Crossroads of faith, money and creativity

I’ve challenged myself to start blogging unfiltered. Enough of the worrying about offending people, even friends. Welcome to the first attempt.

I believe we’re past the point of trying to make the cross “presentable to our culture”. My talented friends that also happen to have a faith in Jesus Christ need to start saying that they’re trying to catch up with Hollywood or the elite creatives in culture. I can’t recall a time (even when the church deserved it) when any friends or family of mine that live outside of the walls of Christianity blasted the church for sucking at creating media and creativity. Are ideas like Church Marketing Sucks really just an attempt for people to complain for not getting recognized? What’s the point of saying “we suck” if “you don’t” suck?

Where I think the problem resides is when the artists that have accepted what Christ did for them on the cross sell out and JUST create media. Sort of like some bands crossing over and removing Christ out of their songs in order to sell albums, right? I know, I know…….I hear the “God didn’t command us to just create churchy things” arguments all of the time. I would disagree with that and, believe it or not, the Bible would side with me there.

This is where I am in life, and have had some honest discussion with artists I respect about this recently. I see myself (and of course others) shooting photos of pointless things. Creating websites sometimes that just feel shallow. Why? Obviously that’s where the money’s at. Isn’t that why all people crossover from living and breathing their faith to the cross being their life support……there’s no life in you, but someone else is keeping you around for some reason.

I’m sick of it. I’m making it a point (started recently) to be on a journey of purposely connecting with clients where it’s almost certain I won’t get a penny for my work, but more importantly, the finished products are guaranteed to point people to the cross. Asking myself if it’s really possible to sacrifice and suffer a bit (or a lot) through the work I do.

Have you found yourself taking on work just to bring in money? Is it safe to do some high quality work to pay the bills and let God get only 10% of our work like He often gets from our wallet? I’d also love to hear how some of you might have overcome this and sacrificed your time as well. Or maybe you hate my God? I’d love to hear from you as well.

  1. I have to say, after stumbling on your Google+, and now reading this post, I’m completely floored by the fact that you are living out your faith.

    May God bless you and your family for the stand you are taking. This is not an easy road. I’ve tried to walk it before and have fallen because the journey became more important than God.

    What did I learn? Put Him first. Not just in photography or websites or the day to day grind. Put Him first in everything. It’s easy to say. I’m struggling with it right now as I write this.

    You’re standing at a crossroads in your life that others may not be at right now, or like me, they’ve been there before. Keep Christ first and don’t sweat the flak you are bound to get from the world. I would love to join your endeavor through prayer. You’re in my G+ circle, brother. Let me know if I can help in any way.

    It’s all about Him. All the Glory, All the time.

    • Wow, thanks Kevin! Appreciate your prayers for sure. Will make sure I keep an eye out for you on G+, and am thankful that you stopped by and connected like this. Thanks a bunch!

  2. Colleen

    I remember your wife reminding me and encouraging me about not being scared to do something for which God has given you a passion. I am amazed at the contacts that I am allowed BECAUSE of photography…and now being able to meet moms and share MY testimony during my workshops (where they are already held captive:) I’m not sure if that’s what you meant by your post…I’m probably not thinking as globally as you…but as a SAHM who’s just livin’ in the neighborhood and meeting other moms through photography…it’s a HUGE outreach and I can choose to just use it as a business or let God use me to create relationships…I am choosing the latter:)

    • Great to read this, Colleen. A mission is a mission, regardless of where it takes place. Building relationships is a HUGE first step toward allowing others to see what God’s doing and has done through and in our lives. Really excited to hear your perspective. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  3. Scott Wilder

    Great post. Lots to think about.

    Thought #1: In america we will always struggle between a cross that demands us to give even to the point of our own life and an american dream that tells us the world is ours for the taking. And as long as we accept the idea of personal ownership as a given; we will continue to lack true shalom in our lives.

    Thought #2: if I give 100% of everything to God, then every bit of work that comes my way is either from God or can be used for God’s purposes. Therefore I do it all assuming it’s from Him, through Him and ultimately for Him. And I give it back to Him. This mindset helps me to not always break out the measuring stick. “i may not be the perfect christian, but I’m better than that guy over there”. Or put another way, jobs aren’t simply about money. They’re ultimately about God’s purposes. Am I willing to be used for God’s purposes even on gigs that I might find unworthy for one reason or another?

    Thought #3: The church is the tool, not the point. Connecting and reconnecting people back to God is. Whether the christian message in our craft, work, hobby, etc is overt or not overt is irrelevant. Non-church music is far mor responsible for driving me to Jesus than any christian artist out there. So the question is not how churchy is the media. The question is does the media lead people to the cross.

    Thought #4: The word sellout seems to me at best highly subjective. And it cuts both ways. There’s a christian musician who had a CD with singles that broke HUGE into mainstream radio. Stadium Tour. The works. An unprecedented chance to tell people about the love of God and the work of Jesus in America. This artist got in a huff because the audience wouldn’t sit respectfully like a christian audience would. They wanted to dance, talk to their friends and have a good time. Well this artist got so offended by being disrespected that he went back to the smaller christian audience that adored his every utterance. That’s a far more heartbreaking sellout from my perspective.

