I’m all for someone making a living—even for someone making a living at his/her calling. It’s really great when that happens because you get to have fun doing what pays the bills. It helps to keep your job from becoming stale and burdensome. I think that God can be honored by those who are able to make their living while performing in their calling. And then I encounter the Christian music industry.

With the continual disclaimer that everything about a certain area of our Christian community is not the spawn of the devil, the practice and public persona of a number of Christian artists makes me wonder, “Are they sincere in what they are doing, or are they simply another expression of mercenary Christianity?”

Here’s the dichotomy as I see it (and of course all opinions are mine and do not reflect all Christians, Baptists, preachers, or even me at some times): The message that these artists sing is one that is of freedom—in living, in being, in doing. It’s the message of the gospel which is actually free for anyone. And then they charge $25.00 for the cheap seats. I’ve come to expect this kind of pricing for sporting events, and even for “cultured” offerings like the opera. But if the object is to get the message to as many people as we can, why do we make it impossible for those who need it most to get in?

Granted, I have heard of one artist who doggedly holds onto the practice of only playing for a “love offering” basis. Of course, there is a rider in the contract that this “love offering only” event must have a minimum seating capacity of 2500. If the average gift in the KFC buckets equals only one dollar per person and the venue is packed, then the result is $2500.00 before songbook, cd, tee-shirt, and poster sales. Is this really honoring to God?

When I lived in east Texas I knew of one church that offered periodic concerts where big name artists performed, without charging a dime or passing the plate. They did allow the retail tables, but the church paid the up-front cost so that anyone could attend and hear the message the artist brought.

One of the disheartening things about dealing with big name artists who claim that what they are doing is “ministry” is the foolish things attached to their contracts. Whether this is because they are represented by an agent who wants to weed out the lookers from the buyers or because they really expect these things, I do not know. Some of the things that I’ve encountered (besides outrageous pricing—which makes you look to the home-grown groups who still do the “love offering” thing even if they don’t have the talent of the big name) are the size and location of the dressing room, the amount and brand of bottled water to be stocked in said dressing room, that the host will provide certain sized bath towels for the artist to take on the stage (apparently they are heavy sweaters). Sure, we ought to provide adequate space for someone to change into their stage clothes—and the more people in the group, the more space they need. Yes, we ought to take care of their needs in the way of water and fruit, etc. But come on, can’t they bring their own towels? Especially if they have to be a certain size, color, and nap!

It all boils down to the question of the day: Is it really a ministry if it’s all about the artist and their wants?