We like Dave Weiss and AMOKArts. And not just because AMOKArts sounds similar to Alternate Arts. Dave is a visual artist, church leader, and cares for the heart of Christians.
I recently met Dave over dinner at Applebee’s. The Holy Spirit poured genuineness and encouragement into the meeting. I followed up with Dave afterword to hear his thoughts on AMOKArts, the nature of creativity, and story-telling.
Alternate Arts: Could you introduce us to AMOKArts?
Dave: AMOK stands for Arts Ministry Outreach for the Kingdom. AMOKArts happened when AMOK.com was taken but I kind of liked it better because as AMOKArts has evolved, it’s become more than just about arts, ministry and outreach; though it’s still mainly about the Kingdom. The mission of AMOKArts is to use art as a tool to spread the Gospel and help people, especially creatives, to use their gifts to serve the Lord and others.
Alternate Arts: Would you define what you mean by the word “creatives?”
Dave: A lot of people would say artists of various stripes and that is part of it for sure. The truth is: creatives are people who create, whether that’s art or invention. It’s the person that will find a solution where there is no solution. I believe everyone is creative and a lot of people don’t believe that, but if you can find a way where there seems to be no way, you’re creative. If you’ve learned to make do with the resources you have, if you figure out a way to live when you run out of money before you run out of month, you’re creative. Now, some people may be more creative, some people live to create, and they may be seen as the creatives, but everyone can be creative.
Alternate Arts: Thanks for that definition. As you interact with artists through your blog and in live appearances, what needs do you find common among Christian artists?
Dave: There is a real desire among the artists I interact with to use what they’ve been given to serve the Lord. Another common theme is that their churches don’t always know what to do with them. They need support, understanding, encouragement and in a sense permission to use those gifts.
Alternate Arts: How does AMOKArts address those needs?
Dave: Basically, as I see it, a lot of people feel that there are roles for three groups of people in the church: speakers, singers and instrumentalists. If your gift doesn’t fit one of those roles you’re pretty much left as a spectator. I believe this is why so many people in the church are disengaged, disenfranchised and have a consumer mentality. If all they can do is watch the show, people are going to look for the best show. I also see a lot of pastors and church leaders who have beautiful, God-given visions and experience tremendous frustration because they can’t bring them to fruition, either because of opposition from people who are stuck in “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” or there simply aren’t enough gifted people ready to engage their gifts and do something different.
In AMOKArts, I want to help these people. The Bible calls the church the Body of Christ and we are all parts of it. That’s why we’re called “members;” we’re literally parts of the body. I try to use the art gift that I have been given to encourage and empower people to step out in faith, with whatever gift (1 Peter 4:10) they have been given to be their part of the Body of Christ. After all, consider your own body. When one part is not working, every other part has to compensate and if enough parts aren’t working, we die. But what would happen if each of us were to get serious about finding the purpose for which we were created (Ephesians 2:10) and putting it to work in the context of the local church, whether that be in the worship service or in reaching out to the local community? When I come to speak at a church, that’s ultimately what I want to inspire. It’s what was done for me. I entered the church a non-Christian with a drinking problem and terrified of public speaking. Today I am a born again believer, a pastor, sober and I’ll go anywhere to speak. What happened? The two things I really want to do. Someone led me to Jesus and found a use for my gift of art. I also want to help church leaders by calling out people to be all they were created to be and help them fulfill their God-given vision for the church.
On the blog, I back this up by creating resources for art ministry, post encouraging stories and videos, share examples of the creative things others are doing, etc. The other thing I do is a lot of interaction with folks online: encouraging and challenging them to honor God, come under the authority of the local church, and create the things God lays on their hearts.
Alternate Arts: You’ve self-published two books on art. Could you describe the basic themes of your books?
Dave: Running A.M.O.K.: Random Musings for the Creative Hands of the Body of Christ is a combination of my best blog posts enhanced and edited along with never-before-seen material to encourage and challenge Christian creatives. It contains essays about God, Art, Artists and the Church.
Ministering to the Creative Soul is a short book for people who want to encourage and minister to the creatives in their lives and help them to live out God’s creative purpose for their lives. My hope is that it would also help individual creatives understand themselves and the world around them. It’s a book for creatives and the people who love them.
