As I young aspiring musician within the church, I was confident in what it looked like for me to integrate my faith and my art. Christian music was a clear-cut path for me to create music and live out my faith. Until the day my life decided to pick me up and toss me in the ditch.
For years I played in local bands with my friends. Our sole desire was to create music that was positive and uplifting for the listener. With lyrics that spoke of God’s love and how He would never leave or forsake us, we wrote and played our music with passion. I truly believed the best thing I could do for God was tell others about how good He was to me through my music.
Until the day life didn’t go the way I thought it should. Looking around I found myself surrounded by failure. A broken marriage and failed business venture. Lifelong friendships frayed and the life that I had built was shattered overnight. This God I sang so positively about suddenly felt a million miles away.
In the weeks and months to come, as I begin to try and put the pieces of my life back together, something very powerful happened. Music began to speak to me. Songs that were written from desperate and unsure times began to breathe life into me. Art that wrestled with fear and doubt became a healing balm to my soul. Television shows that grappled with the hard reality of life showed me I wasn’t alone.
God was speaking to me and was doing so through the arts in ways I had never experienced before.
All of a sudden, the God who felt so distant became the God who was with me, really with me. By pointing me to artists that wrestled with their own struggles, it was like He crawled down in the pit and wrapped his arms around me.
The way I viewed art began to change. I saw the importance of creativity in telling the human story through music, art, design, poetry, and film. I began to embrace it in my own art and discovered a couple of ideas to be true for other “Christian artists” out there.
1. Your Art Needs to be Authentic
Growing up, the themes in the songs I wrote were typically positive thoughts and feelings towards a God who was good and perfect. Although these ideas are true and need to be spoken, I found that when my life was turned upside down, it was more comforting to hear songs of doubt and uncertainty than ones filled with hope geared to cheer me up.
As artists within the church, I believe the best way to integrate your faith with your art is to be authentic to your life and experiences. To share from the depths of your soul even if that means you question the God that you serve or doubt the faith you grew up in. Authenticity is always better (and more beneficial) than blanket hope.
2. Your Art Needs to be Excellent
“Christian art” has always had this second class feel to it that’s hard to explain. It’s as if the audience knows when you aren’t being real, and when you aren’t authentic your art isn’t excellent. Art is a powerful tool we can use to explain and wrestle with the ups and downs of life.
If you want to be an artist that integrates your faith and your work be sure to do all that you can to be excellent. Don’t settle for anything less. Press the boundaries and explore the corners of your life, speaking truthfully through your art. In doing so, you will find balance and truth about the God we serve.
3. Your Art Needs to be Seen
Over the past few years, I have begun to see my art in these ways. I’ve learned that I often sit on my creativity out of fear. I create within the comfort of my room only to let it stay there on a hard drive or my phone. Most artists want to have an audience, but stop at the dream of doing the hard work to release it to the world.
This is the scary part, the part where the rubber meets the road. Having to bare our soul to others. Trust me, as someone who found God again through artistic expression, I beg you to let your creations fly. Let them go so they can find that soul who needs them right now. If it’s authentic and excellent, please let it be seen. The world needs it!
To those of you creating something, anything, I hope that you read this and take it seriously. The arts are desperately important within the church to speak hope and life into this dead and dying world. But not in the way you might think. It’s time to be dangerously authentic, to be woefully excellent and to be brave enough to let your art be seen. And maybe that will just help others find God in the process.
Together we can change the world through our creative voices. Will you join me?