Well, is it? I know that may sound a bit crazy but believe me, it’s not a strange consideration. Most ministries self-asses on a regular basis in order to avoid the following pitfalls or stumbling blocks.
The Top Ten Signs That Your Art Ministry Is Merely Self-Medicating
- The contributors are defensive. Artists are more worried about themselves, their pocket books, their living conditions than they are interested in spreading the gospel. In other words, if you have to stop reading this list at number 1., you may be a little too defensive?
- The community is insular in nature. The art ministry is primarily focused on their own people and their own agenda instead of interacting with other congregation members and pulling in non-church goers into their program. “Outreach” means that you are always looking to share the Gospel message with people outside of your own group. This is one of the primary reasons God leaves us here on planet Earth. Sharing Jesus’ love with the lost is the one activity that you will not ever be able to do again, once your body/flesh has died.
- Education is treated as though it is unimportant because your leader may have very little of it himself. Excellent leaders, educated or not, will always surround themselves with educated, sober minded people. In self-medicating ministry, those who are not qualified either spiritually or intellectually are consistently appointed to positions of authority. This is because they will comply to every little whim and complaint of the members, instead of focusing on the greater agenda of Christ. Not only is it the most obvious tactic used by Satan to defeat ministry, it is also the most damaging. In other words, he uses it because, my friends, it works to defeat growth. Everyone hopefully understands that God sometimes appoints under-educated peoples to authority because He qualifies them Himself. So asses your leaders effectiveness based upon scripture, if his or her agenda has fallen under speculation. Spiritually led leaders behave with humility, faith, and uncanny resourcefulness. If your authority figure neglects to appoint informed people to tasks that are dependent upon important knowledge base, because he is afraid of looking less educated himself, he or she may very well be nailing your ministry’s coffin lid shut. Don’t be surprised to see secretive smirks and hear resounding sighs of intolerance emanating from his or her lips. Spiritually led leaders are more concerned for their people than they are for their own reputations. They will not hide their lack of education and they will not glorify it either, if they’ve got it. They will seek those who have biblical wisdom and experience to make their ministry work better.
- Artists are not expected to own up to their own sins? Creativity does not replace piety. While it is true none of us are saved by our own piety, to lack serious commitment to respecting biblical counsel or law is a sign of pride. Proud people never sacrifice* for those who are thirsty for forgiveness. God resists pride in His people and He will resist your ministry if it focuses too much on you and too little on the needs of others. God meets our needs by allowing us to fulfill the needs of others. In this occupation a Christian will find peace.
- Living the Gospel message in front of others is discouraged. Are artists in your ministry embarrassed by innocence or unabashed conduct for the causes of ministry? Sometimes, in fact, many times, artists believe that those congregation members who do not perform well enough should be excluded from participation in a ministry altogether but this is incorrect thinking according to scripture. What scripture teaches is that leadership roles should be appointed by God and/or godly council, membership roles are given freely to whomever will serve with a happy spirit ripe with enthusiasm for God’s forgiveness. Would you be embarrassed by an infant who doesn’t yet know how to walk? Of course not. But many artists do treat their less successful colleagues with contempt when their work doesn’t measure up to a particular standard. The correct estimations of performance should be measured by the level of authority given the person in terms of provision to the whole of God’s community. In other words, if an artist is struggling, give him provision and support, but don’t hand him a job that is dependent on his success in order for your ministry to thrive for the sake of many.
- Exhibits are created in order to flatter the artists first and perhaps God, second, maybe? Artists are often treated unfairly in the world, this is true. They long for a supportive, caring, attentive family. Every Christian community should grow and learn to appreciate it’s members equally. Unfortunately, we are sinners and sometimes in our neediness we become obsessed with our own success because we believe that it will insulate us from tragedy. But as Christians, we need to understand that our security is primarily in Jesus, not in worldly perceptions of our own creativity. Jesus is the giver of all life and the true lover of human souls. When you join into His “church” you have already been justified by His love. You do not need to be superior to others in order to have creative value. As His child, you are free to focus your energy on growing for and with His heavenly kingdom and when the time is right, He will give you more to do. Spend your earthly days flattering God and in this you will find the most wonderful home any person could ever want or dream of.
- Other congregation members don’t interact with your art ministry’s members much. This is a pretty obvious sign that your ministry is self-medicating. People will take an active interest in those who show interest in them. This is true for both saints and sinners alike and because it is true for both groups, it is considered one of the most obvious signs of both success and defeat. The scriptures cannot be taught if people do not engage one another in conversation or community activity. God loves a moving target.
- There is plenty of ‘back stabbing’ or ‘gossip’ happening between members, or even worse, members do this secretly to seekers.* Does this really happen. Yes, unfortunately I have witnessed it from both a distance and from a very personal and uncomfortable, close proximity. It is our sin nature that tempts us to triumph due to another persons demise. Remember the conflicts between King Saul and David? Remember how uncomfortable David felt at becoming a king at the expense of his sovereign and his best friend, Johnathan? Let me just advise here that it is very important to a Christian how they come into privilege, authority, or recognition. They may not have any control over the circumstances, but they will always feel a bit too uncomfortable with it. This is a sign of humility. A sign meaning that The Holy Spirit who is indwelling him or her is not letting the sinner get away with false pride. So, a Christian thinking leader is usually too self-conscious to gossip about others let alone alienate a seeker.
- One or two individuals are given too much authority. A good missionary always invests energy in replacing himself with another who is just as qualified, if not better qualified. Good missionaries are also happy to have very helpful people about them. They look forward to going home to be with God and they also worry for those they will leave behind. It is in their nature to wish to replace themselves no matter how satisfied they are in the place God has appointed them to serve. This is because they are cognizant of God’s worth. They understand that only He can fulfill their deepest longing. Earth in all her glory is not capable of meeting the missionary’s need. If you are an inexperienced artist in God’s family, you are a missionary waiting to be born. You are more than just an artist, you are an artist with a different destiny.
- Exceptions to standard practice are made because artists are thought to be too exceptional? As artists, we are not above the practice of understanding how we might improve a practice or methodology. We are living, thinking beings that are constantly evolving in the truest meaning of the word. Because God puts His Spirit in us, we are capable of improving our sin nature and adapting our dreams to enhance and provide for His Kingdom. But, if you never ask yourself these kinds of questions, how will you ever be equipped to give more away for God? People think that artists are the very least inhibited among Christians. In my experience, they can be more self-loathing than any other member of a congregation.
- Ministry and Art by Jeanne Torrence Finley
- The Christian Artist in Ministry
- Art needs the church: How to create artisan communities
sacrifice* surrender, giving up, abandonment, renunciation, forfeiture, relinquishment, resignation, abdication for another
seekers* those who have yet to commit their lives to Jesus, the unsaved