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Discipling Artists in Florida

U.S. missionary associate builds relationships with underserved subculture.
Assemblies of God U.S. missionary associate David E. Elliott and his wife, Vicki, are taking an Early Church approach to discipleship in ministering to artists. They have started a discipleship ministry in Florida called Artisan.

David and Vicki are ordained AG ministers who served in pastoral positions for more than three decades after graduating from the AG’s Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. In 2017, they sensed God directing them to form a discipleship ministry and they now serve with Church Mobilization.

Putting their belongings in storage, they moved from Alabama to the Sunshine State, basing their ministry in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. They travel to art events across southwest Florida, which David says has a strong art culture. Artists typically are church-averse, he notes.

“Generally speaking, artists and creatives are very firmly entrenched in the segment of society that doesn’t believe the Church has any relevance to the world right now,” says David, who originally is from Key West.

The Elliotts’ approach is to intentionally build relationships with people who don’t know Christ. In an effort to establish gospel inroads, they start simple conversations with artists about their work and their lives, looking for ways to connect their story with God’s story.

“To go to them, we have to take off the trappings of church, and be the church by loving them and reaching out to them in very natural but supernatural ways,” says Vicki, 54. “We must hear their stories, be willing to journey with them, and walk them to Jesus.” When an artist becomes a Christian, the Elliotts plug them into one of the region’s various churches with which they have a relationship.

In December, the Elliotts had the opportunity to minister at the Showfolks Holiday Circus Festival in Sarasota. They hosted an 800-square-foot hospitality tent with a free children’s craft, water bottles, a shaded sitting area, a family photo station, phone charging station, and a porch area where musicians played Christmas music.

David, 56, says record high temperatures drove many people to the tent. The Elliotts prayed with people from various walks of life, including Muslims, Amish, circus performers, and vendors.

The Elliotts also will be hosting pour paint clinics. He says as people pour paint over a canvas, their emotional barriers start to come down and they’re willing to share stories. That provides opportunities for David and Vicki to look for ways to share the gospel.

In addition to discipleship, Artisan offers a training program called Live Sent. Over the course of a weekend, the Elliotts lead a series of interactive workshops, designed to encourage those who may struggle to see themselves as evangelists or disciple-makers, empowering them to share their faith naturally.

David’s longtime friend Tommy Morabito, his roommate at Southeastern University, is part of a group of Artisan disciples who talk on Zoom on a regular basis. People in different states get a chance to share about their lives and encourage each other.

“What David has been teaching us is that there's a distinct difference between the way Christians today think and the way Christians thought back in the times of the apostles,” says Morabito, who lives in Canada.

The Elliotts work alongside AG congregations such as Suncoast Church in St. Petersburg for support. The Elliotts also are part of a larger ministry Touching Nations Today based in Brooksville.

Fiona Morgan

Fiona Morgan is a freelance journalist and artist. She is a graduate of Asbury University and lives near Chicago.