The Christian Artist

I am currently working on reviewing a book called Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture by Tim Sinclair.  This book is a fast read and I am enjoying it- you will hear more of its praises from me in a few weeks. 😉  This afternoon as I was reading, some of what I read jumped out at me.  Let me share what it said with you, and perhaps you’ll see why.

“Jesus was an artist.  he frequently related to people through stories and analogies.  His teachings focused on fields and vineyards and camels passing through the ‘eye of a needle’.  Each was extremely relevant to the people of Jesus’ day. 

…without some amount of relevant art, most of today’s culture won’t care (about Jesus).  Not even a little bit.  Downs puts it this way: ‘The Christian has accomplished something truly remarkable.  He has taken the most fascinating, life-transforming communication in the world and made it boring.” 

Tim Sinclair makes and shares some powerful statements in his book about evangelism and new tactics people can use of sharing the message that Jesus saves without diluting the power of that truth.  I appreciated that Sinclair recognized the importance of art in communicating Christ’s message of love.  This is something that is frequently on my mind, and I like that it is an issue starting to be addressed by more Christian leaders.

It is convicting and challenging to be faced with the idea that many Christians have made the world-changing truth of how God can take our sins away boring.  Have our efforts to glorify God and reflect His truth really been that half-hearted?

Of course not in every case, and there certainly has been some progress made on that front in recent times, but it is just as certain that there is much more we are capable of doing and accomplishing for Christ.

There are frequently arguments about whether people should be Christian artists or artists who are Christians.  Part of the alliteration argument hinges on that so-called “Christian artists” are frequently not very creative, are inexperienced, dispassionate about or downright bad at their artistic craft (and perhaps doing little, if anything, to improve it).  So-called “artists who are Christians”, on the other hand, are accused of not truly caring about publicizing their faith, or are accused of making their art more important than the most important thing- Christ.

In the debate, many make the mistake that as Christians, Christian art is comprised solely of Jesus pageants and paintings of doves and Noah’s ark.  These things are not bad.  They are good and praiseworthy.  However, if we draw a line at pageants and flood paintings as the limits of “sanctified art” (which are, as Sinclair gets at, largely ineffective at evangelism), we’ve failed miserably.  If you are a Christian artist, your art also doesn’t necessarily have to shout “JESUS LOVES YOU” instead of subtlety including truths about God and life (think of the book of Esther), but this also doesn’t mean that we should be silent about our faith and be ashamed of the God for whom we live.

Of course that doesn’t mean that it’s the church’s job to entertain people or to bend over backward to cater to people’s cultural perceptions of art every time those perceptions change. Some might say it’s a balancing act.  I think a better way to say it would be “seek first his (God’s) kingdom”.  In other words, cultivate your closeness with Christ and then seek His guidance about how to improve your creative pursuits for His glory, the benefit of others and your own enjoyment (work is supposed to be enjoyable, believe it or not! =) ).

The Bible’s message endures, and its truth remains the same, but just as David came up with new psalms and the Bible talks about singing new songs, we ought to be making and trying new things artistically, and be on the “cutting-edge” of the arts without compromising our faith and integrity.

We’ve got to bring more to the table artistically in the way we approach the culture with Christ’s love.  We need to pursue excellence in what we do artistically so that Christians aren’t laughed at in the creative realm, as at the last year’s annual Tony Awards, the host joked that there might be, to paraphrase, ‘closet conservatives’ watching the show.  Are godly artists really so far-removed from the arts community?  In many cases, yes.  Now is the time to change that. =)

In the photo: Rebecca St. James, a well-known Christian music artist who has many fans due to the quality of her vocal performances and lyrics, as well as her strong faith and promotion of purity as a lifestyle.

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