The transactional gospel

Apropos our meandering conversation of late about ministry/monestry, Kenny Bishop wonders about the hidden costs of putting a price on Christian music (h/t, CC):

Even back when our group was enjoying great success I’d ask myself from time to time if we were selling something that should be given away. Were the folks who managed our datebook really pimps?


Maybe there was something underneath everything that I wasn’t aware of back then. Maybe our music, our performances and our presence was the product. Maybe it wasn’t the message we were selling after all. If that’s the case I feel relieved. Maybe everyone else understood it but me. Maybe I’m telling on myself for saying I really believed we were offering sacred, eternal things only to people who could afford it.

I hope people don’t fixate on the booking agents as pimps analogy because if you strip away all the meditative hem-hawing, Bishop is really offering a fairly interesting critique of commercial forms of Christian artistic expression and the side effects of a transactional gospel. The whole entry is here.

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  1. Eric Kaunitz wrote:

    Kenny has a right to earn a living as much as anyone does. While I might disagree with him, I have a great respect for a minister who feels this way about his ministry. He’s a very humble man. The problem comes when concert goers have a problem with an artist making a living.

  2. 1 old fan wrote:

    There are some denominational traditions that say pastors should not be paid for preaching. And I suppose that would be ok if the person were working a regular job, and not expected to do hospital visits, councelling, etc, that many pastors do. Or run the multi-million dollar business of a mega-church.

    The same might be said for music ministry, if all “song leaders” and gospel singers were weekend warriors, and had full-time jobs to pay the bills.

    But when the work of a pastor, music minister, gospel singer, whatever, becomes the full-time job (ie takes more of the person’s time than must weekends and occaisional weeknight close to home) the person still has to feed their kids, pay the mortgage, utilities, car payment, fuel bills, et al.

    Now, if the pastor or singer (or whomever) is getting RICH (most aren’t, except a few televangelists) at the expense of widows who can’t decide whether to buy groceries or meds this week, then that’s another subject.

    And it will probably be addressed on judgement day.

    I can’t think of any Christian singers who would fall into that category, but I can see folks like Kenny wanting to be sure they’re doing right by the Lord. I’m glad to see some are thinking about it.

  3. Bubba wrote:

    I had way more trouble with Kenny living a double life (dishonesty),than with him earning an “honest living” from performing gospel music.

    Pontificate on that one Kenny, while you moralize on singing gospel music for a living!

    Eric, you call Kenny “a very humble man”. Kenny called himself a “ham”. Seems to me a humble ham would be a misnomer.

  4. Robert wrote:

    I really don’t get a lot of what Kenny is saying. Some of you may say it is a lack of intelligence. Maybe it is? Most likely I think it is because Kenny is a very complicated individual. One thing I did get from his comments is the statement, “Maybe our music, our performances and our presence was the product. Maybe it wasn’t the message we were selling after all…Maybe everyone else understood it but me”. By saying this I believe Kenny, without knowing, told us the root cause of the reason there is no more Bishops.

  5. Leebob wrote:

    “Selling the message”…long pause…never thought of that as a possibility I guess.

    #3 Bubba, please don’t let this one go down that road. (Quick, everybody toss their skeletons in the middle of the room) It shows more bitterness than intelligence on your part. When any of us have dealt with issues in our life it is always so wonderful to watch the brotherhood of believers back up the bus to yesteryear and kerthump again. Jerry Falwell was right when he said that Christians were the only ones to shoot their wounded. **sigh**

    I guess I always viewed our product as a means to finance our ministry, bring a smile to a face, or cure road rage (yes we were told this once). One of the things that always impressed me about the Booth Brothers was their statement that if someone didn’t have the money and wanted a cd that they would give it to them. Then I went to the table to see if they meant it and watched them actually do it. We watched, learned from their example, and continue that practice ourselves. Thanks guys for your example.

    Selling a message as opposed to purchasing an opportunity to witness to someone because you opened your wallet to the tune of .38 cents. Amazing but true, that 38 cents was the best investment of the year because of the rock hard heart that was opened to the gospel. As I have reflected on that meeting since Sunday, it has made a deep impression on me about our ministry. Not our music, not our testimony, nor the message of the song changed that life, just simple compassion. I am hoping all sg groups practice giving the three things that my pastor encourages us to do at church: give people a good look, a good touch, and a good word.

