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Podcast episode 21

James the Worship Composer - Christians Who Sell Jesus

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This series on "⁠⁠Christians Who Sell Jesus⁠⁠" takes profiles that represent real-world scenarios wherein well-meaning individuals are actively engaged in the Jesus trade, often unwittingly.
James is a worship leader. When he was single he wrote some of his best worship songs in the evenings while working at a bookstore to make ends meet. His heart’s passion is to serve the Church with Bible-saturated, God-centered, beautiful music that will point people to Christ. In the days of MySpace he was happy to post his songs for free for people to stream, and some of them started going viral. Eventually a Christian record label approached him and laid out a plan to turn his passion into a “career.” James trusted them because they seemed like sincere believers and were obviously “professionals” who had been in the worship business for decades. They convinced him that the best way to bless the most Christians with his music would be to join them and use his gifts to generate a full-time income.

Now James leads worship events for large conferences and usually charges an upfront fee of tens of thousands of dollars for each event. His songs are now sung in churches around the world and bring in a steady stream of income through royalties and CCLI. He’s happy that more people than he ever imagined are being touched by his music and encounter the presence of God. His recordings are no longer free to listen to, but every now and then he’ll release one at no cost to download, which makes him feel good that he has done his part to be generous.

James has been deceived by the “professionals” into believing that the worship of God can be sold as a commodity. He also has bought into the lie that reaching large numbers of people means that God must automatically approve of the way one is doing ministry. God must be happy and honored with the means, if the outcome is large. Unfortunately he has failed to take seriously the account of Jesus cleansing the temple because the place of worship and prayer had been turned into a marketplace. If James is honest with himself, he remembers being happier before he turned his passion into a full time career that denies people access to his music unless they pay. Although his former way of life proved that he could write amazing songs for the Church without treating it as a full time business, he now tries to convince himself that it’s the only way for him to make it “sustainable.” He has already signed contracts and feels trapped in a corporate landscape that feels nothing like a real ministry. But everyone he respects is doing the same thing, and older, wiser Christians assure him that he’s doing what’s sensible, and that God is using him powerfully. And so, in his heart, the lie that the Jesus trade is respectable and inevitable has prevailed.

Ending song by Andrew Case, freely given here.

Intro music: "Amazing" by Liborio Conti,