Note: For the purpose of this series, the term “artist” is being used inclusively to refer to musicians, painters, fiction writers, poets, singers, and to those who work in the entertainment industry.
1) Spiritual Nurture
Church should be a place of spiritual nurture for artists. As mentioned in the last piece, unbiblical ideas have come into all of our thinking, and with artists it skews the type of art they work. Both artists and the church need to be committed to the process of discipleship by which we follow the exhortation of the Apostle Paul to have the same mind be in us that is in Christ Jesus. The goal should not be to make the artists more like everyone else, but more like Christ.
2) Encouragement and Prayer
Those of us who are creative have our share of problems. There are also specific problems that confront the artist: economic, artistic, and mental.
There are far more starving artists and part time ones than there are the mega-rich artists. For every musician with a top 40 hit, there are probably a thousand just as good who are playing concerts in the park and selling 1-2 CDs a week. I work in office and I’ve lost count of the number of artists I’ve run into up there. What we do may in the office may not be what they’re passionate about, but it does pay the bills. One commenter on the last piece wrote, “doesn’t help that the church seems to embrace poverty as a virtue, forcing christian musicians to go secular to make a living.” I would assure him there are plenty of secular artists who would be living in poverty if they tried to live off their art.
There are also many pressures uniquely involved in the world of art. There are pressures to compromise conscience in order to achieve success, to gain recognition. There’s the temptation to water down hard truths to please either society or some squeamish Christians. There’s also advice on how to create and market art. Some of it is helpful, some of it would be harmful, and much of it would be a waste of time to deal with it. There’s bad advice which an artist might follow due to low self-esteem and good advice they may spurn if their egos are too big.
There are often times of discouragement and as a general rule, creative people. are more prone to mood problems. The life of the artist is one closed door after another. Many professions face some of the exact same pressures, but for the artist, the concerns are more prevalent and constant.
As to what the artist needs, it is also much the same as in any other profession: peace, joy, hope, patience, and humility. However, it is much easier to write those words than to live them. And for that, we all need prayer and encouragement day by day.
3) To Use Their Gifts in the Service of God
Every Christmastime, we listen to, “The Little Drummer Boy” as he desires to give something to the newborn king and all he has to offer is the song on his drum. If we are in Christ, we all have that desire to use our gifts to the Glory of God.
Certainly, there are times when certain work must be done. Someone must put up the tables after an event. Someone must clean the kitchen. Someone must watch the children at various times. There are various acts of service and charity that must be done.
But if that’s all the opportunities the church offers for ministry, it has missed something profound and failed to use effectively. Music is one area where people are usually able to find an opportunity to use their gifts. But the church has many opportunities, particularly in the area of visual arts.
There’s been a trend in the construction of new churches to make them so they don’t really like churches. On the inside,they look like auditoriums filled with theater chairs that could just as easily be used for a corporate pep talk. On the outside, there’s a very cookie cutter design to them. When I get lost in my hometown, I’ve gotten more lost because I assumed that I was near one church, when in fact I was near an entirely different church that looked exactly like it.
Christians in years past built great churches which continued to testify and proclaim the Gospel message long after the people who built it where gone. Sadly, the benefit of most new large churches is the ease with which they could be converted to secular use.
Of course, this is one example of a much broader opportunity for the Church.
For Christians to communicate with the culture, the Christian Church must become more and more a place where the Gospel is proclaimed not only in word but in every type of art and drama. It should be a place that nurtures and encourages artists for the Glory of God and benefit of all people.