As a former Events Coordinator (that’s concert promoter in the real world) for a Christian radio station for almosts ten years, I have seen both the good and bad side of Christian music. Uh, let me elaborate if I may. When I say the good side of Christian music I really mean “the good” side and when I say bad, well… I really mean bad. No, make that bad in bold and all caps. BAD.
But as I look back in time, what I see today is something Keith Green and, a decade later, Steve Camp also saw— the selling out of ministry for the almighty buck. I could tell you stories, boatloads of stories, about secular rockstar wannabes who try to “make it” in Christian music because they believe the industry standards are lower. And, to a degree, they might be right. These artist often parade around as spiritual giants— makeshift religious Goliaths, talking about fasting and the importance of prayer in their life and how it’s all about God and not about them, yada, yada, yada— but when I dare to mention the need for a gospel presentation at one of their Christian concerts, God forbid! Like a werewolf at full moon, their secular side slides out from behind their carefully placed mask, and the real spirit behind the music shows itself.
“Sorry. I don’t feel comfortable speaking about my faith publicly. It takes away from the ending of my show, you know. We really want to end the set with a bang! And, well… sharing the gospel might make some of the ticket buyers, my fans, feel uncomfortable.”
Oh, I see. And we can’t have them feel uncomfortable, can we? That might hurt record sales.
Heave, gag, vomit, splat!— one more time.
If I insist, the road manager loads a silver bullet in his gun, points it towards my chest, and says, “Hey, we’d love to help you out. It’s all about the Lord you know. But there’s nothing in the contract or rider that says he’s got to allow the gospel to be shared at his show. Sorry bub. Maybe next time.”
Right. Maybe next time. That is, of course, if I negotiate beforehand with the artist’s management the need to share Christ at a Christian concert. Am I missing something here? Or does that seem like something a Christian artist would want to do at a Christian concert anyway?
My take on it is that there are many artists who happen to call themselves Christian. But there are very few (I can actually count them on one hand) who are Christian artists— with the emphasis on Christian first and artist second.
Very, very few. To the shame of our industry.
Anyway, read what Keith Green said about the same issue over thirty years ago. Not much has changed, has it?
So You Wanna Be A Rock Star
by Keith Green
Today, so many people ask me if I can tell them how they can start or enter into a music ministry. At concerts I get countless questions about this, and I also get lots of letters and even some long-distance phone calls from many people who feel they are only “called” into the music “ministry” One day I began to ask myself why so few have ever asked me how to become a missionary, or even a local street preacher, or how to disciple a new believer. It seems everyone would prefer the “bright lights” of what they think a music ministry would be, rather than the mud and obscurity of the mission field, or the streets of the ghetto, or even the true spiritual sweetness of just being a nobody whom the Lord uses mightily in small “everyday” ways.
Are You Willing?
My answer to their question is almost always the same. “Are you willing to never play music again? Are you willing to be a nothing? Are you willing to go anywhere and do anything for Christ? Are you willing to stay right where you are and let the Lord do great things through you, though no one may seem to notice at all?” They all seem to answer each of these questions with a quick “yes!” But I really doubt if they know what their answer entails.
My dearest family in Jesus…why are we so star struck? Why do we idolize Christian singers and speakers? We go from glorifying musicians in the world, to glorifying Christian musicians. It’s all idolatry! Can’t you see that? It’s true that there are many men and women of God who are greatly anointed to call down the Spirit of God on His people and the unsaved. But Satan is getting a great victory as we seem to worship these ministers on tapes and records, and clamor to get their autographs in churches and concert halls from coast to coast.
Can’t you see that you are hurting these ministers? They try desperately to tell you that they don’t deserve to be praised, and because of this you squeal with delight and praise them all the more. You’re smothering them, making it almost impossible for them to see that it’s really Jesus. They keep telling themselves that, but you keep telling them it’s really them, crushing their humility and grieving the Spirit that is trying to keep their eyes on Jesus.
Ultimately, what we idolize we ourselves desire to become, sometimes with our whole heart. So a lot of people who want to become just like their favorite Gospel singer or minister, seek after it with the same fervor that the Lord demands we seek after Him! And again, we insult the Spirit of Grace and try to make a place for ourselves, rather than a place for Jesus.
A Thankless Job
How come no one idolizes or praises the missionaries who give up everything and live in poverty, endangering their lives and families with every danger that the “American dream” has almost completely eliminated? How come no one lifts up and exalts the ghetto and prison ministers who can never take up an offering, because if they did they would either laugh or cry at what they’d receive?
Because (1) we’re taught from very early on that comfort is our goal and security… and (2) that we should always seek for a lot of people to like us. Who lives less comfortably and has had less friends and supporters than the selfless missionaries who have suffered untimely, premature deaths trying to conquer souls and nations for the whole glory of God? Do you really believe we’re living in the very last times? Then why do you spend more money on Gospel records and concerts than you give to organizations that feed the poor, or to missionaries out in the field?
There are ministries all over the world where “penniless” people are being saved and transformed. They are broken people who have promise and qualities, but just need someone to bring them God’s light during the times when their lives seem so completely hopeless.
I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music, and more importantly, my life has not provoked you into Godly jealousy (Romans 11:11) or to sell out more completely to Jesus!
Quit trying to make “gods” out of music ministers, and quit desiring to become like them. The Lord commands you, “Deny yourself take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). My piano is not my cross, it is my tool. I’d never play it again if God would show me a more effective tool in my life for proclaiming His Gospel.
To finish, let me say that the only music minister to whom the Lord will say, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant,” is the one whose life proves what their lyrics are saying, and to whom music is the least important part of their life. Glorifying the only worthy One has to be a minister’s most important goal!
Let’s all repent of the idolatry in our hearts and our desires for a comfortable, rewarding life when, really, the Bible tells us we are just passing through as strangers and pilgrims in this world (Hebrews 11:13), for our reward is in heaven. Let’s not forget that our due service to the Lord is “… not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).
Amen. Let us die graciously together and endure to the end like brave soldiers who give their lives, without hesitation, for our noble and glorious King of Light.