Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18 ESV
The making of art, any kind of art, can be a cutthroat and competitive business. We learn at a young age to compare ourselves and receive value from how much money we make from our art, how many downloads our songs get, and how many churches use our music. When our metric of our self-worth is what others say about us, instead of what God says about us, we are poised to lose our identity to the temperature of the moment.
As we say on the United Adoration website, “for many local artists serving inside their own local communities, there is a crisis of identity. Artists choosing to serve the local church are living with enormous pressure to use their talents and resources to achieve success, rather than simply creating art that connects with God’s movement in their communities. In many cases, these expectations can cripple the local artists, forcing them to become an echo rather than a voice.”
But we need to create in order to feel alive. When we do not share our work with others, we hide our lights under a bushel to quote the famous song, we choose to limit what God can do with our work.
“As local artists and pastors, we understand the struggle… and like you, we’ve felt the pressure to place some metric of success over the desire to create art that reflects what God is doing in our own community. In the tension of this broken system, we’ve discovered that there is another way. United Adoration is at the forefront of a growing movement of artists and pastors working together to bring worship (through art) back to its local context. Now serving on multiple continents, United Adoration hosts retreats that empower artists, and the local church, to create art that is meaningful to the communities that matter most to them… their own.”
So how do we overcome this enormous pressure and comparison? Through healing prayer. Spiritual issues require spiritual solutions, and when we clothe ourselves with the identity we have in Christ instead of what others think of us (or what we think others think of us), we can have new freedom to be who God created us to be – and for the artist, this is a new lease on life to create with the freedom God intended.
As we have journeyed the world leading retreats, we have discovered what you probably already know: that artists carry with them a lot of pain and rejection. It’s the nature of art, that some will love it and some will not, but over time those rejections can accumulate and become a barrier to creation and spiritual development. And so we bring a simple message forward: You are loved by God. You are called to create. Your creativity matters to us, and it is beautiful, and we want to hear it. Sometimes, these retreats are a very emotional time for people, as participants are healing from past rejection, or the creative process brings to the surface spiritual strongholds that must be dealt with through prayer. When we are able, we have discovered that these artists respond well to specific prayer brought forth by a trained intercessor.
Barb Astrino is the Lead Intercessor for United Adoration. We have a team of intercessors, because we want to see artists thrive and be released from the spiritual strongholds that keep them from becoming the artists that God has called them to be.
An intercessor is someone who intercedes on behalf of another person or group to God. Think of how Abraham pleaded with God to spare the righteous from the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-24), how Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites (Exodus 32:11-14), or how Jesus intercedes for his followers in John 17.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
John 17:20-26 ESV
And so, this is what we feel called to do as we engage artists and various people groups around the world. With Jesus and the great prophets of the Bible as our model, we meet people where they are and ask God to release them from spiritual bondage, to release the strongholds in their life that are causing them internal conflict. In this ministry, prayer “is not about yourself or what you take on in your own personal sphere,” as Barb Astrino would say, but rather, it is about the needs of others. You might intercede on someone’s personal behalf regarding strongholds in their life – like alcoholism, adultery, patterns of judgmental thought, or you might intercede on behalf of a group of people or a concept – like racism, or the hurricane victims in Louisiana. “It is exponentially more powerful when you can intercede with others,” Barb says.
Next week, Barb will share her journey to becoming an intercessor–and maybe the beginning of yours!