    It’s late, I’m rambling, I’ll stop now.

    • Yikes, the story about the artist sounds kind of crazy. I guess the challenge I see is that it’s very easy for Christ followers to allow their spirit and heart to be numb when success comes their way. Success from doing decent work with mediocre purpose.

      I’d be interested in hearing how non-church music drove you to Jesus. Thanks for stopping by Scott, appreciated reading through your thoughts!

  4. Lori Mercer

    Hi Gabe,
    Great thoughts. I’ll throw this into the mix for you to stew over.

    I think God is around us even in jobs and workplaces that feel very un-God-like. And as Christians we are called to be bold and act as Jesus would in those places. This might mean that we spend years and years in a job, clearly using a God given skill, that may look “shallow” or not directly God focused (truck drivers, factory workers, fast food workers, insurance claims filers, etc). But then you meet that one person along the way who needed to hear the hope and freedom that is found in Jesus, and you are the one there to tell it.

    A lot of people in this world need to take a job for money to support their family. Kudos to you guys for being in a financial position that you can give freely of your time and talents and focus only on sharing the gospel.

    Someone shared with me once that I was given talents such that I can make a lot of money in this world. And I should not feel shame in that because God certainly planned there to be Christians who made a lot of money so they can use it for his purposes. (too whom much is given, much is required…..and then that whole difficulty of being th camel with all the cargo fitting through the eye of a needle – sorry for the lack of verse references). We are still “in the world” and it takes money to do things here (i.e. go to Cambodia and impact lives, support charities that provide clean drinking water, medicine to AIDS orphanages, etc). You are very, very talented in your design and web work. I don’t know enough about your prior work life but stepping out into completely secular media design world for the money part is still a way to do big, outlandish, Godly things. I hope you would really consider that as an option and not close the door on it because I sincerely would love to work around more people with your spirit.

    (maybe I missed your point because I got a little lost in the first paragraph – sorry if I’m on the wrong track here).

    • Glad you shared this. It’s always enticing to slip into a comfortable life where giving money away is the primary way we respond to God. We work hard, treat others right, and give our family as good of a life that we can. I know I find myself wanting two thumbs up or an A+ for not failing in life, or making “God look like He’s done well with me and is blessing me.

      I know not everyone is called to be in “full-time missions work”, but I also don’t think that means that we should find our little circle in life and never step outside of it.

      Usually God gets my attention when a friend or family member isn’t standing in that circle for too long. They let the Spirit move and pull them in odd directions sometimes, resulting in God getting my attention or at least making me ask “Why?”.

      I even think these kind of things are seen in most churches across America, not just in individual lives. I won’t go there though.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • As far as being in a financial position where I am able to give freely of my time and money, my wife and bank would probably disagree with that, LOL. I’m definitely blessed compared to many, but I wouldn’t say I’m in a spot to just freely be able to sacrifice without it hurting much.

  5. Gabe this is real man. I love it.

    I have always felt more towards the side of “Im not worthy of these talents that God has given me, so Im going to use them for whatever he lays in my path.” That has gotten me into many personal struggles, and misunderstandings with my family, but looking back God has blessed me ten-fold for it. Im currently working on a two non-profit site on the side and often have to remind myself, that this is for the good of His kingdom and not what Im going to get out of it. Even if the work I do never gets a dime, or a thanks I know its getting the message across. Even if im not a great designer, or developer, I’m using what Ive got to do His work.

    I havent looked at it as being a tithe, thats going to change my life 🙂

    • Interesting point about this leading to misunderstandings with family. Makes me think I wasn’t too off track with my other comments, suggesting that a life following God radically typically results in people asking the “why questions”. Thanks for sharing this, Jeremy. Appreciate you dropping by!

  6. Warren

    There is a disconnect between what we do for a living and what we do for God that has been created by a society that would rather have Christianity become something we do in private rather than something that influences our entire lives. We feel like we have to keep our faith out of our career if we aren’t in “full-time Christian ministry.” We need a Christianity that isn’t compartmentalized, and I really thin that’s going to take a complete overhaul of the attitudes that American Christianity has.

    I’ve heard the term ‘viral Christianity’ used before, but I want to use it in a new way — a Christianity that infects everything. Every part of our lives, from our employment to our relationships with others to the things we enjoy in our down time. Paul said that we should give God the glory in everything we do, even if it’s just sitting down and enjoying a cold drink or a candy bar (that’s the New Kelly Paraphrase, by the way). That’s the kind of Christianity that will make a real impact in our world. When we do that, we won’t worry about taking work just to make money, because we won’t be. Everything we do will be focused on giving God the glory and doing the job He’s given us.

    • Viral Christianity. I like it. Guessing that’s a nickname for the Holy Spirit, but some might not appreciate that. Does the Spirit have freedom to work in our lives (go viral) or have we shut our hearts down? Thanks for sharing, Warren. Interesting stuff!

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