Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Van Gogh - a rejected Christian missionary
One of my favorite missionary teams are Tim Scott and Will Decker from Travel the Road.
Travel the Road is an American reality television series that documents the lives of these two young missionaries through more than 25 different countries since 1998. They see it as a
two-fold ministry. Their mission statement says: "First, we actively preach the message of Christ Jesus to remote people groups who have never heard the gospel, or are currently cutoff from active mission work. Second, we document our expeditions and present them in a weekly television series to motivate the church to be active in missions."
Decker and Scott undertake expeditions into the most remote areas of the world to bring the gospel. From the deserts of Ethiopia to the island villages of Papua New Guinea they travel from country to country with one backpack, a change of clothes, and the Christian Gospel. The following is from their monthly email newsletter:
This month, we would like to share an interesting story we recently learned on a stopover in Amsterdam as we transited to our missions in Europe and the Middle East. We found this story in the twisting canals of Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum
It is the story of Vincent Van Gogh himself and gifts God had placed inside of him. These gifts, sadly, were unseen to others and to Vincent himself during his lifetime, and it is a story that could have been different.
Vincent Van Gogh studied at seminary and formed a deep zeal to preach the Gospel. In 1879, Van Gogh took a missionary post to minister to a miners community in Belgium. He lived like those he preached to, sleeping on straw in a small hut at the back of the baker's house where he was staying.
Van Gogh’s fellow church clergy did not know what to make of his unorthodox methods of ministry and accused Vincent of undermining the church and dignity of a being a preacher. Van Gogh didn’t help matters by displaying erratic behavior and overzealousness at times, but it was clear he was passionate for the preaching of the gospel. But after a few years, he submitted to failure and gave up his missionary post.
It wasn’t until the age of 27 that he began to paint as a profession, but he viewed it as a new ministry rather than a job: Van Gogh writes, “To try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another, in a picture . . .”
But Van Gogh would not be received by the artistic community either, as they rejected his style and unorthodox ways. Vincent, for the most part, self taught himself the ways of his art and hated the conventional format. He was a rogue and a reject, first in the clergy and now in the art world. He was plagued with self doubt and emotional swings, and this is where his weakness lay.
But Van Gogh never recovered from his earlier failure as a missionary, and like many in his time, he wrongly felt that suffering and carrying one’s own burden was better than casting it upon God. Vincent’s passion to serve God was deep, but it was snuffed out and he bottled up that failure and carried it inside of him like a disease.
Van Gogh was in need of forming and molding of his ministerial ways, not a casting out. He resented the church for this and instead, Vincent explored the ideas of displaying God in nature with the intention of invoking the Gospel through inspiration of art.
At the age of 37, Vincent Van Gogh committed suicide. A tormented man who was well acquainted with rejection. In Vincent Van Gogh’s lifetime, he only sold one painting. It wasn’t until years after his death that his work was fully appreciated. Now, today, his paintings are some of the most valuable in the world, and he is celebrated as a master artist.
Vincent Van Gogh’s story is a sad one. God had placed talent inside of him and throughout his life it was suffocated, by others and by Van Gogh’s own self doubts. Who knows what other great masterpieces Van Gogh could have created with encouragement, guidance, and knowing that pleasing God was the only thing that mattered. If only Vincent would have believed the Word, Romans 8:31 - “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
In each of us, God has placed talents and gifts. He has created all of us for a purpose. God is the ultimate artist, and we are made in His image. Amazing, when you think about it! If you are in a place where you are wondering what is next in life and what God has placed you on the earth for, take courage! You are bound for great things! Give God glory, and enjoy the beauty of life in Him. Be passionate, and give the Lord your cares and worries. 1 Peter 5:7 “...Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.”