Thinking Out Loud

April 19, 2016

Security Concerns Keep The Newsboys out of Canada

If you were charged with guarding your country's border, would you let these guys in?

If you were charged with guarding your country’s border, would you let these guys in?

Our friend Randy was standing in line at Subway® getting some food for the two hour road trip to the sold-out Friday concert when his cell phone indicated there was a message.

We have an unfortunate announcement. The Newsboys show tonight at Church on the Queensway has been postponed. This show will now take place on September 22, 2016. Please watch for an email in the coming week with an updated ticket for you, as your ticket purchase will automatically transfer to this date. Please see below for the official statement from Newsboys:

To our great fans in Canada,

We regret to announce that tonight’s show in Toronto has been postponed due to circumstances beyond our control.  While we made every attempt to complete all the necessary paperwork required by the Canadian government to cross the border, and with the increased security measures put in place due to the heightened international response to past incidents in Paris, Belgium, and San Bernardino, we were ultimately denied entrance for today.  As such, we have already worked with the great staff at Church on the Queensway to re-schedule tonight’s concert to Thursday, September 22nd.  We are so sorry that we cannot be with you tonight, but we are thankful for the men and women of the Canadian, and American, border security teams, and we look forward to being with you in the fall.

As someone who worked alongside Christian concert promoters in the 1980s, border concerns centered on a single issue: Would Canada Customs allow the band to bring their CDs and T-shirts in? Some tours actually lose money, on paper at least, knowing that the merchandising — the insider term is merch or the merch table — will more than make up the difference.

Once the apparel and music were properly documented, usually a letter from the sponsoring organization was sufficient to get the band members themselves into the country and knowing these were Christian rockers often meant the guards would skip searching the tour bus for drugs.

That was then.

If you’re getting paid to do something, the equation changes. Back in the day, Canadian artists traveling in the other direction were let in on what was called an H1, a recognition that as name artists they weren’t necessarily putting other people with the same name out of work; rather, it was a type of superstar designation that even Christian musicians could use.

But there weren’t then, and there isn’t now the same number of Canadian Christian artists touring the United States as there are American artists Canadians want to hear. In the Christian media industry — be it films, books, or CDs — the U.S. market is the market, and Canada simply is caught up in the spillover from what happens Stateside. (However, it must be said the number of Canadians working in Christian music in the U.S. has grown substantially over the years.)

So whenever you cross the Canada/US border in either direction, be it as a tourist or a professional artist, you are actually having to pass two different clearances at once; (a) Customs and (b) Immigration. The former is concerned with what you’re bringing in, and the latter is concerned with who you are, the area that is now charged with the all important security detail in the wake of increased terrorist activity.

Apparently there was a change in the required paperwork that didn’t get taken care of. Whether or not the concert promoter or the band was responsible doesn’t really matter at this point. But it serves as a reminder to anyone crossing the border on account of their vocation; whether they are going to act, sing or even preach: Make sure your paperwork meets current requirements.


A couple of postscripts:

First, I really like the attitude the band expressed toward the people whose job it was to shut them out. We have to remember that the members of The Newsboys and their support team are, to a great extent, in youth ministry, and here they set a great example for their fans.

Second, I just want to share a true story: When I visited California the second time, I was set up on a blind date with my friend’s neighbor and we dined on the ocean. Part way through the meal she asked me, “I know you flew here this time, but when you came to California the first time, how did you get to the United States?” I explained that we drove from Toronto*, but she wasn’t getting it. Turns out, she thought that the two countries were separated by a great gulf of water. Or a deep crater. Or something. Or now that I look back on it, maybe a big wall.

*The route was something like Toronto to Buffalo to St. Louis to Tulsa to El Paso to San Diego, and I tried several times to explain all that, but I lost her after Toronto. It does really grate on Canadians that we know so much about the U.S., but many of our American cousins are oblivious to all things Canadian.


Musicians: Your CDs and T-shirts are subject to import duties, so it helps to have lots of cash on hand. To pay the duty. Not to bribe the customs officer; that sort of thing is frowned upon.

Preachers: Going the other way, into the U.S., I baffled a U.S. immigration officer who couldn’t fathom why I would be driving from Detroit to Chicago just for a church service. “Are you the one preaching at the service?” And then, “Are you getting paid to be at the service?” No and no. I’m just a church geek.

