By George Henson
It’s not preaching or painting for Pastor Randall Worley. It’s both.
And his passion for spreading the gospel through oratory and visual expression has inspired Worley to conduct weeklong art camps at Prairie Creek Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, the last two years, with participants ranging from middle school students to adults in their 40s.
The camps, like his own art, go far beyond arts-and-crafts.
“I’m interested in more than the ‘paint-what-you-feel’ approach that for most people just turns out to be a big mess,” Worley said. “So … I also try to think of some way the project can build the church and benefit the church.”
In the first camp, Worley taught color theory, and participants painted tiles to create a multi-paneled mural of Jesus interacting with children.
“I thought we could use something that would decorate and communicate that we love our children and Jesus does, too,” Worley said.
This year, the camp focused on design. Around the theme “Portraits of Grace,” participants took photographs they used as the basis of pencil-drawn portraits of individuals who demonstrated different aspects of the “multifaceted glory of God.” Those portraits now adorn a wall at Prairie Creek Church.
The church also held an art contest this year to go along with Worley’s sermon series titled “The Death of God” — based on Mark 14-16 — that included several entries from artists outside the church. The church paid $1,500 for the winning entry, which included the church retaining the piece for display. Any artist whose work did not win first prize was allowed to sell it.
Worley hopes it will become an annual event.
He said he wanted more than some really fine art, so he provided the notes for his 11 sermons to the artists to provide a biblical foundation as the inspiration for the pieces.
“I’m always thinking of ways for us to connect with our community,” he said. “As I thought about my passions and what I bring to table, I thought one of the ways we can connect with the community is through the arts.”
Worley said art has been a key component of his life as long as he can remember.
“I was always good at art from a very young age, and something I just really enjoyed doing.”
As a teenager, he thought art would be his vocation.
“But when God called me, that took me a different direction,” he said. “I was 15 when God called me to preach, and it was definitely not something I felt equipped to do. So the struggle was not that I was giving up art, but that I just didn’t feel I was capable of preaching.”
While he knew he eventually would go to seminary to prepare for ministry, he pursued an undergraduate fine arts degree in painting. His father, a missionary in Spain, always encouraged his children to use all their talents for the glory of God, and so Worley felt it was important to develop his skills as an artist as well.
“This church, when I got here, had so many undecorated walls that I felt there was a lot I could do here,” he said.
Worley’s artistic influence also is felt on a more frequent basis through other avenues.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve designed our bulletin covers to go along with the sermons I’m preaching, as well as any posters,” he said.
He also uses art as a backdrop for his sermons. While preaching through the book of Jonah, he took the wood from pallets and nailed it to plywood and then painted scenes from the book on his newly created rough-hewn canvas.
“I’ve always felt we, as evangelicals, tend to neglect the visual arts. I think we’re pretty good at using music in worship, but maybe as a response to the excesses of iconography and the idolatry that is often attached to that — where the artwork becomes the object of worship — we go to the opposite extreme and don’t hardly use it at all,” Worley said.
“I think it is important to use all that we have to glorify God. Art is a medium of communication. Like you can preach a sermon, you can create artwork that is thought-provoking and challenging and communicates a message.”