January of 2011, I was in Seattle, Washington for my youngest sister’s wedding. At the time I was in career transition and having just read a couple of books by Dan Allendar, I decided to visit Mars Hill Graduate School and sit in on a class to see if I might have an interest in becoming a professional counselor. The professor was covering “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art” by Madeleine L’Engle (affiliate link). My interest in pursuing study at Mars Hill faded, but the book has remained a source of inspiration for me, to the point that I would recommend it to anyone, but especially to other worship leaders.
I consider it the best, most clearly written work on being a Christian Artist – not to be confused with the watered-down bastardisations that get called “christian art”, “christian literature”, or worst of all “contemporary christian music”. To paraphrase my favorite quote from the book, bad art equals bad theology.
To give fair warning, this book is not written in a very orderly way. “Clearly written” does not mean I walked away knowing they 7 steps to becoming a true Christian Artist. Topics bleed into each other all over the place and sometimes you feel like you’re just having a long conversation. Then again, this is exactly what I love about the book. I’m free to take useful thoughts and apply them at will. I also have to admit, I’m not necessarily a very systematic thinker either. This book is full of inspiration and jumping-off points. I have come back to this book several times since I first read it, and I expect to keep doings so.
This book has helped me start to see a higher vision in leading worship, beyond just leading the Church’s version of a Sunday morning cover band. This book has helped push me and my wife to dream about how we could more effectively lead together, how we could create true works of art in our worship music and worship leading times. I have a clearer vision of myself as a sub-creator – one who creates because I am made in the image of my Creator.
To quote the back cover of the paperback edition:
… as I listen to the silence, I learn that my feelings about art and my feelings about the Creator of the Universe are inseparable. To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory. It is what makes me respond to the death of an apple tree, the birth of a puppy, northern lights shaking the sky, by writing stories.
And so I’m excited to know your thoughts too. If you’ve read it, do you agree? Are there other books you would recommend on the topic?
I’m looking forward to the conversation.