SHOULD GOSPEL MUSIC BE SOLD?

November 3, 2019


On the 7th of September last year, I sent a link of one of our songs to an old school mate who is a music minister and his response was, ‘why should I buy?’ He passively suggested I was a sinner I was for merchandising the gospel and since then I have heard pockets of such condemning tongues calling out ministers who sell their songs. 

Here is one subjects the church has major consternation, many believers believe that the sales of gospels songs is a sinful act as their many believers who believe otherwise. 

Personally, I am not particular on which part of the divide you find yourself, I am only saying do not paint others black because they don’t adopt your practices. We must note that the very fact that some try to impose their convictions (which can be uninformed sometimes) is oppressive. Knowledge should breed compassion not condemnation. 

I know it is not a sin and in this piece I will tell you why not really with the intent that you start selling/buying gospels, but with the hope that we stop calling those who sell theirs devils. 

A little argument first. Just a little. Please don’t be vexed. 

Firstly, I am certain that none of us will be admitted into heaven for not selling our songs, the Bible would have told us expressly. God loves us too much to hide such important criteria from us. 

Secondly, I will suggest gently that we practice what we preach all the way. I remember a gentleman who opposes the sales of local gospel songs telling me how he used to buy Ron konely’s cassette back in the day to rehearse and all I saw was hypocrisy, If you don’t think gospel music should be sold, why buy it at all?

There is a part of this that is just purely unpatriotic, many who don’t want gospel music to be sold would buy a Travis Greene or Tye Tribbett’s song but can’t buy the song of someone who attended the same university with them, perhaps God lives abroad. 

There’s another side to this too; the success has many friends ideology, if you are opposed to the sales of gospel music, why not boycott meetings where those who sell their songs are the host or are invited to minister. Stan your campaigning rightly, boycott all Nathaniel Bassey’s meeting, Tim Godfrey’s next Fearless concert is a gated event, he is surely going to hell by your standard. 

Chris Delvan, Chingtok Ishiaku, Frank Edwards, Sinach, Eben, Lara George, Nosa, Sammie Okposio, Mairo Ese, the list goes on…wait, why include their sold songs on your worship playlist in church. If you are boycotting the sales of gospel songs, please boycott completely. 

There is also the subject of piracy, if you don’t adopt the thought that music should be sold, you must adopt the bible’s thought on theft. You should know that “Thou shall not steal” is a central tenet of our faith and the choice to steal people’s content online in the form of downloading a pirated version of a song on sale is doing just that.  Then sharing such stolen content on your WhatsApp is you initiating new thieves. If you don’t want gospel music to be sold, please leave gospel music on sale alone. 

Okay, arguments done. I really hope you were not offended because the best part of this piece is just ahead. 

Let’s back track a little, history shows that there have always been this fascinating struggle between market and non-market logics in the operations of the church. The church is primarily governed by non-market logic, there is no cost of admission and primarily the choir isn’t paid. 

However, as the years went by and the making of music got more technical and required more dedicated time, bands from churches started recording cassette tapes of their most popular songs and selling them to churchgoers but this sales were mandated to be done outside the sanctuary. 

When these bands are invited to minister in other churches, churches did not pay them to sing, but the audience would take up a “love offering” for the group who came to sing. The concept of love-offering is still fought in many quarters as it is seen as financial compensation for a gospel and a gift these bands received freely. 

The growth of the influence of music in spiritual circles saw some bands charging an upfront fee to go to the churches that invited them which sometimes is out of town, they were criticized for turning the house of God to the den of thieves. Others who didn’t charge upfront, only went to churches who had more love-offering to give. Of course, the popular notion was that they had let their “worldly” concern with money come in the way of their calling to sing by God. 

Many argue that they know that the rate at which these bands were invited across several towns, the band members won’t be able to keep a regular job or run a business effectively so the churches must be given a love-offering but they must not be paid. In other words, compensation was fine as long as it was optional and dependent on the hosting church. 

