What comes to mind when you think of an artist? A sex-obsessed painter with skintight clothes and an attitude? A doped-up rock star shredding a guitar? A short-haired chick who loves film and other women? Stereotypes abound, but there’s a nugget of truth: many artists lie outside Christian circles, especially conventional ones.
So, Christians should be trying to reach unsaved artists, right? Preaching the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth? However, there doesn’t seem to be much effort in this arena. Poor folk, coworkers, people in other countries, sure, but not artists. No one goes to the poetry reading, the gallery, or the local film release hoping to win someone to Christ. Unfortunately, I think I know why.
In order to win someone to Christ, you have to convince them that God loves them, which means showing them love yourself (you can’t say “Piss off, praise Jesus.”). However, to love an artist, you must love their art.
I didn’t say you have to like it, understand it, or share their sense of style. But you must love that they love it, not expect them to drop it to follow God because they won’t.
This troubles many Christians because they think art is some sort of low-ranking priority, if it’s a priority at all. Christians are more concerned about the poor, downtrodden, and unsaved.
But…wait a second. Artists are usually poor, struggling to make money on their gifts in a world that wants cheap amusement. They’re often downtrodden, prone to heavier emotional swings than the average Joe. And didn’t I just say many of them are unsaved?
So why the Christian stigma against art? I mean, God himself was an artist. He made two genders when an asexual organism might have resolved some headaches. He created genes that split off into countless ethnicities even though a monochromatic race would have stopped some hate crimes. He made animals with hilariously long noses for goodness sake! God valued creativity.
Why don’t we? Why do Christians look at artists and say, “That’s not important.”? Or perhaps, “That’s fine as long as you’re painting Jesus.”? How can we possibly expect the artistic world to come to Christ if this is our gospel?
Memorize these two rules for evangelizing artists:
- You can’t tell an artist to give up art to follow God because God won’t let them. He himself inscribed art on their hearts. Artists are not some social defect; they’re a person crafted by the ultimate artist. Art is their air, their milk and honey, their life. Telling them to stop is telling them not to be who God designed them to be. What’s so “Christian” about that?
- Artists are not some cow for Christian establishments to milk for their own gain. Art does not exist solely for the sake of mainstream evangelism. Artists have a commitment to their art, not Sunday mornings or their local Lifeway. Christians cannot call themselves loving if they only accept art that is “useful.”
If we want artists to come to Christ (which we should), we need to get into their world, not expect them to get into ours. You show an artist you care by showing them you’re not too busy to experience their craft, nor too cowardly or ashamed to slip into the underbelly of the world artists often inhabit.
Check out their stuff. Hang in their circles. Ask them questions about their craft. Be interested in them, including their artistry.
You don’t have to like everything they put out or follow every style, and let’s be honest, some stuff really does suck (M. Night Shyamalan is an artist, too). I won’t swing to the other legalistic end that says if you aren’t into art then you’re a bad Christian. Some people are wired for sports, business, medicine, children, and more.
But some are wired for art, and we need to love them for being an artist. After all, God is most pleased when we are doing what he made us to do. That in mind, I think some nonChristian artists have a better grasp of God than the Christians who kill their hearts and call it “holiness.”