“Culture is what we make of the world. Culture is, first of all, the name for our relentless, restless human effort to take the world as it’s given to use and make something else. This is the original insight of the writer of Genesis when he says that human beings were made in God’s image: just like the original Creator, we are creators.” – Andy Crouch, Governing Board of Fuller Theological Seminary, Executive Editor of Christianity Today 2012-16
There isn’t a church in North America that doesn’t have as part of its mission statement something around making an impact in the world, transforming their communities, and/or reaching unchurched people groups.
The church has made great strides in many of these areas, such as supporting single moms or coming alongside people living with addictions or going through divorce or are new immigrants.
Power of Story
A group that has been glaringly absent is the artists. I don’t mean just the bass players on the worship band but the dancers and filmmakers and social media content creators and sculptors and actors and playwrights.
Although pastors, politicians and parents are speaking into the culture, most certainly the greatest impact is being had by the storytellers.
Digital marketing experts estimate that North Americans see between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements a day. There are 210 million Netflix users (37 million added in 2020) and we consume 10 billion (yes, that’s a B) hours of content a month. Disney+ just hit 118 million viewers.
These stories, sometimes delivered as novels or films or advertisements or 22-minute sitcoms, are telling us what to wear, how to smell, where to vacation, who to love and what to think about God, money, beauty, and sex.
Made in His Creative Image
The first five words in the Bible are, “In the beginning God created.” It’s the very first way that God defines Himself to us; as a Creator. Not as a saviour or redeemer or king, but as an artist. The pinnacle of His creation comes in verse 27; “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.” We are created in the image of a creator, which I believe, makes us all creative. If this is the character of our God, it might be wise to invest in developing creativity in our young people.
So why aren’t we? Why aren’t parents eager for their children to train as artists and go out and change the cultural landscape? To be an influencer amongst the influencers? To bring the gospel to a group of people as ignorant of our God as the most remote people groups in Africa or Bangladesh.
Some of the reasons I’ve heard include the assumption that the arts are so secular.
I was a banker for 13 years and saw an equal amount of promiscuity and adultery in corporate Canada. And wait, isn’t the whole point of the gospel to reach the people most in need of Christ? I speak regularly with parents who are very concerned about what their kids might be exposed to in the arts. However, unless the plan is for your child to live in the rainforest with no internet access, they have been and will continue to be “exposed” to art and the world. This is a good thing. Instead of keeping our kids from the world, let’s equip them and strengthen their faith and send them out into it.
Isn’t the whole point of the gospel to reach the people most in need of Christ?
I’ve also been told that art is not a “real” job.
“How will my kid be able to afford a house?” Nowhere in the bible is there a guarantee of home ownership, job security, or the promise you’ll be able to contribute regularly to your RSPs. Quite the opposite. Jesus says, follow me and there’s a good chance you’ll be persecuted, maybe put in jail, maybe not have a roof over your head. This can be the cost of bringing light to the darkness. The cost is not too high. It is a privilege to sacrifice comfort for calling.
Celebrate the Choice to Pursue a Life in the Arts
The Bible, the dominant means through which God communicates his truth, is a book full of dramatic stories, systematic theology, doctrinal catechism, and rational argument. A survey of the Scriptures reveals that roughly 30 percent of the Bible is expressed through rational propositional truth and laws, while 70 percent of the Bible is story, vision, symbol and narrative. Matthew says that Jesus spoke almost entirely in parable/story (Matthew 13).
We should be alarmed and dismayed that the opportunity for artists of faith to train at a Christian post-secondary is now, almost non-existent, with the closure of the theatre programs at both Redeemer University and Trinity Western University. I believe it is vitally important to learn how to put your faith in your art and your art in your faith. If we do not advocate and support our Christian schools to do this, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the secularization of the arts.
My hope is to see the local church and parents filled with as much pride when a young person decides to pursue a life in the arts as they would be if they were to be a Bible translator or youth pastor.
The artists control the narrative of our culture. If we want better stories, we need better storytellers.
- How can we help change the mindset that discounts the arts as a worthy life choice, to a mindset that esteems and celebrates the development of the creativity placed within by our Creator God
- We recognize the undeniable influence of the arts on today’s culture. How can Jesus followers speak into it and be heard?
- Practically speaking, how can we, as parents, and as churches, encourage our youth to develop and use their artistic talents and gifts?
- How can we ground the next generation in the strength and power of the gospel and encourage them to put their calling in the kingdom of God before the promises of riches in the world?
- What can we do to celebrate a youth’s choice of a career in the arts?
Val Lieske is the founder and Managing Artistic Director of Fire Exit Theatre. She has a BA in Theatre & Speech from Trinity Guild (UK) and along with Barrett Hileman brought Theatre to Ambrose University in Calgary. Val freelances as a speaker, educator, writer and spoken word artist. Writing credits include the plays Duty to Warn, God’s Attention, Sunny Side Up, Absence, and co-authored the book Coffee Talk – How to Break Free from the Daily Grind. Directing credits include Sacrament, Nativity in the City, God’s Man in Texas and Eleemosynary. She has taught her class How to Tell a Good Story with Your Life to CEO’s, drama teachers, Executive Directors, pastors and stay at home moms. She is a Certified Minister with The EMCC (Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada). Val is a Chaplain to the arts community and enjoys nothing more than drinking strong coffee with creative people.