No Subway® sandwiches were harmed in the making of this report.

April 18, 2016

Epidemics: Divorce in Christian California 1970s and Suicide in Aboriginal Communities in Ontario 2016

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:44 am

They lived in “Gospel Gulch;” an area in great proximity to Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California. The church had been part of a youth explosion that made the cover of Time Magazine early in the 1970s. As the decade closed out, the couple found themselves with a problem on their hands that may seem almost trivial to us today, but was rarer in the Christian community 40+ years ago: Their marriage was crumbling.

They weren’t alone. California leads the nation in certain types of cultural or social trends, which generally sweep from west to east. I’ve heard the same said in Canada about British Columbia. Christian marriages in the state were crumbling at a time when Christian values and standards in the rest of the United States were much more conservative.

So they went for counseling. The counselor didn’t spend a lot of time on learning to get along better or disagree more agreeably. There was no “5 steps…” or “7 keys…” or “10 tips…”

He told them to get out of California.

His best advice to them was to get away from the contagion of divorce. Get away from a spiritual community where struggling couples found their best option was to opt out. Leave the state and escape the culture of divorce that was sweeping through Washington, Oregon and Northern and Southern California with the force of the Santa Ana winds.

Attawapiskat, Ontario shown by pin: It's waaaay up there, and not much else is nearby.

Attawapiskat, Ontario shown by pin: It’s waaaay up there, and not much else is nearby.

I thought about that this morning as our church prayed about another contagion sweeping through another community: Suicide among youth. in Attawapiskat, Ontario, Canada. This isn’t a local story; this is the top national news story in the country and is being picked up by The Guardian in the UK and the Chicago Tribune in the US. Newsweek reported:

Canadian legislators told an emergency parliamentary session on Tuesday night that a rash of suicide attempts by aboriginal teenagers in a remote, poverty-stricken community was “completely unacceptable” and vowed steps to keep it from happening again.

Over the past weekend alone, 11 members of the Attawapiskat First Nation community in northern Ontario tried to kill themselves, prompting the chief to declare a state of emergency. Separately, a second group was hospitalized on Monday after suicide attempts…

…Health Minister Jane Philpott said the suicide rates among aboriginal youth were at least 10 times higher than for the general population of young people. Aboriginals make up about 4 percent of Canada’s population…

Would our California marriage counselor just suggest they get out of town? The advice is certainly valid if you see the situation as contagious, but these people have a family and spiritual connection to their land. They have a way of life that doesn’t translate into moving to Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto.

As we remembered that community yesterday morning, the pastor drew a line connecting this to another one of Canada’s top news stories over the past few months: Doctor-assisted suicide. This has been a contentious issue in the country since the nation’s Supreme Court ruled in February, a story that has been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and BBC News:

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that doctors may help patients who have severe and incurable medical conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban.

In a unanimous decision, the court said the law impinged on Canadians’ rights.

And then, there’s the obvious: These people are living without hope and this is something that as the Church of Jesus Christ, we can offer them, right? Well, when you consider the track record of abuse involving churches dealing with aboriginal children placed in residential schools, we may offer our help to them, but they may not want to turn to us…

As Christians, we also have to wrestle with the implications of suicide when someone claims to be a Christ-follower. Is this unpardonable? Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey recently posted a video response to that question, but even if we allow that this action doesn’t lead to eternal damnation, it does not sit well with Evangelicals…

…Many years ago, the son of a woman I know had a friend who ended his life. In the weeks and months that followed, she monitored her son carefully, knowing stories of the contagious nature of suicide. But what if this epidemic started sweeping the nation? Native teens are not alone in feeling they have no future; no hope.

The “Get out of the state” advice for divorce became invalid just a few short years later when, even in Christian circles, separation and divorce became more rampant. Today, as Evangelicals wrestle with the “Gay and Christian” controversy, divorce seems rather tame and has fallen of the map of church concerns. Divorced people now sing in the choir, teach Sunday School, serve on boards of elders and deacons and even pastor some of our churches.

