If you’ve ever set out to do something special, something you believe God called you to do, and been disappointed when the result of your efforts fails to meet your expectations, the problem may be with your definition of “success.” This is quite common among Christians, especially Christian artists and ministers, in part because we’ve so often failed to define the word “good” correctly. Because we consider success to be something good, failure to properly define “good” can lead to a confusing conversation. So, let’s go back… back to the beginning…
(insert “flashback” harp here).
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and called them “good” according to the book of Genesis, perhaps we should have paid closer attention. The step-by-step account of the creation of matter and energy and space and animals and plants and humans described in chapter 1 is so fascinating that the seemingly minor detail of how God defines the word “good” is often overlooked. God, being the all-knowing, omnipresent designer and creator of the universe, would be the only one qualified to say for sure what is most beneficial for creation, so what could be more important for someone who seeks to honor and please God to know than what God considers good.
This is where I think we as Christians so often mess up and create for ourselves sources of disappointment unnecessarily. We take words like “useful” or “convenient” or “prosperous” or “popular” or “celebrated” and we treat these words as synonymous with “good.” And I understand that it is normal to use the word good very loosely in regular conversation. The food is “good,” my day was “good,” that TV show is “good,” that song was “good,” so on and so forth, and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that you are doing anything sinful by using this word in that way. The problem, however, arises when we forget that this “good’ is not identical to God’s standard of or definition for “good” and begin confusing the two. You see, just because something is “useful” for a given purpose does not mean that the omniscient God, the God who created you and knows you better than you know you, considers that thing to be beneficial to you. It all starts with our motivation. Are we serving God’s purposes, or our own?
When God calls his creation “good,” this suggests that there is no part of the world at this point that is inherently “not good.” Nothing in this universe God has just created is bad in and of itself. This would mean that even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is right where it is supposed to be. This tree is “good,” but just like the snakes and bats God created which were likewise good, that didn’t mean it was good to eat, even if all three of those things are edible. When we step outside of God’s purpose, we step outside of what is good for us, and things which are not in and of themselves bad, such as money or a well-paying job or new opportunities, become bad things whether they appear to be on the surface or not simply because they are being misused or used by someone they were not meant for. Eve ate of the tree in Genesis chapter 3 not because she knew she should, but because on the surface the fruit looked “good for food,” “pleasing to the eye,” and “desirable to eat.” Clearly, looks are deceiving. And the thing is, it technically was good for food IF your only concern is satisfying physical hunger, and it was pleasing to the eye IF you’re not looking at the consequences that come along with it, and it was desirable to eat IF you desire something tasty more than you desire to live. Would we say the words “desirable,” “pleasing,” and “good” here are synonymous with God’s definition of “good?” If we say “good,” in order to know if we mean that word the way God means it, we must ask, “good for what?”
In speaking with my good friend and Tentmaker Music collaborator Xero, I realized something about the nature of goodness. He reminded me of a film called In Time starring Justin Timberlake. The film is set in a dystopian future where nobody ages past 25 and years of life are used as currency. Run out of this money, and you run out of time and die. When Timberlake’s character is given a huge sum of this money/time, making him incredibly wealthy, he gives a portion of it to his friend Borel. Sounds good right? Money is good. Being given a bunch of money is good… right? Well, as it turns out, being given that much money at one time was simply too much for that friend to handle. This friend gives into temptation, goes on a bender and ends up drinking himself to death, something he would not have even had the opportunity to do if he hadn’t been in possession of so much money at once. This brings us back around to the idea of success. Would we be right to base Borel’s success on his bank account or regard the gift he received as a blessing? Was having a ton of money good? Again, we must ask, “good for what?” For tempting him, yes. For buying excessive amounts of alcohol, yes. But we don’t judge Timberlake too harshly because, he had GOOD intentions, right? He was trying to be helpful, and he couldn’t have possibly known how badly it would turn out for that friend, but God in His omniscience would have known exactly how bad it was for Borel.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “succeed” as “to turn out well” or “to attain a desired object or end.” By “well” we mean the end result is good, and Jeremiah 29:11 tells us about the “end” God has in mind for us.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
In other words, God’s version of success means we follow His plan, and because God can never fail to do anything, that plan inevitably results in the end HE has in mind for us, and that end HE calls “good.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If we have followed His plan, no matter how things may look, the final product will be good as God defines “good,” and that means we have been successful. I want to really emphasize this point because I think that our tendency when things don’t turn out the way we expected is to assume we have not been successful and question whether or not it was really God’s plan we were following. We question whether or not we really heard from God, and on a sea of doubt, like Peter we begin sinking. But hold on a minute… How do you know you weren’t successful? Whose definition of success are you using?
