Friday, September 02, 2005

Memoirs of a Music Man

In this article from The Washington Post, former music critic David Segal writes about the great Live Concert Moment. I'd like to offer a disclaimer--Segal's article doesn't come from a Christian worldview, and there's some language here--but I thought it was really interesting and offers a lot of food for thought.

A few questions: What's the best Live Concert Moment you've ever experienced at a gospel concert? How can gospel artists balance the need for a well-planned show with the need to be open to the spontaneous and unpredictable move of God's Spirit? (Whoo . . .ministry and industry. . .Here we go . . .) What does good showmanship look like in a gospel context? For example, how do you put on a good show, but avoid making a show of the gifts of the Spirit?

I've been in concert environments where the shouting and speaking in tongues seemed very choreographed. It's difficult to know what to think in these situations, especially because they don't take place in the sort of ministry environment that can be interpreted by a church or pastor, or within a denominational context. It's not quite the same thing as being in someone's church, or in a service that is being guided by a trusted spiritual leader who has a set of identifiable beliefs that guide a particular church ("Well, they are (fill-in-the-name-of-Denomination), so that expression tends to guide their worship style."). So what does discernment look like in situations like this? Where's the line that is or isn't to be crossed?

Comment away!


Rod said...

"To me these people weren't people. If you grow up, as I did, with the hunch that we live in a godless universe and you believed, as I did, that Bruce Springsteen was the nation's only home-grown prophet, then a live concert was about the only place you were going to have a religious experience. It's a whole lot like a prayer service, actually, since everyone knows the words and you leave feeling uplifted. I had far more epiphanies in the Providence Civic Center than I ever did at Temple Emmanuel."

This quote from David Segal says a lot. God can show up in the most unlikely of places and for David who is obviously Jewish he had a greater experience with the divine at a Bruce Springstein concert than he did at his temple. Many of these artists that have a prophetic (speaking truth to power) orientation come out of the Christian church and even if they are not active in their faith (though clearly some are) they're still influenced by their religious upbringing.

Christian music in many ways is bound by the same forces of marketing and commercialization as other music. Everything is a formula for increasing profit margins. The goal of the prophetic artist is to resist the seduction of mammon, so that his allegiance remains with God and not the bottom line. When this happens, spiritual and social truths can be shared through music even if it compromises profitability. One does not have to throw all business sense out the window, but if you are trying to serve God (Christ), you have to remember your priorities. And as is the case with everything, some do it better than others.

LaTonya said...

Hi, Rod,

Thanks for checking in. That beautiful, lyrical quote is one of the reasons I knew I wanted to share this article with my readers--and also a reason for my little disclaimer. :-)

As someone who believes in the doctrine of common grace, I recognize that all truth is God's truth, and believe it can be found in sources likely and unlikely. Like Segal, I've experienced many sacred moments outside "sacred" settings.

At the same time, I want to be respectful of those readers who aren't as comfortable identifying the prophetic in what they perceive as profane. My goal was to offer them the opportunity to use discernment as their conscience directs them to.


mskeller said...

If you’re serious about wanting to hear good gospel music you got to check out Apostle E. D. MondainĂ© & Belief. Go to and you can hear the single to their first album. I got a chance to hear them live in Portland at the Rose Festival and they were amazing! MondainĂ©’s voice is incredible!! In one song he sounded like Pavarotti and another he’ll be as old-school-gospel-soul as you could want- he’s crazy versatile.