Sunday, October 10, 2010

The State of Entertainment Vol. 2 "Why Contemporary Christian Music Broadcasting Must Change!"

A few weeks ago one of our local Christian Music stations had their "Sharathon," or as I call it Beg-a-thon 2010.  If you are not familiar with this concept this is the how and why:

1.  Many Christian stations are non-profit.  So they have to find ways to get people to donate so they can continue to broadcast.
2.  Apparently being "for profit" is bad.
3.  Christian stations lie to the public by playing half a really good song and then tell people if you want to keep this type of music on our airwaves then we need you to donate.  EXCEPT they play a song that they rarely or never play under normal circumstances because it is not in their demographic (ie.  playing "Say So" by Israel and New Breed), but has a great sound and message.
4.  Tell everyone that they are going to hold their beg-a-thon for X number of days, but when they do not make their goal they carry it out an extra three or more days to hit the goal (while people who want to hear music have long since gone by the wayside and will most likely mainline Two For Tuesdays with Mandatory Metallica just to get some music).
5.  Finally hit their goal and give God the praise after they overshot the time by many days.

Look I am all for Christian radio flourishing, but there is a way for this medium to not only survive but truly thrive and profit.

First thing...PROFIT!  How many area businesses would love to advertise to an audience that is more loyal to their station because it is one of very few in the area?  In the Asheville, NC area ad rates are approximately $86.00 per 30 second spot.  If you dedicated 10 minutes out of every hour advertising you would generate $15,067,200.00 of ad revenue per year not counting partnerships, selling air time to local churches, live on location events, concerts, and internet marketing.  This will also allow radio stations to pay talent what they are worth rather than making them become bi-vocational, or have to find another career entirely in order to make the life they need to make for their family.  Profit isn't a four letter word.

Next...CHANGE THE PLAYLISTS!  Christian music stations are still playing "Awesome God" in heavy rotation.  This song is 22 years old.  The artist, Rich Mullins, has been dead since 1997.  Can we rest this song for a decade or so, PLEASE?  Look guys I know it is one of THE songs in CCM history, but are adult contemporary secular stations still playing Hey Jude, Stairway to Heaven, and Jailhouse Rock on a heavy rotation (many times I have heard Awesome God four to six times per day in a span of 10 hours)?  Of course not.  Yesterday (10/09/10) Rich Mullins had five songs played, and two were Awesome God according to the website of a local Christian music station.  Remember, Rich Mullins didn't release anything new yet...he has been gone for 13 years.  We have to get with the times.  Playing the same 15 songs from Casting Crowns, tobyMac, Third Day, Michael W. Smith, and Amy Grant isn't exacting exalting God.  I asked a guy I know in the Christian radio community why this happens, and he told my that this is what their demographic wants.  I asked him what the demo was and he told me "Women 25-44."  Guess what radio execs...guys aren't listening because they think your playlist sucks.  Don't get me wrong I like some of these artists, but if I hear "City on our Knees" (incidentally by one of, if not my favorite artists, tobyMac) one more time I am going to club a baby seal (or not, but you get the point).  There is nothing wrong with playing these artists, but throw in some Israel Houghton, House of Heroes, Clint Brown, Skillet, and Gaither Vocal Band.  Make it relevant for people that are not in the demographic.  I am pretty sure that the Great Commission is about reaching everyone not just those in the key demos...although I might have to go back and check the Greek to see if I am right about that.

Finally...REBRAND AND REINVENT THE STATIONS!  Of course you are safe for the family, morons, you're a Christian Radio Station! You aren't interspersing Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Black Sabbath with Christian Programming.  Safe for the family kind of goes with the territory there.  It's like saying, "Red Bull w/ Caffeine."  How about this gem "Uplifting and Encouraging?"  Are these stations just trying to be ironic like an ultra-hipster comic that wears all black, has a soul patch, and doesn't want people to laugh?  What is wrong with Fresh and Anointed?  Current and Interested?  Powerful and Spirit-Filled?  How about personality driven radio?  Currently there are only four radio hosts mentioned in Talkers Heavy Hundred that really speak about their faith.  They are Dr. Laura, Dave Ramsey, Dennis Prager, and Allen Hunt.  Not exactly a laugh riot here although they are great broadcasters.  We need something that will make people want to listen.  The only one really pulling this off in multiple markets is Yolanda Adams morning show, and the Bishop Secular bits (which are GREAT).  Why are we so afraid of humor that we will not put on our airwaves?  Since we have an alternative to secular music why can't we have an alternative to Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, and Bob and Tom?  If we are ever going to change the culture we have to get in the race.  WE MUST BE COMPELLING.  We have to change the culture by being in it rather than being a subversive fringe element that is lobbing spit wads from the outside.

