by Dianne B. Collard, D.Miss
My journey from being a missionary with no artistic background to serving as both the Europe Director for Artists in Christian Testimony Int. and the Founder/Director of ArtsCharlotte, is one that could only have been borne in the imagination and sovereignty of our Creator God. My life was changed by the numinous intervention of God as I, a broken, grieving mother, sat in a contemporary art museum in Vienna, Austria in December, 1992. Desperately, I had cried out to God for his presence and help. He spoke clearly, first of himself as the “original abstract artist,” and then he promised to take the crushed elements of my heart and make something beautiful. Finally, he gave me a new purpose in life—to find and encourage artists.
Mine is a circuitous story, but it led me to doing my doctoral dissertation research concerning the reasons why artists-of-faith in Europe were so alienated from the evangelical churches. Four major factors became clear but it is the third finding that brings me to this discussion regarding balance as I seek to encourage artists.
I have shared this startling finding with groups of artists in many countries, and the reactions range from laughter to anger. The unexpected reason stated by a majority of pastors concerning why they did not embrace artists and various art forms in their church ministry was, “Artists are problematic people and too difficult to work with!”
I realize that we may either react negatively or merely dismiss this response. However, I am asking that we look at it with humility and eyes of Christian maturity. If we are honest, we must ask ourselves, “Are there times that we, as artists, use our creative temperament, or the ‘marching-to-a-different-drum’ type personality, to excuse irresponsibility, self-centeredness, or even ungodliness?” Balance and harmony in an artist’s relationship to the church demands first asking God to search our hearts and respond in confession should any “wicked way be found in me.” (adapted from Psalm 149:23-24)
I must quickly add that I have found most artists-of-faith to be extremely sensitive to what is required for an artist to serve in the church and effectively relate to their church leaders. In addition, my local organization, ArtsCharlotte, was founded to encourage the artist in both their craft and their spiritual walk. Another focus is the education of the Christian community concerning God’s view of the arts and artists within a church. Clearly, God has brought about a resurgence, even a “new renaissance,” of artistic expression around the world through such dedicated, gifted artists-of-faith, but it remains a challenge.
The power of the arts to speak of the beauty and goodness of God is immeasurable. There are artists serving around the world as missional people in the marketplace, academia, and the church. For example, the third focus of ArtsCharlotte is to call the artist to engage in our local community in such a missional manner. We are committed to culture care.
In this time of extreme uncertainty due to the pandemic, economic difficulties and cultural/political unrest, I face a particular challenge as the Director of ArtsCharlotte: how to find artists-of-faith who, in seeking the harmony of their creative gift are willing to a give of their time to encourage other artists and engage in both their church and the culture. The need for such people to serve as arts’ leaders is crucial. I understand that being successful as a vocational artist demands commitment and hours of work. But how do we encourage a balance between our Christian calling and the calling as an artist?
I am aware that this is a very different blog entry, but I pray that it will stir us to consider our own expression of balance and harmony in our walk with God as artists. May we experience the beauty of such a transformed life. I leave you with words of author/pastor Brian Zahnd, as he writes about art, but also gives a warning for a life lived as an expression of the beauty of God.
“Whether it is a painting or a poem or a sculpture or a song, beauty has a form. . . Obviously it’s even possible for a beautiful thing to become so distorted and deformed that it loses most or all of its beauty. When this happens, it’s a kind of vandalism.” (Beauty Will Save the World, 2012: Charisma House; p. 1)
May our lives be examples of the beauty that reflects God’s harmony and balance, without distortion.
Dr. Dianne B. Collard is a career missionary, international speaker, author, and “Creative Catalyst.” She and her husband currently live in Charlotte, NC where she serves as the Europe Ministries Director of Artists in Christian Testimony Int’l, and the Founder/Director of ArtsCharlotte, a local arts’ ministry.