Charlie Peacock - The Triple M Dilemma: Music, Ministry and Money
- 2000 10 Aug
After a concert or speaking engagement I enjoy talking with members of the audience. Most of the time I listen to intelligent and thoughtful comments and field questions from earnest people looking for honest answers. Without fail, there is one question in particular which always seems to surface: "Charlie, are there people in Nashville who are into contemporary Christian music for the ministry, or is everybody in it for the money?"
In my opinion, attempting to answer this question without examining the subtext beneath it is a trap that can only lead to cynicism and gossip. Let's avoid that. The more difficult approach involves thinking through the implications of the question, and requires time and a little work, something I trust that CM readers understand and appreciate, so let's dive in.
What do the words mean? First off, ministry is service. To minister is to serve. This is the best of the simple definitions available. Ministry is about serving the needy (Mt. 25:31-46) and using our Spirit-given gifts for the benefit of others (1 Peter 4:10). Ministry is doing or saying something that will be of good advantage to others. Every business or calling is a ministry so long as it provides some act of service that is of benefit to others.
Next, does "in it for the money" mean that you have no other reason for doing something than to get selfishly wealthy? Or can it also mean that you're a steward of good music which you offer to your community in exchange for the means of exchange-money-which you then reinvest in your community? Secondly, if you are "into contemporary Christian music for the ministry" does that mean that you require zero funding? Many of you starving artists saving up for a new guitar or keyboard are thinking, "You've got to be kidding, it takes some serious funding!" And you're right, it does. The ultimate question we should ask is this: Does any ministry place anyone beyond the constraints and conventions of the culture in which they are attempting to minister? No. Jesus clearly understood this (Mk. 12:16) as did Paul (2 Thess. 3:8). So should we.
Ministry ought to take place wherever God's people are. This means everywhere and everything, from the youth group to the Fortune 500 company. The issue is not a struggle between money and ministry. It's whether we will choose to serve ourselves, or serve God and others wherever God puts us, with however much money he puts in our pocket. This is always the struggle and the one that makes people question the integrity of the Christian's interface with commerce.
Here's what I've learned: When the sole purpose of any organizational system or enterprise (no matter how "Christian" it first appears) becomes the promotion of economic activity, without regard for God and his creation (people included), the wants of a few will eclipse the needs of many. This is what you and I must guard against most of all. Christians are about-should be about-the needs of the many, and it's this mission that should define your work and your interface with money and business.
I hope this helps readers to see that Christian musicians do not have to make money and success the bottom-line in order to interface with business and minister to the musical and spiritual needs of the church and the watching world. Ministry, compensation, and profit are not incompatible ideas. However, their compatibility is directly tied to the preparedness and readiness of God's musical people to take on the challenge of living in a complex and fallen world. As we interface with the world's systems of thinking and doing, each of us who profess to be students and followers of Jesus must ask ourselves this question: To what or to whom have I given my trust, allegiance, affections and worship?