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I spend my days doing stuff for Soul Survivor NZ and my church "Blueprint" in Wellington NZ. I am perplexed, amazed, in awe of, and spend a lot of time thinking about this revolutionary called Jesus and what it means to follow Him.

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Rant on Christian Music No.2

I really appreciate the honesty of the comments in the last post, great stuff.

The Second big issue I have with the Christian Music scene, particularly here in NZ, is that there is a huge desire to make it in the States. A large number of bands have either moved to the states, or go their to tour to maybe one day crack in the scene. In fact I was part of a band that had being signed to a major US label... though fortunately (it didn't feel like it at the time!) I was dumped from the band, and then later the contract fell through...

The big question I have is why? Why on earth is there such an interest in going to the states? Is it because the states need more christian music? Come on, what a load of bollocks, the place has got more music than it knows what to do with, christian and non-christian...
Is it for mission? That cant be the case, the place is full of churches and bands propagating the Jesus message. The conclusion I therefore come to is that a lot of bands go to the states because there is a HUGE amount of money to be made, as well as the fact that if you make it in the states, you make it in the entire world.
Money, Success, Significance, Power.

The truth is that a lot of christian people support christian labels here in NZ, but a lot of this money is used to fund these very expensive expeditions to the states. When I look at the needs worldwide and here in NZ I feel sick that this money is being invested into sending bands to a country that doesn't need the music, with questionable motives, and I would suggest that there is very little return in terms of the world being a better place because of this investment. I struggle to see how this lines up with values of Jesus as I see them in scripture.

Now I have no problem going overseas to tour your music. But if you want to go overseas to spread the love of music, your love for Jesus, then why not go to Africa or South America and encourage the Christians there, or influence and be influenced by the local music scene? Or why not go to Europe, a highly secular area in desperate need of artists who love Jesus and live by his teachings.

My last question; why is there so little talk about this whole christian music scene. We seemed to have become so used to having a whole industry that has a "christian" attached to it, yet seems to have the same motives and methods as any other label or industry, just dressed up with different language. Aren't we called to live a radically different lifestyle, with radically different business practices, with a very different set of values, and a completely upside down view of success? I love the story of Keith Green giving away his records when he was alive and touring... it infuriated his record company, but is this not the kind of wild behaviour that I think Jesus was trying to encourage?
How come we are so comfortable with this whole scene, shouldn't it make us uncomfortable? Or am I reading it completely wrong?

I am truly sorry if this comes across as a real judgemental angry position. That's not how I'm trying to come across, just genuinely confused after playing in christian bands for the last four years, and seeing the incredible power and influence this scene has on many young people (as well as the very corruptable power that it brings... story there for a later time) - and trying to reconcile it with how Jesus lived and what he taught. I would really appreciate your comments and feedback because this whole thing has being brewing for a while now...

Another (way more positive rant) to round of this discussion is on its way in a day or two... and then we can go and have Christmas, I can chill out a bit and stop being so angsty, and we can begin the new year being a wee bit more happy!!!!

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“Rant on Christian Music No.2”

  1. Anonymous Ben Says:

    OK - I'm with you on this one.

    I've often wondered what the heck people mean when they talk about a christian band "making it" - and depressingly i think they mean all the things you identify.

    However....to turn this question back to you (or soul survivor I guess) - what's with the plan to take a whole bunch of kiddies to do mission projects in Cape Town (in 2008?). Are there not places in our own backyard that are in at least equal if not more need? The same time it was annouced at Summer Wine this year as a big exciting youth trip, with lots of other kids from around the world, and bands, and sunshine and goodtimes, and the chance to help out poor south africans - we had one lone guy get up and tell us of the economic, social and political crisis in the Solomon Islands....which are just a 2 hour flight away from NZ.

    Now I know Cape Town has it's problems, but it also has plenty of resources and plenty of "church power" working there already, and compared to many of our pacific neighbours it's positivity Los Vagas!

    Maybe not directly comparable to sending Christian bands to America, but for me it kinda raised the same "Hmmmmmmm" factor.

    and now I gotta say Sam that you are a complete legend in the way that you question and mull over stuff, and my comment above is not so much a criticism...actually it's not a criticism at all as I think if God's saying "Go to South Africa" then you should go to South Africa....but hopefully it gives you some more to chew on.

  2. Blogger Sir H C Llenrad Says:

    ha! dare i say that i think i'm with you both on this one?

  3. Anonymous Naomi Says:

    Ben - you're right about being off the topic with this, but your comments about the missions trip to Cape Town pissed me off so much that I have to reply.

    I think that you're absolutely mistaken when you say that South Africa has plenty of resources - that region is absolutely plauged with economic problems so serious that it would take a radical change to fix things over there. The Government is entirely corrupt - robbing people of their own land and then charging them to rent the land, even charging people to rent mattresses to sleep on.

    Because of this corruption, many people are homeless and unable to care for themselves and their families. Not to mention that fact that they are not operating under a democracy, and have lost the right to express themselves. An example of this is when the current Government bulldozed and burnt the houses of people who voted for the opposition.

