I once belonged to a small church and (possessing no musical talent whatsoever) took on a supporting role in our music ministry. Part of this ministry involved the promotion of a concert series using a very nice outdoor amphitheater that some of the members had built.
For the first season we booked some local Christian artists – musicians, poets, dramatists – and we bought advertising on the local Christian radio station as well as in some other outlets. The presentations were first rate but unfortunately the series was a flop. Though the congregation had spent a few thousand dollars the church leadership still believed that it was worth the effort and another season was approved.
This time we brought in some bigger artists and even booked Derek Webb, of Caedmon’s Call. He was excellent and also turned out to be a heck of nice guy. We promoted heavily, but apparently not heavily enough because few turned out for any of the shows, including Webb’s. Those who kept returning were mostly loyal church members along with some folks from the surrounding Christian community.
But this was supposed to be an outreach ministry; did it make sense to spend so much time and money on an effort that was only attracting other Christians? So, for the third season we suggested something a little bit different.
Why not bring in some local secular artists? They were likely to draw a larger audience and during the breaks our church’s praise band (very good and led by an accomplished professional) could spread the Word through song, to a group that otherwise might not hear it. It seemed like a no brainer.
Some of our leaders, though, felt that there was no place for secular music on church property, that all our songs should be geared towards worship and praise. We needed to be examples for the community at large and that meant putting aside the secular things of this world. We responded that ‘preaching to the choir’ would do little to bring ‘sinners’ into the church and finally got the go ahead.
Although more successful than the prior two seasons, we never got the results we were hoping for. The crowds were still small and we spent a boatload of money. But, as some said, if even one person was turned on to Jesus then it was well worth every dime spent. But… perhaps there were better places to be putting our dimes.
I distinctly remember one moment during a concert put on by a local R&B singer. I stood on top of the hillside that formed our natural amphitheater and taking in her performance. She was very good. At that moment one of the church leaders, a young guy who was opposed to the idea of secular music, came up beside me. He pointed down to where a couple of women were sitting on a blanket. They had their arms wrapped around each other and they were singing and swaying to the music. It was good to see folks having a good time as guests of our church.
But…rumor had it that this singer enjoyed a strong lesbian following from the local coffee houses where she often played. My feelings about this were…yeah, so what? Even though there was no way of knowing if these two gals were gay or just sisters of another sort, I knew what was coming next;
“See” he said sadly, shaking his head. “What did I tell you? Look at the kind of people this music attracts.”