Thursday night’s Joseph Niles Legacy Lecture which forms part of the annual Barbados Gospelfest is being described by patrons and organisers as the most interactive and thought provoking since it started some four years ago. Apostle Selwyn Brathwaite who delivered the lecture caused much stir among members of the audience as he explored “Gospel Music: The Messenger, The Music And The Mission.”
A lot of Apostle Brathwaite’s time was spent on the “strained” relationship between gospel artists and their pastors. He said he had observed that one of the issues confronting pastors is myopia, where they restrict the understanding of ministry to the four walls of their churches and it is within that confined space, they define their reality.
“The gospel artist on the other hand is driven by a passion for success, works hard at his craft, spending hours in practice, unwilling to accept any level of mediocrity and is provoked by the achievement of his international counterparts he sees big world ahead,” said the pastor of the New Kingdom Assembly.
The lecturer noted that the artist therefore finds himself battling claustrophobic conditions because he does not see enough opportunity for creativity and interaction beyond the church walls – and his minister’s reality. Apostle Brathwaite told his audience that there was now a spiritual standoff between pastors and artists and he wants reconciliation.
“Given the importance of both positions and the potential they both have in assisting each in their biblical mandate, the minister and the artist must be willing to move from their hardened position to a centre where they can begin the process of reconciliation.”
He pointed out that the minister must understand his role as a leader, motivator, councilor and shepherd to a highly specialized messenger and seek spiritual guidance in preparing the artist for his mission, added the church leader.
He observed that the gospel artist, as a specialized agent, must be adequately prepared for his mission as a messenger
in a ministry that will carry him beyond the boundaries of religious security into a hostile environment where he can become extremely vulnerable to the vices inhabiting that climate.
“Too often in our nation, rumours and knowledge of moral infringement by artists seem to go unchecked while they slip under the radar into oblivion and resurface with seeming little explanation,” the Apostle emphasized.
His concern in this regard is two-fold. It is that sometimes talented artists introduce themselves to the gospel arena totally underprepared for the dangers of success and others, while enjoying it, have apparently divorced themselves of any accountability to spiritual governance and are therefore deemed lone rangers.
“I think the mission to reach the world with the Gospel is way too sensitive for the gospel artist to put himself at risk in that environment without having spiritual virus protection which comes from being under the governance of spiritual authority.”
Apostle Brathwaite believes it is spiritually healthy for the artist to be settled at a particular domestic base to constantly remind themselves of the fact that even in the midst of stardom, he is called to a place of service.
He feels there is no better place to be than to willingly surrender the celebrity status and just become a no-name servant within the confines of a local church assembly.
“It is there where he can simply come and be infused with the power of the Gospel which he will soon have to present in the form of music and even become divinely inspired to convert what he heard and put into music or a song,” he stated.
Apostle Brathwaite also took a turn in the kind of lyrics being produced by artists these days. He suggested that local artists should for example, take a leaf out of the book of international recording minister Israel Houghton of New Breed in writing songs.
“Only recently, Isreal Houghton acknowledged the fact the song Jesus At The Centre, which actually is the title track of his most recent album, was birthed during a message that was preached by his spiritual leader.”
He added: “Songs that are birthed in these environments are usually timeless because they are often times biblically sound, theologically accurate and divinely inspired.”
The Apostle contended that in the act of reconciliation, it would be helpful if the pastor would be willing to remove his religious lenses that restrict his sight to the walls of the church building and set aside some time to venture into the world of the gospel artist.
He said this was not only to offer support, but to be exposed to his leg of the mission and not feel threatened by the attention which the artist receives.