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My Hope For A 1 Hour Compassion International Presentation @ NQC 2012

May 22, 2012

Even if it’s 40 minutes, and more than 70% the people stay in their seats, I’d consider it a success.

Last November, I put up this article. I suppose it created some excellent discussion regarding the pros and cons of artists pitching the Compassion International plug at concerts, and particularly at the NQC. It probably would have been a non-issue if I hadn’t heard folks so vehemently dreading the pitch to help. In fact, not only dreading…but complaining. Complaining that they have to listen to 15 minutes of artists urging them to help kids in 3rd world countries with food, water, shelter, Bibles, and children’s ministry programs. My main argument was (and still is), how could you take Christianity seriously if you feel more “Spirit-filled” listening to some quartet singing to tracks versus whining about feeling guilty that you have to sit through the Compassion pitch. Let’s say you DON’T give anything! Fine. Don’t help. But complain about it??? Isn’t this Gospel music? Emphasis on Gospel. And if it’s Southern Gospel, let’s send our money South. To Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua. Brazil. Ok, I know I just took the south part of context and may have lost you. But I’ll stick to my convictions about this one.

To clarify myself from that post in November, if you DON’T give, I would never judge your surrender and faith in the Gospel. Because maybe you DO give frequently to other organizations in addition to your tithes and offerings at your local church. I’m well aware that there are other organizations worth supporting. It’s not just Compassion or World Vision.

But to complain about it is something else entirely. I’m not generalizing fans when I make that statement. Some fans do take seriously missions and poverty and sincerely want to take their part in helping the cause. But not all fans. A little backstory to this tangent may help you see my perspective rather than thinking of me as bitter. In the fall of 2009, I began sending out support letters and even saving some of my own money to take my first trip to Haiti. Compared to other missions trips, Haiti was a relatively inexpensive trip. But I was in college, working part time at the YMCA, and doing an internship with Liberty University’s football team. So I really didn’t have that extra money lying around. I had some great people that help tremendously in my quest to raise the money. I was just a couple hundred dollars short with a month before going and on Jan 11, we had our last meeting before the trip.

And on January 12, the day after the meeting…the earthquake struck. The most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere just got more impoverished. Original plans were scrapped. We had a new mission. Our team of 14 dropped to 5. Beyond still being short some money, I had never been so ready to go anywhere in my life. I was still able to go, although I was short. There was a crisis and they needed help and everything worked out. And soon, I’ll share of my experiences there. But what happened when I came back scarred me a bit. I got home on a Saturday. And on Sunday our church was hosting a big-time southern gospel group who was “passing through” and they happened to come for just a love offering. This group is excellent and the people in the group and class-act, ministry minded individuals. But what shook me and took me so long to get past, is the fact that so many close friends and even FAMILY members could not get out their checkbooks and wallets out fast enough to drop their “love offering” into the plate as it passed. I had grown up with many of these people, built what I thought to be solid relationships with some. And yet I didn’t belt out some powerful ballad that gave half the congregation glory bumps, thus warranting so many who had not given me a dime to give to this group traveling on an air-conditioned bus about to depart for a gospel music cruise.

No. I went to Haiti without air-conditioning and slept on the floor of a building, with a t-shirt as my pillow because NBC kicked us out of our hotel room to provide worldwide news coverage. To say I was bitter about this for a period of time would be quite the understatement. I was hurt. I was saddened by their neglect to help me. The death that I experienced. The smell of thousands of dead bodies trapped under a warehouse and neighborhoods. Meeting kids without parents. Parents without kids. Wives without husbands. And the friends and family who wrote $50 checks to this group told me they couldn’t help me out because money was tight? If only I could raise the arm hair of an old lady with a blanket by singing a high C into a microphone. I wasn’t upset at the musicl. I was upset with my “church family”.

Now all of this has passed, and I’m no longer bitter. And no need to sugarcoat the reality that I had my own problems and bitterness to get rid of and deal with. I should not have felt so much anger during the aftermath. But I did. And I can’t change my former attitude about it. It’s done. But I wanted to be honest about it. And I wanted the reader to catch a glimpse into the reality that I have experienced myself. So yeah, it’s unsettling to me that southern gospel fans (or anyone) complain about the Compassion or World Vision pitch. I could absolutely throw them into the stereotype that I had given them a couple of years ago and stay bitter.  But I’m free of the bitterness.  Those dark layers have peeled away.  However, I will endorse the campaigning, and advocate to do so more effectively.

