SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE IN ENTERTAINMENT?
A young professionally-trained dancer, who serves in my church, came to me with a concern. He was asked to dance in the music video of a poular secular Nigerian artist and was wondering if it would affect his Christian testimony or the reputation of our church.
I was thrilled that he gave me the opportunity to discuss this very important topic which majorly affects the future and direction of his craft. I believe that he is not alone in this quest for understanding the relationship between being an entertainer and also being a Christian.
Entertainment is “a form of activity that holds the attention or interest of an audience or an activity that gives pleasure and delight.”1
Mainstream entertainment is filled with performers such as Denzel Washington and Basket Mouth (pictured below) who have maintained their Christian faith and climbed to the very top of their fields.
Like all vocations, every expression in entertainment has its own standards to uphold in order to remain relevant and to catch the attention of the end user. A professional performer demands an extreme amount of discipline in the performance of their art.
For a Christian performer there is a need for core values which help determine what will or will not be done. The best guide for our conscience and standards is found in having a genuine relationship with Christ Jesus. When a performer is requested to function in theatre, music, modelling or dance, it is necessary to consider what the “role” is trying to convey. Some roles can demand that a performer engage in activity that cannot be defended by a believer in the Gospel. Performers are required –for the duration of their act- to portray a character whose actions are many times the complete opposite of the entertainer playing the role. In my opinion, a Christian entertainer should not be a part of delivering a message to the world that opposes the Christian faith.
There is an unfortunate bias in some circles against Christians pursuing a career in entertainment. This is enforced by the stories and pictures that show some entertainers living carefree lives and the popular belief that anything in entertainment is of the devil and therefore sinful. I recently had a conversation with a North American Bishop who adamantly insisted with me that a person who is a secular entertainer cannot be a Christian. I cringed all through the conversation and asked many questions and discussed many scriptures which hopefully made him re-think his position.
In arguing against a Christian taking up a career in entertainment, people might be quick to quote (James 4:4) “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
In defense of the entertainers who are Christains, we cannot ignore Matthew 25:14-30, that teaches a parable about talents. God in His infinite wisdom gave each and every human a gift, an unique ability that when harnessed can provide good income and at the same time bring glory and praise to God’s name.
Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to share in an insightful conversation with legendary gospel musician Kirk Franklin just after the collaborative "Fearless" concert with Tim Godfrey at House On The Rock Church, Lagos State. He offered an insight into his entire musical journey starting with the 1998 hit tune “Revolution.”
Franklin described his music as an effort to recapture the pop music scene for God. I was so deeply inspired and impressed by his commitment to Christ which has spanned decades and has impacted millions.
This view echoes a similar sentiment shared by Wilson Joel (a.k.a. Music Magnate)2.
In conducting research for this article I conversed with him about the idea of Christians doing music and he shared some valuable insights. He said:
*All music comes from God and can have different results on the musician as well as his audience. In his own words “The music we do does not have to be so uptight just for church consumption." He asked, "Who gives Christians music through the week? Music to make us dance, think, love better and appreciate love?”
*The Bible records that David played the harp skilfully (1 Samuel 16:18)
*Lucifer was so filled with pride at his musical ability that he sought to equate himself to the Most High God, resulting in him being ousted from heaven. This is a danger that all Christian musicians must avoid. Pride is a major pitfall that has destroyed man. (Prov.16:18)
Music isn't the only expression of art that people have moral questions about. It spans all kinds of expressions of talent. My home in Edo State, Nigeria is world famous for its artistry specifically in bronze work. Ever year we play host to visitors from around the world seeking to photograph or purchase the many outstanding artworks available here.
The Bible records in Exodus 36:1 that God Himself gifted Bezalel and Oholiab so that they could work any material needed to build the Tabernacle as well as anything used in the worship of God by the emerging Israelite nation. Certainly, the artisans in Edo State did not get their talent from demonic sources.
Another point Wilson made that resonated with me is how God is all about love and His expression of this love in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Wilson believes that Christians are the perfect people to describe love to anyone who doesn’t understand it. This expression can come in form of music, paintings, sculpted art or performing art. Art cuts across all the boundaries of man, from language to race and religion. He challenged me by saying that our love for God should be so real that it should be conveyed liberally in our artistic expressions.
A performance does not have to be overtly Christian in order to relate a message that enforces wholesome values. I am a firm believer in using talents and abilities to the glory of God as well as the improvement of one’s financial status and comfort in life. It would be cruel for religion to deny a dancer, actor, singer, music or movie producer the opportunity to go out and fully explore their talent. If anything we should tell them as Paul tells his mentee in I Timothy 4:12 “Let no one look down on you because of your youth but be an example and set a pattern for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”
If entertainment is not a career a Christian should take on, then we would be ignoring a great opportunity to share the Gospel with a world that sorely needs it. The light of the Gospel is much stronger than the power of sin. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Consider the sport of football (or soccer if you’re American); on August 3, 2017 history was remade when 25 year old Brazilian footballer Neymar moved from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a record 222 million Euros. The news of this extraordinary move has flown all over the world via the internet with almost everyone talking about it. Neymar is a footballer who has not been ashamed to declare his faith in God on the football stage, rocking a “Jesus” headband after attaining Champions League glory with Spanish club Barcelona in 2015, after claiming Gold at the Olympics in 2016. The world’s most expensive footballer is a Christian!
The question of whether or not a Christian can be involved in entertainment can be answered if we look at entertainment in the same light as every other sector of human endeavour, including medicine, politics, sports and education. These sectors have Christians thriving in them with equal part criticism and equal part commendation. From names such as the aforementioned Neymar and Kaka to the Acting President of Nigeria, Yemi Osibanjo and America’s Dr. Ben Carson it is clear that believers cannot ignore their God-given abilities but instead must go into the world and stand out for Christ. (Matthew 5:16).
This morning, my good friend, Tim Godfrey3 came by our home in Benin City with his Extreme Crew and added his own very poingant points to this contraversial conversation. With his permission, we recorded him while he was talking and trust me... this blog post would not be complete without you hearing what he had to say!
I hope you clicked on that link and listened well. If you ask me if a Christian can be in entertainment, my answer would be a resounding “YES!” I believe that the world needs the sacred to infiltrate every aspect of the secular and that it is time for, as Kirk Franklin calls it, “A Revolution."
1. "Entertainment" as defined by wikipedia.com
2.WILSON JOEL (also known as Musc Magnate) is the CEO of Doxology Music, songwriter, sound engineer, music director and world renowned music producer.
3. TIM GODFREY Most recently known for his "Fearless" collaborative concert with Kirk Franklin, he is a dynamic music director, voice instructor, conference speaker, writer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, producer, presenter, music and Art training consultant, and musical concert clinician. He is scheduled for a US tour in 2018.