the culture shock sessions – an evening in durham showcasing christ and the arts


“Our ideas are not our own, they are a real reflex from the One who made us”

It was a joy to be with Durham CU’s Culture Shock Sessions as they hosted a group of their friends for an evening, showcasing their artistic endeavours and offering insights into how it relates to their life and faith.

In Durham’s Velvet Elvis Coffee Shop, the group shared items of photography, film, dance, song and poetry, some offered with a short explanation of their meaning and significance. Other exhibition pieces around the room complimented the magazine format, and time in the evening was given to discussing and exploring the pieces around the room.

As a relaxed evening with ample time for engagement and opportunity to speak together, it was a thrill to see a creative, heartfelt and relational event, aimed at providing a platform to share Christ and offer true life that is found in Him.

I was struck by the quality of discussion going on around the room. The tangible demonstration of the relevance of Christian worldview, coupled with an atmosphere conducive to conversation provided a place for honest conversation to take place.

Hearing the stories of this group meeting over the course of the year has been a real encouragement to me personally. Seeing this group doing what they love and taking Jesus with them, has opened a number of doors for the gospel. Alongside that, I’m encouraged to see the group exploring more what it means to be human beings, created to love God and live in His world.

Time and time again I’ve seen creative, engaging and persuasive evangelism used by God for His glory as lost and weary students begin to nibble at the words of life on offer in Jesus. I pray this group would have the confidence and courage to run a night like this again – I trust it would be a joy for them and another opportunity to see Christ held out.


Here are a just three of the lessons I learned from this event:

1) Know your audience

Joe, one of Durham’s Relay Workers, held the evening together as host. He deftly introduced elements and teed up conversations around the room. Joe was particularly good at hitting the right tone throughout the evening. We didn’t feel hoodwinked into listening to a long, unexpected talk, and as such much more gospel conversations took place as guests and friends naturally brought up the issues that struck them. If you’ve gathered artists together, show how Christ is Lord in the arts!

2) Prepare your venue

Jesus is Lord in the lecture theatre, the coffee shop and the garden shed – but I wouldn’t run an evangelistic event to proclaim his Lordship in just any of those venues! Why not? Well, the venue is key in creating a tone for the event. Among other things, tone can be heavy or light, serious or jovial, welcoming or off-putting. No one is going to trust Christ simply because they hosted the evening in a coffee shop and decorated the room beautifully, but these things would certainly provide a platform for that message, and even serve to showcase a gospel framework in action.

3) Share your thoughts
It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking of our job as ending as soon as our guests crosses the threshold of the event. I know I’ve been guilty of virtually ‘handing over’ my friend to the speaker, as if they will do all the work whilst I just watch! Tonight, every member of the group shared their thoughts with guests as they chatted over coffee in between items during the evening. What an effective way to use the opportunity!


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