July 6, 2009

So You Wanna Be A Rock Star

For as long as he could remember, Keith Green's greatest dream was to be a musical success. After he gave his life to Jesus, however, he felt the need to surrender those dreams and aspirations by laying down his music...perhaps never to perform publicly again. Ironically, when sometime later he felt God release him to pick up his music again, he soon had a recording contract and his first album soared straight to the top of the Contemporary Christian Music charts.

The following message was birthed out of Keith's encounters with those who approached him, usually after a concert, to ask how they too could "make it big" in Christian music.

(Note: This is an all too familiar repeat question I've heard over the years and I actually thought about writing on the topic until I came across this piece by Keith Green. If you don't know who Keith is, click here and then do yourself a favor by running to Amazon.com and picking up a copy of his autobiography titled "No Compromise". If there's ever been an individual in the music world who has inspired me to walk more like Jesus, it's been Keith Green)

Today, so many people ask me if I can tell them how they can start or enter into a music ministry. At concerts I get countless questions about this, and I also get lots of letters and even some long-distance phone calls from many people who feel they are only "called" into the music "ministry." One day I began to ask myself why so few have ever asked me how to become a missionary, or even a local street preacher, or how to disciple a new believer. It seems everyone would prefer the "bright lights" of what they think a music ministry would be, rather than the mud and obscurity of the mission field, or the streets of the ghetto, or even the true spiritual sweetness of just being a nobody whom the Lord uses mightily in small "everyday" ways.

My answer to their question is almost always the same. "Are you willing to never play music again? Are you willing to be nothing? Are you willing to go anywhere and do anything for Christ? Are you willing to stay right where you are and let the Lord do great things through you, though no one may seem to notice at all?" They all seem to answer each of these questions with a quick "yes!" But I really doubt if they know what their answer entails.

My dearest family in Jesus...why are we so star struck? Why do we idolize Christian singers and speakers? We go from glorifying musicians in the world, to glorifying Christian musicians. It's all idolatry! Can't you see that? It's true that there are many men and women of God who are greatly anointed to call down the Spirit of God on His people and the unsaved. But Satan is getting a great victory as we seem to worship these ministers on tapes and records, and clamor to get their autographs in churches and concert halls from coast to coast.

Can't you see that you are hurting these ministers? They try desperately to tell you that they don't deserve to be praised, and because of this you squeal with delight and praise them all the more. You're smothering them, making it almost impossible for them to see that it's really Jesus. They keep telling themselves that, but you keep telling them it's really them, crushing their humility and grieving the Spirit that is trying to keep their eyes on Jesus.

Ultimately, what we idolize we ourselves desire to become, sometimes with our whole heart. So a lot of people who want to become just like their favorite Gospel singer or minister, seek after it with the same fervor that the Lord demands we seek after Him! And again, we insult the Spirit of Grace and try to make a place for ourselves, rather than a place for Jesus.

How come no one idolizes or praises the missionaries who give up everything and live in poverty, endangering their lives and families with every danger that the "American dream" has almost completely eliminated? How come no one lifts up and exalts the ghetto and prison ministers who can never take up an offering, because if they did they would either laugh or cry at what they'd receive?

Because (1) we're taught from very early on that comfort is our goal and security… and (2) that we should always seek for a lot of people to like us. Who lives less comfortably and has had less friends and supporters than the selfless missionaries who have suffered untimely, premature deaths trying to conquer souls and nations for the whole glory of God? Do you really believe we're living in the very last times? Then why do you spend more money on Gospel records and concerts than you give to organizations that feed the poor, or to missionaries out in the field?

There are ministries all over the world where "penniless" people are being saved and transformed. They are broken people who have promise and qualities, but just need someone to bring them God's light during the times when their lives seem so completely hopeless.

I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music, and more importantly, my life has not provoked you into Godly jealousy (Romans 11:11) or to sell out more completely to Jesus!

Quit trying to make "gods" out of music ministers, and quit desiring to become like them. The Lord commands you, "Deny yourself take up your cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). My piano is not my cross, it is my tool. I'd never play it again if God would show me a more effective tool in my life for proclaiming His Gospel.[God gives us each our own unique tools. But we may never use them if we become more interested in someone else's. Seek God, ask Him for His plan for ministry (true, God glorifying ministry) in your life.]

To finish, let me say that the only music minister to whom the Lord will say, "Well done, thy good and faithful servant," is the one whose life proves what their lyrics are saying, and to whom music is the least important part of their life. Glorifying the only worthy One has to be a minister's most important goal!

Let's all repent of the idolatry in our hearts and our desires for a comfortable, rewarding life when, really, the Bible tells us we are just passing through as strangers and pilgrims in this world (Hebrews 11:13), for our reward is in heaven. Let's not forget that our due service to the Lord is "... not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake"(Phil. 1:29).

