Today our nation celebrates the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an all too human man who was used by God to communicate an important dream and peacefully lead a just cause. Last week I was able to attend a church leadership conference that focused on how to repair the divorce that occurred so long ago between the church and the arts. One of the presenters was Makoto Fujimara who is an artist, writer and speaker whose works are exhibited in the finest art galleries around the world. He also happens to love Jesus.
Makoto told us a story that I’d never heard before. The night before Dr. King was to give a speech during the climax of the great march on Washington, he had nothing. His aides had written something, but as Dr. King read the prepared speech while he walked through the open mall of Washington D. C. he knew the prepared speech wasn’t right. So he cobbled together some other thoughts that he used to begin his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. When he began giving the actual speech, he began slowly, haltingly, a little unsure of himself. In fact when you read the text of his speech you can clearly see a difference between the first few minutes of his speech and the last few minutes. As Dr. King spoke in the opening minutes of his speech, the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who stood with so many others behind him, leaned in and said, “Tell them about the dream Martin! Tell them about the dream.” Her cries were beyond the reach of the microphone, but she kept calling, “Tell them about the dream.” Finally Dr. King put down his prepared notes and extemporaneously began to describe a beautiful dream of a very different America.
Makoto finished this story by making an important point – “It took an artist to stand behind Dr. King and cry out, reminding him of the dream. This is why the church needs artists.” I loved hearing a new piece of American history, but I also loved understanding why we need artists to help us be more honest, more raw, more clear about the dream Jesus has given to His church – the dream of “making all things new ” (Rev. 21:5).