The History of JesusPainter Ministries
It all started with a desire to be a tool; a brush in the hands of God painting the story of humanity and our relationship with the Father. But as with any story, there’s always a beginning before the beginning. A time when the very first seed was planted, regardless of whether we knew something had taken root or not.
In terms of Jesus Painter Ministries, that root would probably be my early experience working at an architectural design firm in high school. Needing a high school job, I applied and was hired to do basic computer-based technical drawings and file conversions for 4 hours a week. Pretty soon I was being handed more and more responsibilities and this side job turned into a 20 hour per week part-time job. Despite layoffs going on at the company, I somehow managed to dodge the chopping block and secure a guaranteed job once I finished college, provided that I passed my classes and earned a degree.
So with a job guarantee in my back pocket, I went off to Arkansas to study at Harding University in 1996. Interestingly enough, the job guarantee put me more on the lookout for important life lessons and experiences rather than causing me to worry over every test and grade that came my way. As a result, I picked up many lessons and skills that would help me later in my efforts to establish and grow the ministry. In fact, there were two such encounters – one more of a lesson and the other more of an experience – that proved to be crucial launching points for the venture that would eventually become Jesus Painter Ministries.
The first crucial experience was a lesson I learned in college about humility and faith from my friend Mark Herrera. At this point, I had a solid foundation of faith but found myself focusing heavily on the do’s and dont’s of Christianity – not giving in to temptations of drug and alcohol, maintaining purity in my dating relationships, working hard, etc. Then one day my friend Mark made a comment that struck a powerful chord in me:
Mark admitted, “I’ve been praying for something and it’s kind of different. I’ve been praying that God would use me as His tool.”
Interested by the uniqueness of the comment I asked him to explain further, which he did saying, “I want to make sure God knows I’m something he can use to make things, to do hard things. So I’ve been offering myself as a tool.”
Struck deeply, I was enthralled by the maturity of such a response and realized that my spiritual focus had been admittedly more legalistic in nature than grounded in a philosophy of total surrender. But it made sense. Surrender is the true commitment the Lord desires from us. He wants us to love Him with a humility and depth of faith that says, “Use me, Lord. Make me your vessel, your instrument to do your work with my life and advance your Kingdom on Earth.”
From that point on I began trying to wrap my head and heart around the idea of submitting myself to the Lord as a tool with a destiny to be bent, broken, worn down, and used often until the very end. I began praying that the Lord would use me as a tool and wear me out, even unto death, for His will. And it was with that revitalized spiritual mindset that I stepped into my next life-changing experience.
The Early Days
Little did I know how fully God would answer my prayers. It was not long after I started praying this prayer that one of my friends at Harding University, Seth Haines, approached me with a challenge – and an opportunity.
Seth was a Christian songwriter. He drew his inspiration from his friends and the Harding community around him. But lately, Seth had become frustrated by what he was seeing in his community. In talking with his Christian friends about faith, he noticed a deep and sometimes bitter divide within the church body, which both saddened and angered him at the same time. Instead of fighting each other, Seth wanted to see the friends and community he loved so much coming together, unified by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. So Seth decided to put on a concert at Harding that would bring his friends together and encourage them to become one effective Body of Christ rather than many divided parts.
That’s when he came to me. Seth had written a song for the concert called “Intimate Portrait” and he wanted me to paint a picture of Jesus while he sang the song. At this point, I had almost no experience with painting and yet Seth wanted me to do it in seven minutes, live, and on stage in front of almost 200 people. Not only that, but Seth wanted the painting to be big enough for everyone to see. That meant using a large three foot by four foot canvas. Finally, materials for the painting would be expensive, and I didn’t have extra money to spare so I wouldn’t be able to practice painting with the real materials until I performed it for the first time on stage. Needless to say, the project was intimidating and full of some significant hurdles. I had asked to be molded, bent, and broken, to be used as a tool for God – and now I was getting what I asked for.
If it had not been for my friend Mark and the prayers I had been praying, asking God to use me, I admit I probably would have said no to the challenge. But the Lord had been working in my heart and I decided to seize the opportunity. So I set to work, borrowing money and supplies to design the painting and prepare for the event. But since the real materials were too expensive to use in practice, I began practicing the performance using markers and paper.
Soon, it was time for the event. The concert date arrived and my girlfriend at the time, my future wife Anne, was there to help me set up and navigate that nerve wracking day. Little did I know how big of a role she would soon play in the course of both my life and my calling. When everything was ready, I took the stage. What happened next was nothing short of a divine revelation for me and my calling in life. When I took that stage for the first time and began painting, it felt like the first time I truly worshipped the Lord. With every stroke of the brush, every splash of paint, I brought to life the most tragic, yet most beautiful moment in human history – Jesus’s death on the cross. I called the painting “Intimate Portrait” after the song Seth wrote for the concert.
It represented the ultimate act of love and the perfect embodiment of the truth that binds all of us together as Christians.
The truth of the Gospel, which is that Jesus Christ, Son of God, came to Earth to sacrifice himself in atonement for our sin. And that his action, provided the only path to salvation and the only true source of joy, hope, and love that we will ever find. This was the message that Seth wanted to share with the audience, and the message that I found out I wanted to share with audiences for the rest of my life.
To this day, I believe that painting was the only perfect painting I have ever done. There is nothing about that painting I would change. In fact, it is the perfect reminder that God truly is the artist, and I am the brush. There is no way I would have been able to produce something of that quality without the Lord’s providence.
After that first performance, I met a guy from the crowd named Andrew Baker who immediately recognized the impact and potential of the performance long before I did. He saw it as something that could be grown into a full-time ministry and change lives for many years to come. From that point forward, Andrew Baker became not only one of my best, lifelong friends, but the driving force behind JesusPainter Ministries’ early growth and success. It was Andrew, now my agent, who took the calls. It was Andrew who booked the events. It was Andrew who introduced me to the big breaks that allowed me to travel across the world doing what I loved. Andrew was an enormous blessing, and without him, JesusPainter Ministries would not exist today.
