– by Ben Johnson Jr.

What philosophy drives your ministry?
It is so easy to be busy but not effective when we don’t remain focused on our core values. One of the key areas of ministry in which loss of focus often occurs is the Christian Creative Arts. Artistic media are not intended to be an end in themselves, but a vehicle for communication, expression and showcasing of skill.

In the secular arts field, artistic expression and showcasing of skill are generally the primary focus. When we prepare for a secular performance we go for the “WOW” factor and pull out all the stops because we are on show. Communication of a message is a secondary goal because our first obligation is to entertain our audience.

But in the Christian Arts the opposite is true. The message we are trying to communicate is the primary focus. Artistic expression and showcasing of skill must be in alignment with the most effective way of communicating the message. While we still strive to achieve excellence, we must be very careful not to allow the focus to shift from the message to us and our skill. If we do, we have missed both the point, which is to edify and not to entertain, and the opportunity to do so. May I suggest to you that one such core philosophy underlying the Christian Creative Arts should be:

Our gifts for His glory!
In John 17:4 (New King James Version) Jesus said:
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” 

For us to truly glorify God we have to recognize that beyond the immediacy of our activity, God has a purpose He is trying to accomplish through our efforts. If we have done everything with excellence but not achieved His purpose and completed the task He has assigned us then we have failed to truly glorify Him. If we have failed to glorify Him then we have only succeeded in glorifying ourselves.

The pivotal question we have to ask ourselves is: “What do we want to leave uppermost in people’s minds when all has been said and done?” Do we want them to say: “Wow, what an incredible song!” Or perhaps: “Did you hear that guy’s awesome voice?” Or what about: “That dancer’s technique was unbelievable!” As great as that sounds it would actually be a sad commentary on our efforts because we would have missed the point entirely and the audience would have as well.

But wouldn’t it be amazing if people could walk away from our performance saying: “Wow, God really spoke to me through that!” Or perhaps: “That was a really worshipful experience.” Or even: “That really glorified God!” Now maybe we won’t get showered with praise for our efforts but surely that kind of response would still make all the effort worthwhile?

Our responsibility is to maintain our focus and showcase the message not the messenger. Ironically, as we stick to the point we must prepare ourselves for the inevitability of some of the audience completely missing the point. Expect criticism. Many may walk out after we have given our best for God and criticize technicalities. It could have been better! The dancing was lack luster! The music was flat and the sound wasn’t that great. The singers were very ordinary!

But that response calls into account the integrity of their focus as an audience not the integrity of ours as Christian artists. We need to ensure that we have done our best and that is as much as we can do. We have an obligation to share a message and the audience has an opportunity to hear it. We can only take responsibility for our part and therefore must never take rejection or criticism personally. 

The challenge for us today in Christian Arts is three-fold:

  1. We must hide our excellence behind His magnificence – Ministry is not an opportunity to showcase ourselves and in so doing steal His glory. Instead His awesomeness must overshadow us, our efforts and our abilities.
  2. We must not allow the medium to eclipse the message – The true function of the Arts in Christian ministry is to simply be the lens through which people see God and the message clearer. We use our skill, knowledge and experience to interpret the message clearly, leaving the audience in no doubt as to what God is saying through us…that is our calling!
  3. We must replace a performance mentality with a worship/ministry mentality. By all means use whatever God–glorifying means necessary to get the message across clearly, but may we never lose sight of the fact that what we render is not a performance but an offering, an act of worship to God.

Let’s endeavor to serve Him with excellence, using our gifts for His glory!

(Ben Johnson Jr. has been actively involved in the Christian Creative Arts for 22 years and is a professional Christian musician, songwriter and music teacher currently serving in a musical and teaching capacity both in his local church, Durban North Baptist Church, Durban, South Africa and the greater church community)

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