More Than a Name

Proclaiming Why God’s Name Matters to the Nation

By Charles Kelley, BBI Founder and President

RIGA, Latvia – As I write these lines from somewhere high above the Atlantic, my heart is filled with anticipation. You see, I have special plans in Riga on Sunday evening. But, before I tell you more about that, I’d like to share something important:

The festival tradition continued even in Displaced Person camps during the post World War II era, mostly in West Germany, but also in the United States, Australia and Canada. Official photo of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival (© XXVI Vispārējie latviesu Dziesmu un XVI Deju svētki)

Latvia is a singing nation. This cultural distinction has played a pivotal role in her survival over the course of years and even decades of oppression and occupation. Even through the most painful spans of history, Latvians have come together, united in a common joy of music, song, and dance.

2018 is a special year for both the residents of Latvia and for Latvians throughout the world—one hundred years have passed since Latvia was proclaimed an independent Republic.

 The Centennial Song and Dance Festival – the largest gathering of choirs in the history of the world – will open on July 1st2018 with a sacred music concert at the Riga Cathedral. This concert is a brand-new oratorio based on the Name of God; it is titled ES ESMU  – That is Latvian for “I AM.”

When God revealed Himself to Moses, He said His name was I AM. When Jesus spoke to His disciples and the masses, many times He referred to Himself as I AM… I AM the Bread of Life; I AM the Living Water, etc.

Each of these metaphors illuminates a different dimension of the Gospel and of God’s character.

The Festival will open with a very special Oratorio in the majestic Riga Cathedral

In between each song of the Oratorio, a narrator will introduce the next “I AM.” It was my honor and privilege to be asked to author these narrations. I’d like to share them with you now.

I am, that I am… Exodus 3:14

The name of God is important.  God identified Himself to Moses with a most unusual name. He called Himself “I AM”. This is surprising because “I AM” is a statement of essence rather than a mere moniker of identification. This name for God is used more than 7,000 times in the Bible and is a reminder of all that God is: He has no beginning and no end, He is absolute reality and completeness. He doesn’t simply set the standard; He IS the standard of truth, goodness and beauty.  When God tells us… “I AM…” our hearts are to hear: I AM life, I AM love, I AM hope, I AM with you, I AM everything you need. The name of God is important.


I am the Good Shepherd… John 10:14

The love of God is important. The son of God, Jesus, also called Himself I AM. This shocked the religious leaders of His time. He said two things: He claimed His divinity, while establishing a profoundly personal relationship with His people. Shepherds love and protect their sheep, twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year. Even more, shepherds know their sheep individually and intimately. They are not anonymous, lost in the flock. There is no greater honor than to be known personally, intimately by the Good Shepherd. The love of God is important.


I am the Light of the World… John 8:12

The light of God is important: The brightest light in the universe is Christ. We are in darkness without Him and apart from Him, darkness prevails. But when the light of Jesus shines in our hearts, revealing His very self to us, He gives us new eyes to see as God sees, seeing our sins and needs and the needs of the world. The light of Jesus illumines everything with its genuine and native beauty. This light doesn’t just passively shine, but in fact will one day banish all darkness out of the world. The light of God is important.


I am the Way, the Truth and the Life… John 14;26

The invitation of God is important.  Jesus said that He is the way to the Father. He is more than the absence of untruth…He is true truth and absolute reality. He invites us to believe in Himself. He said that He is the life and that life enables us to die to sin and live for Christ. Jesus was the only person in history who was born to die … so that you and I may have the opportunity to live. He invites us to come to Himself and not only to understand and experience truth, but to share His very life. When God says what He is… I AM… He implicitly conveys what we are not, and therefore what we need. We need the love of God, the light of God and the life of God. The invitation of God is important.

ES ESMU is Latvian for I AM

I’d like to ask for your prayers over this event. Not only will 2,000 Latvians be in attendance and listen to this message live, it will be nationally televised and shown again and again. Further, it will be live-streamed on Sunday, July 1st, 8:30am PDST. Follow this link to access the livestream footage.

Friends, what an opportunity this is for God’s Word to be proclaimed to the nation we love and serve!

Let us pray for the seeds of the Word to bear great fruit in the hearts of those who hear.


Photographs are available to the media free of charge; photo credit (visible on each photo) and copyright information (Latvian National Centre for Culture Archive) must be given for each photo.

Feed My Sheep

Feasting with Artists, Musicians and Christian Leaders from All Over Europe

By Natalie Meeks

GREENVILLE, South Carolina – “Feed my sheep.” Three times Jesus gave this command in response to Peter’s declarations of love.

At the end of May, BBI President Charles Kelley and Natalie Meeks traveled to Wisla, Poland to lead the European Artists Network with that very goal in mind – to set a broad table and follow Jesus Christ’s command to feed His sheep… For the Beauty of the Church.

The mission of ELF is to unite, equip and resource evangelical leaders to renew the biblical church and evangelize Europe. Each plenary session was bookmarked in prayer.

The 2018 European Artists Network represented a community of artists, musicians, pastors, church planters and other Christian leaders convening at the European Leadership Forum (ELF), an annual gathering of more than 700 participants from 50+ nations, including BBI’s Almers Ludviks and Madara Lazdina. The mission of ELF is to unite, equip and resource evangelical leaders to renew the biblical church and evangelize Europe.

