Worship, Art & Business, Part 3

Worship, Art & Business, Part 3

Several years ago when the National Quartet Convention was still being held in Louisville, Kentucky, I spoke at length with a gentleman who had been bringing his group to the event for several years. They faithfully purchased a couple of booth spaces each year and spent enough money to make their space look just as nice as the groups that appeared on the main stage. They usually sang on one of the afternoon showcases.

As we spoke, I could hear some frustration in his voice. He felt he had paid his dues. He thought his group should be featured on the main stage. He even seemed to be interested in buying shares in the convention if he could find someone willing to sell. He thought that would surely get his group the attention they deserved.

This conversation was not unique. I remember having a similar conversation with another man who was connected to the convention in a marginal sense, yet he felt his artist wasn’t getting adequate opportunities during the week.

In Part 2 of this series of articles, I mentioned that the driving goal of many groups is to sing on the main stage at the National Quartet Convention and appear on a Gaither video. Another goal is to see a song in the Top 80. (That used to be the Singing News Top 80, but now any Top 80 will do no matter how small the sample.)

In other words, there’s a motivation for singing Gospel music professionally other than worship, art or business. Many just have a deep desire to be famous. They’ll gladly empty every dime from their pockets to get as close to “famous” as they can.

Fame is a sad motivation. It’s not about how many people know your name or recognize your face. Now, of course, some fame is going to come as a by-product for anyone who performs even on a local level, but I believe it’s a wasted life if the anticipated fame is the only reason you ever tried to do it.

So, Parts 1-2 of this series were more historical in nature, while Part 3 is basically here to explain why I feel that fame shouldn’t be a motivation, even though that often is the case. My plan for Parts 4-6 is to look discuss worship, art and business separately, then I’ll probably wrap up the series with a summary article for Part 7. Thanks for reading!

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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  1. JSR
    Reply July 11, 11:57 #1 JSR

    Enjoying this series.

  2. Scotty Searan
    Reply July 11, 12:06 #2 Scotty Searan

    The search for fame and fortune is not a new thing. But I believe this falls under this verse from the Bible. “The LOVE of money is the ROOT of all evil.” “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

    I realize the way the industry begin was a business venture. Then turn more to ministry as you mentioned in previous articles.

    David, I play a guitar and I also sing. Ever since I have been old enough to play and sing, I have been playing in a church band or singing with local groups. I enjoy singing. I have had some opportunities to try to sing professional. Bill Shiver and I sung some together in a church band back in the mid 90’s.

    But I chose to be with my family and be in the local church. But being on the church musical staff can have it’s drawbacks.

    I go to Full Gospel churches and we worship the old fashion way. When you go to church you never know what is going to happen, because the Holy Ghost may rearrange the service for you. We still believe in going and kneeling down at the altar and talking with God. There is something different about kneeling at the altar and if you have a problem going on in your life, having a saint of God come over to you and start interceding to God on your behalf. We still have people praying in the altar a lot of time for about an hour.

    Now going back to drawbacks. There are a lot of times when singers will be singing when they should be praying. There are times when the singers need others to intercede with you. The devil attacks all of us. And all of us need help with the attacks at some time or other.

    What I’ve also seen a lot of times is that when groups come to a church, the whole services are given to them. They don’t get ministered to. All of us need to here the gospel in church with a body of believers. I do hold the groups in high esteem who will not sing. but will be in their church to be fed.

    I believe this is happening to with the pastors of the churches. That little old community church with 40 or 50 members is not enough. Mega Churches are what entice the preachers. They are searching for fame and fortune. Most preachers do not want to be a pastor of a church where they might have to have a secular job. I DO BELIEVE THAT A PASTOR SHOULD BE TAKEN CARE OF AND WELL TAKEN CARE OF WHEN POSSIBLE.

    But we are seeing the time now, when the Mega Church pastors when not call a lifestyle sin. They are not willing to take a stand. They are hirelings.

    There is something else lacking in churches now days. That is Evangelist. Revivals are a thing of the past. I remember when Preachers traveled fulltime on the evangelistic field. I remember when I was a child that our pastor would not schedule a revival for less than 2 weeks. Now we say we have a revival if we have 2 services on Sunday. And the speakers are Pastors of other churches, but no evangelists.

    So you see why our avenues for singing have changed. It is because of our change in spirituality.

    The Thorns have killed us.

    Mark 4:18-20 (KJV)

    18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

    19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

    20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

  3. yankeegospelgirl
    Reply July 12, 20:08 #3 yankeegospelgirl

    The funny thing is that “fame” by southern gospel standards doesn’t really equal “fame” period, anyway.

    • David Bruce Murray
      Reply July 12, 22:07 David Bruce Murray Author

      It depends on the size of the pond you’re measuring. There are certain goals that some groups set out to achieve and tend to think they’ve “made it” in the industry if they meet those goals. Sadly, as you’ve said, merely meeting those goals of “fame” in this relatively small pond does not mean they can put food on their table if they depend solely on a singing career.

      I would contend that Southern Gospel has only ever had one person who reached true “star” status. That was J D Sumner, and even that only came about because Elvis Presley was such a huge fan and took J D on tour. You could say some of the other groups collectively that had that exposure with Elvis were also stars, but J D would be the only individual star.

      A distant second would be Bill Gaither, but Gaither achieved his fame by surrounding himself with an entourage of people who could sing better than he could.

  4. Scotty Ray Searan
    Reply July 12, 21:26 #4 Scotty Ray Searan

    Even though it may not equal secular fame. It is still a source of pride, if that is what you are seeking, which could fall under the pride of life which is sinful

  5. yankeegospelgirl
    Reply July 14, 09:17 #5 yankeegospelgirl

    Right. Funny story about Bill Gaither: When he invited popular Christian journalist and author Lee Strobel to partner with him at a big event, Strobel had no idea who Bill was since he was an adult convert. Bill invited Strobel to his house for a meal, and eventually Strobel asked, “So…. what do you do? You sing, right?” Bill was playing with his grandkids and modestly answered, “Yeah, I sing.”

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