Before we knew it, we started getting calls to perform at churches and other ministry events.
In those early days, we didn’t charge a single dollar. I paid for all the materials and travel myself, viewing it as a unique opportunity to share the Gospel with thousands. In the first two years I traveled 80,000 miles and painted all around the country for anyone who would have me. During that time, Anne, now my wife, accompanied me to nearly every event we did. Without her by my side helping to set up, tear down, and coordinate every event we performed during those early years, I don’t know how I would have made it. At the time, I didn’t know all the things I know now about how to coordinate an event or run a ministry. We had to figure it out on our own. And despite the challenges thrown our way, she always stuck with it. Through easy performances, hard performances, and especially during the days when I had no idea how we’d make it through, she was there. In fact, she even talked me out of giving up the only time I ever questioned my calling. She was present every step of the way as we worked together, prayed together, and built the ministry together.
Soon, however, I realized that I could not continue at the rate I was going. I discovered I wouldn’t be able to spend much time traveling and painting for congregations because I would have to work another job to pay for it. At that point, I faced a decision. Would I turn this experience into a full-blown ministry and commit my life wholeheartedly to this calling, or would I do something else?
From Interest to Ministry
Though I was unsure whether people would pay me to pursue this dream, I knew I had found my calling and that God could use me to do incredible things through this newfound passion. And that’s when Andrew Baker once again stepped up to the plate. Providing much-needed clarity to the situation, Andrew convinced me to pursue this as a full-time ministry and helped me to organize the ministry as it grew.
At that moment I decided to transform Jesus Painter Ministries from a unique part-time outreach effort into a full-blown ministry that would eventually take me all over the United States and across several oceans. We have no records from those first six years of JPM’s early days from 1998 to 2004, but the one thing we know for sure is that I spent more time on the road than I did anywhere else. During the early days I drove thousands of miles crisscrossing Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, and Texas to share my unique perspective on worship with hundreds of churches. During this time I regularly performed at over 20 events in a single month as many churches clamored for a new opportunity to give their congregations a worship experience unlike any they had ever witnessed.
After four years of incredible growth it finally came time for Andrew to move on from the agent role and pursue his own diverging path into a different field combining ministry and education. This event marked the passing of an era as Jesus Painter Ministries would not be what it is today without the hard work and vision that Andrew brought to the table for the first four years of JPM’s life. It was Andrew, after all, who voluntarily stepped up to fill the agent role, asking nothing in return, while helping keep my schedule busy and word about JPM spreading. It was also Andrew’s vision for a more sustainable JPM that nudged the fledgling outreach effort in the direction of a full-time ministry, thereby enabling me to share my unique approach to worship with exponentially more people than would have otherwise been possible.
As a result of the transition, JPM acquired a new member of the team with a different set of skills and experiences named Danny DeArmis. Upon his arrival, Danny immediately took on the pivotal role of leading JPM’s next transformation, taking the ministry from a grass roots start up and turning it into a serious brand that would solidify its position in the world of ministry and church events. Danny brought a host of great connections and key solutions to early problems that were both elegant and effective. He also helped dial in business processes and establish an identity for the young ministry, no easy feat considering we were pioneering a whole new industry. You might not have realized this, but pre-1998 you had probably never seen someone painting in a church service. Now there are a host of other artists out there bringing their talents to bear for Christ through art, and it’s helping to change the way we worship. The road hasn’t been easy, but forging this new path for future artists has been worth it.
One of the most important talents Danny brought to the equation was his ability to navigate the obstacles and find a way to make things work for everyone – church, artist, and event attendee alike. As a result, we were able to do more events, go more places, and reach more people.
One trait that Danny and Andrew both shared is that they each insisted that Christ remain the focus of the ministry, never turning the spotlight on ourselves.
Since that time we’ve had a few more agents and influential staff members who have come and gone and left their mark on the ministry. Each one of them played an important role in helping us become the organization we are today and each one has my thanks for all the hard work they’ve expended in helping Anne and I pursue our calling.
Making Disciples of All Nations
And now, many years after our founding in 1998, Jesus Painter Ministries continues to innovate, grow, and transform, always seeking to become a more effective tool in the hands of the Almighty Artist. When we look back on the way our story has unfolded we can’t help but be both awed and humbled, surprised and immeasurably grateful, our only appropriate response being to give all the glory to the One who has truly built this ministry. Without God there would be no ministry, no Christ Eyes, no rooms full of students or stadiums packed with hungry followers of Christ worshiping their God from a whole new perspective. We would not have experienced the incredible fellowship with our Icelandic brothers and sisters in Christ, nor would we have known the joy of worship with like-minded believers from the jungles of Guatemala to the rain-forests of Washington and everywhere in between.
After many years and thousands of live events across the nation and around the world we can say with even greater conviction today than we could on that first evening that we truly are just the brush in the hands of the one true Artist. From that very first performance when God guided my brush over the canvas that would become the first rendition of Intimate Portrait, to the powerful inspirations for our newest paintings, the Lord has been there to guide each and every stroke of the brush.
Despite all the miles traveled, events completed, and hearts reached, there’s still much more work to be done to fulfill our calling.
After all, as Christians we are called to “Go out and make disciples of all nations.”
So that’s exactly what we intend to do. And we couldn’t be more thrilled for you to join us as we strive to share the good news and make the name of Jesus more famous with everything we do.
Visit our Promo Page for event marketing materials.
Visit the Canvas Stretching page to learn how to mount your purchased artwork.
Visit CanvasSpeak to see more work from our artists and design team.