We “creatives” are an interesting breed. We are highly gifted in creating what many of us like to call “art”.
And yet Joe, the guy who cuts my hair, wouldn’t call himself a “follicle sculptor”. He does excellent work, yet would stare at me funny if I suddenly exclaimed “what an artist” when he shows me my haircut in the mirror. He is a skilled craftsman who doesn’t take what he does too seriously. And the more I think about the music and theatre I create, the more I see Joe as a good role model.
Creative people do have a tough time in the church, it’s true. Churches have a long history of looking suspiciously at the Arts, and are usually a good ten to twenty years behind any creative trends. And church is by nature a rather “conservative” place, and tends to take a long hard look at things before deciding they are spiritually “OK”. It is this cautious approach to the Arts that has often put a distance between them and “the Artist”.
Since artists tend to be rather emotionally wired, we see this cautiousness as rejection. We have often been heard whining about how church leaders are being Philistines…or Pharisees…or some other word we use to make us sound smart. But while there are some thing in the church which definitely need to change toward the Arts, there are also some practical things there that make us better and keep us grounded.
One of those is teaching us to be a servant with our gifts just like Jesus. Certainly no one in history was more gifted than He. And yet He is the one putting a towel around His waste and washing the grime off the disciple’s feet. If He was the ultimate example of creativity personified, yet was humble, why should we be any less?
Another thing we can learn occasional trials in the church is what my friend Joe is good at – not taking ourselves too seriously. Joe cuts my hair way better than the fancy salon where I used to go. But Joe is a lot less pretentious about his skill than the “stylists” who cut my hair before.
Yes, we creatives have a gift, and yes, our gift gets a lot of attention from others. But the little secret we all know in our hearts is this: that gift doesn’t mean we are any closer to God than anyone else, or any deeper spiritually for that matter. It really only means that we are better at expressing that relationship in pleasing and elegant artistic terms than others may be. When people see their own relationship with God mirrored in what we perform, it puts their feelings into an artistic form and they identify with it. That’s it – that’s all.
Unfortunately, some people’s talent has given them a forum that their spiritual maturity hasn’t earned and doesn’t deserve. Look back at some of the Christian celebrities of the past who were thrust into a premature spotlight, simply because they believed in Jesus and could sing real pretty. The fact that they had a nice voice didn’t necessarily mean they really had anything special to say…they could just say it better.
But it’s not just a problem with musicians – I know some gifted preachers whose spiritual lives don’t come close to matching their oratory skill. And many of yesterday’s gifted yet immature preachers and singers are today’s walking “cautionary tales”, warning us of the pitfalls of having too much talent with too little maturity.
So maybe instead of calling ourselves “Christian artists”, we might just think of ourselves as Christians who happen to have a skill that God can use…just like everybody else. And we should discourage people when they try to put us on that pedestal, because in our hearts we know that our gift is just that…a gift we didn’t earn in the first place.
So no, please don’t call me a Christian “artist” – I don’t think Joe my barber would be very impressed with that. The fact that my gift is flashier than someone else’s should mean little to me… I know it means little to God, compared to how much my life reflects Him and how much I use that gift to give Him glory. That’s a goal we all should be reaching for, whether we call ourselves an “artist” or a barber.
Do you think it is pretentious for a creative person to call themselves an “artist”?
How do you guard against taking yourself too seriously?