by Nick Greenwood, RYFO Founder
I was brought up in a Fundamentalist Baptist church in the midwest. I am grateful for the upbringing I received and the fundamentals that I learned about the faith. But in that church, music in which the driving beat was on 2 & 4 was “the devil’s music.” At one point, I was even told by my youth pastor that the old southern gospel group “Acappella” was sinful to listen to because of the rhythm and syncopation they used. My family left the midwest for southern California when I was 15, and it was then that I was introduced through our new church to what many call Contemporary Christian Music. My musical world was blown open. Following high school, I found myself leading worship at churches, interning in a recording studio and playing in a local rock band. I eventually headed off to a college in southern Illinois to study guitar. A year later, I transferred to a Bible school in Chicago to pursue ministry studies. It was there that I wrote my senior thesis on ministry to musicians.
At some point years ago, God impressed a compassion on my heart for the spiritual lives of musicians. They are an overlooked mission field. And I was a part of that mission field. I have found and many before me have found that believers within the Church have traditionally embraced artists in a combination of three ways: (1) We’ve used artists like resources, (2) shunned them for their questions, journey and/or art or (3) worshipped them for their talents. Little has been done over the years by the Church to uniquely meet them where they are at as people in need of the Gospel. My experience was no different. My friend’s experiences were no different. And as I began to ask more and more musicians questions around their experiences with the Church, an unbelievable amount of hurt was uncovered. This broke my heart. Why has the Church so often seen musicians as idols, commodities or things to avoid? Why have we confused our disdain for the art they produce with the fact that they are people on a journey just like the rest of us? The art is not the artist, though it often reflects the artist’s heart. But caring to keep ourselves and our children from heretical or sin-glorifying lines in songs may have sadly resulted in us ignoring the fact that artists need the Gospel just as much as we do every day. And we, God’s Church, are the means by which that artist will hear the Good News of Jesus, if we are willing.
Many of us often take the easy way out and avoid the artist because we don’t like their art, and/or we have no idea how to share the Gospel with them. There is also a natural barrier between music listeners and the stage. It’s almost designed that way to keep the allure. And if we are honest, we like that. It feeds our idolatrous tendencies to worship attractive things other than God…things (people) we often know very little about. So we end up making no effort to build a bridge of love from our seats to the stage. Nor do we make the extra effort to take our next-door-neighbor-drummer a plate of cookies when he is practicing in his garage. We become annoyed by their actions instead of compassionate for their hearts.
But what if? What if we saw musicians as an overlooked people group in need of the Gospel. What if we engaged artists with discipleship instead of seeing them as idols, commodities or people to avoid? What if a disciple-making movement was birthed within the music community? Would we see tremendous ripple effects? Artists are extremely influential. Are you willing to influence the artists with what matters most?
RYFO exists to help followers of Jesus show and share his love with musicians. Will you join us?