Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Allan Wiltshire, a Duluth man involved in missionary work, along with a team of leaders in the black community, are hosting three question-and-answer-sessions.
NORCROSS -- Duluth artist Allan Wiltshire is a man on fire, both for music and for Christian mission work abroad.
He's passionate about something else, too, and that's getting more black Americans onto foreign soil to spread the Gospel.
Wiltshire grew up the son of two naturalized American citizens from Central America. Both of his parents were Salvation Army officers in Washington, D.C. By the time he was 18 years old, Wiltshire had traveled to 30 countries and had been immersed in rich cultural and socioeconomic diversity.
Then he came to Georgia. Expecting that same level of familiarity with and passion for missionary work overseas from other black people here, Wiltshire soon learned that others didn't necessarily share his vision.
"I found that, in general, African-Americans in the South had no missions experience. It's a cultural thing," he said of the lukewarm reception he got to his fiery passion for mission work overseas.
Many religious and civic leaders in Atlanta felt that their mission fields were strictly the prisons and neighborhoods in underprivileged areas in the city.
As an artist, Wiltshire also learned that few of his artist colleagues had true evangelical experience -- that ability to walk and talk a non-Christian through the steps to becoming a Christian by relating one's own experience.
Today's super-churches, while delivering powerful and eaningful messages, have all but eliminated the need for that skill in many Christians; it can often seem unnecessary among so many people to share one-on-one knowledge.
For all these reasons, Wiltshire and Sherry, his wife of 23 years, founded "Mission Minded Artist" in 2004. The sole purpose of the organization is to teach and send musicians and other artists to other countries to share Christianity through art, a universal language.
"The artistic community is a viable, powerful force," said Wiltshire.
"Whether black or white, we have a platform as artists. If God made you an artist, ask yourself why? What are you doing with it?"
Armed with that simple question and his strong belief that more black people should be involved in mission work, Wiltshire and a team of leaders in the black community are hosting three question-and-answer-sessions titled "World Missions in the Black Church" in the Atlanta area. The first one was held in Decatur, and the next is Saturday at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross. The third location is still to be determined.
Guest panelists at the sessions include: Richard Coleman, Director of Mobilization and Candidacy of The Mission Society; Brian Johnson, a teacher, preacher and missionary recognized for his lifetime commitment to the poor; and Jeff Easley, Vice President of Student Affairs at Carver Bile College.
These men, along with Wiltshire, share a passion for getting more black churches meaningfully involved in mission work.
When the third Q&A session is complete and progress has been tracked and evaluated, the long-term goal is to take the message on the road; next stop -- New York. The organization is also producing a DVD with the help of Cami Arnett, a well-known west coast industry professional. The targeted completion date for the DVD is early September. It will be available online and in future Q&A sessions.
Wiltshire has the help and support of other recognized and respected leaders in the black community.
"This is an old issue. People have been at this for 20 years, well-respected people," Allan said.
One of those people, Melvin Jackson of Search Light Global Missions, has thrown his full support behind the musician's passionate endeavor. The 73-year-old Jackson is glad to pass the torch to, in his words, a younger missionary. Wiltshire, 48, laughs at the age reference.
"I look at it this way: There are about three million African-Americans just in Atlanta. If just 10 percent of us got involved and gave it our all, what an impact we could make," said Wiltshire. "This is a 'we' problem. It has to be a 'we' solution."
Saturday's Q&A session runs from 10 a.m. to noon at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Miracle Hall, located at 182 Hunter St., in Norcross.
Christian artists, leaders in black churches and anyone interested in furthering this movement is welcome to attend.
For more information about the Mission Minded Artist and mission field opportunities, visit www.missionmindedartist.com.