Asu Ekiye : WHY GOSPEL MUSICIANS CHARGE MONEY TO SING FOR GOD
The issue of Gospel Musicians/ Music Ministers making financial demands to sing in churches or to sing for God so to speak, has been a very sensitive topic in the hearts, minds and lips of several people both in and out of the Church for many years now. It has not just been an object of debate, but has also attracted unfathomable excoriation and sometimes outright disdain from those who feel the act stems from an opportunistic slant and a debased form of mercantile methods to ask to be paid as a Gospel Singer.
I was once invited by a government agency years back and I asked them to pay me the sum of three (3) million naira (only) to perform, mark the word I used, “perform” and the head of the agency who is a deacon in a popular Pentecostal church asked me a very shocking question that still bothers me till date. He said, “Three million naira??? To sing for a God who gave you this gift free of charge?”
I quickly interjected and said, “Sir!! The gift God gave to me is a talent and there is rejoicing in heaven that I am not just using the talent, but God is so pleased that I am sustaining my life by it, which was part of the agenda for the talent in the first place! I am adding value to the Body of Christ by tithing, giving seed faith offerings and support to the underprivileged through the use of this talent. So in essence, asking you to pay an amount that is easily affordable to you, gives me the privilege of using my talent to fulfil a divine mandate. “
James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin. “
I started my calling in Music Ministry as the Music Director in a church in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. Throughout my foundational time, which spanned a dedicated period of ten years in Port Harcourt, I never demanded for money as a preconditions for service. I served with all my heart without any disputation for financial rewards. Sometimes, I was used by men, and knowingly agreed to be used because I believed and still believe that every service on the altar is synonymous to service to divinity which ultimately culminates in divine recompense.
Even to this day, there are many churches that really need help, and as The Lord provides the opportunity, I still minister in such churches without demanding for a fee because I realize that they need more help than I do.
Nonetheless, when I know that the church has financial capacities, I approach them with the benefit of this knowledge.
Dr. Panam Percy Paul once said: “Humility is when people who ordinarily cannot reach you are able to access you.”
So when I speak today, I speak from the standpoint of service which is my foundation. The bible says that it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful (I cor 4:2).
However, it has become necessary to clear the errors and indoctrinations which are either products of ignorance or some form of deliberate mischief aimed at putting others under the jackboot of slavery, ungodly subjugation and the tyranny of reprobate fatherhood.
Now let me make this point very clear here. The submissions I am about to make are not impeccable responses to the questions of Gospel Musicians and money.
They are just a glimpse of the revelations I have had, coupled with the experiences from my ministerial interactions and information gathered from the scripture.
So if you do not agree with this article, please do not cast aspersions on the author, rather present your superior scriptural reasoning for thinking differently. Anything otherwise will be responded to in similar fashion, so be properly guided.
THE PROBONO MUSIC MINISTER:
I have a few colleagues who say they do not demand for money to keep a singing appointment. They get invited and they ask the church or organization to give them anything. I have no condemnation for such people. Actually, I admire them. I think they have such a grace that is absolutely commendable.
However, if you have suffered in the hands of the inconsiderate opportunists, those I fondly call the “Shylockist patronizers” it would be absurd to go to a place with a crew of ten (10) Musicians or more without knowing if the proceeds from your labour of performance and ministration are able to satisfy the logistic and overhead obligations/ responsibilities of your ministerial assignment.
ONE EXPERIENCE TOO MANY:
Dr. Panam Percy Paul, Chairman of the board of FOGMMON, who has been a Music Minister in Nigeria for over 40years, once narrated a very sordid and regrettable tale of how he was invited to a church to minister and on accepting the invitation, traveled with his full crew. After a wonderful ministration that was a blessing to the entire congregation, the money given to them in the form of an honorarium was not even enough to transport the crew back to their base! They had to canvass for funds from private sources to leave the city where they came to be a blessing. This is heart wrenching!! what a grave debasement!
What a deviation from biblical norm! What arrant provocation!
Even the bible, which is our constitution, speaks expressly on taking care of strangers not to talk of those who have come to labour on the altar.
“Thou shall not muzzle the horse that treadeth out the corn. The labourer is worthy of his reward.” (1Timothy 5:18)
“He that watereth shall be watered.” (Prov 11:25)
“Thou shall not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him. The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with him all night until morning.” (Lev 19:13)
These and many other scriptures are available for a guide which we ignore deliberately.