At BBI, the vision and mission of our art ministry is the same. We are actively and strategically tapping into God’s gift of the language of creativity to address critical needs in the church and reach society at large for Christ. We unite, equip and resource influential artists and musicians to use their gifts in the church and society.

But what does evangelism have to do with art?

Post-Christian culture dismisses the church and misses the whole point of Christianity: the greatness, goodness and love of God through Jesus Christ. If we are to love God and mirror His love for us to the world, we must do as Paul did at Mars Hill in Athens – share the Gospel in the heart language of God’s people. (Acts 17:16-34)

“Art is communication,” wrote Madelein L’Engle, author of the Newberry Medal winner, A Wrinkle in Time.

There exists today, in our secular societies, an enormous disparity between the glory, wonder and reality of Christ and what the world believes to be the “Church.” The beauty and atoning love of Jesus unveiled is the ultimate cure for secularism and must be the meat of the meal we offer to the people.

How is this accomplished?

Artists of differing mediums and callings enjoyed sharing their testimonies and their best practices, encouraging one another.

At the European Artists Network, we set out to meet three vital needs:

  • To minister to the hearts of individual artists.
  • To equip those artists to use their gifts for the betterment of the church and society through the beauty, love and truth found in their faith in Christ.
  • To present best practices and help to frame the larger conversation of how to utilize the arts to revitalize the church.

Christian artists often feel lonely and isolated – the black sheep of both their church and secular artist communities. Therefore, it is a priority to minister to their hearts and minds, nourishing them in their faith as well as their callings.

Daily worship grounded our Artists Network sessions. [L-R]: David Danel; Reinis Zarins; Natalie Meeks; Delta David Gier

World-class musicians Reinis Zarins (pianist) and David Danel (violinist) took part in our network and led us daily in profound worship. Artists took turns enthusiastically presenting, not only their work, but sharing their ministry dreams, their experiences using their art in the church and as creative tools for evangelism.

We brought in top-notch speakers to guide our participants through a feast of ideas. Our own Charles Kelley led two sessions unpacking A Theology of Art and the Bible.

Professor Jerry Root, renowned expert on C.S. Lewis, spoke to our group on Lewis’ teaching about the Objectivity of Beauty. Lewis’ insights into the importance of moral judgements extend to the Language of Art and how it must be used to convey Truth, Goodness and Beauty to a hungry world.

Professor Jerry Root and artist Damaris Otremba.

Symphony Orchestra Conductor Delta David Gier guided us through two sessions expounding the True and Highest Function of Art: Contemplation – artistic, philosophical and, at its essence, always directed higher up and looking toward God.

Sculptor Liviu Mocan and think tank leader Jonathan Tame taught on the Christian artist’s need to think more critically about the Spiritual Value of Art. “This,” said Jonathan, “is when art works in peoples’ hearts and lives to bring them closer to reality – which ultimately means to God himself.”

If art is a language to be used to reach the world, then its power and potential must not be confined to the artist’s studio.

It was our honor to be asked to present the arts and best practices in various forms throughout the week to the Forum at large.

The Lamb of God is one of five pieces in a sculpture series called: Archetypes. The pieces will be exhibition at St. Mary’s Church in Cambridge, opening in Summer 2018.

During the first plenary session, Charles Kelley was invited to introduce BBI’s traveling Secret Double exhibition strategy before a packed auditorium. Charles described the thousands of people who have attended the exhibitions and participated in the panel discussions. Many hundreds heard the gospel who would never otherwise set food in a church building. By the end of the week, BBI was invited to bring Secret Double to Budapest, Hungary and Vilnius, Lithuania.

Liviu’s breathtaking sculpture “The Lamb of God” was prominently exhibited throughout the week. The sculpture, one of five pieces in a series called “Archetypes,” sits on a tall plinth; the brass creature is made entirely of shapes like eyes, with a mask-like head set upon the majestic body of a ram. A closer inspection reveals a great nail buried deep in its breast. “The Lamb of God” communicates in a language deeper than words to a world grown jaded by its misunderstanding of the Word; its alternate name is “Sacrifice.”

The theme of this year’s plenary sessions was The Life of David. We commissioned a large-scale painting for the stage to speak to this theme by Damaris Otremba, accomplished painter from Poland and member of our network. Damaris’s piece was modeled after her own son and communicated the idea of a “Modern David.” As we soaked in the the Bible teachings, this work of art served to transform knowledge into something deeper. After all, together we strive to be men after God’s own heart.

The Open Studio Art Workshop drew a large crowd from the broader Forum.

We extended an ELF-wide invitation to take part in our Open Studio Painting and Drawing Workshop in the main gathering area of the hotel. The workshop was teeming with life, energy and joy. Spontaneous music erupted as pianists gathered in improvisation with saxophonist Adaryll Johnson. Passersby paused to sit and watch, then speak with the artists. We want Christian leaders to grasp how much joy their people can experience when presented with opportunities to create –  not just spectate – in the context of the church.

Finally, it was our joy to communicate widely with multiple Christian leaders from all over Europe. As a result, we have received invitations to consider ministering to pastors and artists in Ukraine, Belarus, Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia.

I am now standing at the door and am knocking. If anyone listens to My voice and opens the door, I will go in to be with him and will feast with him, and he shall feast with Me. – Revelation 3:20 (WNT)

We went to ELF prepared to set a broad table before artists. Together, we feasted. This profound piece visualizes “The Last Supper” by Iurie Cojocaru (Romania).

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