One of the first things I told our small group involved in this church planting endeavor was that we would be a missionary minded church.  Local missions and foreign missions.  I’m not just talking about giving some annual percentage to a convention.  Money is great.  But we must send also.  Whether it’s our backyard or Brazil.  At this point in time, the vast majority of our “tithes and offerings” are going elsewhere.  A little in savings, but certainly none in my pocket.

So at least, listen to the pitches.  Some may question the fact that some artists get paid to make the pitch.  Ok, so…  some artists also get paid to sing.  Is not business involved with any type of ministry?  Those arguments are ultimately lacking.  I’m not suggesting that any Christian’s compassion is lacking.  Nor am I telling anyone where to spend their money and how much.  Last November’s post was burning in my heart and some clarification was in order.  The question about “how much to give” to be a genuine follower of Christ will always remain to be, “will you sell everything you have to give to the poor?”   If you are not already, I urge you to be HIS disciple.  Not only in your giving.  But in a humble, compassionate attitude.

  1. Glenda permalink

    Thank you for this post. It is strange to see how many Christians will drop $50 or more on a Sunday afternoon lunch at an upscale restaurant, even when money is “tight.” Also, many think very little of spending an evening at a movie, which can easily cost $25 or more for a couple, including the tickets, popcorn, and drinks. I could give other examples, but I think you see where I’m coming from. If I can’t share my little bit with those who have nothing, then I am certainly not living the example that Jesus set for us. I have seen the Compassion presentations, and they are moving and heart-wrenching. Please keep holding us accountable for our behavior. 🙂

  2. disneygator permalink

    The unforntunate reality is that a post like this probably won’t make a pharisee budge a bit. It takes real Faith to give to missions and organizations like Compassion. Sometimes it’s a sacrifice of a luxury, and other times it’s a real sacrifice of needs. Either way, the decision to part with your cash that goes to something you can’t ascertain a tangible benefit from can be difficult – until you realize the benefit of a soul being saved that you could never reach. Instead, people essentially scream “Get off my lawn!”

  3. Much food for thought here. I understand and sympathize. I will just add though… we probably shouldn’t underestimate how much those gospel groups really do need the money. As I’m sure you know, being an SG singer doesn’t pay a lot, particularly if you’re singing in a group. And the costs are tremendous.

    • Not trying to be rude. But you didn’t even have to add that. I know this full well. Guess I didn’t explain everything as well as I thought I did.

      • I wasn’t trying to imply you were ignorant. I know that you know. But since it didn’t seem to come across in your post, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to (gently) pull it into the discussion.

      • My only reply to that is…have you never read my blog? I dedicated an entire post to folks not wanting to pay ticket prices or buy merchandise. I’m at work and can’t give you the link to it, but search it through the archives. I’ll try to edit later, “gently” putting it in. 🙂

      • I have old sport, but not everyone else has. You’re probably being discovered by new folks every day. 🙂

      • JSR permalink

        I haven’t went back and read the previous post that was referenced, so I may get in trouble here…but, if the “singing ministry” God called you to doesn’t have enough talent to pay the bills on a consistent basis without begging for money, then maybe you should reconsider your ministry. I think one reason SG is looked down upon by so many (like I used to) is because survival of the fittest isn’t allowed to happen. The super talented groups get lost in the mix with the groups nobody wants to pay to see so they beg for money, aka “love offerings.” All the while the world can’t see Jesus because they’re too busy laughing at the pathetic singing (well, that’s maybe one reason they don’t see him).

        Anyway, I totally ranted. I apologize. I believe people will give money to a SG group over a mission is because of the “glory bumps.” In other words, they’re allowing how they feel to dictate they’re actions vs. the teachings of Christ. Of course, this shouldn’t be surprising, so many people in the “Church” give into sin everyday because they go more by how they feel rather than what God’s word teaches. I’m glad Jesus didn’t base actions on how he felt…especially when he was praying in the garden….

        Sorry if I sound bitter, I’m really not…but it is sad and frustrating that there are some many “christians” around that Christ has become almost totally hidden.

