:::Disclaimer…this post very well could end up being ramblings of random thoughts. In my head, this is a good idea. On paper, it might not be…or even make any sense. You have been warned. Happy reading.:::
Here’s a question I’ve been mulling over the past few weeks or so, and I might have a solution. At the very least, an idea I feel worth sharing that hopefully people with smarter brains, better ideas, and larger influence would think is an idea worth expanding upon. So here’s the question:
Does the institutional church have an opportunity to potentially save the music industry?
That’s a gutsy question with a very huge answer (if an answer at all). I am sure people who I am friends with that aren’t Christians and don’t want anything to do with the church or God think that’s a ridiculous question to ask & even more ridiculous of a question to try to answer. I am also sure people who I am friends with who are Christians, involved in church, work at a church, or even work with me at a church think that’s a ridiculous question to ask & at best, is not worth the effort to try to answer. Well, these are the ridiculous sorts of questions that run through my head on a daily basis…along with questions of when the next auction is, what’s the grossest game we can play at camp, what should my next hobby be, how many Hot Dog Heaven mug colors are there, etc.
I think first, that question assumes the music industry is in trouble. That’s such a tough thing to prove too, especially since I am not at all even a fraction of a part of the music industry. Some really smart people would say that it is, other really smart people would say that it isn’t. Here’s what I know…the majority of the music that consistently is released has no longevity, is gone in an instant, generic, reproduced. Record labels are constantly going out of business. More & more articles are being written about stopping the downloading “crisis” and how can the current music industry shift to survive in the digital age. So, who am I really, but I think it’s safe to say that the music industry as a whole could use some help. It is at least somewhat on edge at the moment.
I will also say that Christian music generally really sucks. Honestly, probably 90% of it really blows (at least in my “professional” opinion). It’s worse copies of generic music with Jesus-filled lyrics that are just straight up corny. Modern worship is also consistently more & more generic carbon copies of itself (which just sounds like bad carbon copies of Coldplay). I could really go on & on about my problems with the Christian music industry itself, but that’s another blog for another day.
So why would I think it’s a good idea for the institutional church to get involved in the music industry? Well, here’s my thought…
I have been hearing a little bit here and there about some churches have a staff person, or even a small department, that will pay a songwriter to literally just write normal music, play shows at clubs or bars, record albums, and just be a musician. Their only responsibility is to lead worship occasionally, say once a month, at the church. The rest of the time, be a musician. Not a worship leader in a bar. Not a “Christian” singer/songwriter or band. But just a musician because that was the God-given gifts & talents they were born with and this institutional church thinks it’s important for that individual to be allowed to develop those gifts and peruse those abilities, so they allow that by supporting that person financially. I think that’s brilliant.
I wonder what it would be like if there was a department that did just that, hired say 3 musicians/songwriters/bands/etc, to just be musicians, have the occasional worship service responsibility, but then was also very intentional about spiritually developing those singer/songwriters or bands, mentoring them, keeping them accountable on tour, developing their writing ability, keeping them accountable as musicians, etc. You would need a department supervisor who has already been there, done that. A person in the Summit community I thought of was Eric Champion (for most of you reading this, that name probably means nothing). Someone who has already had a music career, recording albums, touring, but also someone who cares very deeply about the person, the maturing of their character, their spiritual growth, their musical growth. Someone who would know when a song is good & when a song is crap (that is very important). Someone who knows the emotional & spiritual burden of being on the road and who could keep them accountable, cheer them up, comfort them, etc.
See, here’s the benefit of this and why I think that it maybe could “save” the music industry (and NO, that was not a spiritual pun, it was just in quotations due to it being a relative term, not a spiritual joke).
Imagine if 500 churches around the country were intentional about doing this for just say, 2 artists/bands, and GOOD bands. That is very important. Not crap, not the same generic worship stuff you hear everywhere. But people who are serious about just being a good band or singer/songwriter because that’s what they were born with. You now have 1,000 artists & bands who are able to develop their God-given gifts & abilities, write & release new material, and tour on that material with much less of the financial worries & burdens that plague most indie artists these days.
You have 1,000 artists & bands who are being developed by a seasoned musician who truly cares about seeing them become better musicians & songwriters, not just some record label who wants them to reproduce the same garbage that is “in” at the moment because it’ll make them money.
You also have 1,000 artist & bands who are intentionally being spiritually developed. Being held accountable when on the road, allowing their character to grow. Being mentored to be leaders for their generation & community.
You have 1,000 artists & bands who are actually good at their craft, passionate about being good songwriters/musicians/bands, releasing quality material, who are quality people that are passionate about being quality people.
Essentially, you have 1,000 missionaries who are releasing great records, playing great shows, & developing their craft.
A church will financially support a traditional missionary for years & years to live another country doing some sort of craft or trade they are good at…construction, teaching, community development, agriculture, engineering, you name it…and be totally OK with that. Even will do that here in America; financially support a missionary to live in the projects and develop a community, whatever. A church is also OK with paying a musician to lead worship on a weekly basis, organize the services, rehearse with the band, etc.
But is a church OK with financially supporting a musician to be a musician, because heck, that individual is born with God-given talent and is one heck of musician/songwriter/frontman/etc and they have just as much of an opportunity to missionally impact America?
I think it should be.
I can’t imagine the impact that quality, high character, individuals writing, releasing, & performing quality music would have on a generation. Individuals who have been mentored and trained to recognize & leverage their relationships that they build all throughout the country for the kingdom of Christ.
I don’t know if this would save the music industry, but I think it could be a huge movement. Labels aren’t signing, they are losing money, and mostly only want to release what they know is selling and for the most part don’t care about the artists as people. So churches essentially become the pocket books the labels are without the intense level of greed to make crap records that sell (although I’m sure many would argue me with churches not being greedy for money) and caring more about the development, musically & spiritually, of the individuals. These musicians would no longer need to worry about supporting themselves or families financially. There would no longer be the internal struggle of quitting music to work as a food server just because they can’t pay the bills. More people would be developing the gifts that God gave them while being able to support themselves or a family.
Then, like I said, potentially thousands of individuals being missionaries in their fields. Not because they are poorly writing carbon copy Jesus-filled lyric worship songs and playing those at bars, but because they are actually just good at their craft. All the while being supported financially, as well as intentionally developed musically & spiritually, by the institutional church.
It’s already happening in some places. I believe it could happen more. I believe it could change the music industry. I believe it could change America.
Semi-separate from this post, but related, I do want to just say a couple more things quickly.
The only reason I am able to think & dream like this is because I have a killer job that encourages me to think & dream. I love where I am at Summit Church and this blog in no way me saying I am discontent with Summit or think they are doing things all wrong. In fact, they do so many things so incredibly well and are constantly pioneering the way church is done. I absolutely love it and am so humbled to be a part of the staff here. One of the most recent “pioneering” I’ve been blessed to be a part of is the worship service at 33rd street jail (wrote a recent post about it). Seriously has been life changing.
They have been so incredibly supportive of who I am, my love of playing shows, writing, and recording music. I am sooo grateful. This post is simply just my personal thoughts, dreaming, & “what if” discussions. Another potential way the institutional church as a whole could pioneer their way forward.
And I do believe that the thoughts in this post could truly start a revolution if more people (smarter and more influential than myself) took a hold of these ideas, made them better, and ran with them.
That is all.