Occupation Versus Obligation

GospelFlava.com's Gerard Bonner presents “Occupation Versus Obligation”, another editorial addressing that continuing issue of mainstream artists singing Gospel music.

Be sure to read a very different editorial perspective of this same issue, presented by Andre Mullin: Singing The Gospel.

Gerard Bonner Recently, the music industry has witnessed a number of artists with success in the secular marketplace decide to release solo projects of a Gospel nature.

With artists contributing full-length Gospel offerings as well as numerous cameos and singles, it has really left many wondering why so many are turning to sing Gospel.

An equally, if not more important question is, should secular artists carry the Word of God in song? My answer may surprise many but hopefully, will make you think.

To fully answer this question, we have to answer a more important question. How often do people within the body of Christ actual find their calling and their occupation to be the same?

The truth is that only a small percentage of Christians are actually working in the area where they are called. In terms of hours, frequently their calling is second in comparison to the time spent at the job. Why is this important?

We must first understand that not everyone who is singing is called to minister. Everyone who ministers in song isn't skilled at singing. You can go down the roster of Gospel music's elite and find that at the upper echelon of Gospel music is a list of artists who aren't necessarily the most vocally skilled. Why does that matter?

It goes to show that you don't have to be skilled to sing and just because you sing doesn't make that your ministry. That's important, because as believers, we often get caught up in the messenger as opposed to the message. I'm amazed at how quick Christians are to condemn or scrutinize a secular artist for singing a Gospel song yet don't take the same time to examine the vessels used to deliver the Word on Sunday morning.

Let us remember what Matthew 7:2 says:

"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." (KJV)

If the truth were told, none of us are worthy to carry the message of Christ. Not one of us has lived a life that is perfect and spotless. We must remember that the vessel is not the one who has the power. The Word is what has the power. It is through the power of the Word that lives are changed, bodies healed, and yokes destroyed. No vessel can ever lay a legitimate claim to the work that God has done through His Word. It is His Word that leads us into battle and gives us victory over the enemy. Nothing that we ever did gave us the right to pick and choose who has the right to deliver God's Word.

We must also understand that there is a difference between those who sing for a living and those who sing to minister. It is those who are called to service for God that are required to live a life that is worthy of their calling. That is why the Word says:

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called." Ephesians 4:1 (KJV)

It is this scripture that compels those who have answered the call to live a life that would reflect that high calling from God.

CD It's the counterpoint. Andre Mullen presents an editorial from a very different perspective.

"Let’s keep it real brethren: We all know that if you speak the Gospel to those that would have an ear to hear, you are responsible for the message you are conveying. When people hear you proclaiming the message of the Gospel, or even talking about the goodness of the Lord, they hold you to the message, whether you’re Christian or not. It makes perfect sense. Secular artists singing gospel music concerns me and I know I’m not alone...

See full editorial.

If you think about your 'secular job', how often do you feel the pressure of behaving a certain way that is indicative of that position? That pressure usually comes while at the job. However, when you are away from the job, you are free to do whatever you'd like. While a doctor is a doctor at the doctor's office, when he is at the grocery store, he is a customer as everyone else is. There is no "code of conduct" that is expected of a doctor when he is outside of his role.

However, if God has called you to a specific office or task, there is a mandate for you to live in a worthy manner at all times. Your calling doesn't leave you if you change locations. If you're called to preach, that call exists whether at work, school or church.

There are many who are singing the praises of our God that are not called to minister in song. This is true for a majority of the church choirs that sing every week. There are those who are in service merely because they like to sing or because their services are needed. That carries a different weight than one who has been called to minister through song. It is a radical mindset change for many but we must remember that the gift and ability is given by God, not by men.

We also must understand that your calling is not always associated with something that you perform well.

Moses was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt but had a terrible speech impediment. In fact, throughout the Bible, we find that God uses flawed people in miraculous ways to carry forth His Word. Understand that this is not a licence to sin nor does it free one from the duty to live responsibly before God. However, we do have to understand that you can not expect one to live as a minister if they have not been called to ministry.

Does a song like "Heard a Word" have no impact because Michelle Williams also sang "Bootylicious" as a member of Destiny's Child? Only if you don't allow it to.

The bottom line again is that the Word will do what it's designed to do. In Biblical times, there were those who mocked Paul while he was in jail. They thought that by mocking his preaching, they would do harm to him and all Christians. In their mockery of Paul, the Word of God was preached and people were saved. They weren't saved because the vessels were great. Salvation came because of the power of the Word.

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. Philippians 1:16-18 (KJV)

The credibility of the Word is not damaged because of its messenger. The Word, no matter how you slice it, is the Word. Whether sung, preached, or taught, it still has the potential to break the yoke of the enemy.

As born-again believers, we should be the first to understand and recognize how God takes care of us in spite of our wrong-doing. If the cameras followed us as it follows and highlights some of those who dare to sing God's praises, we might be singing another tune. None of us have reached perfection as of yet. However, because of our decision to live for Christ, we continue to strive to reach that place of perfection.

Yet it is not our deeds that determine our right to render praise to God in song or to express His goodness to others. Psalm 150:6 says, "Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord." (KJV) This command was not merely for those in the church. It is for every breathing organism, including the secular artist.

We as believers have to be careful not to be so quick to pull out the rod of correction for our secular brothers and sisters. We make quick decisions to judge folks without ever fully understanding their experience. We'd be safer to pray for them and allow the Word to do the work that it is assigned to do.

The truth is that Bishop T.D. Jakes is not a household name in the secular marketplace. However, there may be a local pastor, minister, or singer that can reach that someone that is in the secular marketplace. If by chance, a song sung by a secular artist that showcases God's love does break the stony ground of an unsaved heart, than God, not the artist gets the glory.

There is a difference between your occupation and your obligation.

— editorial opinion by Gerard Bonner —
May 20, 2002

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