  6. JW wrote:

    “Jerry Falwell was right when he said that Christians were the only ones to shoot their wounded. ”

    That has to be one of the most overused and misused phrases of the last 20 years. You can twist that to justify anything.

    Actually, this brings up a huge conflict as I was reading other of his blog entries. I recognize the true need for compassion for our hurting and fallen.

    But, sometimes reading comments from the Michael Englishes, Kenny Bishops, and the Kirk Talleys types, I just get this feeling that the “broken and you better support me else YOU have a problem” so called confessions is a sort of arm twisting that actually ends up pointing the finger at everyone else. He mentioned Kirk Talley and how only people who have been “honestly broken” (huh?) can really understand.

    Yep, I know many are going to label this with the dreaded judgemental cliche and I can take it, but I just am slightly put off by what I feel are these shell game tactics intended to shift the burden to others.

    No, I’m far from perfect, but sometimes reading things like this, eh, why would anyone really, truly try to apply Christian principles to all of their life? I surely make mistakes and haven’t gotten as far, but I’m trying to apply what The Bible says to every aspect to my life. Why should people really bother to try to follow Christ when we are breaking our arms to sympathize more and offer comfort to the ones who make the biggest public messes? It just seems like we have a real imbalance here to me.

    I think my new phrase is, “Christians are the only ones who shoot their true adherents these days.”

    I can imagine Samuel standing before David in 2008 after his adultery. What a jerk, not “understanding” a “broken” David and shooting the wounding.

    “I am hoping all sg groups practice giving the three things that my pastor encourages us to do at church: give people a good look, a good touch, and a good word.”

    True. But, and I’ll include myself, how about good truth in a loving way? I think we should all quit reading The Bible and just follow Oprah.

  7. Charles Brady wrote:

    I understand completely what Kenny is talking about.

    There are even a few concert promoters (those who view their concerts more as ministry) and a few artists (those who view their work more as ministry) who wrestle with the charging of a ticket price for admission to an event that is billed as a “gospel” music event.

    Everyone understands the concept of having to pay the bills & that without the income the “ministry” opportunities would cease. And yet there is something about having to look at a blue-collar worker who has been laid off from his job and is looking for a glimmer of hope or a moment of escape from his troubles that he & his young family can’t come in and hear the message of the gospel in song without 80 dollars worth of tickets. I know exactly what he’s talking about!

    I well remember almost 30 years ago going to a high school to hear a concert with a young wife and very little money only to learn that I didn’t have enough to “get in.” I also well remember as I walked toward the door to leave with my young wife a gentleman tapping me on the shoulder and handing me 2 “extra tickets” he just happened to have. Maybe I just looked like I needed to be there or maybe the Lord just provided the way. In either case, Rosie and I were able to enjoy a concert that had a huge impact on our lives that night.

    So yea, you can come up with all types of theory and rhetoric and jaded justifications that make your case that they must pay in order to hear. But the fact is that there are many who simply can’t afford the price of admission to hear the songs “given by the Lord” and sang by artist’s who claim the “calling of the Lord to go and tell” (Or in the case of entertainment maybe it’s “go and sell”). At any rate what Kenny is talking about is a real issue for those “called” to share the gospel.

    The younger generation has actually already figured it out which is why many of them are singing in ball fields and shopping malls and other places without ticket stalls.

    One day churches will also have to wrestle with the same issues. I mean do you really take all the money brought into the storehouse to build bigger and bigger storehouses that will one day be destroyed and ignore the suffering and needs of mankind (even the suffering of those within your own storehouse?) If we were to sincerely pray and genuinely seek God’s will we might be surprised at how unimpressed the God of creation is with our manmade monuments to ourselves and the shrines we often build (and buy) for ourselves that we pass off as “ministry necessities”.

