Here are some practical recommendations for believers who want to engage in what I will call simply the pursuit of art – whether as creators or those who appreciate / support it. These are heavily filtered through my own experiences and my own particular creative pursuits (writing and singing/songwriting), so I’d love to hear additional advice from anyone in another artistic discipline (such as film or painting or dance). Also, this post assumes the conceptual groundwork I laid out in parts one and two.

1. Consider your audience.

Creating art as a Christian could mean a lot of different things. It could mean primarily serving a local congregation, or the American church, or the global church, or a particular church context in some other part of the world. It could also mean targeting a specific demographic or segment of the national / global artistic community. I tell people that I’m a Christian interested in making excellent music for a global stage. This leaves me a lot of room when considering how exactly my faith intersects my music. There is a certain level of ambiguity and even artistic misdirection that is appropriate to excellent songwriting but that may not be appropriate for, say, a chorus designed to be sung and corporately affirmed by a local body. One of these is not necessarily better, or more spiritual, or more Christian, than the other – they’re just different.

Knowing your audience also means knowing what else your audience is interacting with. This forces you to be intentional about your influences and persistent in your awareness of the broader artistic community within your sphere of engagement, which will usually make you a better artist.

2. Do the hard thing – put in the time.

Consistency beats inspiration almost every time. What I mean is this: creativity is a discipline to be mastered. I don’t mean mastery in the sense of final completion, but mastery in the sense of gaining confidence with it and knowing it intimately. Consistency and disciplined working at your craft will help you see that you are not a slave to creative inspiration; rather, bursts of creative inspiration are small indications of (better) work you might be doing consistently if you worked your mind and body into the rhythms of practice and production, regardless of how you might feel about what you did / made that day.

My experience has taught me that inspiration is much more likely to hit those who consistently work for it.

3. Choose maturity and excellence, not safety and ease.

Within any artistic discipline, there is a temptation to do things that are safe or easy or established. For some reason I’ve found that Christians often feel this way to a greater extent, especially since many American Christians are very happy to throw lots of money at art that fits within perceived “safe” boundaries. Don’t stunt your own artistic growth, and set your sights low, by settling for this sort of safety. This can be difficult to do, especially if you don’t have a supportive community around you who can at least affirm, if not totally understand, what you’re doing; but in the long term you will grow as an artist, deepen your understanding of how your faith is intertwined with your art, and produce art that is more excellent and, thus, more reflective of the Creator’s excellence.

4. Be self-aware.

We live in an information-soaked society. It’s really difficult nowadays to really be the first person to do the thing that you do, or to legitimately be unaware of others doing similar things to what you do; it will be more helpful for you to find a tradition (or traditions) that help situate who you are and what you do, and then innovate on the strength of those traditions.

This also relates to your content. If, for instance, you’re a Christian who chooses to use profanity in her songwriting every so often, you ought to at least have the self-awareness (and contextual awareness) to be doing this on purpose, and to know why, and recognize that there are some Christians who wouldn’t think highly of that. That may have nothing to do with whether or not what you’ve done is artistically excellent or appropriate. But it’s a sign of maturity to have at least the awareness and grace to situate what you’re doing and think about it critically.

5. Be relentless in your pursuit of artistic excellence.

This looks different for different people, and is in some ways a concise summary of things I’ve written above. But, in general, I suggest doing whatever you can to push the limits of your creativity, to innovate, to find new and surprising conversation partners, and to hone your skill at whatever it is you do.

6. Make Christ the Lord of your art on purpose.

I say “on purpose” because it is a question of orienting our beliefs to the truth, and this is something that must be pursued. Be closely involved with a community of Christ-followers who are not like you so that you can be reminded of your art’s context in the wider world, and so that their walks with Christ and perspectives can challenge your own. Care enough about Scripture to study it regularly, with the purpose of knowing God better and having his wisdom soak into your decisions and motivations and hopes and discernment.

Again – this doesn’t mean that all of your art is “about” Jesus. But it does mean that all of your art is from Him and for Him and because of Him. This is something that we creatives can easily lose sight of; we get lost inside our own brains and rightful delight in beauty that we see and beauty that we create. Those are all good gifts, but they are, in fact, gifts, that we were given freely apart from anything we could’ve done to deserve them. As such we should think about them in terms of service and stewardship – using our creative resources as wisely and excellently as possible.

Conclusion

I hope that this brief series on creativity and faith has encouraged creatives – of all stripes, creators and appreciators alike – to think more consistently and biblically and fearlessly about what it means to pursue art excellently. It is my conviction that Christians have a unique and needed perspective from which to create various sorts of art, and that the various contexts into which we might speak are a little less beautiful when we fail to do so. It is also my conviction that all such endeavors must be constantly realigned under Christ’s lordship, or they are ultimately in vain.

Seek maturity, not safety; seek excellence, not ease; seek beauty, not success; and do all this in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

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