I had the lovely pleasure of interviewing a woman in California named Marlita Hill. She is an artist, an entrepreneur, and a Christian. And she melds all three into a very innovative blend which serves as a ministry to many people all over the world.
Marlita Hill puts it this way:
Any art life can be a vessel for worship and leave a kingdom footprint in culture.
Doesn’t that just spur your imagination?
It did mine, and what came out of it was an inspiring interview that left me wanting to know everything about Marlita’s work.
A Problem in Church and Artist Culture
Meeting Marlita (or Lita as her family calls her, and which she so affectionately instructed me to call her saying, “We’re family now, Nate!”) will lead you to see her optimism and faith in Christ which seems to emanate from her.
But despite her positive attitude and overall generosity of character, Lita has grabbed hold of a major problem within church culture toward artists. A problem which she identified through the writings of Christian greats, such as Manuel Luz.
While the church utilizes artists in a number of ways, they don’t necessarily minister to their needs in a way which reinforces their giftings from God.
So a church holds up the worship leader and worship team as ministers to the people, and might display some visual art around the building. But they don’t usually key in on the very important spiritual formation related to the development of an artist.
Pastors, teachers, and missionaries get a lot of training for their vocation in a church economy, but an artist does not often receive training in art as it relates to the mission of the church.
And this has communicated a deep message to artists – that their work is trivial. This painful (and inaccurate) message then carries over into their relationship with God, and makes them think that their art is trivial to Him. In reality, the expression of their faith through artistic disciplines should be viewed as an immense treasure.
It is, after all, a treasure to God.
Obviously, this is a major problem in the church, but Marlita recognizes that the church isn’t perfect and won’t be until He comes back. However, Christ loves the church. So she continues to have optimism that Jesus will continue to shape it into more and more holiness all the time.Any #art life can be a vessel for #worship and leave a kingdom footprint in #culture. Click To Tweet
Faith, Art, and Career
With the problem identified above, Marlita has taken to helping artists through it.
Much of her website, books, online curricula, vlogs, and podcasts revolve around putting together faith, art, and career.
Many people only implement one of the three spheres into their life. The fortunate ones tend to incorporate two.
But it’s the successful connection between all three that creates a fully Kingdom-focused life for artists. Without faith in Christ, you lose all purpose for your work and for life. Without art (if you’re an artist), you lose what God created you to do. And without career, you lose all means (financial, relational, and practical) of accomplishing any of it.
Marlita not only teaches this with a strong force, but she also lives it out as an example. All of the following projects, through which she works, display how exactly she ties together the three important spheres. Her faith in Christ is evident; her art is on display; and she makes a full-time living putting it out there for the world.
Her own art helps to provide for her as well – as a dancer and choreographer.
She has written a few books, her most successful being, “Dancers! Assume the position: The What, the Why, and the Impact of the Dancer’s Ministry“.
Marlita’s most passionate project is titled the Kingdom Artist Initiative, in which she mentors individuals and organizations in these very important principles. Take a look at the video below to see Lita’s own description of this project.
(and don’t forget to scroll down to continue reading)
The Most Important Advice for a Christian Artist
Throughout the interview, Marlita continued to express in many different ways one piece of advice which is just so important to Christian artists trying to figure things out.
Trust in God is essential.
If He truly made you to create art as worship for Him, then He will help you accomplish it. Trusting God sometimes looks like immense joy when you receive wonderful reviews. But sometimes trusting God looks like not knowing where your rent payment is coming from.
And Lita has lived through this. When she decided to go full-time into her ministry work, she experienced great times of want. But through her persistence, and most importantly her trust in God, she is now traveling all over the world bringing her consulting (for lack of a better word) to those who need it, and she has everything she needs.
For the record, for all the times she thought she would not have her rent payment, it came through every single time – and often last minute. “Praise God!” Lita exclaimed.The expression of #faith through #art should be viewed as an immense treasure. Click To Tweet
Among the other nuggets of wisdom, which Lita passes on to her artist protégés are the following:
“The Kingdom perspective cannot be explained without entering the conversations in the world.” People often equate Christian art with “family-oriented” or “G-rated”. But the world isn’t G-rated, and sometimes the messages we have to send or the dialogues we have to participate in aren’t G-rated. And that’s okay.
A Christian artist does not always need to create a piece of art which is overtly worship. A businessman isn’t expected to sell only Bibles or Christian merchandise (which might carry its own theo-philosophical problems of its own, anyway). Neither should a Christian artist be expected to create only Christian work. It’s the themes and subtleties which are important to a Christian’s worship in art. And almost as importantly, to the work’s connection to culture.
God doesn’t always make things happen in our careers in the way we want them.
“Our misconception of relationship carries over into every area of our lives.” If we misunderstand what our trusting, completely dependent relationship with God is supposed to look like, of course there will be disharmony.
Finally, please enjoy this video of Marlita’s own art, as a sample of her beautiful work. And praise the Lord for it!
Also published on Medium.