Are we allowing the culture to dictate our definitions of acceptable morality for Christians? Do we simply allow new issues to take the place of others on the front page? What if a climate of suicide swept your church’s youth group? What are the implications of a drug epidemic or pregnancy epidemic occurring among your church’s teens or preteens? 

Obviously, I believe these things are worth thinking about.

 

 

 

April 17, 2016

Worship Weekend

Filed under: Christianity, worship — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:54 pm

I had something planned for today, but I want to take more time to get it right. This is a series of songs we presented in October (and one from April), 2011 at C201; so definitely not new, but worth a re-listen. Maybe it’s your first time for some of these…

When mountains fall I’ll stand; by the power of your hand
And in your heart of hearts I’ll dwell; that my soul knows very well


 

I have felt the wind blow,
Whispering your name…
I have seen your tears fall,
When I watch the rain.

How could I say there is no God?
When all around creation calls!!
A singing bird, a mighty tree,
The vast expanse of open sea…

Gazing at a bird in flight,
Soaring through the air.
Lying down beneath the stars,
I feel your presence there.

I love to stand at ocean shore
And feel the thundering breakers roar,
To walk through golden fields of grain
With endless bloom horizons fray.

Listening to a river run,
Watering the Earth.
Fragrance of a rose in bloom,
A newborns cry at birth.

How can you say…

I love to stand at ocean shore
And feel the thundering breakers roar,
To walk through golden fields of grain
With endless bloom horizons fray

I believe
I believe


You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars declare who You are
I’m so unworthy but still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great You are


 

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

April 16, 2016

Rethinking Church Growth Metrics

Whenever Saturday rolls around, I always check out who the guests are going to be on Canada’s sometimes controversial Drew Marshall Show, which airs 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST and can be heard at this link.

Today I came across the name Luke Cawley who has written a new book for IVP titled The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians, and the Spiritual but not Religious and decided to check out his blog. In the process, I came across this 2014 article. His ministry context is probably different from yours: University Campuses. But there are some broader ideas contained here. You need to click the title below to read this in full:

Accountability for Evangelistic Fruit

…Lots of people feel caught in a similar dilemma. They want to hold themselves and their communities accountable for their evangelistic practice and fruitfulness. But it’s difficult to figure out quite how you do that without falling into the twin traps of either reducing evangelism to pure human effort or overlooking our role completely. It’s no wonder that senior leaders in several major Christian organizations have told me that they stall on implementing any kind of internal accountability regarding evangelism. If we don’t control the outcomes, they reason, then how can we make any meaningful judgment in this area?

Accountability and Evangelistic FruitMaybe you’ve had similar thoughts. If so, then I have some bad news for you: I’m not really going to resolve the tension for you. Assessing our individual and corporate evangelistic performance is tricky. There’s no simple way to do so. Yet we still need to try. One reason it’s so important is the consistent New Testament theme that when we regularly invite people to follow Jesus there will be some positive responses. Paul describes “the gospel” as “bearing fruit and growing throughout the world” (Colossians 1:6), and urges his readers to speak to others about Jesus in the expectation that these conversations will trigger more of the same. He asks:

“How can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?” (Romans 10:14-17 MSG)

For Paul, the very point of telling others about Jesus is that they decide to follow him for themselves. If such individual decisions are not taking place—and if the gospel is not “bearing fruit and growing” in our local context—then we need to stop and ask why. Is there something we are doing wrong which needs to change?

He then goes on to give three possible directions:

1. Count Conversations, Not Just Conversions.

 
People trust in Jesus because they have heard about him. How many people on your campus are actually getting to hear—and talk—about him? Keep some stats on how many people stop and chat at Proxe Stations, how long they stay for, how many people attend invitational events, and how many are in GIGs. Figure out ways to increase all these numbers.
 

2. Conduct an Internal Survey.

 
Find out how frequently chapter members have an opportunity to speak about Jesus. Then, work out how you can help them develop those conversations into something more. A few years ago, I interviewed 20 students from our chapter and discovered that they each have a meaningful conversation about Jesus at least once every couple of weeks. They all felt that many of those conversations offered natural opportunities to invite their friends to read the Bible with them or join a GIG. They never offered this invitation, though, because they weren’t confident in leading GIGs themselves. This simple discovery helped me shift my focus to training the students in leading seeker small groups. As a result, a number of GiGs were launched within months.

