Here's my heart's reply to a girl called Stephanie who's letter I read just today.
To the one who feels the call to pursue Art Ministry:
I love hearing that you are passionate about art and the Lord and ready to see where this whole thing takes you. What I also love is that you are willing to be generous with your art to benefit God's kingdom.
More than talent or skill I think what the Lord desires most from us is a willing heart. Just yesterday I was wrestling with the whole idea of.. who am I painting for, and the desire to just paint what the Lord tells me to. That being said, I'm intrigued by the statement that you always viewed your art and your relationship with God as two separate things. You are in for the most beautiful story when you open your art to God and start incorporating His word and His spirit's leading into your work. Our God is the MASTER artist right? He is the source of ALL the creativity. So on the days we are stumped or feel drained creatively we can ask Him. He is our supplier. I often tell the Lord, "let me see it how you see it". His hand and favor on your work will take you far and bear fruit for the kingdom for years to come. You must just be open to His leading.
All that to say.... it won't be easy. Saying yes to God and following this call to "art ministry" was one the most invigorating things I've ever done. And yet in the day to day grind for years I've questioned, "am i doing it right?", "will I be successful", "am I really impacting the kingdom of God?" and "will I ever not be poor?". But Stephanie, I wouldn't trade it. In my most broken heartache I have made my best work. And when I really sit down and ask the Lord, "what do you want to say to them through my art?" He always shows me something wonderful to paint. I want nothing more than to be aware of God and radically obedient to what he asks of me and my art. It's the best way. There have been times for sure when I didn't hear God, maybe because of my disobedience or distance from Him. In those times I cried out to him, and the crazy thing is that it's only in hindsight that I see it was then that he was working.
Being in art business/ministry full time is tough, it's a tough market, but I will say that I believe there is a specific place He wants each of us in our art. What I thought would be "successful" in my work wasn't always. I would see what others did and wonder why I wasn't seeing the same blessing. And the answer is: because God didn't want to bless that, He wanted to bless something else. So then I was searching for what He wanted for me even more, I just wanted to please Him. He drew my heart back to the concept of #scripturedoodle he'd given me years prior, I thought it was a great thing and I loved it, but I didn't think it was my ONE thing you know? I questioned, how could this support my family? And the answer to that is Ephesians 3:20.
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasureably more than all we ask or imagine. According to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever Amen."
When we surrender to Him our dreams and gifts and fears and all of it, He is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE. The HOW of things is not our responsibility, He will show us, our responsibility is simply the YES to God. Once I said yes to God about #scripturedoodle (and it was a whiny spoiled brat "yes" for the record). He flooded my mind with ideas of how it could work and the global impact it could have for the Kingdom of God. So as you continue on your journey, keep in mind what He chooses to bless in your work. Ask Him to show you the way, and be radically obedient to what He asks of you. As many have said, BLESSING follows OBEDIENCE. It is so true, I am proof of it.
On the day to day my best advice would be:
1. PRAY---- it's our absolute best tool. He will guide our steps, and we are equipped to follow His lead when we are in tune with His Spirit. The whole idea of art ministry for your life was HIS IDEA. So remember that He has the best plan for it. It's not your plan, it's His plan and we get to be part of it. It's not restricting, it's freeing in the best way, so embrace it.
2. STAY IN THE WORD--- reading His word daily is irreplaceable. There is nothing that can substitute for knowing and being rooted in the word of God. Along with Prayer it is our best tool. We read the word, we learn His character, it shapes our creative ability to communicate the heart of God through art. The days I don't spend my first moments with God, I absolutely regret it by the time I finish my cup of coffee.
3. PRACTICE--- Last of the three I say, make art! Continue to practice and sharpen your skills, read books, take classes and stay inspired. But stay true to the heart of His art in you. There's nothing I despise more than to see people copy one another's art. WHAT'S THE POINT? It's not yours, God has endless amounts of creativity and He is able to give us each fresh inspiration. Although artists work may be similar it should still be different. The word of God is true when it says, "there's nothing new under the sun". Just examine your heart as you create. He will guide you.