The world of the arts is a world of fierce competition. There are many more people trying to make it as musicians, dancers, actors, etc., than there are opportunities. The artist must be willing and able to put his or her talent on the line at any moment, pushing for that illusive opportunity that launches one from being a hobbyist to being a professional. To be successful, the artist must be supremely confident and grab the spotlight whenever there is a spotlight to grab.
The cry of the secular artist is, “Look at me!” Self-promotion is a constant in order to rise above the din and be noticed. For every artist that gets the nod, many others do not, left to self-promote their way toward the next opportunity. Without this confidence and determination to be the best and be recognized for it, the secular artist will remain in the background unnoticed. Talent is important, but talent rarely rises to the top without relentless self-promotion.
The Christian artist has to be coming from a very different place; not self-promotion but Christ-promotion, but old habits die hard. The good news is that many secular artists have come to Christ over the years, receiving Him as Savior and Lord. The bad news is that many of these now-Christian artists bring their self-promoting habits into the church, fed by church leaders and congregations trying to capitalize on their talent to feature the “best” worship band and/or “best” arts ministry in the area.
When a secular artist comes to Christ, there must be a time of maturing in the faith before being placed in the church spotlight. The shift has to go from, “Look at me,” to “Look at Him.” This does not happen over night but takes time to develop. It would be ridiculous to take a secular speaker, say a motivational speaker, and put him or her in the pulpit a week after coming to Christ, yet that is the kind of thing we do with the artist who is a new Christian – one week a club singer, the next week a worship leader. I don’t think it helps that, on the music scene, the Christian music industry more or less mirrors the secular music scene with its Top Hits, fan clubs and awards shows. Really?!?!
God is the original Artist, the Creator who created all things. In our day, culture has become the dominant patron of the arts and, therefore, the artist. It’s time for the church to reclaim the arts and dedicate the arts and their artists to the glory of God. This will require care and nurture of the artist and not artist exploitation. The path from “Look at me” to “Look at Him” passes through spiritual growth bathed in humility. As John the Baptist said, “I must decrease; Jesus must increase.” As Jesus said, “Not my will but Your will be done.”