I am a follower of Jesus and I am an artist. I am mostly a painter, although I write a bit and work with video from time to time. I have been creating my whole life and truly believe it’s my calling in the world. I have no big fancy degrees that validate my expertise… just years of being an artist and working intensely at that craft. I have the awesome opportunity to be the artist in residence at a few churches, and have learned a ton from those experiences. If I was to say anything to artists who are Christians and who are in the church, here’s what I’d say:
1. Love the Church.
I know the church is a confusing place for you. They don’t know what to do with the journey you’ve been called to. Most churches don’t have any kind of art culture. And if they do, it is bound up in creating easy-to-understand-beautiful-things and trying not to offend anyone.
I get it. I’ve been there. Still there. It’s a hard tension to live in, between the honesty you feel compelled to convey and the seemingly sterile safety-ness that the church organization seems to promote.
But we can’t get around this: The church is the body that God wants to work through in the world and the bride that Jesus wants to marry.
You are meant to be in a community of believers. You are called to be there. You must love this body, for all its warts and faults. Now I’m not saying it has to look like the modern American Church, large or small. But it has to look like something of a community living life together as they journey to be obedient to the living King Jesus (see the book of Acts). You are called to that. Do not forsake it.
2. Obey your Father
On the other hand, stop looking to the church organization for some kind of parental approval for the things you’ve been called to. You need to be obedient to your Father in heaven and what He is calling you to. Discernment of these endeavors should certainly be discussed and prayed though in community, especially if you are going to admonish others. But the organization church is not free in the ways you are to create the things that need to be created. The organization is just that, an organization. And although it claims to follow after the living Jesus, they also have to pay bills, salaries, and mortgages. Basically, organizations are not free to risk in the ways that artists are.
Your calling as an artist is to awaken the viewer/listener/reader. This can be done in quiet intimate ways or loud confronting ways. As well your technical skills, your tools are honesty, empathy, and bravery. Your path is to bring about your work in the most truthful way you can. It may not fit in the context of a church service or hang on church walls, but that was never the goal anyway.
That’s my two points. Love the Church, but be obedient to what God calls you to do.