Allow me to explain. Sometimes in our excitement about something God is doing in our lives, we begin to imagine and dream and fantasize about what the end result will be of the wonderful new thing God has started. And along the way, we sometimes make the mistake of mixing up what God ACTUALLY said, with what we IMAGINED was going to happen as a result. Now, all these words and ideas have become tangled together, almost inseparable in our flawed minds. 10 years into ministry when we still aren’t seeing what we imagined, we start to believe that we must not have really heard from God in the first place, or that we failed Him, or WORSE… that God has somehow failed. So, we’ve got to take it back to the start, just the facts… What did God ACTUALLY say? He called you to music ministry? Cool. Did HE say you’d be the music minister at a mega church, or is that how you imagined it would work out? Did HE say you’d go platinum and have a record deal and rock stages in sold-out arenas, or did seeing the experiences of others in music ministry lead you to believe that God had the same in mind for you? If you had all those things happen to you, would it make your purpose in life more important or more meaningful than the one God has for you simply because it would appear bigger and more noticeable to others?
You know who I never hear about? The guy who led Billy Graham to Christ. I don’t even know his name. I suspect that is because his ministry was nowhere NEAR as “big” as Billy Graham’s, and I doubt he was internationally known. Should we say that this man, whoever he was, was less successful than Billy Graham if both of them were simply doing what God asked them to do? Did he fail to live up to his potential then? Was the end God had in mind for both of them not equally “good?” If the ONLY reason God called this person to the ministry was so that they could lead Billy Graham to Christ (resulting in the Billy Graham crusades and thousands being saved), and this person we don’t know was obedient and did just that, he was just as “successful” as Billy Graham EVEN IF he never had a big congregation, EVEN IF he never gained any notoriety or fame as a result of his work, and EVEN IF he never lived to see the result of the Billy Graham crusades. We only fail to see this because we fail to apply God’s definition of success in determining value. We assume bigger means more successful, wealthier means more successful, more popular means more successful. We focus on all the wrong things. No wonder so many Christians so often feel inadequate. No wonder so many ministers become discouraged when everyone around them seems to be wondering why their ministry doesn’t look like so-and-so’s ministry.
Keep your focus where it needs to be, brothers and sisters, on God’s promises, not on what you thought He meant or on what others expect of you. Forget what man says about how “success” looks. You already know how things will end up for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. It will turn out “well.” It will be ALL GOOD. You maybe just needed a reminder. If you are doing God’s will and following HIS plan for your ministry and not your own, however it looks, however God decides it should go, however long it is intended to continue, it is most assuredly a highly successful ministry.
We were blessed to have some time to catch up with the one and only J-Notez. At Tentmaker we have lots of interactions with beat makers and J-Notez is one that for sure stands out. His production and beat making skills are on point, there is no denying that, but it was his depth of character that really makes him stand out to us. J-Notez loves Jesus and it is evident in how he conducts himself. There is seemingly no separation between his life as a beat maker and his life as a follower of Christ, and we believe that is how it should be. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31
When did you come to know Jesus and start following Him? Can you share a brief bit of your testimony?
"I’ve been following Jesus since the summer of 2010. After graduating high school (literally by the grace of God) I was invited to Church by my best friend and decided I needed to go. Previous to that God was already removing me from a life of selling marijuana along with other things and little did I know he was about to change my whole life from the ground up. The Church I went to was the same Church where I felt God calling me at 14-15 years old but decided to fight at that time to pursues life I thought I wanted. During the service I lost interest extremely quick and decided to step out to smoke a cigarette (something God delivered me from almost 8 years ago, praise Jesus!) then returned after to be unphased by the word. As the weeks went by I was continually invited back to church by my best friend and though I wasn’t interested I kept going back until one day God made it clear and I knew that it was time to trust Jesus with everything! I’ve been walking this faith walk going on 9 years and though it’s been hard I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!"
