J Scott McElroy

Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Staying Relevant as a Christ-Following Artist

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 at 5:44 pm

I recently got an email from a young art instructor friend who asked some interesting questions about being “in the world but not of it” as artist. Thought I’d share it and my reply.


Recently I have really been trying to dig deeper into pursuing my career as an artist while still seeking the Lord.  I got all psyched up after finishing Steve Turner’ Imagine book and even more so now that I am on the tail end of Finding Divine Inspiration.  But it sure is hard work.  I’ve been finding myself constantly feeling behind and playing catch up.  This past year, with getting married and several other phases going on in my life, I was virtually making no art and not really doing any of the things my grad school teachers preached to me: Going to shows, reading the magazines, discovering new artists, trying new things, being engaged in current culture.  Just today one of my students was telling me about a movie he saw and he asked if I had heard of it.  I said no, and felt quite dumb because it seemed to be a relevant part of what could have been a good discussion between teacher and student about art.  I guess that brings me to my question, or more like my vent:  It’s hard to be a Christian Artist and still be “in the world but not of it.”  I feel like I am furiously trying to catch up on my knowledge and stay relevant with what is going on in the art world.  As Steve Turner says- Most Christians walk up to the art scene and just enter the conversation without first listening to what is already being said, and looking for the opportune moment to enter (my paraphrase).  I don’t want to do that.  I want to make art that is worshipful to God and yet can still knock the socks off of unbelievers. Art that isn’t completely out of left field, but acknowledges the current conversation of what is going on today.

I don’t know…what do you think?


My reply:


Really good questions!  Here are some thoughts.  I’ve found that as I listen to the Spirit and  keep an open ear through my day that He has often brought things (trends, books, music, stories, etc) in the culture to my attention or across my path that I need to know about. In fact, I am often amazed at how consistent He has been about that. If you pray for this, He will be faithful to make it happen in your life.

You might create a channel for this by asking God to show you a couple of website you could check each day. For me its CNN.com daily and Relevantmagazine.com every few days. Crosswalk.com and Opentheword.com are two good ones that have news from a Christian perspective. Just go to ’em and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you so you can  maximize your time. Put a limit on how much time you spend on them and God will meet you in it.

Another thought about relevance: I know you deal every day with college students who surf the waves of culture, and you want to speak–or at least understand–their language. But know that your spiritual development and the authenticity that comes out of it will give you an essence of relevance that transcends current trends. Really. I’m sure you know this, but it’s always good to be reminded. Of course, this connection with God is the source of the creative “power flow” flow in your work, as well. Seeking the Holy Spirit as you work (and teach) will give a deeper relevance to your work than responding to current trends will, because God will touch people at the core of who they are. You may feel like you are out of step with the culture sometimes, but you will have more impact over time because of your centeredness and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

God sees your desire to be relevant and serve Him. Keep your eyes and ears open and He’ll fulfill it in ways you can’t imagine.

Also, as for your busy year of neglecting “artistic progress”…life is part of your progress as an artist. You’ll have seasons where you are making and seasons where you are collecting and growing. You may have unfulfilled longings and feel unbalanced sometimes, and that’s ok. God will make clear to you what you need to do as you ask Him.