In the 1940’s a young black man named Riley left Mississippi headed for Memphis with the desire to be the world’s greatest gospel singer. As he played on the street corner for tips he noticed that when Christians requested a gospel song they rewarded him with a handshake; but when others requested blues they put money in the hat. Instead of living his dream to be the world’s greatest gospel singer he became one of the world’s most renowned blues guitarists: B.B. King.
In the 50’s another young man, Charles Hardin Holly, while attempting to find his way through the conflicting worlds of music and God, attended church in search of some answers. Once there the pastor recognized him and changed his sermon to preach against the sins of rock n’ roll. Holly walked out of the church and I can only surmise that he felt there was no way for God and music to coexist. He went on to shape rock n’ roll and he was known as Buddy Holly.
In the mid-70’s a musical icon made a commitment to Jesus and wrote a phenomenal “Christian” album. He was discipled by a somewhat legalistic group and it seems that, once again, he found no way to believe he could walk with God and live his life as a musician. His name was Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan.
From Bono of U2 to Whitney, Aretha, and hundreds of other world-shaping talents, history has been full of tormented musicians who struggled to find a way to use their skill, make a living, and walk with God in the process. A person can be a carpenter, get saved, and build any kind of structure with no moral judgments placed on him for how the building will be used. A doctor can get saved and perform life-saving surgeries on criminals. Music is one of the few legitimate industries where a person’s profession of faith is immediately overshadowed with the condemning message that he must abandon his career.
It is so ironic that the church, who says they want to reach the world, has possibly robbed the world of those who had the greatest influence and opportunity. It is ironic that the talent that forged and shaped the world was lost to the world because of legalism and religion.
As a musician I can personally say that as a whole, musicians seem to be conflicted people who feel things very deeply and have a great need to express those feelings; yet, we see in one of those conflicted souls a worshipper who, despite his conflicts and failures, was called, “a man after God’s own heart.” Yes, King David was a musician. David, like most musicians, was a man whose sensitivities that caused him to prolifically express himself to God also made him vulnerable to some of his greatest failures!
Over the years I have seen hundreds of these tormented souls come to Jesus only to be “blown out” the back door because of a lack of resolve to the question, “Can I walk with God and be a musician?” Like all battles, this is a war in the soul. The church embraces many destructive and unscriptural philosophies about music and ministry that undermine the peace and confidence of the musician. And the musician must make a determination concerning how vulnerable he or she becomes because of their profession.
Charismatic doctrine has created a completely unscriptural extrapolation that before his fall Satan was the worship leader in Heaven. Following the fallacy of their thought they reach the conclusion that there is a special demonic force that works in musicians. Based on the logic of that interpretation we have more proof that Satan was a jeweler than a musician. He was not the closest being to God. There is no proof that he covered the throne. These are all extrapolations, many of which undermine sound doctrine. (If you want to debunk myths about the devil order my book, Satan Unmasked.)
The church, once gain through misconception, has made the musician feel that he or she is backslidden for being in the places they have to be in order to make a living. While I fully support the idea that we should carefully weigh the kinds of environments we expose ourselves to, I think we are biased and ignorant concerning reality. There is cursing, lying, and affairs in almost any business. There is no place we can go to escape this world; and if that was God’s plan He would have, no doubt, removed us from the world upon getting saved.
I will be the first to say that as a musician I faced incredible struggles. I went from making a good living to making 90 cents an hour digging ditches. For me, temporarily leaving the music scene was a must; I didn’t know how to be in the environment and walk with God. But even then, the main reason for my struggle was not based on reality; it was based on religious legalism that warred in my mind if I went into those environments to make a living.
Over the years I saw first chair, double union scale musicians in the country’s top recording studios try to survive as house painters, ditch diggers, and all round flunkies; and most of them didn’t make it. The issue was not their lack of love and commitment but their inability to reconcile their gifting and profession with the church’s concept of sanctification.
As pastors and ministers it is never our job to tell people what they can or cannot do. We should never influence a person’s choice in marriage, profession, or other life decisions beyond showing them how to fulfill their dream while walking with God. Proverbs says: Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:6, AMP) Not even parents are supposed to make the life choices for their children. Our job is to discover their particular bent and show them how to fulfill that dream while walking with God.
When we make a person feel they cannot live their dream and have God we have destroyed their dream, their relationship with God, or both! Somewhere between legalism and pulpits that are filled with people who have never had jobs in the real world, pastors often fail to understand the real life dynamics of destiny! Armed with good intentions, religious dogma, legalism, and little life experience we are disqualified to invite people to follow us. The writer of Hebrews said: imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb. 6:12) Part of those promises we should inherit include our life dream!
In the absence of good leadership, leadership that knows how to lead the way, we cannot show you how to get there but we can sure make you afraid of the journey. We can tell people all the ways they could fail, but we fail to equip them to succeed. Out of a sincere desire to protect people, we ministers have become the over-protective parent who, in making all the decisions and motivating through fear, disempower our followers (children) and insure their failure, thereby falsely validating our original fears.
We are to be in the world not of the world. (1 Jn. 2:15-16) We are to be doing business and gaining ground for the kingdom. (Lk. 19:13) We are to be the salt of the Earth; (Matt. 5:13) and if we follow the example of our Lord, we are to be the friend of sinners! (Matt. 11:19) Because the church has not embraced the grace of God we have no concept of the power of God that makes us able to go into the fiery furnace and come out with nothing but smoke. As such, we have turned the entire entertainment business over to people who do not know God. They have rammed their godless agendas down the throats of America while we have sat fearfully on the sidelines, afraid we might soil ourselves if we are involved in any creative way.
Last week I spoke at the farewell service of Ben Trussell, the son of my long-time friend, Rick Trussell. Ben was a singer-songwriter that I admired and he was a friend. Ben was one of those tormented souls that in the midst of his struggles touched hundreds of people’s lives in some way with the love of God. Last Wednesday and Thursday evenings hundreds of musicians and “civilians” made their way into the room to say their farewell to this young man.
In the last months of Ben’s life he made incredible strides in his faith. He was coming to peace with his identity in Jesus and how he could use his skill for the Kingdom of God, both in church and in the nightclub. The miraculous change in his life came from a dad and step mom who refused to give up on him and insisted that he develop his life in Christ. And Ben found what we all need to find when he began using Heart Physics and listening to the series, Developing the Heart: The Source of Life.
His heart’s desire that he personally expressed to me was, “I want all these people I know out in the bars to know how good God is.” This article, based on the message I preached at his funeral, is dedicated to the memory of Ben Trussell and my commitment to help him fulfill that desire!