    Racism is also rife over there, and attitudes and systems have been slow to adjust since the end of the aparteid. New Zealanders have much to offer these people because for the most part, we are able to operate as a multi-cultural society on a reasonably functional level. We can set a positive example of workable relationships between the colonisers and the indigenous people of the nation.

    I think that rather than criticising other peoples missions that are forged in a spirit of love and concern you should turn your attentions towards yourself, and what you are doing in your own community.

    The last thing people who are involved with missions need are a whole bunch of other people criticising and disbaraging them. At least they're actually doing something constructive, because the majority of Christians I know are doing jack shit for anyone, local or otherwise, because they are so concerned with themselves and their own needs and spend most of their time thinking about themselves or judging others.

  4. Blogger Sam Says:

    I ummed and arred about whether I should give a reponse to bens comment, but I cant just let it slide.

    This particular issue has being well chewed over over the last year, and so sorry for the rant! I will try and ignore the patronizing "kiddie","Sunshine" "Goodtimes" comments...
    For those interested info on the mission Ben is referring to can be found at http://www.soulsurvivor.co.nz/site/2006/08/videos.html

    In response: (deep breathe... here we ggggoooooooo.........)

    1) When it comes to any initiative that is going to bring young people face to face with poverty I am going to cheer it till im black and blue in the face. I really struggle that you would feel the same way about "making it" for bands in the states, and a mission venture in South Africa.
    2) I totally agree about the Solomon Islands call, and in the long (as in very long) term dream for Soul Survivor NZ is a "Soul in the Islands" venture that is bubbling around in the background...
    Its looking like the cost of traveling to Sth Africa is going actually going to be similar to going to the Solomon’s because of the deals that SSUK are trying to sort out, so in theory the investment will be similar to a trip to the Solomon’s. In a round about way the reason for Durban is places like Solomon’s and South East Asia. The dream that young people would get fired up about going to those places and serving in their own backyard. I don’t care where in the world young people see and engage with poverty, as long as it happens. But this is something that simply cannot be duplicated here in NZ. And if a project like this gets kids and youth workers excited, then lets run with it and suck every bit of potential out of it that we possibly can, for the sake of our own backyard. And its NOT going to be sunshine, rainbows, nice songs and lollipops…well actually, there may be a few nice son : )
    3)It is an incredibly naive comment to say that Durban is "los vegas" compared to places in the pacific. The aids crisis has devasted that area, the poverty is very very real.
    4) Soul Survivor NZ are also doing local initiatives. Every church in Fielding is working together to provide projects for the young people at Soul Survivor festival in the local community. And every one of those projects can be duplicated back home.
    On top of this is a potential partnership with some organizations here in NZ for a project planned for next year that could potentially raise tens of thousands of dollars for an area in South East Asia. its all hush hush though so please erase all that from your memory...

    Again, sorry if this comes across with an edge, its just that I am so freaken keen to see as many young kiwis as possible have their lives ruined in the best way possible because they have seen the potential of their life given to the cause of justice, the marginalized and the poor.
    The time that I lived in South America, and trips to third world countries since have so profoundly influenced my worldview and passion that this initiative is worth every bit of blood sweat and tears in my opinion. And couldn’t be more of a different issue to sending bands to the states.

  5. Blogger Gareth Bezett Says:

    Perhaps someone could give me their opinion of the value of the Karori youth trip to Myanmar. It's been over a year now right? Do we see a difference? And by difference, I mean something that a trip to Italy or Bali wouldn't have produced.

  6. Anonymous Ben Says:

    Hey Guys

    Sorry to have got your backs up over this one.

    My wife is South African, we have family in Cape Town, and recently we applied to work in a church over there that is working in various refugee, orphan and AIDs centres in J'burg. You don't have to convince me there is need there, or that it's a worthy project or anything like that -like I said it wasn't supposed to be a criticism cos I totally agree and hate it when people sit around and shoot down other peoples ideas basically because it makes them feel more confortable about not doing anything themselves. (see my comment on Sam's first post).

    Sometimes it feels to me though like some places become "popular" mission destinations, while other places miss out completely and struggle along vertually ignored which is where the perhaps tenuous connection came to Sam's post on Musical missions to America(where "everyone" wants to go vs other places that could really use people going and spreading the gospel through music) came from.

    Anyway it feels like I ofended you guys, and Naomi I realise that you probably don't know me or the involvement and heart that I have for mission or where I'm coming from, but it was defintely not my intention to discourage anyone from mission or criticise (as I think I did mention in my comment) anyone else's efforts. I guess I hoped merely to raise some awareness of the tremendous need that there is on our own doorstep and I guess my own frustration that it feels like it's often over looked for places where I feel the need is already recognised and people are already responding.

    Does that explain my thoughts a bit better? Oh and sorry Sam about coming across as using patronising langauge in the first comment. I would never phrase it like that when talking to people actually about the mission, I was just trying to use Pajoritive Hyperbolie to emphesise the point I was trying to make.

