Steven Curtis Chapman may be the famous Christian musician of his generation.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s been nominated for more awards, or released as many albums.
Here are four things artists can learn from Steven Curtis Chapman, taken from his book Between Heaven and the Real World.
1. Art Can Talk About Pain
Just because you believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the darkness.
In fact, expressing pain in your art often helps you reconcile with it.
Chapman’s music follows this principle quite a lot.
Many of his songs talk about tough places and dark times.
His song “Free” was inspired by Chapman’s work with Prison Fellowship, including visiting death row inmates with Chuck Colson.
His album Beauty Will Rise consisted of songs written about the grief Chapman felt after his daughter Maria died in a car accident.
These songs talk about pain honestly.
However, they also typically end with a sense of resolution, reaffirming that God is both good and in control.
2. Have Counsellors
When you make art that explicitly talks about theology, you need to be sure you have a good grasp of theology.
If you don’t feel you have enough expertise, your best option is to find people who you can trust and have that expertise and letting them critique your work.
Chapman talks several times in his book about his spiritual counselors.
He talks about having a ‘spiritual advisory board,” two pastors he trusts and meets with regularly to talk about his
He also talks about how he frequently sends his songs to one of those pastors before releasing them on albums.
3. Be True to Your Calling
You may find that the art you’re passionate about making doesn’t seem lucrative.
People may tell you to pursue something else.
However, it’s important to pursue the art you believe God’s leading you to make.
In Chapman’s case, that moment came when he began to have some success.
At the time he was mostly playing country music, and his father advised him that he’d be more successful making country music than gospel music.
Chapman responded that while he liked playing country music, it always felt like “putting on a costume.”
He felt more natural writing and playing songs about his faith.
Always pay attention to that feeling, the sense that you’ve found an art form that feels natural and right.
You may not make much money from it.
But you’ll live knowing that you’re doing something you were created for.
4. Sometimes Conflict is Inevitable
Ideally, you should reach a place as an artist where you don’t have to deal with conflicts (between you and others, between what you’re doing and what God wants you to do, etc.).
Sometimes though, you experience conflicts you can never fully resolve.
Chapman talks about these kinds of conflicts several times in his book.
He writes about trying to make his creative personality work (not much time management, irregular work hours) with his wife’s need for structure (set schedules, regular work hours).
He also talks about trying to figure out his career is more about making music or about evangelizing.
On the one hand, his music focuses on Jesus so altar calls and testimonies at his concerts make sense.
On the other hand, he does concerts, not church services.
Chapman doesn’t say that either of these problems has been fully resolved.
Instead, he talks about them as things he’s constantly working on, things he always has to learn more about.
We live in an imperfect world, which means some struggles never fully go away in this life.
Instead, you learn to face them perpetually, always learning to handle them better.