Apr 22, 2016 by Will Maule

World Class Artist Charlie Mackesy And His Unusual Journey From Atheism To Faith

London-based artist and Christian speaker Charlie Mackesy has been blessed with the most wonderful of talents: the ability to create breathtaking artwork. But 25 years ago, he began journeying on the road of faith after a moment of epiphany in a London park, where he thought "that there must be more to this than meets the eye." He talked to CBN about his work and his unlikely conversion to the Christian faith. 

"Jesus quietly introduced me to a journey into finding people really beautiful, which is how my art really began," he said. "Because I felt inside me he was going, 'Look. How beautiful is that guy sitting on that bench?' And I would have never noticed him before." One of Mackesy's most famous works is a bronze sculpture, called "The Return of the Prodigal Son," wherein Mackesy captures the raw emotion of this well-known parable. It's located at Holy Trinity Brompton, a large evangelical Anglican Church in London.

Mackesy is a popular speaker in the UK, particularly in the presentation of the gospel to inquisitive non-believers on the 'Alpha Course.' But it is the quirky ways of the talented artist that seem to disarm his listeners, and make him a highly engaging speaker. "Charlie appeals to people outside of the church because he's not what they expect," HTB Vicar Nicky Gumbel explained. "You know, when you have the sort of picture of 'the evangelist,' you don't picture Charlie Mackesy, and I think that's what's so wonderful about him." 

Mackesy's presentation of the gospel is rugged and real, and his "unpretentiousness" makes him refreshing to listen to. The authenticity and honesty he demonstrates in his own life is clearly influenced by the nature of those closest to Jesus himself. "I realized that they were naughty people, unreligious people," Mackesy said. "People who didn't really have a religious etiquette, and probably wouldn't be that welcome in church."

Mackesy talks of his preconceptions of Church, and how unappealing they were. "I thought Christianity was: be clean, come to church, be nice, don't use the 'F' word, and you'll be accepted and liked, because that's the thing; it's a meritocracy," he explained. "And if you want to belong, be a certain way." But now he has a clear message for his listeners "'You're loved. You're loved as you are. Covered in whatever it is, on the inside or out."

But he is not one for high praise regarding his evangelistic techniques and giftings. "I think he's the finest evangelist in the U.K. at the moment," Gumbel said. To which Mackesy responds "That's completely ridiculous!" His first encounter with God was true to his unique character - he was in a portable toilet at a music festival, when he heard a gospel song and started weeping. "In the loo. Bawling," he said. "Atheist, atheist, bawling." Clambering up onto the overflowing toilet, disasters struck. He slipped. "I didn't really know what had happened to me," Mackesy continued. "But as I was feeling it, my left foot slipped. And I went up to here in..."

Mackesy sees his art foremost as a way to introduce God to the people he loves - like "Prodigal Daughter," made for a friend who struggled with bipolar disorder. The artist believes that pieces of artwork are able to speak into the untold corners of the human heart, whilst offering hope and life for the future. "I think for me I was just trying to show her through imagery where, you know, to be held is something she always wanted. So I said, 'This is what God is like,'" he said. 

Mackesy concludes by encouraging people to simply be themselves as they investigate the Christian faith, and that there is no pressure to cultivate a certain "look" or act in a certain way. "Warts, darkness… You don't have to pretend to be anything," he marveled.

Read the full article here. Watch Charlie Mackesy tell a powerful story in the Alpha video below.

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