I certainly do not claim to be an authority in gospel music, contemporary or otherwise. I however, have made some observation from my life and others whom I have associated with and from this experience I can confidently say that it’s never easy. A major reason is because we are wracked with conflicts that we need to resolve if we are to be effective conduits of the gospel through music.
The gospel artiste is no different from any other believer whose life and Christian experience is at time filled with conflicts and dilemmas on issues that we rightly or wrongly deem the Bible to be silent on. The Bible records accounts of well meaning, faithful servants of God faced with conflicts that put to the test their faith and allegiance to God. Abraham is conflicted when Sarah demands he sends away Hagar together with his son Ishmael (Genesis 21:11). The Bible records that this was a very stressful matter to Abraham were it not for God’s intervention in verse 12. Moses, growing up as a prince in Pharaoh’s Palace experience turmoil in his heart, one that pits his royalty status against the kinship he shares with the appallingly-treated and enslaved Jews (Exodus 2:11). David’s conscience is wracked by guilt after he cuts the corner of King Saul’s robe obviously violating his honour code (1 Samuel 24:5-6). Queen Esther hesitates to approach the King to plead for the life of her people, the Jews because she is unsure of the reception she will receive (Esther 4:9-11). In the New Testament we meet Paul, torn between dying and living (as if that is ever a multiple choice problem) in Philippians 1:23-24.
As a gospel Artiste, I have faced my own internal conflicts and, while I cannot generalize, my informed guess is that many others in gospel music have had their fair share of internal turmoil to reckon with. I wish to share at least five (I’m sure there could be more than these and anyone out there is welcome to add to the list) conflicts I have had to grapple with as I endevour to serve God through the gift He has given me, that of making music.
- The Ministry Vs Industry question
Is the gospel musician involved in ministry or is he/she part of an industry? More aptly, can both ministry and industry co-exist or are they mutually exclusive undertaking?
By definition, ministry is always a not-for-profit undertaking that is geared towards spreading the gospel to the furthest reaches of the world in compliance to the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20
Industry has to do with production of goods and services within an economy. Obviously it needs to meet the profits threshold otherwise the industry will collapse.
Given the two, very basic definitions, I would say that the challenge is the criteria used to judge success in ministry and industry. Ministry measures its success by souls won into the kingdom while industry does the same by the balance sheet – Profit and loss statements.
As a gospel musician, I have had this conflict. Should I go the industry way and think of myself as a consumer service provider – gospel music (which by the way seem to be quite in demand by the look of things)? Should I offer my talent to the market with a keen eye on the balance sheet/bank statement? The important thing is that gospel music is in the airwaves. Right? Industry forces professionalism and raises standards. Right?
Or should my focus be reaching the lost at whatever cost, spend and be spent (as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 12:15), and at the end of the day judge my music by its redemptive effect to a lost world to the exclusion of the financial remuneration thereof?
I don’t think that industry thinking is necessarily sin. Paul actually rejoice in Philippians 1:17 – 18 that the gospel is preached (sang) whatever the underlying motive of the preacher (singer) is. Industries are great. They provide goods, services, jobs, taxes etc to an economy and that too is godly.
Personally, I resolved this conflict by deciding to be a faithful steward of what has been committed to me by God. I desire that my success be determined by His approval – the words ‘well done good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21) rather than anything else. The talent I have was committed to me by Him and He has expectations. With this in mind, I will strive to be excellent, diligent, consistent with scriptures and sound doctrine, in integrity and deliberate in the exercise of the gift so that when time comes to settle accounts with Him, I will not be put to shame.
Ministry vs industry? My answer is industrious faithfulness to the Master.
Great article there Henrie