It may be worthwhile for you to conduct a similar internal survey (face-to-face) with a sampling of students from your chapter. It could help you identify key areas for change.
 

3. Create a Story-Swapping Culture.

 
Make it a natural feature of chapter life that you tell one another when you’ve had a great conversation about Jesus. Swap stories about what happened. Then, pray for the person with whom you spoke. You could create a regular space to swap such stories during small-group meetings.

Each one of these can be equally implemented in a local church context and this subject needs to be top of agenda.

 

April 15, 2016

Believe in Free Will? T4G Says You Can’t Worship

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

Together for the Gospel - ConstituenciesI screamed so loud when this came up in the Together for the Gospel (T4G) feed yesterday, that I’m surprised if you didn’t hear it where you live.

The comment was that if you believe in free will (the term used was Semi-Pelagianism) then you can’t really worship because “you’re giving the credit to yourself.”

Yes. Someone actually said that.

The Wikipedia article linked above says,

The Roman Catholic Church condemns Semipelagianism but affirms that the beginning of faith involves an act of free will. It teaches that the initiative comes from God, but requires free synergy (collaboration) on the part of man: “God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration”

Of course many consider Semi-P. to be a heretical doctrine, including Christian Research & Apologetics Ministry, but while the term is pejorative, the doctrine underlying it — dealing with the tension between who is working in the salvation process, or whether we are, as Bruxy Cavey calls it, “chosen and choosing” — is common to many including Free Will Baptists, Arminians, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Holiness Denominations, Catholics, etc., just to name a few.

Calvinists call this free will view Synergism, as opposed to their belief of Monergism, the idea that is somewhat of an anti-free-will view; the idea that election is unconditional and irresistible; the implication that ‘God is going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.’ (Okay, that’s a bit of mis-characterization, but it was… irresistible.) While Monergism might be seen as a tidy fit with sola gratia, that doctrine is more of an extension of sola fide, and has more to do with the contrast between works-based and grace-based salvation than about the idea of how we come to Christ or how the Holy Spirit might draw a person toward Christ. You can read more about the five sola doctrines at this link. (I apologize for using Wikipedia, but it was late last night, and the articles are reasonably good.)

…So back to our topic. The T4G people are making the rather absurd statement that, for example, Pentecostals cannot fully be worshiping God. That when they’re singing, “How Great is our God,” they are somehow extolling themselves; that their worship is not Christ-centered because they dared to choose to follow Jesus, and messed up all of His predestinating. (I just made that word up, but I really like it.) 

Equally baffling is the concept that when we worship, we only worship God for saving us (which is really praise, not worship) and not for his majesty, power, love and holiness…

…Worse however, is that they can’t simply sit back and have their conference without taking a shot at those outside their walls.

This is simply unconscionable


Of course, this may not have been the worst thing that happened yesterday at T4G. Also echoed here.


I’m away most of the daytime today, but will eventually post any comments received. I realize some may disagree, and that it is their duty to do so.

 

 

April 14, 2016

A Call to Keep Christian Organizations Christian

I like to make this space available to other voices on a regular basis and today our guest writer is Steve Clarke, program director for Compassion Canada. This is good reading for anyone who is involved in the overseeing of any Christian enterprise.

Compassion Canada

A Call for Faith-Based Organizations to Maintain Biblical Leadership Principles in an Increasingly Secular Society

by Steve Clarke
Program Manager
Compassion Canada
April 2016

Steve ClarkeI have been thinking about the dangers of mission drift lately. I’m not sure why this theme has surfaced. Maybe it is linked to small group discussions. My wife Dorothy and I are hosting sessions on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Over the weeks we have been examining the Fruit, as described in the Book of Galatians:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

In these sessions, I have become more convinced than ever that the expression of those Fruit – those Spirit-led actions that serve others and speak powerfully of the love of Christ – can only be accomplished through the strength of a daily prayer and scripture relationship walk with the Holy Spirit. The same is true for faith-based organizations. As individuals within faith-based organizations, we must cling to that relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit … or our Christian mission can falter.

Another powerful passage comes to mind:

“… make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:5-9)

If we do not exemplify these characteristics in the power of the Holy Spirit, then we risk Peter’s caution of becoming “nearsighted and blind” … unmindful of Christ’s redemption in our lives.