MAKING A CASE FOR VOLUNTEERS MUSIC MINISTERS:
At this point, let me establish a dichotomy between those who have secular jobs but have volunteered to serve God with their musical gift as an offering to God, like choir members and instrumentalist, from those who are full time Musicians. This write up does not refer to the former.
This thesis specifically concerns those whose life’s work is to sing and play music for God which is the blueprint set out in the points made below. So if you have a talent and you want to volunteer to serve God and work in a church with your talent, that is very commendable and God delights in your sacrifice.
It was Quincy Jones who said: “When Musicians make music only for money, God walks out of the room.”
Permit me to add that this same God also walks out of the room when those who enjoy the music deny the Musicians of the reward that comes from the exhibition and manifestation of such talents and callings.
Now, here is the deal. There are scriptural, moral and professional reasons why Gospel Artistes/Music Ministers should be well paid and taken care of and where they (the singers) cannot guarantee the graciousness of the host to fulfil their divine responsibility in terms of emolument, then they could place a price tag on their service. This should never be an object of dispute. Although I am careful to advise that there should be a clear definition of a proper manner, modus or pattern of collecting or receiving their monies from the churches. The important thing is that there is an exchange indicating appreciation.
The first reason why music ministers should demand for a fee subject to the the above reason is:
IT IS THE WILL OF GOD:
From the foundation of God’s spiritual order, we see in Numbers chapter 2 and 3, how Aaron was separated for the work of the Priesthood. God specified the blue print, indicating the welfare system of the Priesthood and special privileges to be accorded to the Levites who served in the temple, and you know that the Levites, which included the Singers, were a very vital part of the Priesthood.
In Numbers 18:20, God began to elaborate to Aaron what privileges should be accorded to the Levites. He said they were dedicated to Him and that they should do no work but the work of the altar. Their inheritance was to be the offerings, tithes and sacrifices of the altar (Numbers 18:23-24).
One of their special rights included the right to eat and enjoy from the food that was offered in the tabernacle as sacrifices and offerings . (Num18:31).
So we see here that the original plan of God for Musicians was for them to be full time, singing, playing and be catered for by the altar.
1chronicles 16:37 says, “So he left there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD Asaph and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day’s work required.”
Remember Asaph was one of the tribes of the Levitical band in charge of music and the instruction was that they should be sustained by the offerings given in the tabernacle.
The order of God from the beginning was that Musicians and the entire Levitical Priesthood should serve Him full time as every day’s work required. The word “every day’s work” indicates that they were exclusively dedicated to that job. That implies that their food, shelter, clothing and convenience were taken care of by the altar. So when a Musician, divinely called by God, is forced to look for secular employment to feed himself/ herself, it taints the original divine standard.
God is sorely displeased when the Musician is hungry.
There is a level of glory that the Church of God in Nigeria may never experience until they learn to adequately provide for Musicians. Sounds ludicrous right? That’s how most serious things in the bible sound.
Let’s reflect on what transpired in 2chronicles 5:12.
Biblical standards suggest that after fulfilling the spiritual requirements of holiness and purity, and fine tuning the craft and musicianship for the move of God, the next requirement to strongly consider is welfare. We see plainly in scripture that because the old Priesthood upheld this divine order, the bible says the glory was so much that the Priest could not minister.
Most Pastors are quick to quote this scripture to back up their expectation of the Singers, without quoting the same scripture with mindset of the very robust and cutting edge welfare system that the Singers of old enjoyed.
Such glory that we see in the above scripture is a rarity in Africa not just because of the unpreparedness of the Levites or the consecration standards that they must meet, but also because of the averseness of the “Priests” of today, so to speak, in adhering to the divine concept of the welfare of the Levites, in order to achieve this level of glory and power.
We boast that the Church of Nigeria has really grown in leaps and bounds, and that I can confirm
is true. But is the Church really operating at full capacity? For instance, how is it that we cannot stop these marauding terrorists from killing Christians everywhere? And we say we are operating in power and at full capacity? Yes we have seen the sick healed and the dead raised to life again, but why are we not operating in the authority to bind this spirit of violence and destruction working through these herdsmen who are hunting The Church and are responsible for all the grave atrocities we see in our nation today?
I will address this issue squarely in another article.
