Christians: You’re Allowed To Fail, But Don’t Be Mediocre

An open letter to Christian artists and creative minds.

The Christian subculture tends to celebrate mediocrity because we think it’s Christian to be “nice” even when something sucks.

I mean like, hey man, that’s my kid playing Noah up there in the annual performance of “The Loving Wrath of Jehovah.”  Never mind the boat is a rusty shopping cart.

Suburban churches have an extremely high tolerance for bad sermons, bad Christmas plays, bad drama skits, bad music, and all-around poor production values.

We lower our standards with an almost forceful resentment, as if having approval in God gives us permission to be cheap and shoddy.

Most Christianized media is a safe, sanitized, bubble-fringe ghetto that appeals to certain mindless demographics which will eat up anything labeled “for the Kingdom.”

But as the great DC Talk once said, “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.”

I’m totally not against safe Christian media: some of it’s not bad.  But I’m more Switchfoot than Jeremy Camp.  I’m more Brooke Fraser than Hillsong.  More Terry Crews than Kirk Cameron.  More Les Miserables than Fireproof.  I’m slightly more Lord of the Rings than Chronicles of Narnia.  Heck, I’m more Tangled than Veggie Tales. 

When we so obviously pander to the weird, isolated, overly political, socially awkward, neo-conservative Bible belt, we really do a disservice to the beauty of the Gospel. We end up looking like a deleted scene from The Village.

We downplay the fact that the Bible outright celebrates artistic diversity and painstaking detail, from the microscopic measurements of the Temple to the huge praise band of King David to the striving of Daniel to the oft-neglected attention of Martha, who wasn’t doing a bad thing in the midst of doing the best thing.

We sort of mock the excellence that we could be striving for in light of a creative, creating God who meticulously handcrafted every nuance of the universe.  A God so in love with His people that He became one of them: that He wrote Himself into His story.

I believe our Christian influence should be penetrating the very heart of modern culture instead of latching on like a cyst with its own rules. To really love our way in.

Sort of like the way Jesus became present and never withdrew from the worst of us.

He changed the world from the inside-out.

He loved with excellence.  What he was called to do: he did well. 

You are a creative force for God who has gifted you in a particular way to unleash something awesome upon the world.  Do that with love, with relevance, without compromising, and do it with excellence. Do it well..

You might fail, but Jesus has that covered.  Keep going.

— J.S.

10 thoughts on “Christians: You’re Allowed To Fail, But Don’t Be Mediocre

  1. Great post; I almost loathe (to the point of sinning) the poor quality of attempts like the “Courageous” and “Giants” movies that are so close to the heart of Churchianity. I’d almost rather bash my face with a rubber mallet than watch that “Last Ounce of Courage” yarn that was being peddled recently. I heard people were crying over Fireproof but me and my wife couldn’t get past the first five minutes because of the laughable acting.

    Why shouldn’t the best message in the world be adorned with the best art too?


  2. Are you kidding me?! This is my favorite post ever! We should have a “really, really, like” button to press. Too many great quotes to bring out in this one, JS. Can’t wait to see “The Loving Wrath of Jehovah”. Funny stuff, man. Brilliant post.


  3. Well done and well said! My favorite quote “I believe our Christian influence should be penetrating the very heart of modern culture instead of latching on like a cyst with its own rules” rings true like a bell from a church tower. In Christ Darrell


  4. Right on again. It just flashed through my mind that if I did a slip-shod job of showing how much I love my wife the way we show the world we “love” God, well, we’d never have made it these 38 years!! I consider the high quality of “Christian” art, and literature, in past centuries and am trying to date when we turned away from that historically? I will stand corrected, but it seems to me World War Two saw us fall into charisma, Left Behind and fatalism. Quality and Joy of The Lord go hand in hand, doesn’t it? I experience Paraclete in the spontaneity of the evangelical as well as the high ecclesiastical pageants of the liturgical denominations. As my Baptist Father-in-law used to say, “It’s not either/or, but both/and.”
    PS: Am enjoying the comments your post elicited, too!.


    1. I think to be fair, there’s just a ton of terrible art & culture everywhere. It’s hard to be excellent. But it’s only in church that we put up with a lower level of professionalism and polish, because of “grace” (when it’s really enabling). Lately I’ve seen that the trend is to latch onto any remotely Christianese quote said by an actor or artist, and then to label them as “fearlessly faithful in a secular world.” While I don’t want to dump on genuine faith, I think the church has to quit digging for these non-existent nuggets to validate a “me-too” mentality.


  5. While I personally like Hillsong, VeggieTales, etc., I love what you’re saying here! It’s high time Christians start doing things with excellence. It’s time for us to produce cutting edge, quality art (be it novels, movies, music, or whatever) done in a contemporary way. That DC Talk quote sums it up well. 🙂


    1. You know, I enjoy Hillsong, there are quite a lot of lapsed/non-Christians who enjoy them too. VeggieTales and other such things are guilty pleasures and fall into likeable kitschy type things. 🙂

      There are still many Christians at the forefront of art and culture, like Bach, Dostoyevsky, Michaelangelo, Tolkien, Lewis, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, or Maya Angelou. That has to count for something.


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