In the 1980s consultants encouraged Compassion International’s leaders to “drop the Jesus emphasis” and to instead focus on our poverty-alleviation programming. Rejecting that advice, we devised a ‘plumb-line’ of twelve biblically-driven aspirational Leadership Principles. These principles are posted prominently on the office walls of Compassion 26 two-thirds world countries of activity, and in our 15 funding partner countries.

Recently our Compassion Canada office leaders decided to re-visit them in a series of meetings with our staff. With the luck-of-the-draw, I was chosen to deliver the first address. I was asked to speak on two of the twelve Leadership Principles: “Demonstrate Godly Character” and “Ignite Passion for Ministry.” Whoa! There would be something wrong if you didn’t feel inadequate in tackling such lofty topics. Even so, I discovered it was a rich blessing to explore these principles verbally in a straight-forward manner. The staff warmed to the themes, and the talk prompted some wonderful after-meeting discussions.

At Compassion we partner with local churches and characterize our mission and calling as “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” In my nearly 25 years witnessing Compassion’s poverty alleviation work with children, I celebrate creative combinations of income generation, housing, education, primary health care and training/equipping. But these are, at best, sub-sets of the world’s deepest needs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ that ushers-in spiritually transformed lives is the foundation our world craves.

Secular British journalist Matthew Parris agrees, in his breath-taking admission following a trip to Africa:

“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”1

Body, mind, soul and spirit: Our human make-up demands that we must hang-tough in being Christ-centered, regardless of increasing secularization around us. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 (ESV)


1 Greer, Peter and Chris Horst. Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches. Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2014, p. 36.

April 13, 2016

Wednesday Link List

It is more blessed to give than to retrieve

Once again this week we tried to balance the weird and wacky links with those having redeeming ministry and leadership value. Your clicks will tell us if we succeeded.

Fear of Heights card at Zazzle dot com

April 12, 2016

A Reminder that ‘Radical’ Means ‘Root’

Filed under: Christianity, podcast — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:47 am

Deconstructionists

When it comes to change, there are four common postures:

  • traditionalist
  • conservative
  • progressive
  • radical

These terms are also sometimes used to describe various clusters of Christians as well, and just a month ago I mentioned that blog aggregator Patheos has an entire channel devoted to Progressive Christians.

But sometimes, I’m not sure about the progressives. I like to think that I belong in that category (on some issues) but I find myself more in the “open, but cautious” category. (The phrase may have originated with non-Charismatic Christians trying to embrace the good things that happened in the post-1970 Charismatic movement.)

But I like the radicals.

‘Radical’ (from the latin radix) means root. The radicals and the traditionalists have more in common than either will admit. The traditionalists are usually scared silly by the radicals, but often the radicals hold the traditionalist writers in high esteem. Funny, that.

So with perhaps some slight hesitation, I informed my readers a few weeks ago about The Deconstructionists Podcast. The thing has gone viral, or whatever the podcast equivalent is called. Adam Narloch and John Williamson describe themselves as “friends with a nerdy passion for discovery, deconstruction, grace, acceptance, authenticity and humble wrestling.” The investigative writer in me could tell you more, but I’ve deferred to their judgement that the description above should suffice.

Okay, on a recent edition they said “damn” in the first 2 minutes, and later called C. S. Lewis a “badass.” This is not for prudes. Or your aunt Beulah. Which is the same thing. (And at the 56-minute mark, they used the four-letter word “Borg,” as in Marcus, which for some people is worse than “badass.”)

But as I listened to the 90 minutes of Episode 5, I realized that behind the curtain, these guys aren’t a threat to orthodoxy at all. Out of all the editions of the podcast I’ve heard so far, the introduction to this one reveals much about their heart intentions.

Image is everything. If you’ve got a Millennial in the house who might only listen to something with a cool factor; something which explains some fairly important things about the Bible itself; this is the online show for them.

However, I’m also writing this knowing I’m not really playing the game. The episodes of Deconstructionists were not recorded in the order in which they are being released, and this first in a 3-part series on the Bible is just a preamble to two more I’m really looking forward to with Timothy Mackie (Ep. 6) and Alexander Shaia (Ep. 7) on the same subject.

