The Fruits of Partnership
StoneWorks and Operation Mobilisation
Creative arts ministries have been growing within the international missions organization Operation Mobilisation (OM) for the last 10 years, but in the past year, with the help of StoneWorks, they took a great leap forward.
Bill Harris, who served as a church planter and mentor in Russia, explains the reason for OM’s increasing interest in the arts: “Our experience has been that, when the gospel is interlaced with foreign trappings, it spreads much more slowly, not necessarily because of resistance to the message but rather to its alien wrappings. Church growth and discipleship surge forward when the gospel is contextualized in biblically appropriate ways using local arts (for example, dance, drawing, and national dress); nations come to see Jesus as ‘for them.’”
OM now includes Heart Sounds International, ArtsLink, DanceLink, the Bill Drake Band, Whetstone Recording, as well as individual artists working in such places as Ireland, Spain, Russia, France, Syria, and
Singapore. But until recently, these ministries functioned in different departments and fields with little interaction. Many of their efforts were limited to short-term mission trips, and they lacked a coherent voice in OM as a whole.
In the autumn of 2007, OM Arts director Bill Drake, in conjunction with the top leadership of OM USA, asked Colin Harbinson, StoneWorks International Director, to come alongside them as a guide and mentor in their efforts to forge a new organizational structure that would best serve the development and promotion of the arts in mission. Colin’s involvement included addressing the international leadership of OM to make a case for the vital importance of the arts in mission, helping the arts ministries draw up a business plan and goals, and walking them through the process of organizing and strategizing as a new, united leadership team, the Artisan
The result, on October 1, 2008, was a major decision by the OM ruling body to raise OM Arts to the status of an International Ministry within OM with a potentially global scope. “By uniting the different arts teams,” says
Bill Drake, director of the Artisan Council, “you get a lot more synergy and cross-fertilization. We’re now learning from each other and recruiting for each other. We’re not just doing our own thing. But also, because we’re united, we have much more credibility in OM, and that gives us a much bigger voice.” The new structure
will allow OM Arts to recruit international artists as well as Americans and eventually to place artists on the field as longterm missionaries.
StoneWorks also helped to broker a strategic scholarship program between OM and Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi—a Christian liberal arts college with an extensive arts program. Colin Harbinson, formerly dean of the arts, is currently based there. This relationship will provide a pipeline for Belhaven-trained artists to join OM and for OM recruits to go to Belhaven at a reduced tuition rate.
Drake adds, “This is so key today, that we see the arts, the church, the colleges, and mission agencies partnering together to spread the gospel of the kingdom of God. The transformational dynamic of the creative arts, inspired by our creative God, is a power that the body of Christ must now tap into in order to reach the next generation with the gospel.”