    • Trixie permalink

      I believe you’ve missed the point here. It isn’t the mere fact that these people were giving money to a SG group. That’s just one example in this case, so please so skew the message. It’s the fact of WHO these people were. They were friends and family members. If my family dropped a bunch of money on other stuff, be it a school fundraiser, girl scout cookies, a concert, whatever it may be yet they couldn’t hand me $5 to help pay for a mission trip to reach people in need, I’d be hurt too. The point is, for most of us, it’s easier to give when we can see who/what we are giving to, but we should be challenged to give to those we can’t see. Just becuase we can’t see them doesn’t mean God can’t!

      • Yeah, it’s interesting how we’ll say to people “I haven’t got the time for x” or “I haven’t got the money for y,” when really that’s just code for saying, “This isn’t a huge priority for me.”

        I think I was responding to the bit about the gospel singers’ air-conditioned bus, upcoming cruise, etc. Dustin was obviously (and naturally) feeling the culture shock, so I assume that’s what he was referring to when he drew the contrast between them and what he saw in Haiti. All I wanted to point out was that the life of a gospel singer isn’t necessarily easy or comfortable, and their need isn’t any less legitimate. But I know Dustin and I doubt he meant to imply that it was. I just think it’s possible that parts of the post could come across that way.

  4. Ouch. Sometimes you say “Amen” to a message, and sometimes you have to say “Oh, me”. Oh, me.

    Lord give us a true heart of compassion for those who need Him.

  5. This is a great organization. Give them as much time as they want at NQC! I realize we’re there for music, but it’s GOSPEL music. This outreach easily goes hand in hand. A lot of these groups could be great ambassadors and are great ambassadors for Compassion.

  6. Grigsby permalink

    If it takes an hour to explain the goals and needs of an organization, then the organization probably should fire the person in charge of making the presentation. The people and organizations that I have given to usually had me convinced in less than ten minutes. For the last need that I gave to, my decision was based on a one paragraph e-mail. I don’t see why ANYBODY needs an hour to get their message out.

    Plus, what you are asking for would be ineffective at NQC. NQC has the most restless crowd that I have ever seen. They might be mostly senior citizens, but they have the collective attention span of a three year old. I’ve seen people get up and go for ice cream during a David Phelps solo. Do you honestly think that they will sit there for a prolonged Compassion presentation?

    I think that you are being unrealistic, but I do believe your heart is in the right place. And, honestly, I think I’d rather have a goodhearted, but unrealistic guy around than a realist with no heart.

    • The actual allotted “hour” should not be taken literal, but defined loosely. But yes, you are exactly on the right track.

  7. Sandra K. Becker-Gurnow permalink

    I come to NQC for the singing and worship through SONGS, NOT commercials. They can have a booth like everybody else but WHY force us to STAY IN OUR SEATS! People here in the US-ie:children need help first. I’m sorry, but that is MY OPINION.

    • You are absolutely entitled to that opinion. People here do need help. Certainly hope God sets you free to serve and to one day see a Global gospel. Will be praying for many to see with that perspective. However, your comment did enhance my whole point.

  8. CVH permalink

    I understand the challenges ministries face when competing for donor dollars. Compassion’s partnership with Christian groups in almost every genre has worked very well. I happen to know Wess Stafford and I believe the organization’s integrity is unsurpassed. However, having said that, I do not think it is appropriate for a group to inject a 20-minute (or sometimes much longer) pitch for Compassion or any other non-profit when the audience has paid for a ticket for a musical performance. Doing it during a free-will offering concert is also inappropriate. The downside for Compassion is that, other than the pre-produced media they provide the groups to use, they are at the mercy of the style and tone of the person making the pitch. And since most group’s financial agreements with Compassion are based on a percentage of how many people sign up at their table that night, the temptation to really ‘milk it’ can be pretty strong. Worthy cause? Absolutely. Good organization? One of the best. Taking time from a performance people have paid to see to make a prolonged sales pitch? Totally wrong. The exception would be if the promoter had a small-print disclaimer on the ticket saying the event would include a presentation on behalf of Compassion International and that patrons would have an opportunity to partner with them during the event. It has nothing to do with where a person’s heart is or their concern for children living around the world in poverty. It’s about a simple business transaction – I paid to see a concert and that’s all. Make your pitch optional at the end of the show. But don’t play off the good will of your customers just because they’re Christians and will, presumably, put up with it. That’s a misuse of my time and money.

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