(Full disclosure: I might skip the Peter Rollins episode — it’s not part of the series — but I stuck it out with Rob Bell, and never threw anything at my computer monitor the whole time.)

…You don’t have to be Millennial to listen to this, either. Their presentation is engaging and even if you’re a Builder or a Boomer, you might find yourself enjoying this, learning some things, and maybe doing some serious thinking.

If this is radical, then that’s a good thing.

April 11, 2016

The Downside of Major Music Corporations Owning Christian Labels

This post first appeared in April 2012 at Christian Book Shop Talk

All music products follow a natural cycle from top sellers to the delete bin. In the book industry, we call them remainders, with CDs their deletes. Not sure which is worse: Being ‘leftovers’ or ‘write offs.’ The end result is the same.

There are two surefire ways to make sure your songs don’t die after the album sales die: One is to make a comeback every five years; the other is to make sure the songs are remembered and perhaps even rediscovered years later to be covered by other artists.

If you’re an upcoming band or solo artist, you want to get signed to a label, and you want to get signed to a good label, and a good label is one that will work hard to aggressively promote your music and aggressively protect your copyrights, right?

Well, maybe not. Those royalties will certainly buy a lot of groceries and nobody wants to see their music blatantly ripped off. But I don’t think any musician lying on their deathbed is preoccupied with performance royalties or mechanical royalties.

They would much rather see their music outlive their lives.

I’m returning of course to the issue raised the other day concerning EMI-CMG, the Christian music group of EMI. Is getting signed with this label the top prize, or might you do better, in the long run, to sign with a more ministry-focused organization?

Today I decided to listen online to the song “More” by Mylon LeFevre. Classic Christian rock. “More of Jesus, less of me…” Beautiful harmonies.

But instead, I got the far too recurring black screen telling me the song is not available in my country. Apparently people in Canada are tripping over themselves trying to profit from Mylon’s material. (If I wrote this on one of my mainstream blogs, I would get back, “Mylon who?”) It’s a shame really, because the song is most worthy of a cover version.

I’m sure somebody at EMI thinks they are just doing their job; bowing to whatever copyright oddities permit the song in the U.S., but ban it in Canada, Japan, Serbia and three other countries you’ve never heard of. And in fairness, the notice also implicates Warner Music Group, who aren’t so much of a player on the Christian music scene, but probably own a song or two that you and I would want to recall.

The bottom line is this:

  • Christian music exists for a different purpose
  • Christian songs ultimately belong to the body of Christ
  • Christian artists answer to a higher boss

For years, the CCM industry yearned for “crossover,” we wanted to see our products rack up the numbers in K-Mart and Target and be equal players in the larger industry. So independent record companies like Sparrow sold out to the majors.

Perhaps it’s time to stop chasing success and start crossing over in the other direction; time to take back our music. And if you are a music artist on the cusp of signing with a ‘major,’ think twice about where you want your music to be long after the songs are deleted and the band breaks up. Available or locked in a vault somewhere?


Update: Today (at least) you get to hear the song if you’re in Canada. And for those of you who didn’t know what song I was speaking of; here it is:

How Are You?

Daniel White turned off the car engine and just sat in his car for an extra 30 seconds before walking into the church. On entering the church lobby there was a rush of sound as children carrying Sunday School take-home papers ran through the lobby, a woman at a table spoke loudly selling tickets for an upcoming banquet, and people engaged in conversation while drinking coffee from the church’s new café, open five days a week besides Sunday.

Fred Smits, the director of mens ministry spied Daniel coming in and with a big smile and a firm handshake asked Daniel how he was doing.

“Fine;” Daniel replied. But Daniel was far from fine. As he said the words, he was looking at Fred and internally screaming, “Help me!” The mental scream was so loud he wondered how Fred could not hear it.

“Good to hear;” replied Fred before noticing another member of the mens group arriving through the same door.

There is better acting done in that church lobby than you’ll ever see on the great stages of London and New York. People saying things are ‘fine’ when inside they are screaming.

So what about Fred and Daniel? Is it up to people who are hurting to be more honest, or is it up to the people who ask the question to probe deeper, to spend more time beyond superficial greeting?

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