A fire ignites within me every time I pick up a comic book. I can’t pinpoint why it happens, it just does. For others, maybe this fire is lit by film, or novels. Maybe whenever you go to a local theater these same sparks of excitement start to catch fire. Whatever it is for you, it’s comic books for me. But even though I love comic books, I quickly discovered that whenever I tried to share my passion with others, I would get a unique response from Christians—“Oh, is this a Christian comic?”
Thanks to this mentality, a slew of questions (that many of you may be familiar with) began to hammer my brain whenever I sat down to work—Does this work have value? How does it express my faith? How can I use it for ministry? Is it important enough to spend so much time on? Aren’t I really just seeking my own glory? Can this glorify God?
Aspiring artists that follow Christ go through a boxing match between their gut and their brain. But after having worked for a world-wide missions organization, pursued an illustration career in New York City, and studied theology in Seminary, I’ve determined that Christian artists need to put the boxing gloves down and get on with it. They need to shut up and work.
As an actor, you want Leonardo DiCaprio’s career so much you can taste it—a well-respected thespian who doesn’t do interviews and chooses whatever projects he damn well wants to choose. But wait! Surely that much limelight has idolatry written all over it.
As a designer, adrenaline courses through your veins at the thought of setting the next trend in the graphic-design industry. Hold up! Obviously, if God called you into an influential art career he will bless you with the skills you need to do that work. After all, he gave Bezalel extra artistic skills to build the temple in Exodus 31.
As a singer, you stand in an ocean of screaming fans listening to your favorite music pour off of the stage in front of you. Barely hearing the music, you visualize yourself on the other side of the lights. Wait a second! You can’t put that much time and energy toward your goals. Ministry takes precedence over any art career.
I’ve seen these internal bouts regularly in aspiring artists. It becomes problematic when they end up getting knocked out before having a chance to actually pursue a career in their desired field. The people in the world outside of the church don’t have these battles. In the world of art, media, and entertainment, the competition lives and dies for the pursuit of an idyllic vision, and will do anything to achieve it. Can we as people who find our identity in Christ really compete with that?
Surely the limelight can only lead to idolatry.
While the limelight can lead to idolatry, so can anything else. How much do you love your car? Are you willing to give it up? How about that bank account? What about your church job? God asks of all of us to put our contentment in his promise of eternal life, through the work of Jesus, in perfect happiness with him in the future. Ask yourself—will I feel content with my life if I don’t realize my artistic dreams? It took me a long time to be able to answer that in the affirmative. But until you can, nothing will keep you from walking away from the Lord if you achieve your dream. Understand your faith and work hard.
God will bless you if he called you, right?
Did God bless Bezalel to build the temple? Yes. Are you Bezalel? No. To produce great work, you must work hard. All of us have become exceedingly skilled at inserting ourselves into the Biblical story. However, we need to relearn how to read the Bible appropriately. Just because God deals in one way with one person doesn’t mean he will do the same with you. Continually study scripture, understand your faith, and work hard.
Doesn’t ministry take precedence over an art career?
Ministry and life are not separate. I spent part of my time in New York City working in a lower Manhattan animation studio. The building buzzed like a beehive of activity. Famous movie stars read for new roles down the hall. Major book publishers upstairs, and huge fashion labels downstairs. It doesn’t matter if your job is drawing cartoons, performing on stage, debating in courts, delivering pizzas, or mopping floors, all of these things have one trait in common—people. No matter where we go or what we do, people will surround us. Ministry happens where we stand. When our peers live and die by the success of their career, we must be ready to show them an example of offering up everything to put other people first. Continually study scripture, understand your faith, work hard, and tell others about the truth of scripture and Christ.
So get to work! Here is list of visual artist Residency programs:
Transform Artist Residency—All art mediums
New York City, NY; Kansas City, MO; Dallas, TX; Orlando, FL; Los Angeles, CA
Creative Paradox Residency—Visual Arts
Zanesville Summer Residency—Visual Arts
Respiro Summer Residency—Visual Arts