Worship, Art & Business, Part 4

Worship, Art & Business, Part 4

Business: Count The Cost

In Luke 14:28-30, Jesus asks a pertinent question:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?

In the verses preceding 28, He explains the sacrifices a person must make to follow Him.

In Southern Gospel music, some individuals and groups have understood that business is a necessary part of the equation if it is to truly be their life’s work. Others see any discussion of business as a “lack of faith.”

In Part 3 of this series, I mentioned that while some degree of fame is naturally going to come as a result of being on a stage, it should never be the motivation. I would contend that making a living is a worthy motivation, however, if a group counts the cost.

Singing Gospel music certainly takes faith. Depending on singing as your primary source of income also takes a measure of common business sense. When your business model is to routinely travel with several other people for hundreds of miles each week, pre-defined expenses like fuel, food and shelter become obvious rather quickly. Plus, there are ongoing expenses like maintaining a vehicle, sound equipment and so forth. If a group doesn’t keep a rainy day fund for maintenance, they’re going to fizzle out quickly.

These are the areas where a group must count the cost. (Being full-time singers and not part-time singers can also positively affect the overall artistic quality, for reasons I’ll describe in Part 5.)

I’d like to close by touching on the faith vs. business mindset that persists in the Southern Gospel industry. Faith is for the intangibles and the unforeseeable. It is the “evidence of things not seen.” A group can count the cost of what it takes to get from point A to point B all day long, but there will always be unexpected details that will upset those plans from time to time. Faith is what keeps a person, and by extension, a group going at those moments.

Concert promoters who expect full-time groups to come hundreds of miles for a love offering and then question the group’s faith if they refuse to work under those terms have a rather skewed definition of faith.

They ask, “Where is the group’s faith?”

If that is the mindset, shouldn’t it apply equally in both directions. Where is the promoter’s faith? The group already knows based on experience how much it costs. In almost every case, it’s more an issue of the promoter expecting a group to take all the risks than a group demanding more than they’re “worth.”

From what I’ve observed, the Southern Gospel industry is not one where many groups can expect to truly be full-time. It is no secret that many members of the groups we view as full-time have other jobs on the side. Some work in related fields producing music for other groups, singing in a studio, doing photography, graphics, etc. Others have a totally separate career. Now more than ever, it’s important for anyone considering a career in Southern Gospel music to count the cost. The desire to perform music for a living is worthy, but the opportunities for a person to support themselves exclusively by singing Southern Gospel music may be dwindling.

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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. Reply July 15, 00:32 #1 Scotty Searan

    There are a lot of ways could address this issue. Permit me to share one.

    Singers for worship was part of the Levites duties in the Old Testament.


    But in the New Testament I have not been able where Singers, perse is a ministry.

    Take a look at this scriptures.

    Ephesians 4:11-12

    11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

    12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

    1 Corinthians 12:28

    28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

    Could singers fall into any of these ministries? I think so. In my opinion I feel like singers could be called and Evangelist or Helps.

    I think we would all agree that singers offer Help to the ministry of the church.

    But let’s talk about Evangelists.

    Down through the history of Christianity evangelists have been thought to involve preaching and building churches.

    I am of the Full Gospel persuasion. I do believe the ministries and all of the gifts of the Spirit should be operating in the Church.

    What I have noticed, there are not many full or part time Evangelists anymore. If there is a reivial anymore it is usually a Pastor from another church and they swapped out services. But they are not a fulltime evangelist.

    My Father was an Evangelist and he also worked a secular job. He was a painter and wallcovering hanger. He was self employed. My father’s ministry came first. My father never told a church that he would have to have a certain amount to come to minister. Our family sang also.and we played instruments and had a PA system. Never did we set a fee.

    Now the greatest apostle to the Gentiles, Paul woorked making tents. He did not want to be a burden to the peple.

    Acts 18:2-4

    2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

    3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

    4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

    1 Corinthians 9:17-19

    17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

    18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

    19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

    1 Corinthians 9:14

    14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

    Why are they not more Full or Part Evangelists? We have starved them out. The above verse siad they should live of Gospel and that includes being taken care of. Here’s another interesting verse.

    1 Timothy 5:17 Amplified Bible

    17 Let the elders who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly worthy of honor [and of adequate [a]financial support], especially those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching.

    This said me should do double (what the average peson makes or needs) for those who LABOUR faithfully.

    Some want to say you need a little preaching every time you have a group come to your church. I feel singing isa form of ministry.

    Colossians 3:16
    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

    Well you see what the scripture say.

    I feel that singers are Evangelists and they can be teachers, or have the gift of helps.

    A Singer should be paid well. Like your Pastor should be well.

    I do not believe in setting a fee to churches. I also don’t like churches charging an admission fee. Now when the singere appears in a concert event out of the church, they have a right to charge a fee.

    This was a long reply.

    Thanks for bearing with me.

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