When asked for a word of encouragement to Christian artists, long-time singer-songwriter and author Andrew Peterson simply said, “Read your Bible and go to church.”
Sound odd? Perhaps, but he couldn’t be more right. Reading your Bible and going to church are the two most powerful ways to enhance your art. But how?
What is Art?
Before we answer that, we need to remember what an artist is – at least a Christian artist. Peterson defines a Christian artist as someone who tells the truth and makes it as beautiful, appealing, and convicting as possible. Notice that this definition of art has a focused purpose. It’s a way to communicate truth. And it’s not just about communicating truth, but the way you’re communicating it. An artist wants to attract, engage, and convict people with the truth by the way they’re presenting it.
So, how does reading your Bible and going to church help and encourage you as an artist?
Why Reading Your Bible and Going to Church Enhances Your Art
Here’s a shotgun of reasons why:
Reading your Bible allows you to engage with the most popular (and read) book in history. Not only is the Bible history (which will always influence your art for the better), but it’s what Western civilization was built on. If you want your art to dig deeper than the present and engage the world of the past, then read your Bible.
Going to church allows you to befriend a wide variety of people. There’s no denying that some beautiful art is created by very lonely and independent people. However, the more an artist can joyfully engage with different people from different backgrounds and different cultures, the more their art will grow in breadth. Being opened up to the way different people are and think will challenge the artist to move away from just creating in their small and comfortable pocket. And simply speaking, joyful friendships make joyful people. It doesn’t mean your art is always joyful, but it’s coming from a joyful heart – a heart that’s been consistently reminded of the power of God’s salvation for all people.
Reading your Bible allows you to listen to the ultimate “Influencer” of the arts. Have you ever been talking to someone about your enjoyment of a musician, and they begin to tell you about some unknown musician that apparently influenced the one you enjoy? I have to admit, it’s definitely interesting to consider who influenced The Beatles, Martin Scorsese, or Douglas Coupland, but then we have to realize that they were all influenced by someone, who was influenced by someone, who was influenced by someone…you get the idea. Well, reading the Bible as a Christian is synonymous with listening to God. And who is God? The Creator. The Artist. The ultimate Influencer of all art. All the beautiful art you experience can be traced back to the creativity of the Creator. As an artist, why wouldn’t you want to soak yourself in the poetry, stories, and songs of the only self-sustaining and self-influenced Artist that exists?
Going to church gives your soul the gift of being shepherded. Among other dangers, one that can come upon artists is that of rejecting authority and deeming it unnecessary. A lie that the enemy whispers into every artist is that in order to create authentic and beautiful art, they must be unbound and free from any constraint or accountability. This couldn’t be more wrong. What’s more important than a Christian’s art is the Christian’s soul, which, if it is to be healthy and growing, needs to be taught, comforted, disciplined, rebuked, loved, and cared for. This is one reason why the local church exists – to give Christians the loving care and confrontation of elders that they need for a fruitful and healthy life. An artist that participates in a good and healthy local church is given the soul-enhancing nutrition that gives their art a soul-engaging impact.
Reading your Bible helps you grow in discipline. Most Christians find the act of reading the Bible daunting. And I get it. It’s an 800,000-word book! It’s more words than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy! As any artist would tell you: good art comes from patience and discipline. The Christian who daily takes the time for disciplined Bible-reading will create art that’s deeper than the artist who doesn’t. Why? They’re training themselves to fight tiredness, boredom, and distraction. I think any artist would say they’ve fallen to the temptations that tiredness, boredom and distraction brings.
Going to church gives you the gift of trials and the opportunity to endure them. Church has many benefits, and two of them are disguised as difficulties: church politics and annoying people. It’s a joke to think that one’s entire church experience is nothing short of heaven. The local church will fail you, leaders will fail you, and brothers and sisters in Christ will fail (and annoy) you. Your church will spend your money on things that don’t matter, they’ll over or underpay staff, they’ll sometimes sing songs and preach sermons that aren’t biblical, and they probably will forget your birthday. All that said, you’ll experience plenty of trials in the local church, but that’s nothing to be afraid of! Artists will say that beautiful art is often times birthed from unbeautiful experiences. And I would say that your art will take on a stronger impact when you not only experience a trial but endure the trial. Going to church will give you this opportunity.
There you go, a shotgun of reasons why reading your Bible and going to church will enhance your creations as an artist.