by Byron L. Spradlin
He was brilliant. Clearly a child prodigy . . . the pride of Salzburg . . . a performer par excellence. At age five, he wrote an advanced concerto for the harpsichord. Before he turned ten, he had composed and published several violin sonatas and was playing from memory the best of Bach and Handel.
Soon after his twelfth birthday he composed and conducted his own opera . . . and was awarded an honorary appointment as concertmaster with the Salzburg Symphony Orchestra. Before his brief life ended, he had written numerous operettas, cantatas, hymns, and oratorios, as well as forty-five symphonies, forty-seven arias, duets, and quartets with orchestral accompaniment, and over a dozen operas. Some 600 works!
His official name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Amadeus Theophilas Mozart. With a handle like that, he had to be famous!
He was only thirty-five when he passed on. He was living in poverty and died in obscurity. His sick widow seemed indifferent to his burial. A few friends went as far as the church for his funeral but were deterred by a storm from going to the gravesite.
By the time anyone bothered to inquire, the location of his grave was impossible to identify. The unmarked grave of Mozart—perhaps the most gifted composer of all time became lost forever!
The tragedy of Mozart. A brief and empty life. A life of great potential that went unrealized, unfulfilled. Why? We always ask “why?” in the face of tragedy and we rarely find an answer. This time, however, there’s a theory to consider: Mozart’s life ended in tragedy because it was never lived in accordance with God’s purpose. Because Mozart didn’t know God as Lord of his life, he didn’t know what business he was in. He therefore limited his life and the development of his talents when he rejected God’s rule and reign, and his premature and tragic death was a great loss to all humankind.
In some ways, many Christians in music and the arts experience something similar. Like Mozart, most of us fail to ask ourselves, “What business am I really in?” and so, like Mozart, we may fail to live out our potential.
Think for a moment. What business are you in? Are you an “artist” or are you a servant communicator?” Whereas one answer will limit you, the other will set you free. And the business of communication—especially servant communications—is always the way of freedom.
The railroad industry is struggling today because through the years it has seen itself as being in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. Had the powers-that-be regarded themselves as being in the transportation business, today they would own the airlines and not be on government subsidy.
Similarly, many churches are struggling today because they are in the “sheep tending” business rather than in the “community penetration” business. You can tend 40 sheep for 40 years and never penetrate your community, but you can’t penetrate your community unless you begin to get really good at attending sheep.
Likewise, Christian artists may be missing the focus of their activities. Specifically, many artists are unhappy because they are in the performance business rather than the communication business. This perspective leads them to think that they must have a certain kind of sound system or a certain kind of audience or a certain amount of money or a certain amount of respect as they perform their music. As a result, they find their abilities and their opportunities very limited.
If an artist’s vision is focused on the performance, the product may even appear dishonest. The faith that is shared may seem simply an act despite any good and godly intentions. If the focus, however, is on communication, whatever is done—be it a concert or a cartwheel—will be seen as genuine.
When artists see their abilities as gifts from a gracious God and use these abilities to communicate the truth and life of Jesus whenever the opportunity arises, they will discover new ways to powerfully and dynamically use their talents for God.