Looking In The Mirror: Part 2
Several months ago, I was speaking with a friend about different issues in southern gospel. He once sang with a prominent group, that some of you may be familiar with. As he was talking of his experiences on the ole’ bus, he gave details to many things that would not need to be posted publicly. I can’t say that I was surprised at all. I love this dear friend of mine, but he’s not the most righteous of the evangelical bunch. He just happens to have a decent voice and sang for a few years with a southern gospel group. He’s had his shortcomings and issues with sin, sure…but most of our conversation was aimed at one of the other members. “He’s not saved. He thinks he is, but I believe it to be evident, that he’s not. He can’t explain his salvation experience, he hasn’t been to church on his own in over 10 years, and when we sang at a church before a sermon, he always hit the bus to smoke and drink a cocktail”. When my friend quit the group several years ago and was able to be in church regularly, his spiritual growth took off.
Now this kind of thing is not uncommon, both historically and currently. We’ve heard the rumors. We’ve heard the stories. To some, it’s just a job, not a lifestyle. I’m not even going to argue cigarettes and cocktails in a biblical perspective. My biggest worry was not being able to stay inside of a church building for a sermon. This left the impression on me that there are many more like him. Sometimes people disappear rather strangely, alluding the scene altogether and we are given no details. Personally, I don’t need any details. I don’t care about a rumor. I just wonder where their heart is.
A member of another well known group told me, almost encouragingly in the same time-frame, “God’s cleaning the industry up”. The one who said it may be thinking in relative, and somewhat legalistic terms, but clearly he was onto the attention of some who were consistently living a lifestyle contrary to the consistent gospel message they had been singing night after night. This took me back to a couple of years ago.
A couple of years before, I heard yet another group member state that the group he was with, “ain’t none of them saved”.
My question to you is two or three-fold. Yes, we can’t hire tour pastors in this genre to monitor the spiritual lives of artists, “or get them saved”, or be nit-pick everything under the sun. Yes, there are those who smoke, dip, chew, cuss, throw temper tantrums, and I would be a legalist to say all who did such a thing were not saved. You can’t be perfect. But you can be saved. And you can bear fruit. And you can live clean.
I know a popular Christian Rap label, “Reach Records”, at one time (maybe they still do), implemented a 2 year evangelical discipleship program before they could regularly tour and release mainline records. Many came straight from the streets in the stereotypical urban culture doing the stereotypical things…and the gospel changed their lives. The thought was that by doing this, they could find out if they were doing it for wrong motives, turning from the world and its desires, and being constantly renewed through Christ. I heard of an incident where one guy in the program tested positive on a drug test, and had the option to start his 2 years over or leave. He started it over.
I think one of the biggest problems with it is us. In most cases, we don’t care if they regularly pray or study the Word, or hear the Word…or live it out. We just want to hear them sing. I think all too often, we simply assume they do because they’re singing about the blood on stage. And when somebody does fail and we find out, we run them over and cast them out, neglecting to see them restored at all. It’s a matter of accountability. All, if not most artists have people or pastors they can seek counsel and accountability from. When there is no accountability and some secret sin or failure is allowed in their own life, they cave in and build an inner wall. There is pressure there for some artists. To be everything to you that you think they are. Certainly accountability requires discipline, so we shouldn’t let sin go unchecked…but instead of asking them how it was to sing with The Kingsmen back in 1980 something, ask them about their quiet time this morning. See if they buck up. They might smooth-talk you, but you can see it in their eyes if you are discerning enough. Maybe it would provide a source of conviction. Maybe the Holy Spirit would invade their lives.
Help the problem. Don’t enable it. I believe fans as a whole do a lot more to enable it.
I’m under the impression that at least 1/4 of performing southern gospel artists either don’t truly know Christ, or at least don’t know how to genuinely and spiritually grow and are not thorough in their sanctification, thus properly and biblically “working out their salvation with fear and trembling”. It could be more, but it’s certainly not much less. And that represents a problem in this small, conservative industry.
1) How can you challenge them to be accountable? Maybe it’s their own souls that needs God’s grace and to be convicted by the reality of the gospel.
2) How can you cast the pressure off of them being “perfect” from view?
3) How can you balance both of those?