I saw this graphic online the other day and I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand I get the sentiment. I’ve given a lot of work away and it’s pretty expensive to do. On the other hand, I love what I do and sometimes the benefit I get from doing it is enough. I love to be a blessing to people, generosity is it’s own reward and all that and then there are days where you wish everyone felt that way.
Art and commerce have always had a love/hate relationship. Add ministry to the mix and it gets even more confusing. We hear artists who are financially successful being called sellouts and we hold up the term starving artist as if it’s a badge of honor. On the other hand, I am also aware of the pressures to give in and create that which will sell simply because we need to eat.
As a minister, it gets worse. People assume that because it’s ministry, it’s free and if you talk about payment, you’re only in it for the money and you have no faith. Mind you they say this from the comfort of their full-time jobs and benefits packages. I remember once sitting in a committee meeting as people haggled over the pastors salary package as if he was overpaid, knowing full well no one in the room would work for what we were willing to pay. It was sad really. If God is the most important, as all Christians would say, wouldn’t it seem logical to pay our Spiritual leaders well. I believe it says somewhere that “the workman is worth his hire.”
Combine art and ministry and it gets really complicated and I’m not sure I have any really great answers. On one hand my ministry is pretty expensive to do and sometimes a hard sell. Churches are my main “clients” and they are not only unsure of whether or not people will respond to my ministry, but they also want to be sure that my teaching is orthodox so that they’re not in trouble when I leave. Making enough money to keep it going can be a very real concern. On the other hand I love it, I know it’s my gift and I know God uses it and it works. I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you probably feel similarly about your work. We don’t just get to make art, we get to make art that makes a difference, maybe even an eternal difference.
One of the things I’ve become increasingly convinced of in trying to figure this dilemma out (other than the fact that I may spend too much time trying to work this dilemma out) is that we need to be able to show the benefit of what we do. When I come to your church, you need to know that I’m not going, “Hey look at me, Isn’t my art really cool?” You see I’ve really started to analyze what I’m there to do and who I’m there to help.
I know this is going to sound “businessy” but work with me. First we need to look at who is the client. It’s not really the person in the pew. Oh they may ultimately foot the bill, but they’re not the client, the one “hiring” me. That would be the pastor and/or church leaders. They’re the ones who will answer for what I do and I am there to make their lives easier and help them advance their vision and their mission. Ultimately, I am coming into their church, not to make art, art is the tool I use. I’m coming in to use this tool of art, to enhance the hard work they’ve been doing all year and will be doing long after I’m gone. I’m coming in to reinforce the story of Jesus, be another voice introducing people to Jesus. I use this gift of art to show people that they can put their own gifts to work for the Lord, live out His purpose in their community and help their church leaders to advance the vision and mission of the church. My job is to reinforce the message and be another voice calling people out and spurring them on to love and good deeds. If I do that, I’ve helped everyone and Lord willing the commerce will take care of itself.
At the end of the day we do need to do what we do to the glory of God and trust Him with it.