Turning Talent Into Ministry

Tucked alongside the Reedy River in downtown  Greenville, SC are the popular “Art-Crossing galleries.” There you’ll find Jared Emerson, an artist who not only paints works of art- he performs them.  His work includes portraits of celebrities – who are sometimes in the audience. 

“I’ve been able to do stuff with Tim Tebow to Jerry Rice to Jack Nicholas.  It can be a little nerve wracking,” Jared admits.  

The pieces he most loves creating are those that point people to Christ.

“You start out creating things for your own enjoyment, your own pleasure.  And then as you grow a little bit, you realize well maybe I’m creating something because other people need to see it,” he says.     When you’re painting you don’t realize the impact that it’s having on other people until they come and tell you about it.  But to have someone come to you and say, ‘Man, you know, I just haven’t been coming to church in awhile or I’ve just been falling from God. And that painting really spoke to me.  For some reason, in seeing that painting of Jesus, it was like Him telling me, “Hey, I’m here.”’”

Jared was brought up in a Christ-centered home in Michigan.  He remembers when his own faith in God became real  -  at age five.

“I knew for me, my heart changed. And so instead of thinking I was a filthy rag, I realized that I was actually His child. And He loved me regardless of whether I obeyed or disobeyed. I just know that I wanted to, as I grew older, to please Him more and learn and try to please myself less,” Jared remembers.   

He discovered his gift for art around 7th grade.  But he had other things on his mind.  

“At a young age I wanted to play basketball. That was my dream, my hopes, my ambition.  Sports was my life,”  he recalls. “Being an artist wasn’t really something that I thought I could be one day.”  

Even so, Jared continued to honing his artistic skills over the years.  After Bible college and working in sales a couple years, he decided to pursue a career as an artist.

“I think it started with me understanding the path that I was going down was, I think, trying to figure out how to be successful. How to make a living, how to have a family and take care of them with art.

Within a few years, he discovered how God wanted him to use his gift.  It started when Jared’s church made some videos of him painting and showed them during their services.  

“And then they said, ‘Jared, you should paint onstage.’  And I was like, ‘Are you crazy? Like me painting on stage in front of people? Like that’s not something that I do.’  I was scared to death to be able to get in front of people and paint something,” Jared admits.

He’ll never forget his first performance – with an injured knee.

“And I realized I am on a slick surface. I have a bum knee. The paint starts seeping into the canvas. And so my first thought is selfishly hey, what am I doing up here? I’m going to come up here, throw some paint, fall down, and what’s the purpose of that?”  he remembers.  “And then my next thought was, ‘God, I need Your help.’”

Despite his fears- it was a big hit.

“The Holy Spirit just hit me and said, ‘Jared, listen. If I can allow you to do something when you’re broken literally and not 100%, look at the possibilities when you are 100%. And the opportunities that I’ll be able to give you to not only just get out there and throw paint, but bring honor and glory to My name.’  And it wasn’t until I think I realized to let go and not have total control and let God take control that I changed my path and that kind of brought me down to doing like the speed painting, the live performance art.  Where it became a ministry,” he says.  

Requests for Jared’s performances started coming in from all directions, allowing him to open his Greenville studio in 2006.   Now he works at conferences, cruises, and gatherings of all kinds – doing what he loves and sharing his faith.  

“And I never could really imagine or dream that I’d be doing the things that I’m doing today. If it wasn’t for that decision of – ‘God, I need You to take over and take control of my life versus me trying to do it.’  So for me it always comes back full circle.  It’s ‘Jared, where is your heart today? How focused are you on My Son?’ Jared says.  “And not just creating art, but hopefully touching lives in the process. I know I can’t touch a life. But I know God can touch a life. And if it’s through art, then how cool is that?”

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