A few months ago I wrote the first article in a series I’ve titled, Beyond the Gallery. The series is all about artists or supporters of the arts whose influence and focus is found outside of the gallery, and who glorify God through the arts. This second installment is about Josh Davis.
I struggle to figure out where to start. It’s natural to begin with his songwriting successes. But I imagine my humble friend reading this, wishing I would skip that part. It’s probably best to start with how I met him.
He and his Proskuneo team (more on this later) led a worship concert at our church one Sunday evening in 2009. Afterwards my girlfriend (now wife) and I were invited to go out for pizza with the team by a friend who helped organize the event. We had a large group sitting at a long table, but we were at the very end with Josh and a couple other amazing people from the team, Heidi and Kate—and we got to talking art. This is a rare enough treat, but to talk specifically about art in ministry with people who dealt with the topic on a regular basis? It made our hearts soar.
We stayed in touch loosely via Facebook and collaborated on a couple small projects over the next few months. About a year after our pizza chat we were in the Atlanta suburbs at Josh’s request, leading a session on “The Spirituality of Art” at a conference led by Proskuneo. The opportunity to teach, worship, learn, and grow over these few short days were foundational in our lives.
So what is Proskuneo? Their mission statement provides a great overview:
Proskuneo exists to glorify God and promote unity in the body of Christ through multilingual, multicultural worship gatherings, worship resources, and training in order that lives be transformed and nations come together to worship God.
The organization is based in Clarkston, Georgia, one of the most diverse cities in the country. The vast majority of the population is foreign born, partly due to the number of refugees. And there are 60 languages in a 1.5 mile radius. This gets to the heart of Josh’s ministry. Saying that he has an appreciation for different cultures and languages puts it mildly. When we visited Atlanta I stayed at Josh’s home and was blessed to experience his family’s hospitality. They lived in a nice house outside of town. Since then he moved into a run-down house in Clarkston that needed major repairs in order to be habitable. How this happened is an amazing story all it’s own, but the point is that he wanted to touch this community and specifically those of other cultures not just through his occupation, but through his everyday life.
Central to this local community focus is the Proskuneo School of the Arts (PSOTA). This is art and faith combined in a practical, hands-on way. Students from the community are taught both in groups and one-on-one. There is a variety of lessons offered, both free and paid. Students can learn instruments, photography, painting, drawing, and even dance. These classes are offered for adults as well. Students then interact with their community via opportunities to perform and via artwork published in the local paper. Plus former students are now becoming teachers!
But beyond improving their community, personal relationships are being formed within a Christian environment. In true Jeremiah 29:7 fashion, Josh and his team are seeking the welfare of their city so that the name of God may be glorified. And they’re doing it through art education. I think back on the people who influenced me in the arts at a young age, and the people who influenced my walk with Christ. What those people had in common were the personal attention they gave to me and the personal interest shown.
Lately I’ve been learning how the body of Christ is an “uncommon community” because what we have in common goes beyond that of most communities. It isn’t about location or interest—it’s about our common Lord and the fact that we have all been adopted as sons and daughters into His family. So how do individuals from sixty plus people groups living in a small area learn about and become members of this uncommon community of Christ? It helps if they join together in the somewhat common languages of art and music. And while that is a wonderful tool and a great start—it’s not enough. They also need to hear truth and love in their own language. They need people like Josh who are willing to sacrifice time to learn their language. I don’t know how many languages Josh now knows, but I’m pretty sure it’s less than it will be a year from now.
If you’re interested in learning more about the School of the Arts, providing a scholarship, or donating an instrument check out Proskuneo’s site.