In the last year or so, the Austin Stone Worship Collective shifted from only monthly fellowship meals to alternating between fellowship gatherings one month and trainings the next. The trainings, held on Saturday mornings, cover almost anything related to artists and faith. Some months, the trainings look like breakout sessions. Other months, they involve guest speakers who range from film directors to storytellers.
In February, the Collective training followed the latter design: guest speakers. I heard from Greg Kwedar, Brandon Dickerson, and some of Story Team’s videographers. The three spanned the spectrum of topics, but I think I can sum up the talks with three concepts.
I’ve rearranged the actual order in which the speakers spoke. In the true-to-life account, I would detail care and collaboration before calling. Calling, though, informs the other two pieces, so I’ll use it as the jumping-off point.
Calling: The primary calling of the artist is to communicate the truth for God’s good pleasure.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, “You have two jobs.” The Christian is to 1) know God and 2) make him known. Knowing God comes through reading the Bible, prayer, meditation, community, and fellowship.
Making him known varies by person. God gives each believer unique gifts, talents, experiences, and opportunities to make his great name known. Some believers go overseas to reach the unreached. Others, like me, stay stateside and find other ways to glorify God. It could happen through business, art, financial support, and service. The guise perhaps matters not so much as fulfilling the primary calling: to know God, make him known, and, as Brandon Dickerson says, “communicate the truth for God’s good pleasure.”
Collaboration: Collaboration works only when there is a shared belief in the vision.
Greg Kwedar spoke best about collaboration, so I’ll quote him freely. The general premise behind his statements is that artists should share, rather than hoard, their ideas. To me, Kwedar might as well as be channeling Annie Dillard. She, too, argues for the using and opening up of ideas. Ones kept hidden and locked away turn only to ash.
- “When you bring artists together, share the vision. Find the underlying truth and communicate it.”
- “Collaboration leads to more ideas, reminds me of God’s creativity reflected through us, and encourages our hearts.”
- “Creating opportunities [for people] to use gifts and talents in and for the church serves the church body.”
- “We have to get the vision right and agreed upon in order to execute and iterate together.”
- “What is my (emphasis added) vision I need to give up and lay at Jesus’ feet?”
Kwedar’s final statement is an apt one. Collaboration never occurs as long as I cling to my idea. I have to let the idea go for it to flourish, grow, and become something extraordinary.
Care: The heart and soul of ministry, service, and art is found in the close-ups.
Calling and collaboration help create a heart of service. Calling yields a vertical alignment with God and a horizontal alignment with others. Collaboration strengthens those alignments because it always — always — requires a denial of self. Both elements subsequently produce a heart that asks, “How can I help?”
I like how Peterson puts the quality of “care” in The Message. He translates Romans 15:1-2 in the following manner.
Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. (Emphasis added.) Each one of needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”
My creative talents are not my own, nor am I my own. Jesus bought me at a great cost to himself, and his sacrifice changes everything.
It gives me a purpose, a calling. It pushes me toward collaboration and community. His purchase of me requires that I stop living for myself and start living in the close-ups, looking at the people around me and asking how best I can care for them.
Image: Marco Verch (Creative Commons)