Arts In Action|Testimony Series|Ryan Livingston
Growing up in the Army, I’ve been involved with its programming for as long as I can remember, but nothing has impacted me more than the Arts. As a kid, I think I learned more about God and his word while watching artists perform than I did by sitting in pews on Sundays. The Arts captivated me and drew me in. Something about it just makes you pay attention. There’s an intimacy and immediacy there. God can speak so clearly through a dance or reveal himself through a drama. Performance lets you experience and see God’s message come to life in real-time, through all your senses. And it’s a powerful delivery system.
I remember watching CAST perform Godspell at the Pier in 2008 and seeing the early years of TAM conservatory finale performances. With my dad, I was also able to see rehearsals and some behind the scenes of GNY Christmas Spectaculars, and other divisional performances. I couldn’t get enough. Even Star Search and camp performances stand out in my mind. These memories are all very dear to me and defined some of the early steps in my walk with Christ.
I jumped in as soon as I was old enough to participate in divisional and territorial arts programs and I immediately found my home there. The arts gave me a place to not only express myself and grow my talents, but it’s also where I’ve found friendships and the fellowship of other believers. I’ve found a system of other young Christians and artists who I can turn to for support and encouragement.
At the end of the day I think it’s about passion: passion for God, which imbues everything else. Now that I’m older, I’ve experienced and participated in theater and performance outside of the Army, at school and in college. And although it’s fun it just doesn’t have the same life and purpose that the Arts in the Salvation Army has. It feels hollow or becomes about success or pride. I think the Arts is meant for a much higher purpose than that.
For me, and I know many others, the moments I experience God most, when I hear his voice the loudest, is when I am on stage performing. And it’s really humbling to just let God in and see Him use you. Often in ways you could never have imagined. I’ve seen firsthand the way the Arts can affect people’s lives. I’ve seen people brought to the Lord by street performances, or rededicate their lives to Him after hearing someone’s testimony. I’ve seen hundreds of kids meet God for the first time through Jesus Theater at camp. I’ve seen the power of this ministry and it overwhelms me. I can only hope that my part in it can help do for others what the Arts did for me.