OLD TESTAMENT VERSUS THE NEW TESTAMENT
Someone once challenged me and asked why I make reference to the Old Testament in my submissions on this topic. His argument was that we are no longer under the Old Testament. My response was simple. Our Priesthood transcends dispensations. Under the New Testament era in 1 Peter 2:9, the bible says that
“We are a Royal Priesthood… “
Our Priesthood has metamorphosed. We operate a better Priesthood which is under Jesus Christ, with a better covenant built on better promises (Heb 8:6). Please note the word “better”. This does not mean certain patterns or divine dispositions from the Old Testament are done away with, but are improved upon and fulfilled. So now is the time to fully begin to implement the divine sequence for the sustenance of the Priesthood for which the Singers are a major part.
Throughout the era of the Aaronic Priesthood to the age of the Prophets, this pattern was sustained until one Chief Priest named Eliashib decided to upturn this divine order.
THE FIRST RECORDED CLASH BETWEEN THE SINGERS AND THE PRIESTS IN THE BIBLE
Many have asked about the great antipathy that exists between modern day Pastors and Music Ministers. It may not be a popular reference but I have always referred my readers to this scripture as the genesis of this ongoing squabble between the very crucial players in the service of the altar.
Nehemiah 13:10. This scripture paints a very dismal picture of a scenario that was never meant to be mentioned in the house of God.
It is an account of a Priest named Eliashib who suddenly realized that the Musicians were “shining too much”. In my own paraphrase and reflections. I can just imagine the Priest thinking along these lines, “How can these Levites and Singers eat all the choice food of the temple? Who do they think they are?!” Now in a modern day setting, I figure the Priest would have wondered, “How can they (the singers)be placed in such a privileged position? Why should a Singer be seen on the same pedestal as others in the Priesthood? Imagine the applauds they get when they do their thing. Look at the glory we experience when they minister. A lot of the members of the congregation admire and now prefer them. The people respond to their Ministry more than mine, and now they share the glory that I should enjoy alone as the Set Man of the Assembly. Look at them with their “effizzy packaging”, strange haircuts and bling blings all over the place! ” look at them, carnal people! Do they even study the scriptures? “Yet they sing a little song and everywhere is aflame.”
Now that I’m sure you catch my drift, let’s come back to the Nehemiah scenario. In my thinking, the Priest must have thought of what to do in order to frustrate their influence and popularity, or was simply overtaken by cheer greed. Whatever the case, he withheld the choice “allowances” (as we would call it in our present day church setting) from the Levites and the Singers.
The Levites began to experience hunger and untold deprivation. Now that welfare had stopped, they needed to survive, so they abandoned the work and left to face their “hustles”.
When Nehemiah noticed this clear aberration, both in the conduct of the Priest and in the disarray that had befallen the ecclesiastical operations, evidenced in the disappearance of the Singers from the altar, he raised an alarm.
Hear him: Nem 13:10
” I perceive that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled everyone to his field. ” Literally, the house of God had been forsaken. Why? It was because the Chief Priest had upturned the standards. The Singers all ran away in protest.
The scripture says, ” They went everyone to his field. ” Where is the field in this case? A place to survive!
And that has been the case with the Church for for many years.
THE CONTEMPORARY REALITY:
Most of the great secular Musicians in our nation today are all products of the Church. Name them, Debanj, Duncan Mighty, Banky W, Flavour, Marvelous Benji, Waje, etc. They all left the Church, because the Church has a warped understanding of service, with reward for service a prevalent mystery.
When the people of the world see a talent, they brandish opportunities for advancement, self-development and empowerment, but when the people of God see a talent, they tell you “Come and serve God with your talent by joining the Church work force.” The sad part is that if someone better at what you do comes along, they forget you in a hurry and all the time and resources you have invested to build the work. They forget you and simply carry on with the new act.
Yes, we are excited about using our talent for God, but after that, what next?
Until we, and I mean the Church in general, change our mindset in regards to the managing of talents, we will continue to loose such treasures to the world.
My mission is to bring back our lost talents from the world.
POSSIBILITIES FOR THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA
If the Church of Nigeria is braced for such, we will take over the entertainment space. Who can stand the wealth and influence of the Church of Nigeria? After all, how much is even needed to organize a talent hunt like the Idols West Africa, Project Fame, Glo Naija Sings, the voice Nigeria, Big Brother Africa or Big brother Nigeria? It would interest you to note that these events are organized by secular outfits but the key participants are from the Church because the Church does not provide such platforms.
