Monday, November 9, 2015

I am the choir. Sing to me.

I know it's been awhile. I've decided to write only when I'm feeling strongly enough about a subject to use some of my limited mental energy.

On my mind this morning is the idea of preaching to the choir.

But let me go back and give you the background. Many months ago, I wrote about my struggle to finish a novel I believed God wants me to write. Since then, I have had friends, acquaintances, and random people online tell me that Christians should not make art tailored to a Christian audience. That it is more important - and a higher calling - to make art that appeals to secular society while still containing the general truths of God, in order to draw the unsaved to the Lord. 

More than one person said to me that tailoring our art to a Christian audience is like preaching to the choir. 

Which sounds true and it makes sense. Kinda. 

But I think that message has been holding me back. 

I have thought that my calling as a writer is to challenge complacent Christianity and unbiblical messages that have seeped into the Christian culture and skewed the way we apply the principles of the gospel. In short, to admonish myself and other Christians through my writing. I add myself in there because I often write about the things I also need to hear. 

That's never been a problem with my blog posts or articles I've written that preach Christian truths using the language of Christianity and openly discussing Christ, salvation, holy living, etc. But when I engage my creative brain to write fiction that conveys these same messages, I am somehow no longer doing something worthy - or as worthy. 

No one would tell the pastor's administrative assistant that he or she should take a secular job instead of sitting in church all day interacting mostly with other Christians. We don't tell the people who support and train the missionaries their job is not as important as being out on the mission field. We would never consider telling Billy Graham or Oswald Chambers that their writings don't appeal enough to a secular society. 

So why do we put this burden on our artists? Why do we expect all musicians who follow Christ to be like Switchfoot (a group who chooses not to sing "Christian" music)? Why don't we want our musicians to sing to the choir? And relating it back to my art - why don't we want our novelists, short story writers, and poets to write to the choir?

Here's a secret-not-secret: 

I need preaching to. 

I need my pastor to teach me the Word and help me to apply it to my life, yes. But I also need to read stories that openly preach.  I need to listen to music that reminds me I am a child of God, reminds to pray, reminds me to share the gospel with the broken. 

Sure I like to listen to Matt Maher sing about how love is a powerful force without need to mention God or Jesus specifically. But sometimes I need to listen to Casting Crowns remind me that I -and this world - need a savior.  I enjoy Needtobreathe songs like "Brother," but I also like to sing overtly Christian lyrics like those in their song "Multiplied." They are both on the same album, by the way. 

I like to read Ted Dekker thrillers, but sometimes I need the messages contained in books like his "Blessed" series. 

Ultimately, what we need to understand and accept is that there is a place for both types of artists/messages. There is a place for art that draws the secular world gently to Christ and there is a place for art that uplifts the Body of Christ with overtly Christian messages. Neither calling is more holy or important than the other. 

The most important thing for a Christian artist is to do the work God draws you to. Share your message in the way God has asked you. 

Create your art for the audience God has put on your heart. 

And do it for His glory. 

Now… if you'll excuse me, I have a novel to write. 

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