I often receive messages, emails, etc. asking questions similar to this message that recently came my way via facebook. I’ve decided, with permission of the sender, to respond to his inquiry in my blog, because I think many people would find my response helpful. Plus it may save me time from responding to many similar questions:
This question is from Richard:
“I was just wondering if you have any convictions/ thoughts about playing music for a living as a Christian? When I first heard of your music I noticed you had two myspace accounts set up... it seemed like it was to divide the worship type songs from the others. Have you ever struggled, wondering if you should be fully devoted to worship music and play with the goal of ministering every time? I assume you do play with the goal of ministering every time, though.
“I haven't really followed your tours fully, but do you play in bars/clubs or do you just do conferences and go around to churches? I'm just asking because I've always had on my mind the idea of being a musician or some kind of artist... but there always seems to be a conflict of where the purpose would be. Like, would it be for my own gratification or for God's glory. I just think of bands like Switchfoot.. and I think The Fray is like this... they steer away from being considered "Christian" which is fine by me and they kind of just go on like any other rock band with this hidden message that most people know is a Christian message anyway. The conflict there is being a "friend with the world." John said we can't have a love for the world and a love for God... I think he meant in terms of being accepted by the world and being in common. I just see a lot of bands that claim to being playing out of faith and they have acceptance with the world and it just doesn't align to me.”
“I guess (I'm) just asking if you can be out in the world using your gift without being overtaken and trying to cater to the wrong audience? I like a lot of the bands you have mentioned under your favorite music... my morning jacket is amazing, but I've steered away from listening to them... when I listen to them, I can't totally just sit and enjoy it because the whole time I just think about being in there place.. and I think I covet a thought. I also just feel like they are fully a "friend of this world" and totally lost and it makes me sad in the end.”
Here is my response:
Thanks for inquiring Richard. I think I understand your conflict. I’ll do my best to answer your question to the best of my ability. These things are not always as black and white as we’d like them to be, but here is my take on the issue:
First of all I’d have to say: yes I have convictions. My conviction is that I MUST play in the world as well as in the church. If Christianity only works in church buildings, then it doesn’t work.
If you are a Christian, everything you do is “ministry”. Everything you do is supposed to be “as unto the Lord”. Playing worship music in a church building is no greater calling than serving tables in a restaurant or playing music in a club. Music isn’t holier or less holy than any other profession. Should a plumber feel bad for working on a house as opposed to a church building? And if he works on a church building should he not work on houses anymore?
Not only is it OK to serve in the world, Jesus actually commanded us to do it: “Go ye therefore into ALL THE WORLD…”. When John is telling us that we can’t love both God and the world he is saying that we shouldn’t be so attached to our things that we miss our opportunity to receive that which is greater. He goes on to outline specifically what he is talking about in 1 John 2:16 which is lust and pride. But to say that the Love of God isn’t in us if we want to do great things in the world can’t be an accurate interpretation of this passage. Otherwise, we have a pretty massive contradiction throughout the weight of scripture. John himself also said that God himself absolutely loves the world (John 3:16). So, if God loves the world and the love of God exists in us, then we must also love the world.
I think the conflict you feel is more with a traditional mindset that often seems to communicate that anything not related to an institutional church activity isn’t a valid expression of the Kingdom of God. In my opinion this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. The New Testament church actually didn’t even have a word for “secular”. The idea of sacred and secular (which is called dualism) came from Greek philosophy that mixed with Christian thought when Constantine (the pagan emperor of Rome) made Christianity the official religion of the world (for political reasons). The Bible seems to say to me that any religious institution should only complement and assist us with our “secular” lives, but not become our lives.
As far as being a “friend of the world”. I would say look at the lives of 3 major leaders in the Bible:
Joseph had to dress like an Egyptian, wear make up, and shave his body (Jewish men of his day were not even supposed to shave their beards). He did all this to serve and be accepted by a wicked pagan ruler who considered himself to be a god (Pharaoh). Joseph had an enormous impact on the world because of this placement and because of his friendship with worldly people. Joseph actually saved his entire family (the bloodline of Christ) from starvation during the 7 years of great famine.
Look at the life of Daniel. He was called to be a political leader in a Pagan society. He had to be well versed in all of the Pagan mythology and literature of the day. Had he not, he wouldn’t have been able to be the force for change that he was among the most powerful men of his day.
Ester is very similar. But she actually concealed her beliefs until the proper time when she saved the Jewish race from extinction.
All of these people required an audience with the world in order to be effective for the Kingdom of God. And I think the biggest mistake the church has made in these last decades has been to remove our brightest stars from their worldly platforms. We point the finger at the tastelessness and darkness of the world but we are the ones who have removed every grain of salt and ray of light from the places where they are needed the most. People criticize groups for “watering down their messages” but I think people don’t understand how many times a subtitle message can be more powerful than an obvious one. Jesus knew that. That’s why he often spoke in parables that even his disciples didn’t fully understand (john 6).
As far as your motives go, here’s my advice: Don’t over evaluate your motives. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s not about your motives. I think if you’re in the will of God at some point you won’t even know what your motives are, because you’re not focused on yourself. Just focus on doing what is good and let God deal with your heart. Its Gods job to change you; it’s your job to change the world. I would say to focus on your job and let God do his.
I recommend you read a book called “Imagine” by Steve Turner and/or check out the teachings of Lance Wallnau.