When Steve Marshall entered the ordained ministry after a long career in the graphic arts field, he looked for a way to combine his two passions, preaching and painting. Inspired by a childhood remembrance of a visiting chalk art evangelist, Steve decided to develop what he called art sermons. Rather than using chalk, he decided to rely on his extensive experience as a pastel artist to create quick paintings during his sermon. His first art sermon was presented at Creighton United Methodist Church in 1992 where he was serving his seminary internship as a youth pastor. When he was appointed to Liberty UMC in 1994, he began presenting his art sermons regularly and was pleased by the enthusiastic response. He found that when members of his congregation learned that he was going to be doing an art sermon, they invited friends and neighbors to experience this unusual approach to preaching. When Steve founded New Song UMC in Surprise, his art sermons became an effective evangelism tool, aiding in the church’s rapid growth. As the word of what Steve was doing spread, he was invited to preach his art sermons at many different churches and events throughout the state. Steve retired in 2010 but serves part-time on staff at Willowbrook UMC in Sun City where his art sermons continue to be popular among his congregation.
In the past year Steve has presented his art sermons at the Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Women in Portland, OR and was Guest Chaplain for a week at Lakeside Chautauqua in Lakeside, OH. This past April he was the guest speaker at the annual conference of PAUMCS (Professional Association of United Methodist Church Secretaries). In June he will be a special guest at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, a large mega-church, in Columbus, OH. He continues to present his art sermons at Willowbrook as well as local churches in the area.
Because of the growing interest in his art evangelism ministry and a desire to reach more people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Steve recently created a special YouTube video channel. Called ArtEvangelism (one word), the channel offers edited videos of some of Steve’s art sermons. You can find the channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/ArtEvangelism?feature. As he explains in the introductory video, the recorded art sermon videos differ from the ones presented in churches. Those sermons are preached from the pulpit but with the addition of three musical interludes. It is while the music is playing that Steve paints at his easel. By the end of the sermon (approximately 20-25 minutes) his completed pastel painting is displayed. Because the music for the art sermons is copyrighted, it could not be included in the YouTube videos. So in the video version, the viewer sees Steve creating the pastel painting as the sermon is read. Without the music, the video versions are typically about 10 minutes long. Steve has found that this is a good length for his on-line videos as people are more likely to watch a 10 minute sermon, especially with the added visual interest.
Over the years, Steve has developed more than 20 different art sermons. It is his intention to eventually have all of them available on his YouTube channel. And, of course, he continues to develop new ones. Steve also plans to create Spanish language versions of his art sermon videos so he can reach the burgeoning Latino community.
As Steve presents his art sermons in churches around the country, he is gratified by the enthusiastic response to his art sermons but also surprised that few Christian artists have picked up on this highly effective evangelism tool. He is now mentoring two individuals but would love to see more preachers and lay speakers use art in their ministries. Steve believes that the combination of word, art and music uniquely speak to both the heart and mind, creating a multi-media experience that is both entertaining and inspiring. Steve has found that his art sermons appeal to all ages, and, to a culture that is visually and musically oriented, they also speak their language.
Over the past twenty years thousands have seen Steve’s art sermons and heard God’s word preached. The hope is that through this video ministry, thousands (or perhaps millions) may receive that blessing.
Editor’s note: To learn more contact Rev. Steve Marshall at or visit his website http://www.stevemarshallarts.com.