Faith

Arts Release: A ministry of creatives aiming to transform the mission field

by Justine Ocampo // July 15, 2020, 10:09 am

ART RELEASE

“When you go on missions, you think you need to teach English or do medical work or build toilets or do water purification,” began Anne Soh. 

The music missionary mother of three continued: “But if what you can offer is music or painting, people think it’s useless and not needed in the mission field. So artists often feel very sidelined and undermined, thinking their talents or skills are of no use.” 

And that’s where Arts Release comes in, an arts ministry that music missionaries Anne and her husband Job Tan are spearheading in Asia.

Debunking the mindset of missions as just being about the same old activities, Anne hopes to help artists come to believe that art can be their medium and platform for missions.

“Through this ministry, we want to show other artists that it’s not just about teaching English or building toilets or doing medical or dental work,” she said. “God can use your artistic talents to bring about transformation.”

UNLEASHING THE POWER OF THE ARTS

Arts Release is a collective of creative arts specialists who express God’s love through various art forms. The ministry, which is part of WEC International, is already well established in other countries such as England, France, Germany and Spain – but not so in Asia.

As it happened, the founder of Arts Release, Ian Collinge, was Anne and Job’s lecturer when they were doing their Masters in Contemporary Mission Studies in the UK. So throughout the course of their studies, the couple got to find out more about the arts ministry.

It was an experience that came at the right time for Anne and Job as the couple, having served for many years in music ministries, felt that what they could do with music in Singapore had reached a plateau.

It renewed their hope that the arts held great potential for missions.

How creative arts can make a difference in missions

Through various workshops and the time spent serving in the ministry, Anne and Job came to a realisation: They had to bring Arts Release to young artists in Singapore where the ministry could not only raise up Singaporean missionaries to do missions in creative ways, but also support missionaries in the region.

Anne explained that while Singapore has become a base for missions in Asia, there are still many unreached people groups in the region. So Arts Release has great potential as a platform to reach out through local and contextualised art forms.

Furthermore, the couple found that nearly every child in Singapore has gone through some form of arts education. Anne remarked: “If we could mobilise and train them to use the arts, they would become a great and powerful mission force for Asia and the world!”

Team photo during pre-training for Arts Outreach 2018 to Miyako, Japan (left), Arts Prayer Trip 2019 in Kyoto, Japan (right)

Even during the recent circuit breaker, Anne and Job saw how such a ministry could make a great spiritual impact online.

They held several workshops with artists all over the world to worship God through the arts, including one memorable series where the group did a Bible study through the arts.

Choosing specific Bible verses and art forms to focus on at each session, they discussed, reflected and meditated on the verses before creating artworks that were inspired by God. Anne then put these art pieces into a video for a song written by Job.

Together with their three children, the couple also made other videos to encourage fellow believers during the circuit breaker, especially those feeling isolated.

Like this Tamil worship video to lift the spirits of migrant workers!

EMPOWERING LOCAL ARTS AND ARTISTS

Together with members of the Arts Release team, Anne and Job mentor young adults at Arts Release, training them to use their talents in the mission field.

One practice the ministry believes in is multicultural worship: teaching congregations how to incorporate worship songs from different cultures into a single worship set.

The hope is to challenge the mindset that worship songs should cater to the primary language of the congregation.

Training the youths for music performances during City Revival Camp 2019 (left), Creative Artists’ Gathering 2020 (right).

Anne explained that while English may be the most commonly spoken language across congregations here, it may not be the heart language for some – the language one is most comfortable with.

“Through a multicultural mix of songs, you can reach different groups of people in the congregation,” she said.

“When you’re reaching out to a certain group of people and they come to your church, they might feel that everything is foreign to them,” she said. “They’re unable to really join in and feel connected.

“Heart music – music that’s sung in their heart language and in musical styles they’re familiar with – can thus be used to reach them.”

The art of serving millennials in a Chinese church

The couple also teaches contextualised worship: this involves going to certain people groups who have their own art forms and showing them how to use their art forms for worship or outreach. The art forms can be anything from a particular music style, instruments, dance to even drama and poetry.

“We go in and help the local believers find out what art forms the locals are most familiar with, and what kind of art matters to them deep in their hearts,” she said.

After all, understanding local language and culture is what helps one to reach out to the community.

People connect with God more easily when they can see their local arts being used in the church.

Anne explained that people connect with God more easily when they can see their local arts being used in the church.

“So when people look at the church, they will no longer see it as foreign or Western,” she said. “They can identify with it because it’s their own songs, dance and art – making it more easily accepted and accessible for local people.”

Finally, the couple had words of advice for young artists who have felt sidelined or discouraged about their place and role in the mission field – don’t give up and be open to how God can use you.

Interested to find out more about the Arts Release community? Or does your mission trip team need training? Email Anne and Job at artsreleasesg@gmail.com or sign up for their mailing list here.

THINK + TALK

  1. Do you know what are your gifts and talents?
  2. How have you used them for the Kingdom?
  3. What is one practical way you can use your talents for God’s glory this week?
About the author

Justine Ocampo

Justine doesn't wear a watch, but she's always just-ine time, just-ine case you were wondering.