Evangelism, the Rise of Christian Contemporary Music, and the Church’s Hatred of Success
(written approximately in 1999-2000)
I am continually astonished by the way we, in the Body of Christ, shoot our wounded. Knowing that you are a victim of the ignorance, small mindedness, and prejudice of our own brothers and sisters, I wanted to write you a letter of thanks. I appreciate what you have suffered for the sake of the Gospel. Since I don’t know how to reach you or know that you would find this letter among the thousands of letters that come your way each day, I thought I would write you an open letter in hopes that someday you will find this message and it will be an encouragement to you.
First of all, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for teaching me about the beauty and graciousness of our God in music. You turned me on to Christian music. Before I heard El Shaddai, I thought all Christian music was insipid, boring, dull, uncreative or syrupy sweet. I loved the old Christian masters, like Bach, and I loved a lot of hymns, but contemporary Christian music was bland and unchallenging, created for those who had no ability to believe in the power of the Gospel for today. Reactionary Christians retreated from the world, and blamed you for being different. Traditionalists failed to reach contemporary culture with a relevant message. They thought it safer to go back to the old ways than engage the new world with God’s message of Love. You, however, went out into the world to preach and reveal that message of power.
Your music revealed that we, the people, could actually enjoy God and sing with our whole heart and mind and strength. Your music showed me that energy, creativity, and power could be combined with love to express the glory of God and the joy of our salvation. Your music changed my attitude, and I thank you for it. Thank you Amy. I wanted you to know that I still appreciate your gift after all these years.
So, it was with great distress that I witnessed the attacks against you by others who would rather sit at home and criticize than fulfill the Great Commission. You reached those outside the Church with a relevant message of the Good News. I could not believe the lack of understanding of these “Christians” who attacked you because you did not conform to their dull and ineffective tradition of insular Christianity, which reaches out to no one outside the walls of the “church” with the message of salvation. You were criticized by the Body of Christ for doing what Jesus told us all to do: Go into all the World and preach the Gospel. The narrow minded people heaped their criticisms upon you for doing what they failed to do. It was unbelievable. I am sure you were deeply wounded by this mistreatment, and I wish I had had the power to come to your defense. But alas, I was no one respected and had no voice to stem the tide of banality and vindictiveness vented against you. I am sorry, my sister, that you suffered so. What part this rejection played in your subsequent difficulties in life and marriage, I do not know, but surely being crucified continually by fellow “believers” could not have helped you in your struggles. It must have felt like you had been abandoned by God’s own family. There seems to be this weird desire among us to crucify those who are blessed and actually succeed. It is a form of perverse greed I think when we rejoice more in someone else’s difficulties (simply because they do not agree with all our petty ideas and doctrines) than we rejoice when we see the successes of salvations come through their labors. It speaks of an evil, jealous heart on our part. We would rather have someone else fall and thousands be lost forever than see God succeed through plans and methods of which we do not approve.
Having suffered rejection myself by the Body of Christ, I can state with some sympathy that I am sure you have been made much wiser by God through this ordeal. You have come to understand, as have I, why Jesus did not “trust himself to mankind, because he knew himself very well what was in man.” And perhaps you understand also, what David went through when he found more comfort and safety among the Philistines than he did among his own people, his own faith, and his own kind. I once wrote an article about the irony of acceptance: that it is easier to find unconditional love in your average bar than it is in your average church. In churches, we are first presumed guilty and then judged instead of given mercy and the benefit of the doubt. It is no wonder why Jesus found better fellowship among social outcasts, tax collectors, and prostitutes than he did among the religious people of is own day.
We, in the Church, are such hypocrites! It is odd that the standards and expectations imposed upon you as a musician are so different from those imposed upon other believers by the Body of Christ. For instance, no one criticizes believers who are leaders of secular corporations for “working for the world instead of for God.” How is it then, that you could not be a Christian and also be a musician whose calling might be to work in the secular music arena and give your testimony in the marketplace just like other business leaders? Why is a higher standard imposed upon musicians? Is it because we are idolatrous and worship them as better than other brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we make them out to be heroes who are somehow more “worthy” and perfect, and, in putting them up on pedestals, do we take away their right to be human? What narrow, vindictive idiocy pervades the “Christians” who would criticize your evangelistic calling? It is pure hypocrisy, and I wish to say to all who have judged you with such foolish standards: “Leave Amy alone, she is my sister in Christ.”
I think, Amy, I also understand why you are glad to be free of the constraints and shackles imposed upon you as a “Christian musician,” and have instead identified yourself with regular, old Country music. I am sorry for you and for our sake that it has come to this, but I am sure that you have found more normal people, with saner heads, among your current fellowship than you had when you were yoked to the unrealistic expectations of the religious idealists among us. Dare I say it? The Pharisees rejoiced to see Jesus fall and be crucified. Their lust was not satisfied till they saw the blood draining from his veins. When you failed to be a “perfect” Christian, our present day Pharisees were no less intent upon seeing you bleed. God forgive us and have mercy upon you for what you have suffered on His behalf. You bear His stripes and know what He felt.
Amy, I sincerely hope that your new life is blessed and much better than the previous one destroyed before our eyes. I just ask you to remember that there are a lot of us thinking believers out there who accept you, miss you and your gifts, and would enjoy a new song from you unto the Lord. Only this time, do in under a secular label for all our sakes!
Your Brother in Christ,
Come on people. Don’t criticize a fellow believer and evangelist until you at least have led as many people to the Lord through your methods as they have through theirs. If they are doing it “wrong,” so what? Jesus said not to worry about “blind guides,” but he also said, “He who is not against us is with us.” If they are preaching Christ, what is that to you? Paul said of those in competition with him that he did not care if their motives or methods where wrong, because the end result was that “Christ was being preached.” So stop criticizing. Get out there and do the work of an evangelist yourself.