Amen. Let us die graciously together and endure to the end like brave soldiers who give their lives, without hesitation, for our noble and glorious King of Light. - Keith Green

P.S. I had not stumbled upon this article until a few days ago but I don't think a more perfect piece exists to help clarify why I've walked away from the music business to turn my every effort towards raising missionaries out of artists. I've seen many incredibly gifted people run dry on their faith; I've witnessed countless bands go from barely nothing to nearly something, but rarely ever have I seen "rockstars" willing to leave it all behind just to pursue a depth of relationship with Jesus by serving others. God help us.


chapelboy said...

I'm so glad you found that article, Chad.

Brian Ayers said...

great article! Thanks for sharing!

Chad Johnson said...

Thanks guys! I'm still reeling from how much this article speaks to my experience in the music world and how much truth is in it. Bless you guys.

Joel Hosler said...

put us on our knees why don't you... Aggghhh... Ruin me... Man, This helped confirm even more that I need to just focus on the Lord and fight with all i have where He has me now... Keep your eyes on Him and all other things will be taken care of...

Chad Johnson said...

So true, Joel. Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God (and His righteousness) and the rest shall be added. If only we really believed that! Only by grace man. love ya

Chris Donato said...

So, you wanna go back to Egypt?!

No, I don't think so. Press on, brother.

Dan said...

Keith Green was an incredible saint. His music and "No Compromise" changed my view of Christianity for ever, this article is sooooooooo good, thanks for posting!

Chad Johnson said...

I know it, Dan. When I read his book back in the early 90's I was stunned by it and what's crazy about it, I still am stunned by it. Thanks for reading (and writing). Keep pursuing the Lord.

Tucker said...

Two of some of the big influences that God used to direct my life towards building the Kingdom in Urban Chicago...."No Compromise" and Chad Johnson. Thanks for again setting peoples eyes on the One that we owe everything to. You are a faithful conduit of God's love. An example of stepping out in faith and living out the words of our God.

Chad Johnson said...

Wow Tucker. I think you must have mistaken me for the "Ocho-Cinco" Chad Johnson! It's truly amazing to see how the Lord will put anything (even a donkey) and anyone (even me) to work in His Kingdom. The idea that He calls us friends and brothers, and not just servants, barely even registers. But it needs to. Thanks for the very kind and encouraging words, my friend. The Lord bless your every effort.

Tim M. said...

Wonderful to read these words from Keith Green... awesome article. Thanks for sharing it.

Amy said...

Thanks for posting this article, I just happened to stumble across your page and this artilce really spoke into my life.

Jennifer said...

Great article.

I found this through Twitter. I like what you are doing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this post Chad. I recently found your blog, and I think this is the first time I really connected with your heart behind what you are doing. Keep up the great work.

kate Kowald said...

Such a brilliant piece of writing. Very challenging. Love it. Thankyou for sharing your thoughts with the world.

Stephen said...

I grew up on KG, and always knew he was, what he was, and was intimidated by it as a young child, i remember when he died, weird, i was SO young.

anyway...good article. That is something i have been striving to understand.

Honestly, im having a hard time balancing the bible's view on worship, and idolatry in music, vs. what is in my heart, concerning music.

Ironically, im more inspired than ever, but i need peace over what i should do with the inspiration, i need to know where it fits, into a Christian man who is convicted about those things in this article, those selfish desires, vs what the Lord might want. I don't want to be an idolater or claim to be "called" when i am not, or might not be.

Its all very frustrating, and confusing, it would be less confusing if i had no passion to create songs and art.


Chad Johnson said...

Thanks for all the comments. Obvious that Keith's faithfulness lives on. What a beautiful reminder that God would continue bearing fruit through us long after we're gone.

Tim & Amy - you are welcome and thank you for taking the time to read this.

Jennifer - glad you found us and appreciate the kind words.

Jeff - it's a huge challenge to convey my passions clearly at times so I'm thankful God used this KG article to help spell my heart out to you. As a young believer, Keith's radical views radically challenged my faith. No telling how many of us have been inspired by his example.

Kate - You are welcome and just to clarify, this post is actually written by Keith Green (not me).


Chad Johnson said...

Hey Stephen.

Great great intro/outro-spective post on how to balance it all out. It's really not that challenging when you are able to look at everything you do and ask the questions, "Who is receiving the glory from my efforts and who does the work of my hands point back to?". If the answer to both is "Jesus", then carry on. If the answer is "myself....or anything else", then it's time to repent and ask God to fill you with His potential. That was my struggle in the music world. God does want to use ordinary people like you and I to accomplish His will - but it's incredibly easy to fall away from His plan and start our own. Hope that helps a bit. Feel free to hit me on AIM (chadisliving) or email (chad@comeandlive.com) if you want to discuss further.

The Greenwood's said...
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RYFO Nick said...

A-FREAKING_MEN! Thank you for this, friend.

Jason said...

Love it, bro. And, I love your vision.

Jean Welles said...

Thanks for your post. I remember the day Keith departed this world. He was a man with a God-given vision to bring souls to Christ.

His music lives on and one day we can sing with him right in God's presence.