I love CCM, and the idea of Christian Radio, but it has become stagnant.  Stagnation breeds death in all things.  Maybe we need to rise up and find a way to get this vital medium to change before it becomes too late.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Time, God's Time - Civil Rights

I have a story of three people.  Two you have heard of, and one you have most likely not.  Please look at these pictures (which are from the website The Smoking Gun):

Please look closely at the man in to the left in the top right picture wearing the 7089.  If you are unaware this is Martin Luther King Jr.  He was arrested with a host of people in a 1958 rally in Alabama.  Someone made a note on the picture noted when he died, 4-4-68.  Martin Luther King Jr. was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent revolution against the tyranny of segregation.  MLK is known for his speech "I Have A Dream" in which he orated his vision for a unified America.  He never had the opportunity to see his vision become a reality.
In this picture we are focusing on the lady wearing number 7053 at the end of the second row.  The is Ms. Rosa Parks.  She did far more than refuse to move on a bus.  She helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott which led to the integration of the city's public transit.  She joined with the civil rights movement in 1944 with the NAACP, and was later awarded the Spingarn Medal, the group's highest honor.  I could go on and on.  I could talk about her work in the background with the NAACP or with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).  We could discuss her Presidential Medal of Freedom, or the fact the when she passed away in 2005 she was given the honor of lying in state in the capital rotunda.  She saw many great advances in the way people of color are treated in America, but she never saw the greatest measure of equality.
This is George Bundy Smith.  You don't know him most likely.  He was arrested in 1961 in Montgomery, Alabama as a Freedom Rider.  He served as a judge in New York after he graduated from Yale Law School.  He was appointed to the NY Court of Appeals in 1992 where he served a 14 year term.  He is still alive, but now retired.  He had an opportunity to see a proud day in American history.  He saw President Barack Obama sworn in as the first African-American President of the United States.  I don't care what you believe politically, but when you consider that lynchings were still occurring in the South as early as 45 years ago, we can say that we have made great strides in accepting the differences that our Creator has given us.

What if Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks had given up when their visions were met with adversity?  What if they realized that they would not see all of the changes that they wanted to see so they complained and gave up?  The advancements that we made as a society would not have been realized and we would still be left with the antiquated thought that Blacks and Women are less important than Whites and Men.

Why do we treat the vision that the Lord has given us with less respect than the one MLK spoke about?  The Lord has given us a vision not to sit on it and wait to see what happens, but rather to use it a the goal to aim at so we can accomplish His will in the earth.  If I never see my community become all the things God has shown me that will be fine as long as my work can be a part of the foundation that will make His vision come to completion.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Your Facebook Status Makes Me Want To Punch You!

Kids are driving me nuts...
Money is tight...

I am so sick of seeing these Facebook status updates.  Does everyone need to know that you are having a rotten day?  I see these so many more times than I see people actually say positive things.  Maybe your life is sucking because you refuse to speak words of life into your situation, and maybe things are tough now because God is beginning a new work in you.

Look at this:

Genesis 50:22-26
22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father's family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim's children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph's knees.
 24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place."
 26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Joseph had a bad day or two.  He was sold into slavery at a young age.  He was separated from his family for the majority of his life.  He was imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit.  He lived through a horrible drought.  Joseph knew crap from c to p.

Joseph always worked hard and kept his focus on what God was calling him to.  He knew the vision that God had given him and he was not willing to give up on the vision.  Joseph had periods of great provision and favor, but it was often met with tremendous difficulty.   Doesn't it appear that Joseph was being prepared for the moment when God needed his man to be in position for a history altering event.

What would have happened if Joseph had been too depressed to do what God had prepared him to do?  Joseph would have never stayed in Egypt.  The Pharaoh would have never enslaved the Israelites.  Moses would have never delivered the Israelites out of bondage.  Joseph would have never led them into the Promised Land.  See a pattern here.  God never "lucks" in to being fortunate.  God always has the plan.  Not a plan b or plan c, but THE PLAN.  God is always at work putting people in places to make His will occur in accordance with His divine purpose.

Let's agree on this...God is always working.  If we can't agree on that, then it is best that you stop reading.  God never wants us to remain static.  Notice how water, when it is moving, is vibrant and fresh, but when it is still and isolated it becomes a breading ground for impurities and disease.  We aren't that much different.  When we are moving with His purpose we are still going to pick up bad things along the way, but we will be able to leave those things behind while not forgetting the lessons that we learn from the event.  When we stop moving and stop putting ourselves in a position to do the things that God calls us to (like going to Church - side note - How are you going to hear God when you refuse to attend Church because it is inconvenient for you, or, you are angry with someone at church, or you are tired, or you can't get your kids to obey, or whatever lame excuse you are shoveling this week) then we will become a breeding ground for sin.

Since we agree that God is always working why do we live thinking that everything is supposed to be fine?  Often church leaders have told us that once we get saved we will have smooth sailing the rest of the way unless we bring it on ourselves.  This is a huge lie.  This is the excuse that leaders use went they are unable to pinpoint the cause of all the suckitude (patent pending Eric Malone, 2010) in your life ( I guess it is easier than tell people to just go to Breakthrough Church).  When Jesus was on the earth He got crucified, and He is God.  What makes you think that everything should be easy for you?  God wants to make you into more, and that requires difficulty from time to time.  Malachi 3:2 says, "But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap."  Refining gold requires a temperature just shy of 1950 deg F.  The refining process requires high heat in order to make sure that impurities are removed.  Many times God has to turn up the temperature to make us into all he has called us to be.  The junk that is present in all of our pasts requires removal.  His refining will make us all better prepared for service, and His service should be all of our goals.

Sure we all have days we would rather forget.  To be completely honest I have had months and years like that, but sometimes it isn't about God trying to teach us as much as it is an attack that comes from the enemy.  Getting on Facebook and complaining is the type of thing that Satan would love for us to do because he knows that we a drawing focus away from God, and placing the focus on ourselves.  Our woe is me attitude never brings God glory.  Through greater maturity we can begin to tell the difference between God testing us versus the enemies attacks.

Let's stop acting like the world and truly become salt and light.  The world complains when things don't go their way like they are a petulant child, but when we as Christians do the same thing we are offending the Heart of God.  Think twice before the words you speak and type are put out into the world for all to see.