  7. Anonymous Naomi Says:

    Yep, that totally makes sense for me and I agree with you. Sorry if I jumped down your throat on this one, Ben - I've been feeling really defensive about this sort of thing lately which is why I'm a bit quick to react.

    Also the thing about this form of communication is it is easy to take things in a context entirely different than was intended.

    In terms of your point about mission destinations being 'popular', I totally agree. There are places in the world which are attractive and have a lot of attention from mission groups and others which are entirely ignored. Wellington City, in fact NZ as a whole is a perfect example. Some people are more interested in paying through the nose to go overseas and minister in some way than spend that money and time investing in initiatives in their own community. I know about that first hand as I am currently starting a foodbank, and getting people to actually donate food is like getting blood out of a stone. It's not a very sexy idea, but it's still neccessary and important.

  8. Anonymous ben Says:

    Hey Naomi

    That sounds awesome - can you let us know more details? You can email me at teri_ben@hotmail.com. Would love to help out in some way

  9. Blogger Huggies Says:

    Two things:

    1) Naomi - where's your foodbank? How does one donate food to it?

    I'm keen :)

    2) Does anyone know of good, short-term "mission" opportunities for the not-so-young?

    I see lots of mission opportunities aimed at youth (and that's fantastic), but I don't really think I fit in that slot anymore.

    Am thinking of going somewhere in 2008, and if I can use that time/money to share something of Jesus, that would be cool.

    Anyways, any ideas/suggestions would be much appreciated.

  10. Anonymous Naomi Says:

    Hey guys,

    The foodbank is operating out of Blueprint, which is in Glover Park in the central city. You can donate food by dropping it off at the venue! Or you can donate to other foodbanks in the region, Salvation Army on Riddiford St, City Mission on Riddiford St (by McDonalds) or DCM on Willis St. Thanks guys! And thanks Sam Harvey for allowing your blog to become a virtual billboard.

  11. Blogger Sam Says:

    Cheers for being so gracious ben! And my apologies for any sam junk in the midst of our yarns. But what a great conversation and dialogue.. it didnt get personal, it stayed on the issues, and there were diffrent points of view thrown around. What an awesome age to live in where we can yarn like this.
    Be very cool to grab a coffee sometime ben, and if it cant be before summerwine, lets do it there.

  12. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Huggies - The Rock in Wellington does 2 trips a year to Mexico to build houses. They take groups of all ages. Give them a call if you're keen.

  13. Anonymous Mark Says:

    I think it's great that the whole social justice thing is the new cool in [some] Christian circles. Hopefully it makes the rest of the world realise that not all Christians are dicks (& I'm speaking as someone who is more of a dick than a Christian...)

    As for the original topic - I've always disliked the Christian music scene. The fact that the term 'worship' has been hijacked and now means 'music'; the
    fact that there is an entire industry that brands, packages and markets this music in exactly the same way as any other music; the fact that there are such strict controls, copyrights, and profit margins on music that is supposedly all for God, etc...

  14. Anonymous Charlie Says:

    I just wanna say that I think the work you guys are doing is fantastic and it should be celebrated. I don't think that there is a more pure measure of your walk with God than looking out for those who have no one to look out for them.

    Ka pai Guys.

  15. Blogger Huggies Says:

    Thanks anonymous :)

  16. Blogger the ROCK says Says:

    I have a good friend in Gisbourne who says that there is no such thing as 'worship' music, there's just music. I don't know that I agree 100% but I know what he is getting at. I have another friend who is currently in a christian NZ band in the States and he has told me about the struggle to balance the 'ministry' of what they are doing with the rock-star mentality. I think that christians have made way too much of music. There is too much made of how we do music in church and all our artists around the place. Music is nice and as a musician I have thought long and hard about this, but it's importance pales when compared with some of the things discussed in previous comments (missions, foodbanks etc). I struggle to justify why we throw so much resource behind music ministries (music pastors, money for instruments, sound systems & lessons, volunteers and all the associated hours or work involved) when social action ministries seem to need so much more.

    And where does something like Hillsong Music and Planetshakers etc fit into this all?

  17. Blogger Gareth Bezett Says:

    Yes, why does worship = singing soppy love songs to Jesus. Everyone leading services in my church says "we will now enter a time of worship" meaning it's time to stand up and sing. Is the rest of the service not worship? Not to mention the rest of my life. Even the Youth call their musicians, the "Worship Team" as if the rest of us aren't on the team.

  18. Blogger P-Style Says:

    Philip Yancey quote on Worship:

    "An article in the February 2005 issue of this magazine addressed one of my pet peeves. How did it happen that the word worship became synonymous with music? For several months my church went on a hunt for a "worship pastor," and a parade of candidates auditioned with their guitars and backup groups. Some of them prayed, yes: "Lord, just, you know, really be here tonight with us, just let us know you're here." None showed much knowledge of theology, and assuredly none led us toward anything like awe. Worship today means loudly filling every space of silence." - source: http://ctlibrary.com/34255