Saints and Sinners

I just bought the Bellsburg Project, featuring the songs of Rich Mullins. It is beautiful. I’m a fan of Rich Mullins, and Andrew Peterson is part of this project – so there was no way I wasn’t all-in. But as I was listening, I wanted to know more about some of the other artists involved.

I remember having a coffee with one of the musicians on this project a few years ago, and as we talked the conversation naturally veered to the vision of Dragonwood. (I won’t name-drop, and I will keep the gender neutral as I write.) That person shared that Dragonwood might be a place where, once developed, Christian artists might come and receive doctrinal training. As this person understood the role accepted by those behind the microphone. It was clear from his/ her perspective that Christian Musicians are, at their core, short-term missionaries – and they are not equipped.

It was explained that Christian musicians are trained in music, yet they are not trained in doctrine, theology or even the main tenants of the faith. It was shared (it sure is difficult to keep a person’s gender out of a sentence), that musicians love the performance, and appreciate those who come to hear their songs. They value the interactions after concerts, and during those times will frequently hear gut-wrenching stories. As such, Christian musicians become short-term pastors – and they are not equipped. They need to be.

I was reminded about Paul, and his very clear warning to not place new believers into positions of responsibility within the church, as they may become full of themselves; self-delusional and self-important. 1 Timothy 3:6 (LSB) – "...and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the devil."

As musicians find a following, record more and more songs, and have an industry throw their financial backing behind their name – they need to be mature in their faith as they are in a position of spiritual leadership. They have been warned; they are in danger.

I haven’t researched all the names of those who performed on the Bellsburg Project, but some of them have succumbed:  Audrey Assad deconstructed her faith, and Kevin Max has also apostatized. Derek Webb is a hot mess, having affairs while proclaiming the name of Jesus, and Jason Gray has proudly shared about how he had been following Richard Rohr. All of this saddens me.

I’m not looking for perfection from the artists I enjoy; we are all sinners. It’s just that our only hope is in Christ, and these people, by singing the songs of Rich Mullins, know the TRUTH that can transform us into saints. Repentance is the key to that very faith. Any person who claims the name of Christ without having repented is first deluding themselves, and second misrepresenting Jesus. Jesus Himself calls us to repentance even before He calls us to believe.

Mark 1:14-15 (LSB) – Now after John had been delivered up into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

It could be understood that, “repent and believe” simply go hand-in-glove, and not one before the other. Either way, repentance is the key to belief.  There is evidence that follows when faith leads. Jesus Himself described it in Matthew 7:24-25 (LSB) – “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew and fell against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.”

Maybe Dragonwood will eventually be used to train such musically gifted short-term missionaries. Yet no matter how God wants to use this land, or me, He will guard it for His purposes – as He guards me. The outcome is not up to me, but daily obedience is. It is my prayer that my faith endures to the end, and that I be kept safe in Him.

The lyrics to Rich Mullins’ ‘new’ song, Holy Pretenders, is a fitting conclusion:

Down here at the bar, talking politics, everybody’s got the inside angle.

You think you know so well about how the world could be fixed;

it’s just your own life’s problems that you can’t handle.

And no one can hear you crying; no one can see your pain.

You keep it all inside, so let on in and feel with the game

That you play with those saints and sinners; no one knows who’s who.

Everybody’s got secrets to keep. Holy pretenders been trying to fill God’s shoes,

when they haven’t got the right sized-feet.

Up in the churches with the bishops and all, preaching in the name of Jesus.

Just show yourself interested in the god of spiritual talk, and keeping your clientele prestigious.

And no one can see you shaking. You’re too proud to let it out,

like God would ever forsake you if you ever confessed your doubt.

You’re one of them saints and sinners. No one knows who’s who.

Everybody’s got secrets to keep. Holy pretenders been trying to fill God’s shoes,

and haven’t got the right sized-feet.

I know I’m one of us too. I worked out my own game-plan.

I’m frozen with fear like you. Oh Lord won’t You hold me me in one of Your hands.

Us saints and sinners with nothing but pain to lose.

We’ve given up all the secrets we keep. All of us holy pretenders, we could never fill your shoes.

Help us, Lord, to follow in your footsteps. Help us, Lord, to follow in your footsteps.