Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Charlie Peacock - Starting At Good

  • 2000 1 Jan
Charlie Peacock - Starting At Good
By Bruce Adolph, courtesy of %%Christian Musician%%

It's just what we suspected about him: {{Charlie Peacock}} is a thinker. Yes, he's been a secular artist, a Christian artist, a producer of both alternative and pop Christian artists, a head of a record label and more recently an author and speaker... but all the while he's been thinking. Thinking about Christian music, its artists, industry and audience. He's written a book about it that is causing healthy and revealing discussions among fellow artists, record label people and yes, even members of the Christian music audience itself. The book, "At the Crossroads: An Insider's Look at the Past, Present and Future of Contemporary Christian Music" dissects his experiences, both good and bad, within an industry whose roots lie in a time of revival but whose present rests in the hands of a very different group of people. The book encourages us to reexamine what it is we are doing in Christian music, who we are doing it for and why. Christian Musician thought it was high time to discuss this must-read multi-layered subject with {{Charlie Peacock}} himself.

CM: What was your initial goal in writing the "Crossroads" book?

CP: I guess my main goal was to take some time off and give a response to what's going on in our community. I really studied, spent time in the Word, talked to different artists and tried to do an analysis of where we've been and where we are now. And then there's a hint of imagination pointing to where we might go. That's at the heart of the book.

CM: As you got into it deeper, did the initial goal change?

CP: Definitely. There are a lot of things that have occurred and continue to occur in Christian music that should produce righteous anger. Being a fallen person who is definitely saved and being incrementally changed, it's easy to fall into sin in a response to those things that anger you. As those kinds of events would occur I'd go through different phases. My goal was to write not out of anger, but out of having passed through that, so I could communicate more as a pastor, lovingly rebuking, suggesting and correcting. I wanted the book to be something that would cause people to think, even if they didn't agree with me.

CM: You've mentioned the "comprehensive kingdom perspective" in music and the arts. Can you talk about that?

CP: Those three words just mean to see things the way God sees them as much as humanly possible. To stop for a minute and put aside the American Christian church and evangelicalism and denominationalism and ask yourself, "What does it mean to be a Christian?" Is it a kind of fire insurance from hell that brings us into a culture that will keep our kids safe from the Big Bad Wolf? Is it just holding on until Jesus comes back? Or is it this bigger thing of being a subject in God's kingdom, having a servant role? We are called to manage what God has imagined and created, and act in cooperation with Him in the transformation of all of life. As I weighed those two perspectives I thought yes, of course it's the second one. I didn't want the kind of private Christianity where accepting Jesus Christ as your savior is a type of self-help therapy, and the abundant life means storing up a lot of possessions for yourself. No, it's being willing to lose everything. It's knowing where your treasure is, knowing that eternal life with God began the moment you were forgiven. That's when it starts. Forgiveness is the beginning, not the end. You are a participant in God's kingdom, and He has called you as His child to serve Him. Most importantly, the stimulus for living out this grand, huge life is that you're an object of His affection. He loves you and so you should make choices based on His love. Our lives should be love responses to Him, and we should love what He loves and hate what He hates. The only thing He hates is sin. He is in the business of redeeming and calling forth a new creation, and we're to be participants in that. We can't be participants if all we do is create our own subculture. So the book is really about affirming that it is important that God's musical people should be serving the church, and should be everywhere and in everything. Are we doing that? No. Let's get started.

CM: One of the flash points in the book seems to be the debate over the Gospel Music Association's written criteria for what makes Christian lyrics Christian. You were asked to be involved in that, but later bowed out. What was going through your head at that point?

CP: If the reason why we had been looking for a definition had been that we wanted to determine what was and was not congruent with historical Christianity, then I could have been very much a part of it. But what GMA was trying to do was find a definition to perpetuate an entity, not to perpetuate the kingdom. And that's where I had to draw the line. I think there are other issues that need to be settled before this issue is addressed. You don't create a definition for Christian music because you need an eligibility for an awards show. That should never be the starting point for determining what's Christian music. Because the award show itself will affect your definition. What's really important, the integrity of our Lord or an awards show? I found myself on the other side of the issue, saying, "I don't get it."

CM: In the book you speak about the secondary calling of full time Christians.

CP: This is something that people a lot wiser than me have fleshed out often over the ages. The primary call of a Christian's life is the one from Jesus that says, "Follow me." This is the most important one to listen to and obey. The secondary calling says, "As you're following me, do this." A person may have several of the secondary callings over their lifetime. The secondary calling for me is, of course, to be a musician. I've been a musician for a long time and I expect to be one until I go to be with the Lord. That secondary calling should always be seen in the light of the first calling. Nothing that you do as a secondary calling should ever be divorced from obedience, reverence and acts of love and service, which is part of the first calling. If you can't do your secondary calling and follow God at the same time, something's out of step. You know you're not really called to that.

A calling is simply something that you are passionate about, that is congruent with the Word of God. It's something that God has equipped and gifted you for. Your aptitudes, talents and giftings will help determine that secondary calling. Often people will get frustrated because they have a passion for something that they're not equipped to do.

CM: You are quoted saying, "Instead of living under the lie of pragmatism, thinking that whatever works must be good, we are a people set free to start at good, and whether good choices cause us to fail or succeed by the world's standards of success is of no importance." Can you talk about that?

CP: Pragmatism will start at good sometimes, as long as it works. Pragmatism requires that it work, and once it works, it's called good. In a fallen world, everything that's good will not always work. For example, it was important for Stephen to be stoned to death; it was an important part of the Gospel story. But by the world's terms that was not a success. What I'm suggesting here is that God's economy is upside down to the world's. We're called to adhere to the truth and to what is good. We need to let those things be our starting place, and let God determine the outcome. He determines the actions and provisions, and we just have to be obedient. It's a foreign idea in our culture. Most people want to get to good through some formula. You start at good, and take your knocks along the road of good. Sometimes when you choose to do the good, it's smooth sailing. But just as often everything's a wreck, and you're totally undone at the end of it. Now, is God in both things? Absolutely. What God wants for us more than anything is to be changed into the image of His Son. If the world's idea of success will make us more like Jesus, he'll give us that. If to be totally undone is what makes us more like Jesus, that's what we'll get. We are subject to his kingdom. This is not our life; we are not autonomous beings to spend life as we desire. When you start talking like that, you realize you've moved way outside of the American Christian culture. We're so into this thought of self-help. We've tried it for years and years, and look how far we've fallen. But God doesn't love us any less.

CM: You say in the book that "a good theology is a response to God." What do you mean by that?

CP: Theology is your understanding of God. A person who practices good theology is attempting as much as humanly possible with the aid of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of the scripture to carry out God's ways of thinking and doing. If God's ways involve creating, so should ours. If they involve mercy, ours should as well. God doesn't need a bunch of knuckleheads making stuff up in addition to His Word. We just need to go to what He's said in the Bible. Certainly we will have differences of opinion on specific interpretations, but there are fundamentals that are foundational to all Christians.

CM: Tell us about the new record.

CP: I tried to make it a representation of those things that are really on my heart. It's not quite as experimental as some of my earlier work, but it mirrors the book well.

As we went to press on this interview, Charlie gave a major announcement about his future focus. Read all about it here!