An Open Letter to Christian Artists Everywhere @ScottThePainter @EcclesiaHouston

Margaret —  November 10, 2012 — 11 Comments

Worship painter

Let me introduce you to my friend, Scott Erickson. Scott is the Artist-in-Residence at Ecclesia Church in Houston (led by Pastor Chris Seay). I recently featured Scott, Chris, and Ecclesia in a blog post about Tattoos and the season of Lent. Check it out, here.

Scott is probably the only person in the world who is an artist-in-residence at a church. He also travels around the world with various organizations, conferences, and events painting live for the audience.

Throughout this year, I want to introduce you to some of my friends. People whose voices I know, respect, and appreciate. Their words often challenge me in my thinking and faith. I hope they'll challenge you, too. Enjoy!

Dear Artists,

I am a follower of Jesus and I am an artist. I am mostly a painter, although I write a bit and work with video from time to time. I have been creating my whole life and truly believe it's my calling in the world. I have no big fancy degrees that validate my expertise... just years of being an artist and working intensely at that craft. Over the last two years I've had the unique opportunity to work with Ecclesia Church in Houston, TX as their Artist in Residence.  If I was to say anything to artists who are Christians and who are in the church, here's what I'd say:

 

1. Love the Church.

I know the church is a confusing place for you. They don't know what to do with the journey you've been called to. Most churches don't have any kind of art culture. And if they do, it is bound up in creating easy-to-understand-beautiful-things and trying not to offend anyone.

I get it. I've been there. Still there. It's a hard tension to live in, between the honesty you feel compelled to convey and the seemingly sterile safetyness that the church organization seems to promote.

But we can't get around this:

The church is the body that God wants to work through in the world and the bride that Jesus wants to marry.

You are meant to be in a community of believers. You are called to be there. You must love this body, for all its warts and faults. Now I'm not saying it has to look like the modern American Church, large or small. But it has to look like something of a community living life together as they journey to be obedient to the living King Jesus (see the book of Acts). You are called to that. Do not forsake it.

2. Obey your Father

On the other hand, stop looking to the church organization for some kind of parental approval for the things you've been called to. You need to be obedient to your Father in heaven and what He is calling you to. Discernment of these endeavors should certainly be discussed and prayed though in community, especially if you are going to admonish others. But the organization church is not free in the ways you are to create the things that need to be created. The organization is just that, an organization. And although it claims to follow after the living Jesus, they also have to pay bills, salaries, and mortgages. Basically, organizations are not free to risk in the ways that artists are.

Your calling as an artist is to awaken the viewer/listener/reader. This can be done in quiet intimate ways or loud confronting ways. As well your technical skills, your tools are honesty, empathy, and bravery. Your path is to bring about your work in the most truthful way you can. It may not fit in the context of a church service or hang on church walls, but that was never the goal anyway.

That's my two points. Love the Church, but be obedient to what God calls you to do.

Check out Scott's work, here. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottThePainter.

 

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11 responses to An Open Letter to Christian Artists Everywhere @ScottThePainter @EcclesiaHouston

  1. Abigail Stokes Palsma November 10, 2012 at 6:05 am

    This very accurately describes where I am right now. Thank you, Scott for the encouragement.

  2. I loved reading this! I would really love to watch him paint live!

  3. Beautifully put. I’ve met some extraordinary artists who believe in Jesus but have walked away from the church. I think it hurts them more than they realize. Loving the church, in all her vast array of mess, will help us love people – and all art is about people in the end.

  4. This was a great article. I too am an artist, and it can and does prove difficult for the church to wrap their mind around what it’s like to “walk this journey out” while remaining true to standing for Christ. I feel so blessed to have a God given gift, and for the voice He gave me…I pray I can do all things for His Glory. Thanks again!!!

  5. Christina Wynveen November 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    This article was much appreciated! I have been blessed as an artist to have been asked to work on small creative projects for our head pastor and youth pastor. Thank you for the reminder that we are to do what God calls us to do and to be, even if it’s a crazy artist!

  6. Great letter! Couldn’t agree more – but the link to the Lent article doesn’t work.

  7. thanks everyone for the comments.
    here’s the full letter i wrote. Margaret put most of it in… i just gave some examples of moving forward….

    http://createvisualculture.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/a-letter-to-christian-artists/

    feel free to contact me if you’d like!

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