I’ve been following an interesting discussion at NRT, a Christian music website, regarding whether an artist is “really” Christian or not. NRT, on its Facebook page, had announced that singer Audrey Assad, known for her hauntingly beautiful Christian music, had made the decision to go mainstream. She gave her reasoning on her own blog. NRT had also commented on the band Switchfoot, who announced they’d be touring with Michael Gungor. Gungor is rather “notorious” in some Christian circles for stating that he does not take all of the Bible literally (for instance, he believes much of Genesis to be symbolic or allegorical in nature.)
Let the backlash begin.
Lots of folks chimed in on the NRT Facebook page with negative comments: “Don’t give me the mess about reaching a wider audience or not being full time into the ministry. Either you are or aren’t.” “To me, leaving Christian music to perform secular music is similiar to a dog going back to his vomit.” “Think I’ll pass until Switchfoot decides whom they serve.” You can read more there if you wish.
This raises an interesting question: must one be in full-time ministry to be a Christian? The answer is, of course not. Most of us Christians are NOT in paid, full-time, ministerial positions. We have regular old jobs: soccer coaches, secretaries, entrepreneurs, wait-staff, lawyers, landscapers. We don’t preach sermons or teach theology. We are active in are churches, sure, but that’s not our job. Why then are these Christian musicians being held to a different standard?
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of ministry, and how we Christians are meant to serve God in our daily lives. We expect God to show up in our place of worship, and maybe at a Christian concert or when we shop at the local Christian bookshop, but is that it? Rev. Robert Sirico:
The birth of Christ is the beginning of an eternal embrace which sanctifies all of the created order. The material world is therefore not evil or rank, but is rather the handi-work of God and given over to the stewardship of His creatures made in His likeness and image. A truly free and virtuous society is motivated by the fact that Christ redeemed not only the human race in the abstract, but also all individuals and human projects, including the market.
The incarnation has implications for business. Jesus understood personally what it was to be in need, to be concerned about where the next meal was coming from, and how to cooperate with others to meet his own needs, as well as the needs of others. Entrepreneurship can be a vocation. Business people have a special role to play in the economy of salvation. They share in the task of furthering the faith when they use their talents in a way consistent with their religion. They have their own assignment in the mission of the people of God. Everyone has talents, and God wants us to cultivate them and treat them as gifts. If the gift happens to be for business or stock trading or investment banking, its possessor should not be condemned because of his or her trade. In order to attend to the needs of the poor, we must also recognize the blessing of the freedom to create wealth.
In addition to the creation of wealth, which benefits all of society through the improvements in standards of living, business professionals can also find Christ in the lives of those they serve everyday in the market. We have grown accustomed to looking for Christ in the faces of our family members, loved ones and associates. We need to also see Christ in the lives of those with whom we trade, buy and sell. Christ belongs in the market place, not as a commodity, but as the moral authority for all our economic actions. [emphasis added]
Evan Koons, who is featured in the “For the Life of the World” curriculum, writes about Christians and work as well:
We don’t operate in a vacuum. Whether or not we know it, our work thrusts us into relationship with millions of people for generations to come. From street sweeper to CEO, all our work is a mighty collaboration with millions of others for the life of the world.
In this way, our work points to God’s work; it is collaborative because he is collaborative. The triune God works in community: “Let us make . . . ” (Gen. 1:26). He works with, and for, us: “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1). And our work bears much fruit when we abide in community with him (Jn. 15:1-17).
What those folks on NRT’s Facebook page don’t seem to know is that not only are these artists Christians whether they choose to sing “How Great Thou Art” or “Yellow Submarine,” the folks criticizing also have a Christian mission in the world. They too are “ministers” of a sort. If they bear the name of Christ, they too are meant to carry the Gospel message into the world. The world: the stinky, dirty, messy, wonderful, monotonous, glorious world. The world of law and leaf-blowing. The world of restaurants and ranches. The world of fast food and financiers.
It’s not a question of whether or not a Christian feels called to or chooses ministry as a career; it’s a question of what each Christian is doing for the life of the world, for the Kingdom of God.