have always had a gift for drawing and painting,” Terrell told AFA Journal. “My artwork helped finance my college tuition by selling watercolor landscapes and seascape paintings.”
Terrell has served five churches since he graduated from seminary in 1981.
However, working full time in pastoral ministry prevented him from focusing on his artwork until he moved to Mississippi. In 1998, while pastoring at Port Gibson Baptist Church in Port Gibson, Terrell was asked by school officials at a small private military academy to develop an art program for their students.
“The course I created would be known as Art Evangelism, which uses art to communicate the gospel,” he said. “Without knowing it, the seeds of ‘Art Jam’ were planted in this effort, and would bear fruit 10 years later in what would become the Art Jam ministry.”
What is Art Jam? It is a way to use art—and young people’s innate love of drawing and painting—to communicate the message of God’s love and saving grace through Jesus Christ.
Art Jam began as a ministry focused on a particular people—the Choctaw Indians of Mississippi. Terrell came by such a burden honestly: He has a Choctaw ancestor, and his grandparents ministered the gospel to the Choctaws in the 1930s through music.
Choctaw churches and ministers now host Terrell’s Art Jam events. A typical outreach begins with an example of the project being shown to the children. They are given instructions, and the kids go to work. After lunch, the artwork continues. When they’re done, the children present their work to everyone else.
All of that is followed by a Bible story that communicates the theme of the art project and is delivered by a Choctaw pastor. Often they sing several songs.
“When we finish the Bible story, a very clear and simple presentation of the plan of salvation is presented,” said Terrell. “At the end of the presentation, the groups meet with their group leader and any questions are covered. Within the group, we often have children pray to accept Christ.”
Terrell is quick to say that Art Jam is not about him personally or his artistic abilities. “This is about a team of people with a heart for the precious people who come,” he said.
When it began four years ago, Art Jam drew a small crowd—three Choctaw adults and six Choctaw children. Today Terrell said the events average 130-150 children.
As the numbers have grown, so has the vision. For example, Terrell said they trained their first team last year to take Art Jam to the Sioux in South Dakota, an outreach that will grow this coming summer.
Such outreaches are necessary, he said, because Native Americans represent one of the largest unreached people groups in the U.S. Of the country’s six million Native Americans, only 5% claim any affiliation with a Christian church or identify themselves as Christian, according to Terrell.
Art Jam has a new partnership with the Fellowship of Native American Christians (FONAC). Through FONAC, Art Jam has introduced to Native Praise, a choir of thirty Native American women all members hailing from different tribes. Native Praise sang at the Southern Baptist Convention of 2014.
Native Praise will be coming to Macedonia Baptist Church in Petal, Mississippi, Saturday, July 18, 2015, to sing and support the church Mission team, “Keep the Fires Burning” (KFB). The greater Hattiesburg area is invited to come and hear this outstanding choir and also participate in Art Jam training that will take place earlier in the afternoon. Please register for this event to obtain a free ticket to attend. You can register by calling the church office at 601.545.3110 or by registering at the church website at http://www.mbcpetal.com.
KFB will be cutting, splitting, and transporting, in two 18-wheel tractor-trailers, 40 cords or more of oak wood to the Navajos of Cornfield, Arizona. The team will also carry out an Art Jam event for the children of the tribe. KFB departure date is August 16.
Art Jam is a relatively inexpensive way to reach out to the community, and leaders can be taught without extensive training sessions. For more about Art Jam and how it might work in your state, contact Chuck Terrell at 601.518.0599 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. A booklet detailing the Art Jam vision, titled Dreaming God’s Dream: Dreams Identified by God’s Fingerprint, is also available and can be obtained by contacting Terrell.
Ed Vitagliano is a staff writer for AFA Journal.