As a teenager, I led an acappella group with three other fine brothers. On one occasion, we had been invited to minister in what I remember as a big church and they gave us their standard. This required we cleaned up, some of us borrowed the clothes we wore, I borrowed money to buy what I wore, I had to look like ‘the leader’, we transported ourselves as big boys (meaning we paid extra) to this all-night concert, when we were done, nobody gave us water to drink or the proverbial brown envelope and we didn’t have transport to go back home. We waited in the cold of day, stranded. So much for love offering!

I have seen and read about old time greats in the gospel music scene in this country who ended up broken and broke and desperately needed alms to see the next day. This do not have to be case. Prov 12:27 tells us “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man’s precious possession.” This gift can harnessed rightly in a way it provides for our grandchildren and we don’t have to loose our souls while at it. All that is required is wisdom. 

Many music ministers have lived from one love-offering to the next, getting into debts (giving the gospel we preach a terrible reputation) as they wait for their next church invitation. Why struggle, when there is a system that put a balance on the business side of music and the authenticity from our worship and protect our ministry gifts from strife and poverty.  

Worship is not for sale and never will be. It is not Worship that is sold when gospel songs are sold, consider this, Christianity is not for sale but we buy bibles and other materials for the equipping of our faith. Likewise, worship is not for sale but the tools like songs that aide our worship can be sold. 

Bible teaches that the one who is taught the Word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. (Gal 6:6).  That means that people should give to support ministries that are blessing them spiritually. You know this gospel music will enrich you, why not share your good coins with the one who is enriching your spirit? This way the needs of the music minister will be met and he can continue with his ministry.

One major factor not to forget is that the music minister is a preacher of the gospel too. As a pastor I teach the word of God weekly teaching/preaching, poetry, writings like this and in some rare cases singing. I have long known that music is an instrument of instruction as there are many lessons that some will not get except through music. There are some who will not be open to learning without music too. This thought makes the music minister a preacher of the gospel. This doesn’t take away the honor of a priest or the glory of the pastor. 

And the bible dictates the worker is worthy of his keep (Mt 10:10) and i particularly like how 1 Cor 9:14 puts it; “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”

Let’s also consider the expertise and equipments that goes into the production of one good gospel song. The irredeemable hours too! Can people with other jobs produce good music on the side in their spare time? Yes! But research have shown that this can never be compared to experts who dedicate their lives to such craft. The excellence born out of such dedication always makes a difference and whatever side of the doctrinal divide you find yourself on, this holds true. 

There is something to learn from Hillsong, they got a huge part of this right, they have professionals doing worship right and not worrying how their kids will go to school. And a licensing system is place to protected the song writers years after they are dead. They do this yet the worship is authentic. This tells you as long as your motive is in the right place, that is you are not in this for the money, the money that comes out of it will not be the driver or determinant of anything but the Spirit always. 

Well, I have heard another argument on how it is allowed to charge our production and shipping costs but nothing over and above. What I understand from these is that as Paul warned “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2Co 2:17). So as long as the minister has not become a degenerate and is not worshipping mammon, he can put a financial system in place to defend himself and keep the ministry afloat. 

Let’s also consider what Peter said to Simon the sorcerer.  “Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.’” (Ac 8:20-23). This again shows the gift of money is not the problem but the position of the heart.

So the responsibility falls on the minister, to subject himself to the leadership of the Holy Spirit knowing he will give account of how he used the gift he was given by God. “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Rom 14:12). So let’s not judge other people’s intent. 

If you are led to give out your materials for free (yes, the Holy Ghost does that when He choses), please obey but don’t make a doctrine out of it and your personal instruction can’t be the general practice. 

Lastly, I would like to put a balance here, the fact that I have argued in favor of the sales of music doesn’t also endorse the fact that there young (upcoming musicians) who rely solely on the sales of their songs for a livelihood. Please get a job, start a business if that is what soothes you best till your ministry is demanding enough and big enough to pay all your bills. 

Just my thoughts.

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