There are probably few people brave enough to step up to a canvas with a piece of chalk and start drawing in front of a room full of carefully watching eyes, especially having never done a chalk drawing before — but Bill Cox did.
He now is celebrating a half-century milestone of his “Art to Heart” ministry by doing 50 chalk drawings at churches and other venues.
But today Art to Heart is more than chalk drawings with special effects lighting, Cox says. The creative arts ministry also includes music by him and his wife, Kathy, and dramatic monologues.
How it began
Cox began doing chalk drawings as a substitute artist on a missions trip led by Bobby Haley, then youth minister at First Baptist Church Spartanburg, South Carolina. George Schrieffer, minister of education, was planning to do chalk drawings at each of the 12 churches in Bell County, Kentucky, where the missions volunteers were serving that year. When Schrieffer was called away by a death in the family, Cox stepped up.
“We had been telling everybody about the chalk drawings as a special end-of-the-week highlight, and I suggested to Bobby that I might could fill in for George to keep the kids we were working with from being disappointed,” Cox recalled.
He stayed up most of the night preparing a soundtrack and makeshift setup using a paper tablecloth, Crayola sidewalk chalk, a borrowed projector and color-tinted cellophane for “special effects.”
Though he initially was skeptical, Haley was impressed enough by Cox’s handiwork to give the nod: “I don’t believe it. Let’s do it.”
Although the drawings were “certainly nowhere near as good as what George had been doing,” the kids seemed to love them, and God used it, Cox recalled.
“I never could have dreamed at that point just how many places those chalk drawings would take us,” he added.
Cox has had lots of practice in the 49 years since, and made extensive improvements in lighting for his drawings, which appeal to both youth groups and senior adult ministries.
He has done them in churches of all sizes, as well as for Baptist Collegiate Ministries, on missions trips, during numerous state and national conferences, and in civic centers and arenas.
“It’s very much a worship experience,” Cox noted. “We focus on Christ, and it is a time to be still and to know that He is God, and to be led by what we see, what we hear, and to be led by His Spirit.
“But the drawing that we do the most — spoiler alert — is a drawing of the crucifixion and resurrection, and it’s a very powerful message.”
While some have asked if — after 50 years of drawing — Cox has grown used to it, he said not yet. “I honestly haven’t. … It’s still a worship experience for me just to see, even though I’m drawing it, the pictures come alive and to hear the message of the music, and to just be praying that God would speak to us. He has been obviously very faithful in doing that consistently over many, many years.”
Art to Heart is just one of the many aspects of Cox’s itinerant ministry, Concoxions. A former youth evangelism director for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Cox may be remembered by many who years ago attended youth events such as “Evangelympics” and “That Big Youth Thing.”
He is perhaps better known, however, for organizing Seesalt summer student conferences for 34 years, coordinating Chillipepper Conferences for 25 years in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, producing 90 shows of “Peace of ’72” at Fantasy Harbour in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and directing numerous theatre productions at Cornerstone Theatre in Lyman, South Carolina.
Even so, when he shared with his wife about his goal of doing 50 art drawings in the coming year, she expressed astonishment.
“She’s convinced me that she did not use the word ‘crazy’ in her reaction,” Cox chuckled, adding she did believe his goal was “very ambitious.”
A few weeks ago he launched the celebration by returning to Kentucky for an evening service at New Heights Church of Middlesboro. Plans are set to conclude next year on June 23 at First Baptist Spartanburg. In the meantime, there are still plenty of open dates, Cox said.
“It seriously doesn’t matter that much to us the size of the church,” he noted. “We love being able to share Art to Heart with as many people as possible, and that’s really what the 50th anniversary is all about — just trying to continue to minister in this way as much as we possibly can.”