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Platforms (and how they hurt my feet)
By Seth Milliner - 08/30/2005 - 05:36 PM EDT

ďI love the fancy frilly stuff around the edges,Ē I remember saying. My wifeís father does some really amazing wood work. Heís exceptionally good at 18th century Victorian style pieces. And the armoire (sort of a free-standing closet) that he finished for my wife when she was in grade school could easily command over a thousand smackers in todayís furniture market. Heís also a pastor at a church in Reno and spent 6 years as a missionary in Budapest. But get thisÖthe words ďJesus,Ē ďGod,Ē ďBible,Ē nor the number 7, are present anywhere amongst this beautiful, hand-carved work of art. And yet, somehow, none of the many super spiritual high-up mucky-mucks that have graced the threshold of my house have ever had negative comments about it. No oneís ever accused my father-in-law of being a heathen, abusing or being a poor steward of his talents, nor has anyone ever given it low marks for a lack of Biblical references.

OK, so youíve probably figured out where Iím going with this. This topic has been brought to light, fought about, and had entire novels written about it by some of the most prominent Christian authors around. Iíve seen it tear worship teams apart, cause hurtful words to be exchanged, even force small portions of church congregations to split. I wonít pretend to be up to the challenge of changing anyoneís mindset, nor am I prepared to write a book about the topic. But I would like to share my perspective of the Christian songwriter with you.

There are basically two viewpoints that different legs of the body tend to stand on when it comes to Christian artists. Thereís the ďMinistry as a Platform for ArtistryĒ camp, which firmly stands on the notion that if youíre a Christian and you write music you should write music that has a very profound, pronounced, specific and determined message of Christian ideals, morals, standards or concepts in every song. Of course each denomination has their interpretations of what those concepts mean too, such as baptism, forgiveness of sin, salvation requirements, etc so itís not really possible to appease all of them anyway. There are many other de facto viewpoints members of this camp adhere to regarding compensation for artists, live performance conduct, etc that I wonít get into here. The other side of that coin is the ďArtistry as a Platform for MinistryĒ camp. Members of this camp consider it great if an artist that is a Christian uses his position to minister at all. So the big question the church wants its answer to is: are you a Christian that happens to be an artist? Or are you an artist that happens to be a Christian? Every Christian that writes music likely faces this crossroads of approach to their writing, which is ironic because very if you look closely, thereís really no difference between the two statements. Neither characteristic comes first or second when trying to figure out what kind of a writer one is. When Iím on the clock at my day job Iím still a Christian just like any time Iím anywhere else. That never changes. But what am I doing? Iím doing the job they pay me for. I have Christ imprinted on my heart and that will impact how I interact with my co-workers, how I deal with situations, hopefully even the quality of the work I perform (work ethic). Occasionally the opportunity to share my faith, witness, minister to others, etc arises. But thatís not why Iím there. I did not get the job on the condition I would proselytize to a minimum number of people per quarter. I was not hired based on my corporate prayer leading abilities, or my copious note taking during Bible studies. I hope I would never avoid or ignore an opportunity to do the Lordís work in the workplace or anywhere else for that matter, but letís face it, I donít go looking for spiritually significant opportunities in lieu of doing the work Iím handsomely paid to perform. The Bible says a worker is worth his wages. Can the argument really be made that if a ďworkerĒ is not present at the jobsite to do the work that is at hand that he/she would still be worth the wages?

The problem with subscribing to, and standing on a platform is that it almost always ends up with toes getting stomped on. The conclusion Iíve come to is that the world needs both types of Christian artists. Those that use their ministry as a platform for artistry are often the ones that are stepping up the quality and the experience of worship teams in sanctuaries on Sunday all across the country. These artists are taking a proactive stance of catering to a primarily Christian audience. They have a message thatís bold, deliberate, uncompromising, and the delivery of that message is secondary. How can I not be in full support of musicians and songwriters that take this path? But let us not thumb our noses at the Christian songwriters that use their artistry as a platform for ministry either. Itís through these individuals that the message of Christ can be heard in bars, secular clubs, the street, places the gospel message needs to be heard. Itís my firm belief that God can and does use both musical ministry styles for His purposes. Secular songwriters are paid for their artistic expression of personal experiences, viewpoints, stories, etc. And an artist that is a Christian will likely have a strong percentage of their impacting collection of experiences come from the spiritual side of life and their faith. So letís let their art be expressed how they want to express it. God shows up in the details. Creation itself is a testament to God being glorified by non-religious creative processes. So letís put the platforms back in the closet along with yet another counter-productive wedge we (Christians) use to separate ourselves from one another. I intend to try to cater these monthly postings to as broad an audience as possible. From the girl that flips the overheads at Wednesday night youth praise servicesÖto Toby Mac himself. And now you know why.

Feel free to post your comments here in the forum or contact me directly with feedback, criticism, compliments, questions or complaints.

Keepín it Real,
Seth Milliner

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