Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Douglas Mann’s new book The Art of Helping Others: How Artists Can Serve God and Love the World (IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2014).
All Christians are artists, in the sense that God calls all of us to creatively incite people to discover more about him, their Creator. We can do so by sharing the Gospel message in creative ways as we relate to others during our daily lives. Whether or not we create traditional artwork (such as songs, stories, paintings, or sculptures), we can live artistically by showing people glimpses of God’s redemptive work in this fallen world and inspiring them to connect with the Master Artist who wants to transform their lives.
Here’s how you can live artistically for God:
Humbly accept and learn from the suffering you experience. Suffering is an unavoidable reality for everyone in this world that sin has broken – and Christians, especially, must face that suffering rather than trying to avoid it, because what we learn from suffering helps us become stronger people who grow to be more like Jesus Christ. But in order to learn from the suffering you go through, you must overcome pride that deceives you into thinking that somehow you should be above human suffering. Pray for the humility you need to trust God when he allows you to experience suffering. Seek out the wisdom you can gain from going through difficult circumstances while relying on God. Then take what you’ve learned and use it to help other people who are suffering in the ways you’ve suffered. As you do, the Holy Spirit will empower you to create conversations and projects that will help bring hope and healing to others.
Answer God’s call to serve as a creative inciter. Jesus was a creative inciter: someone who used creative energy to bring about positive change in the world. God calls all Christians to follow Jesus’ example by using our God-given creativity to be an agent of change in whatever situations we encounter. Any work you do to creatively help solve problems in the world and help people move closer to God is a way of expressing your artistry as a Christian. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you give of yourself from the uniqueness of how God made you. Just as Jesus used artistry in how he communicated with people (from telling creative stories to solving people’s problems creatively), you can communicate in creative ways that point people to God and help change their lives for the better.
Come as you are. Don’t worry about trying to impress other people with your art or artistic flair; instead, focus on simply being true to who you are: the person God made you to be. Don’t hesitate to let people see the weakness and brokenness in your life; instead, invite God to work through your messy life so others can see the beauty of his redemptive power at work. Keep in mind that all you have to do is come to God as you are and place your trust in him for him to make a masterpiece out of your life.
Worship God through a creative lifestyle. God calls you to worship him not just through a weekly church service, but at all times and in all situations by putting your creativity to use through obedience and sacrifice. Whenever you work in creative ways to meet people’s physical or spiritual needs as a way express your love for God and the people he has made, you’re worshipping. Whenever you share your faith in creative ways to extend the hope that God has extended to you, you’re worshipping. Every day, choose to be available and vulnerable to the people around you, and God’s creative power will work through you in beautiful ways as you worship him.
Create art as authentic expressions of faith rather than propaganda. Aim to create art that represents your genuine response to the Holy Spirit’s guidance instead of art that’s designed simply to present a Christian message to people. Keep in mind that compelling artwork evokes thoughtful questions rather than just providing expeditious answers. Ask God to help you use metaphor and mystique to reveal truth and beauty, through your both your artwork and your life in general. Regularly ask yourself how you want the chapters of your life to read, and what the implications are of your life’s story in light of eternity.
Feel free to create dangerously. Take the risks that you sense God calling you to take so your life will have the full creative impact on others that God intends it to have. Ask God to give you the courage you need to live dangerously out of your freedom in Christ, embracing the opportunities God gives you to push back against the status quo and influence people to think in fresh ways about faith. Spend some time regularly engaged with the culture in which you live so you’re well-informed about it, but also make a habit of spending time in solitude so you can best hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you about how to help shape the culture in ways that fulfill God’s purposes.
Help right the world’s wrongs. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you every day as you interact with people, so you can help them notice the injustice and inequality in the community you share. Reject cowardice, expediency, and vanity that pressure you to ask whether the choices you make are safe, politic, or popular. Instead, focus on listening to your conscience, which urges you to make choices based on what’s right.
Surround yourself with a strong support system. Build friendships with some other believers you trust who are also committed to living artistically. Communicate regularly about how God is working in each of your lives. Encourage, support, and hold each other accountable to living with faith, creativity, and excellence.
Keep renewing your commitment to live artistically for God. Every day, ask the Holy Spirit for fresh guidance about how best to use your creativity to impact other people’s lives. Clarify your core values and make sure that you’re basing your daily decisions on what truly matters most to you so you won’t be unnecessarily distracted from fulfilling God’s purposes for your life.
Adapted from The Art of Helping Others: How Artists Can Serve God and Love the World, copyright 2014 by Douglas Mann. Published by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Douglas C. Mann is a published songwriter, and a former music business and book-publishing executive. He is an accomplished visual artist whose art can be found in collections throughout North America, Western and Eastern Europe, and Asia. Douglas is drawn to exaggerated color to express the spontaneity and power of living in the moment and believes art is music frozen in time. He divides his time between Colorado and Ukraine.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood’s golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.