In 2003 one of my favorite punk rock bands, One-21, linked up with one of my favorite record labels, Facedown Records, and published an album entitled “Grenade.” One of the key tracks on the album was an anthem dedicated to the group’s Christian music scene, “We All Agree.” The lyrics were simple but bold (punk rock right?), and identified a serious challenge to their friends, churches, and leaders. “We all agree that the integrity of the scene has been compromised,” they chant. And, while you’ll have to discuss with those band members what it was that compromised their music scene, I really feel that this track, at least for me, rings a tone of truth for what is happening right now in the Christian/Gospel hip hop scene. Our scene has been compromised. We are all thinking it, we are all talking about it, and we need to shed light on it in hopes for healing.
Music is a powerful ministry. Think of one church that doesn’t open and close services with music. Ministers everywhere recognize this. Christian pastor and mystic Rick Joyner said it best, “Music is called ‘the universal language’ because of its ability to cross almost every social and political barrier. Music is a spiritual language that can reach beyond the intellect to touch the heart. Those who know this ‘universal language’ have a powerful weapon in the war for the hearts of men.”
When you’re on the bus going home, look out the window and watch all the kids plugged into iPods. You probably have music playing in the backdrop as you read this. Music was instrumental in raising me up as a young Christian and to this day Jah still uses music to speak to my heart, whether for encouragement, or for rebuke as in the song “We All Agree.” I have no doubt that if you are reading this letter, the ministry of music has had a huge impact on your life as well. But, because music is such a powerful ministry, the devil has a special incentive to destroy it. After all, Christian tradition teaches that music was Lucifer’s ministry before the angelic fall (Ezekiel 28). Why wouldn’t he want to reclaim it?
Over the last few years, I’ve watched a lot of our brothers and sisters be seemingly swallowed whole by the perils of sin and worldliness and I believe it has some to the point of compromising our whole music scene. I do not intend this letter to be a harsh rebuke to those who are struggling or even rebellious, and I am not writing this letter to name names, gossip, or start a firestorm. My goals are simple: I want to be open and honest about the real struggles and perils we all face (as to overcome by first shedding light; John 3), I want to encourage the family, and I want to present wisdom to all of our up and coming artists who will soon carry the torch that was fumbled by their predecessors.
There has been a lot of adultery, wife swapping, wife stealing, and fornication going on in our scene. I’m counting our major artists falling to this and I’m running out of fingers on both hands. This type of thing is not uncommon; let’s remember that scripture teaches us that the strongest man (Samson), the wisest man (Solomon), and the closest to God’s heart (David) all fell to their corrupted sexual nature. Even so, this type of sin disturbs me and shakes me to the core.
There is a lot of neglect of family going on, which I believe is a problem among many ministers, not just music ministers. This is probably a prelude to the adultery issue, but it needs to be addressed as well. In fact, it can be argued that this is a dangerous breech of faith according to scripture: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
There is a lot of compromise going around on drug abuse, which also has connections to family neglect and adultery. Scripture is much more vague, or even ambiguous on these issues, but it’s not hard identify drug use as sin or at least unfruitful by what it produces. This was most recently exemplified by the death of a heavyweight celebrity, but I promised to not name names.
Our brothers and sisters are falling around us, making huge, shocking waves, compromising the integrity of our scene. We claim to be “Christian” and live as Jesus lived. We claim to follow Him, no matter what doctrinal background- this is what we say. We write songs about faith and truth, and then we turn around and make a mockery of ourselves, our scene, and our faith. What an embarrassment it is to see a brother live openly in filthy sin with a discography behind him proclaiming uprightness, justice, and the Gospel!
So, to our scene, I present these challenges. First, I’d say, let us remain humble. I speak firstly to myself, then to my family, then to my church, and finally to you, my scene. A good friend of mine once reminded me that we are all one step away from great sin and devastation at all times. I could at any time make one mistake that would cost me my whole family, church, or even life. I truly believe this and so I stay on guard. But more so, I remain humble when friends and family fall into such traps, because tomorrow it could be me. (Matthew 7, Romans 2) So, to put this challenge to practical application, when your people fall, immediately pray for them and love them. Do not attack them and add fuel to the holocaust already burning. I do not suggest condoning sin, but remember it is God’s kindness that brings people to repentance. (Romans 2) Brother Augustine once wrote, “In no way, then do we approve of the sins that we want to be corrected, nor do we want the wrongdoing to go unpunished because we find it pleasing. Rather, having compassion for the person and detesting the sin or crime, the more we are displeased by the sin the less we want the sinful person to perish without having been corrected. For it is easy and natural to hate evil persons because they are evil, but it is rare and holy to love those same persons because they are human beings.”
I challenge you to be humble in spirit in your music too. Pride comes before the fall, and the most disturbing dive from grace comes from those who have haughtily spit from behind their lyrical pulpit themes about being the only group truly handling the ministry of Christian hip hop or rebuking others for not writing “holy” music only to be shamed by their own lack of holiness in the most important ministry they will ever see, the ministry of family. So, enough of the “holier than thou” tracks. Let’s build up and encourage; we are all one body.
The second challenge is to have wisdom and pass wisdom down to the next generation about common temptations and tests. As Paul explains to the church in Corinth, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” We have common factors. Any artist moving into the industry needs to know that the “Christian music industry” is as corrupt as any other music industry, full of traps, hypocrites, and moneychangers. Don’t let the next kid get blindsided by the corrupt, suckered into a bad contract, or seduced by the allure of fame. We have to protect our own.
Let’s hold each other accountable. When I was young and single, there was no shortage of women around I could choose to sin with any night of the week. Now that I am married there are STILL no shortage of women around I could choose to sin with any night of the week. So, we must encourage each other like the wise father in Proverbs 2 who advised his son to avoid the harlot. You can never get rid of sinners willing to sin, so the only solution is to rely on God and build up our own integrity. God will always leave a way to escape, and with wisdom and integrity, we can do so. Young brothers who go on tour need to know this, because their temptations will be more acute on the road. Don’t stay overnight in a place unaccountable. Don’t be in a room with a woman alone and door closed. These things are only common sense if they are made commonly known by instruction from the wise.
One of the more valuable lessons I learned on this issue was from the book “Every Young Man’s Battle.” It spoke about keeping your eyes in check around females (real or on media) to ensure the enemy doesn’t even get a foothold. This is in accordance with Jesus’ own teachings, “The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:34) We need to practice this with all of our brothers, so that we do not fall into those common sins of lust. So, let us be diligent in building integrity, accountability, and wisdom among the brothers and sisters in our ministry.
The third challenge I present to you is this. Follow Jesus earnestly. Dust off your Bible. Play the worship CD. If it’s super bad (or good), pray before you even get out of bed. Fast with your fellowship. If you are feeling weak, confess it to your brother, wife, or pastor. Your family is your first ministry; drop everything to minister to them. If you plan to go on tour, pray before you leave. Make sure you are sturdy and steadfast for the challenges. And finally, if you have sinned, humble yourself and repent. For these are the things Jesus has taught us to do.
Our scene has become polluted. I can’t even refer friends to certain albums for fear that my friends will see what the artist has become and stumble themselves. This is a blemish on our fellowship, but it can metamorphose into a great testimony if we allow God to do his mighty work and rebuild what has been devastated. I encourage you to share this letter on your blogs, facebook, and youtube. Talk about it with your youth group, family, and DJ. Let there be follow up posts giving wisdom and instruction for the next generation. Let families reunite. Let our scene thrive again in spirit and in truth.
Blessings from the Locust Tribe,