We condemn these programmes as worldly and describe them as a bad influence to our youth and we create no alternatives to them, because we have no understanding of the mystery of talent.
What does it take to buy cars or arrange attractive prizes and organize such competitions or contests that will encourage talented individuals in the Church?
As it stands, it has been confirmed though unofficially, that the Church of Nigeria is one of the richest Churches in the world. What prize can we not give? We have what it takes to seize the entertainment industry from the world!
Please do not misconstrue my main theme in this article. When I speak about the Church, I am not referring to a particular denomination. I have had some exhilarating and very encouraging experiences in my times of ministering in a lot of denominations in Nigeria. There are a lot of Pastors who understand the value of talent and have done terrifically well in acknowledging it. Some of the finest Pastors with an appreciation for gifting and talents live in Nigeria. Sadly the number is in the minority. In this article I speak in a holistic sense of this challenge.
Money is definitely not my driving force. I have ministered in churches that don’t have much but attached value to my gift.
A MESSAGE TO THE MUSIC MINISTERS:
To my colleagues, I dare say, that some of us have really messed up the entire trajectory of this issue of money and the welfare system in Ministry and have created a very negative impression that has adversely affected the Music Ministry.
For many of us, material benefit is our only appeal. You have not even proven your Ministry, but are constantly bombarding churches with your outrageous charges. You speak to fathers and elders without respect simply because you have one trending song on radio that will fade in two years. Your behavior leaves more to be desired of a Music Minister.
Let me say this here. In whatever way you look at it, men cannot resist impact. Our priority should be to impact the lives of the people we are privileged to minister to. Make impact your greatest quest in Ministry. There is no man who really makes impact that will not be honoured appropriately whether he requests for it or not. Sometimes, you are better off when you don’t demand for a fee. Till date, there are certain churches that I do not discuss money with before honouring their invitation to minister. This is because they have proven their appreciation of my Ministry.
I was invited to minister by a church one day and honoured the invitation without discussing money. When I was through, they blessed me with a cheque of a million naira! Honestly, I would not have charged that much if I had requested to be paid, and most sincerely, I have enjoyed such gestures and even better experiences in a few other places.
But for several other churches, I need to sign an agreement before appearing. I have received cheques from Bishops that bounced! These are men without the slightest modicum of integrity. When dealing with such Ministers, “shine your eye.” Balance is definitely the key here.
So, Fellow Levites, you have to be careful about placing a price tag on yourself. Some of you have priced yourself out of the business and the Ministry, even before your moment of full glory.
CULTURE OF DISRESPECT TO LOCAL MUSIC MINISTERS
However, in Nigeria we must resist this attitude of disrespect to our local Music Ministers. Some of our church leaders go abroad and invite the likes of Kirk Franklin, Donnie Mclurkin, Cece Winans and Don Moen, and treat them like kings. Do you know these foreign Artistes request for every privilege to even the kind of food they want? They fly business and first class, and their entire crew is flown from the USA, Europe or Australia into Nigeria. The most painful part is that these foreign Music Ministers request total payments up front, even before they leave their countries and our church leaders oblige them! They are not branded carnal, they are not tagged money minded, they are not despised for their insistence on full payment before honoring the invitation
Now just imagine this same church discussing with a Nigerian Artiste and what they are saying is, “Please come! Why are you talking about money? We want to give you a platform for your Ministry. Just bless the Lord with your gift and whatever we have we will give to you.”
That is arrant nonsense! Which platform? Now, I know that a lot of our local musicians need platforms. That will not be a bad idea for those seeking for recognition. But to say that to an established act here when you should be discussing the terms of engagement is highly disrespectful.
See!! God is the giver of platforms. Except your door is open spiritually no man’s effort really opens doors. Every physical success first begins in the realm of the spirit. You can give me the greatest of platforms to perform but you cannot give me the hearts of the people to love what I do and to be my fans.
Church leaders should desist from manipulating Music Ministers with such words. If you are a Gospel Musician in Nigeria and you are a member of FOGMMON and any church tells you this, please bring this to my notice.
I close with some profound advice for Music Ministers. You have no right, whatsoever, to complain if you accepted a performance/ engagement without discussing terms. Why should you complain that you were not well paid, when there was no contractual basis for the engagement?
Please discuss your terms properly and if possible, document your discussions.
I strongly believe you have learnt a thing or two to aid your walk in Ministry. We will continue this shortly.