I have two more books in the works as well which I’m hoping to have out by the end of 2012. More Running A.M.O.K and God and the Creative Process.
Alternate Arts: How can people get a copy of your books?
Dave: My books are available on Amazon.com. There are links to all the books on http://AMOKArts.com, and of course they are for sale at my live appearances. Also on Amazon are three versions of my favorite art-based teaching on the Body of Christ entitled Many Parts… One Body. In this teaching, each participant creates a piece of an image. When all the pieces are assembled, they form an image of Jesus illustrating what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ. I’ve created this resource in three versions for small, medium and large groups.
Alternate Arts:I understand you’re an artist yourself. Could you describe the type of art you produce?
Dave: I do a variety of different things. The main ministry art that I do is speed painting or as I call it “story-painting,” where I complete large works of art in five to ten minutes and use them to tell stories. A large part of my AMOKArts presentations are done in this fashion. I do a lot of art videos on youtube. These are time lapse and/or stop motion animated paintings that I use to share the Gospel and teach biblical principles. They can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/amokarts. I do acrylic paintings. In the church I pastor, I do a painting nearly every Sunday based on the theme of my message. I’m a cartoonist and I produce web comics which can be seen at http://creachertoons.wordpress.com. Recently, I’ve been dabbling in Pop Art, and that work can be seen at http://daveweissamericanpop.deviantart.com. I do graphic and publication design for a living.
Alternate Arts: What are your influences as: a visual artist, a writer, a marketer?
Dave: My influences are about as diverse as my work. My best ideas in every aspect of my career come in my morning prayer walks and they always have. As far as other artists, cartoon and comic artists have influenced me. I use to freelance for a licensee of the Ninja Turtles and I love the work of Disney and Warner Brothers animators. I love the work of pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, painters like Van Gogh, and anyone for whom a Ninja Turtle was named. A California artist named Charlene Rice’s work influenced me to try doing video art and performance painter David Garibaldi really got me thinking about the idea of live painting.
As to writing and marketing, some of those influences are the same. I love the work of Seth Godin. His books Linchpin and Tribes really helped to focus my efforts on blogging. The guys from 37signals.com’s book ReWork gave me the idea for how to set up my first book and Godin’s effort with the Domino Project got me to produce the second. I read a lot of bloggers like Michael Hyatt and his book Platform has radically changed the way I approach building a community of like minded believer-artists. I long for the day when I can tell a story like Andy Andrews. His books The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer have really influenced me as well. I’m hoping soon to do a similar modern day parable. Of course, my main influence is the Master Storyteller, Jesus. His teaching in parables is beyond compare. I hope that the work I do always reveals spiritual truths.
Alternate Arts: As a church leader, what words of encouragement and direction would you give to other leaders regarding art and artists in their churches?
Dave: My life was radically changed when a pastor asked me to paint a backdrop for Vacation Bible School because someone in the church that I respected took the time to get to know me and find a use for my gift. That one act set in motion a chain of events that took me from a guy with a drinking problem, terrified to speak in public, to a church pastor who can’t wait for the opportunity to speak to any crowd. It lit a fire in me that, Lord willing, will never go out. I know there is tremendous pressure in a lot of congregations to keep everything just the way it is. The only one who likes change is a wet baby and even he’ll cry til it’s over. That being said, we live in a world that is changing faster than it ever has before, and my suspicion is it’s not going to slow down any time soon. This leaves us in a tough spot. We have an unchanging message, a solid rock we can stand on in a sea of unprecedentedly rapid change. How do we get that unchanging message to an ever changing world? Very creatively. Churches need our creatives more than ever before. It’s time to embrace them, give them a safe place to fail (because creatives must fail sometimes, it happens when you’re doing something new) and “spur them on to love and good deeds.” You don’t need to be an artist to do this. You simply need to love them, run interference for them with those who “worship” the status quo, give them a direction and a vision, occasionally rein them in, and cheer them on. I think every artist is looking for a venue and most of them want to make a difference. Give them that opportunity and let them help you change the world.