    Now I know that many of you don’t care much for the use of scripture in your discussions but since this is a discussion that involves the struggle and the question of charging “a price” …

    Isaiah 55:1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

    Romans 8:32
    He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

    So what is the answer?? Like Kenny I too struggle with the answer as do many who realize there is more to this than just simple answers.

  8. Jason Miller wrote:

    JW–your parallel between Samuel/David and Kenny Bishop, et al, doesn’t work. David had not repented of his sin when Samuel came to him. Kenny Bishop has repented.

    It is not shooting the wounded when one confronts the unrepentant sin, but it is when one refuses to accept the repentant brother/sister.

  9. Bubba wrote:

    So what is the answer??

    1Tim. 5:18
    For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

    LOL You started it! Quoting Scripture that is.

  10. gina wrote:

    Well, looks like Mr. Bishop has heard about this discussion. Of course he will refuse to read it…

  11. Wade wrote:

    JW… its ppl like you that give Christians a bad name. You would probably be the one holding the gun to some ones head forcing a confession and then shoot them any way. From what I have found over the years is the ppl that are the most judgmental usually have hidden sin that if made public would destroy them.

    The only one we have to answer to is the Good God Almighty on judgment day. Thank God it won’t be you.

    UNBELIEVABLE!!!! If you only REALLY KNEW!!!

  12. Neil Enloe wrote:

    I have great respect for those who will periodically examine their own motivations before God. I’ve only seen Kenny a couple of times and have no way of knowing his heart, but he is on the right track in asking himself the hard questions about his purpose for being in the ministry of music.

    Kenny’s openness is much appreciated by me, for I know it will lead him to speak the truth as he sees it. Otherwise, he will tell himself that he is the issue rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I would far rather have Kenny’s perspective at Judgment Day when our real motives are revealed, than to have sung a lifetime thinking this was all about me.

  13. JW wrote:

    Well, Wade #7, well, isn’t it pretty much impossible not to be judgemental? I could claiim you are being judgemental towards me, too.

    To me we are just so out of balance in knocking over each other to prove how tolerant we are these days.

    Eh, if I give you more tolerant than thou Christians a “bad name”, well, too bad. Frankly, people like Oprah are doing the “you’re ok and everybody else is ok” thing better than any church these days, so I doubt they will be paying much attention to me.

  14. Leebob wrote:

    From the book of Galatians 6:
    1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.

    I have often found it inspiring to watch the spiritual elite with astounding judgement in a situation that they had little to nothing to do with, especially as it is an instance that is now approaching decade old news. Is Kenny returning to his roots and maybe regretting some earlier life choices? Perhaps but I don’t know and neither do you JW. God obviously hasn’t taken him home yet so maybe this is an avenue that God will begin to use him again. If there is a brokenness, which nobody knows for sure but Kenny, then God will still use him if in a less fashion than what was originally intended.

    I am amazed sometimes when I have an attitude that is not Christ-like and God still manages to use me because He is more interested in the person He is reaching at that moment than with my problem. He returns later to deal with the messenger, trust me on this I know.

    I choose not to “judge” the motives of their heart upon their return as I feel that God will do an adequate job at the finish line. If they are doing what God has for them to do then let them do it because you are not going to stop it. If they are not truly repentant that will come out in the end as well and it can do so without you muddying yourself in the process.

  15. thom wrote:

    TO #5 ….”Amazing but true, that 38 cents was the best investment of the year because of the rock hard heart that was opened to the gospel………….?”


    tell us the story.

  16. thom wrote:

    TO #5 ….”Amazing but true, that 38 cents was the best investment of the year because of the rock hard heart that was opened to the gospel………….?”


    tell us the story.,,

  17. Joe wrote:


    I must admit that I enjoyed your first post in this thread more than most I have read here over many months.

    You’ve got it. Spot on, you have it.

    The most often-used and mis-quoted Scripture I have seen used on this board, is “Judge not”. It totally amazes me how many professing Christians have bought into the thinking of the world, and are mis-using Scripture to promote it.

    The whole verse states “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you pronounce, you will be judged…” (Mt. 7:1-2).

