They say music is the universal language. This is true on the streets of Turkey, where earphones protrude from the ears of so many; from teenage skateboarders to head-covered carpet weavers. So God has raised up artists with a range of gifts, and we’re increasingly using a diversity of art forms to attract people to his message: theatre, dance, mime, visual arts, martial arts, unicycling, clowning, illusion and even yo-yo tricks! We embrace creativity and excellence, whatever the medium, to see Muslims attracted to Christ.
Who we are
TACO’s mission is to creatively proclaim the gospel of Jesus to Muslim peoples everywhere. That’s it. Our three-strand cord. Our non-negotiables. We are uncompromising about Jesus. We are unshakeable in our love for Muslims, and our desire to see them in the Kingdom. And we introduce the latter to the former by using the creative arts, and by enabling and training others to do the same.
And when we’re not doing arts outreaches, we’re trying to live the gospel, share Christ however we can, and make disciples. It takes creativity to find inroads for the gospel in such a culture, and it’s vital to have a team of encouraging brothers and sisters with whom to pray and persevere. TACO is such a ministry family, made up of workers from different agencies, including WEC.
One of our principles is to empower local (in this case Turkish) churches to use their own artistic gifts to share their faith. A recent search for national participants began with a creative pitch to 150 believers at a national youth gathering. From these and a few other contacts we were able to start rehearsing a band, a dance team and a drama group in Istanbul.
Every year on 23 April, tens of thousands of people visit an old Orthodox monastery on an island close to Istanbul in search of a blessing from God. Very few of these people are Christian in any sense of the word. It’s a great opportunity to share with people about the God we believe in.
On this occasion about 15 national believers were sharing their faith using the arts, as well as our normal TACO team. Despite poor weather the team was able to perform five times to the large crowds visiting the island. When they weren’t performing, they handed out brochures, prayed and talked with many people. After such a positive experience many want to join us again in more arts outreaches.
Working with nationals has a different dynamic from working with foreigners. To start with, all rehearsals have to be run in Turkish, which really encourages our team members to up their language skills. We also have to fit rehearsals into very busy work and study schedules. But it’s been great to see the TACO team developing these skills, and seeing increasing numbers of nationals participating with, even outnumbering us. We trust we’ll be able to maintain this momentum going forwards.
How we do it
We’ve now performed in over 14 countries, from small street gatherings to large concert-type crowds. The venues are diverse: nightclubs/bars, discos, cafes, open-air theatres, parks, fairs, camps, city squares, shopping malls, cultural centres, ships and churches. Whatever the context, our goal is that every spectator sees a quality performance that glorifies Christ and challenges people with his claims.
Performers, often with the help of translators, are able to share their testimonies and the gospel from the stage, as well as one-to-one after performances. Song lyrics are translated and distributed to the audience, who are offered different options for additional information. We are fanatical about follow-up and only partner with churches or groups who commit to ‘pursuing’ people who show interest.
TACO is a creative, dynamic, talented and organic collection of people. The musicians on our team form the core of a “house” band that has recorded two albums and continues to expand its repertoire of Turkish materials for Turkish gigs. Others on our team are dancers, visual artists, puppeteers, drivers, sound engineers, techies, and/or provide backstage support such as hospitality, logistics, administration and intercessory prayer. We also regularly host established bands who join us for outreach tours.
Some join our team for one tour, some for a few months; some as an internship or for the long term. Most people new to TACO join us first on a single tour - going to one place for a set amount of time, normally between one and three weeks. We’re so grateful to the many who’ve come to join us, from instrumentalists to illusionists!
You too might have a skill, and a passion to use it among Muslims for Jesus. We have an established internship program, and a great group of people to minister with. But be warned: you won’t return the same person who came!
So if you’re passionate about putting your gift on the altar for Jesus, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see you on an upcoming TACO tour!
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of the WEC NZ magazine GoInto. Used with permission.
The authors, a Kiwi and Canadian, have been serving with TACO for around 20 years as creative directors, musicians, actors and trainers. Together with their young family they also encourage and equip the Turkish church.