This is the sixth year that I have sponsored a Christian poetry contest. Every year I answer the same question – “Why is a preacher sponsoring a poetry contest?” The answer is simple. All art, but poetry especially, is important in the army of God. There are three reasons why art is so important.
First, poetry is a way to get the message out to folks that may not otherwise hear it. Millions have heard the gospel from Milton’s pen that would never have heard it apart from Paradise Lost. By the way, quality is the key to opening those doors. C. S. Lewis believed that the world does not need more Christian writers; the world needs more good writers that are Christians. The best fishermen use the tastiest bait.
Second, art is a way to sugarcoat a tough message without compromising. It isn’t obvious sometimes in our English Bible, but much of the Old Testament prophecy books are poetry. The poetic rebuke of the prophets helped “the medicine go down.” The rebuke of the prophet Nathan to King David in II Samuel 12 is the best example of artistic sugarcoating in the Bible. Kings in biblical times had absolute authority to both kill the innocent and forgive the guilty. Nathan had the uncomfortable job of rebuking his absolute monarch for killing committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband to hide the sin. He tells the king a little story about two men – one rich and selfish and one poor and abused. The extended metaphor that God gave Nathan probably made the difference between a stoned prophet and a repentant King.
Third, art forces the artist, performer, and audience to meditate on the things of God while they experience art. I have found three primary ways to mediate on God over the last thirty years – theologically which is mainly a mental process, prayerfully which is mainly a spiritual process, and artistically which is mainly an emotional process. Praying and reading your Bible is great, but using only two legs of that three-legged tripod makes a wobbly Christian. The Psalmist said, “O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.” (Psa 96:1) Praise God with your mind, your heart, and your spirit.
— Donnie Bryson