    Jesus is NOT telling us not to judge. Far from it. What He is telling us, is to not be hypocrites. The reasoning of the world is this:”if I don’t judge anyone else, then I won’t get judged either. So I’ll leave you alone; and you can leave me alone”.

    That leads to how the book of the Judges ended. “Every man did that which was right in their own eyes.”

    A scant 4 verses later, Jesus commands us not to give what is holy to dogs, and not to cast pearls before swine. How are we to know what is “holy”, and what are “pearls”, if we are not to judge? And how are we to be able to discern who is and who isn’t “dogs” and “swine” if we don’t judge?

    Jesus also commanded us to “judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) Paul commanded us to choose anyone in the church to judge others in the church, in matters legal to moral, and not let them end up in the courts of unbelievers. A few verses later, he mentions a list of the very sins we are to be judgmental about.

    You are so right. It would seem that more professing Christians know Oprah better than they know the Word if God.

  18. Wade wrote:

    Joe & JW… just make SURE you TOTALLY live it!!! I mean TOTALLY !!! Don’t be cherry picking your sins thats OK for you. If you take it another way… it is saying you better be a pearly to judge a pearl. Oh… then there is that story about the woman @ the well where that those without SIN cast the first stone. Well Jesus was pretty pearly and even he did not cast one. So I guess that to mean Joe & JW are better than Jesus!!! Y’all are the type that will go start a church when there are already 300 in your own town… but none of them are good enough for you!!! I am smelling swine from your direction.

  19. Joe wrote:

    Uh, Wade….

    You’ve been watching too much Oprah. You totally mixed up 2 different events; one in John 4, the other in John 8.

    The woman at the well had blitzed through 5 husbands, and was living in sin with a 6th man not her husband. Jesus precisely called her on it, then forgave her sin and gave her living water. Such was the testimony of her immediately and radically changed life, many of her townspeople and neighbors believed on the Messiah with her.

    To the woman “caught” in adultery, the phrase “him that is without sin” was said bluntly by the Lord to the Sanhedrin- a group of self-righteous hypocrites, NONE of whom was saved. They had probably set up the entire scenario (where was the man?), simply as a ruse to try to trip up Jesus.

    What everyone, including yourself, forgets about this story, is that Jesus ends it with a firm command “Go, and sin no more…” He judged what she had done as sin. Then He told her to never repeat it.

    The changed lives of these two women that you confused as one, would confirm that the true believer, as JW so eloquently said, MUST “apply the Bible to every aspect” of life.

    To do any less, fails HIM.

    As far as “totally living it”, we all fail. After all, we are all humans. But that does NOT lessen God’s command, repeated numerous times in both testaments:

    “Be ye holy, for I AM holy.”

  20. JW wrote:

    Thanks, Joe #17.

    Actually, I thought I had said my peace and was content to let it die, but, eh, I’ll add just a bit more.

    First of all, anything I said was not at all a personal attack against Kenny Bishop or anyone else for that matter. I don’t know him personally, and I’m sure he’s a nice guy.

    What I was talking about is not just something I could sum up very easily and I was surprised my OP was as long as it was. I totally believe in forgiveness, restoring anyone who has fallen or had problems, and love for our brothers.

    But, I feel too many of us have been intimidated into this position that we can’t speak up about the truth, lest we are being “judgemental” and such.

    Not to mention, it seems many of us have fallen into this trap that we want to go overboard showing everyone else how “nice” and compassionate we are that we have turned into enablers many times. I am amazed how the world is so much more smarter than Christians so often in this issue. Most businesses are much smarter, slowly bringing back problem employees, which I think is much more loving and compassionate most of the time. Too many of us Christians, if we have someone caught in a DUI, we are ready to nominate them for President of MADD after an apology in order to show how nice we are.

    As for you, Wade, you seem to want to make it personal. So be it. I do wonder what we Christians would actually stand up for these days reading yours and some “Thou shalt not judge” posts. Just about anything you say or do is some kind of a judgement.

    Speaking of not judging and giving Christians a “bad name”, most non Christians I know actually think you guys are the bad ones because they think you are dupes who will believe anything without questioning and judging what you profess.

    Oh, and sorry Avery/Doug, for hijacking the thread.

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