Rory Noland wrote The Heart of the Artist when he was the Worship Director at Willow Creek Church and in it includes many life experiences he’s learned from through church ministry. Through it he addresses the problem between the church and the ‘artsy type’ and why that problem exists. He provides a solution for how to not only change this problem but also how to move forward rightly as a leader or artist in the church. This book speaks to the believing artist. This is someone who is creatively and artistically inclined in any way whether it be through music, dance, visual art, theater, graphic design, carpentry or lights and design. His initial idea for writing the book came when he realized that artists seem to all struggle with the same character flaws. He claims this is due to what is called the ‘artist’s temperament.’ He noticed certain flaws in himself, shared them with like-minded believing artists and found similar struggles in his life and theirs. The purpose of the Heart of the Artist is to convict and counsel the artist who wants to grow spiritually and when serving in ministry. Follow OJCCC and don’t miss anything about the student christian organization.
The Artist Temperament
Noland describes the personality of the artist’s temperament with a historical approach. The Greeks saw the artistic person as melancholy. This personality type is sober and thoughtful, gloomy and depressed. Think of Ivan from The Karamazov Brothers by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He, like the artistic temperament, was cold and dry, firm in opinion, envious, jealous and given to doubt and fear. In the Middle Ages, this personality type was considered a disorder due to its slothful nature. None of these descriptions or assumptions of an artist’s personality are necessarily good, especially when that artist is a proclaiming Christian. Whether the artistic temperament is a truthful stereotype or not, Noland argues that God “has redeemed the artistic temperament for his glory. He has made artists to see the world differently by noticing nuance and beauty. Artists are normally more sensitive and respond to situations differently than others. There are countless stories in the Bible of God using someone who was artistically inclined and gifted to communicate His truth and bring Him praise whether it was through storytelling or the building of the temple. Artists, melancholy and all, have a divine calling from the Lord to be used for his church.
A High Calling
Servanthood verses stardom is a revealing topic in this book since it addressed all artistic fields. Artist are called to serve the Lord in the church with their craft, not use the church for their stardom. This calling is evident through the calling God placed on people in the bible. Kenaniah was a vocal leader, Miriam led in dance, David was an instrumentalist and many contributed to the building of the temple; a masterpiece designed by God, the great artist himself. These people each followed God’s leading for how to use their artistic skills. Noland believes that today, aspiring, young artists use the church as a stepping stone for their own goals and achievements. He uses the example of young aspiring musicians who use the church to make it to the Christian music industry. There was never the desire to serve the church with their skills but to get where they want using the church as a stepping stool. A servant’s heart looks into the mirror of humility. Unfortunately, humilities rival, pride, is one of the key struggles an artist will face. God has a higher calling for artists than to become known for their “God-given ability.” Artists are part of a “ministry of reconciliation” as they serve the church with their craft and pride is the divider from serving out of ministry and serving for a platform. Noland explains that service is different than volunteering. Serving is a deep understanding of commitment and responsibility that is coupled with joy. Volunteering is showing up because someone needed extra hands or bodies. Serving is doing one’s work as though it’s their ministry. The rest of the teaching points Noland makes all stem out of an artist grasping this concept or not. Like servanthood verses stardom, the other character issues explained through stories and scripture are excellence verses perfectionism, taking criticism, dealing with envy and finally, specific sin in one’s personally life. Look at these topics. These are not just character issues artists deal with but flaws that every human encounters. Noland pinpointed these because they showed up regularly among the ‘artsy type’ in church ministry. Though he has stories within creative-purposed teams, he did not clearly differentiate a specific struggle an artist encounters compared to perhaps a pastor, children’s minister or small group leader. All humans deal with pride, envy and perfectionism. Though melancholy may once have been used to describe an artist, everyone experiences those moods because they’ve lost their identity in Christ. You shouldn’t miss this post about reflections on Faith and Art.
The Problem between the Church and the “Artsy Type”
The practical steps, questions and examples Noland teaches from life are very helpful for the ministry leader working with artists. These practical steps come from the problems Noland reveals between the church and the ‘artsy type.’ There’s a perspective about artists within the church that is uncertain and cautious. The main problem Noland addresses is that churches don’t know how to nourish the soul of an artist so that they can grow spiritually in the Lord. Alongside that, churches don’t know how to use artists in their church body. Could this be because all artists live in and with these character flaws? I don’t think so. The Heart of the Artist could be titled The Heart of the Human. Though he’s right in giving examples of creative personalities that reveal each of these character flaws and how to strive towards servanthood in ministry, this book could be a team-building book for any kind of ministry team.
I enjoyed reading The Heart of the Artist, despite the overlap it has to any ministry team because it is a book teaching anyone who wants to serve in ministry what to be prepared for and what to do when tough situations come. As an aspiring ministry leader (hopeful church arts director) I will use this book to check my own motives and character and teach those I’m serving whether they’re a cast showing up for rehearsal or a small group in my home.