This one is going to take some explanation so please bear with me. I remember in my early days of faith, when I first discovered “Christian rock.” It was amazing for me. Having been to over seventy rock concerts before my conversion, I was having difficulty. The lyrics of some of my favorite songs, songs that had shaped my pre-Christian life, suddenly didn’t sync up with my new faith. Then came Stryper, and dcTalk and the Newsboys, etc. and all of the sudden there was music to bridge the gap between my old music and my new faith. My feathers used to get pretty ruffled when a musician who happened to be a Christian would try to differentiate, we’re not a Christian band, we’re Christians in a band… I used to see them as turncoats but I can now see it a little differently.
Is there such a thing as Christian music or Christian art? By strictest definition, probably not. Jesus didn’t die to save art and music, He died to save people. Our creations as Christians exist as a manifestation of that new life. Our work is not Christian, we are Christians trying to do God honoring work. We talk a lot about redeeming the arts (you no doubt can point to pages here where I have talked about it). What’s really happening though is God is redeeming artists, who then create from a new world view. I know this sounds like semantics, but it’s not. See when we set out to create “Christian art” it narrows our focus and it can also narrow our reach. I remember Michael W. Smith being rejected for a Dove Award for “Love Me Good” ostensibly because it wasn’t “Christian enough.” I’ve met the man. He is “Christian enough.” He simply chose to write a song that wasn’t outwardly Christian and he took some flack. My question is why? If our mission is the great commission, then getting our work beyond the walls of the church is really important. We don’t need our work to be “more Christian.” We as artists need to be more faithful followers of Jesus and let our light shine into the darkest corners of our world. Our work is part of the act of shining, but it only truly shines when it is empowered by the love of Christ. Our mission is not to make Christian art, our mission, as spelled out by Jesus Himself, is to make disciples.
I met another Christian music artist who spelled it out pretty clearly for me. He referred to his band as a “youth group band.” Their mission is to edify the church, to create work that uplifts and encouraged the people of God to do the work we are called to do. In a sense, if we are talking the five fold gifts from Ephesians 4, their calling is pastor/teacher. He then began to talk about other bands, bands whose work goes beyond the church. Their gift is more in the realm of evangelistic/apostolic. Which is more important? YES??? My presentations like Pictures of Jesus are more the first type of work (though definitely wandering into evangelistic), while some of my newer things I am hoping you hear about soon, are the latter. Both are designed to honor God and with his help, they will.
Maybe we need to stop trying so hard to make Christian art and start living more God honoring lives, offering our work to God to be used as He would have it used. One thing I know for sure. My most effective times of ministry as an artist were the times when I got out of the way, and made what I felt God leading me to make.
What is God calling you to make?