Well, this is quite something. After what has been a crazy, epic, spectacularly eventful almost-decade-and-a-half of professional musical career, and having been called to full-time Christian ministry, I find myself at the beginning of a whole new career.
Except that it’s the same career. Well, as in – I am still a professional musician.
But the amazing thing is that it is a new career. For some time I have known that all I cared (in musical terms) about was sacred music, but it just seemed to be so impossible to make any kind of living from it that I kind of decided that God had to have another plan that involved a less stressful way of earning money. But as it is, I don’t get to know the future. I don’t get to know what will happen tomorrow, never mind next week, and as for next year…
Since the start of 2011 I have been listening to an album entitled “New Birth” – presented by Bishop Eddie Long. Now, some of the theological positions espoused don’t quite work for me. But whereas the average super-conservative Adventist (make that super-conservative Bible-believing Christian) might well choose to switch off at the first mention of disagreeable theology, they would have missed something. Because the musical work on this album is undertaken by Kevin Bond, who speaks so passionately and so articulately about this project in an interview (one that might still be on his website) I simply had to go get it (and as it is, a kind friend hooked it up for me from the USA). Some of the songs are quite fantastic – even if they are not groundbreakingly musical (which these days has never been harder to achieve), they are still fantastic songs. The musical style and production values will most certainly not suit every aesthetic palate, but I am telling anyone who cares to listen that on this album there is a message for those who have reached the end of their rope, have no answers – and yet who realise that if they are still alive, their life has to mean something!
So when these songs talk about beginning all over again, there are a lot of levels and dimensions that could apply. I do expect to be increasingly involved in professional theological activities as time passes. But there is a huge work to be done in sacred music – and this includes putting the gospel back into gospel music.
And – music aside – if one perseveres with the Bishop, some of what he say son this album is definitely worthy of consideration.
Many of us can attest to the fact that certain songs do not (and indeed cannot possibly) resonate with us until we have experienced what the song is taking about. When you know that God has called you to something, but then all doors seem to close, you have to ask some very hard questions and make some very hard decisions. The calling to ministry is a very tough one. My life was much easier when I was less serious about God than I am now. But the trials I have endured (and continue to endure) have made me – and my faith – exponentially stronger. Now I am having to learn patience with the brethren who have reduced God to an object of knowledge – some of whom have no idea that what they call ‘thinking’ barely registers as coherent cognitive activity, never ming actual thought itself! And it gets worse when one interacts with secular people who have spent more time thinking about what they DON’T believe than most church members seem to have thought about what they claim to believe! I am having to pray for that patience, but it does help to remember that God has been amazingly patient with all of us – and I put my hat into the ring on that one!
I have no idea what exactly is going to transpire in my ongoing ministry career, but I do know this. It is an astonishing privilege to be a church musician. It is an astonishing privilege to be active in theological ministries – and also in preaching. But to have both is beyond profound. And so the rebirth of my professional musical career is not a superficially-decorated continuation of my old career. It is a dimension of my new calling – one in which I have been called to share faith in words and music to the highest standard of which I am capable. Protestant European composers of sacred music in the ‘high art’ tradition, contemporary gospel music, European and Anglophone philosophy, 1500 years of theology, contemporary jazz, God’s WORD, and more – it is all going into one melting pot.
Jesus is coming soon. We need to preach. We need to teach. We need to evangelise. But words alone will not always penetrate the consciousness of individuals who have become dulled to coherent spiritual realities in an pluralist socio-cultural environment that has become so ‘relative’ it can no longer sustain its own intellectual existence credibly. The Western world is the place where atheism in all forms continues to rise and flourish, even as it falls and falls in contries where living conditions are so tough that only a living faith in a loving God gives anyone reason for hope.
I have asked, and will continue to thank God for the enormous privilege of letting me reach out with music to those who are fed up of words. I look forward to meeting and working with as many people as possible for the furtherance of the soon-coming Kingdom. The times of the end are soon to be fulfilled. We don’t know when, but as Bible prophecy continues to be fulfilled before our very eyes, let’s do what we can to reach whom we can while we still can.