Wow, praise God! That's awesome! Thanks for sharing!
How long have you been making beats and why is that something you started doing?
"I’ve been making beats for 9 years on and off but 4 years consistently. I got into making beats because I’ve always loved music. I was always that kid in school who would knock on tables to make beats before I was introduced to how the beats on the radio where actually made. Though I never made beats before God saved me, after coming to know Him as Savior God began to stir that desire back up in me. One night while praying, I was asking God what I was to do with my life, and He made it clear that I needed to go to the garage in my moms house, that's where I found a cord I had never seen before that ended up powering my midi keyboard which came with no power source (Thanks a lot eBay )!! After that I knew exactly what I needed to do but it wouldn’t be easy!
What are some of your short term and long term goals as a beat maker or just in general?
"My short term goal is to be a part of the CHH (Christian Hip-Hop) industry as an independent artist and to be able to go full time in my music career using my beats and musical abilities to point people to Jesus. My slogan is Deeper Than Music so that’s what I live out. Also I hope to be home with my family doing music instead of being away due to a 9 to 5!
My long term goal is to use my income from my music to create a ministry to feed the homeless or something of the sort. Not sure of what the details are just yet but I’m trusting God will lead me in this when that time comes. I also hope to be the best father to my kids, husband to my wife, and be continuously leading them to Christ. I long to be the Father I wish I had growing up and Husband I never saw lived out in my parents marriage."
What is something about you that you think people might find to be odd?
"I couldn’t think of anything weird that I do so I asked my wife, probably not the best idea lol. She had to think about it but then eventually she starts roasting me saying I pace back and forth when I’m having a serious conversation on the phone and that I open and close doors, grab things to mess around with and walk in and out of rooms."
That's not to bad, I mean if that's the oddest thing she could think of than you're doing all right! Though we did find it hilarious that your wife started roasting you! Marriage is fantastic!
Who is your favorite musician (artist or band) of all time?
"It’s hard to say a certain musician, artist or band is my favorite. Different artist speak to my life in different seasons. To name a few all time favorites: Lecrae, Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, Scott Storch, Linkin Park, Hans Zimmer, 2pac, Hillsong, NF, KB and so many more."
That's a pretty eclectic list, dope!
If you were to name a Spotify playlist after your life, what would you call it, and what would be 3 songs you would include on that playlist?
"My Spotify playlist name for my life would be called Hills and Valleys and 3 songs on it would be
1. Andy Mineo “Tug Of War”
2. Aaron Cole “Patient With Me”
3. Elevation Worship “Do It Again”"
What would you say is your life verse, and do you have a favorite book in the Bible?
"My life verse is Philippians 4:8 and my favorite book of the Bible is Romans!"
Last question, what is one piece of advice that you would share with an aspiring Christian beat maker?
"Keep God first. If your music is about you then your success will breed selfishness. Also, one practical piece of advice I never hear anyone say but is so crucial, is get out of debt and if your not in debt stay out of it. Then, use that money to further invest into bettering your craft and marketing yourself. So many people focused on buying other things (I’m guilty of this as well though I have improved incredibly) instead of using that money to continue to build their career."
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, and I also want to thank those of you who have taken the time to read this! Till the next time, God Bless!
Check out "Rebel" by J-Notes. You can listen to all his beats at jnotez.com
I found this to be an interesting video. It didn't Focus so much on what she is or has said, as it focused on the things that she wasn't saying, or what she left out of the conversation. In my opinion, that speaks volumes about her character. But at the same time, I feel like we've heard this story before. We've already learned the words to this song, and we sing it every year. The only thing different is that the celebrities names change. So, no judgement on Lauren.
Instead, I think you should put yourself in the hot seat for a second. If you had this platform , if you were in her place, how would you handle these kinds of questions. Because who knows, maybe you'll be the one in front of the cameras and behind the microphone. I mean that's pretty much the goal right?
So as artists and musicians, let's take a second to be really honest and answer some questions that no one ever asks us?. Not only is it a good exercise, but it's a good window to your heart. What kind of man or woman are you really? Put your answers down on paper, or better yet, type them out so that you can share them with the rest of the world as we convene in the comment section.
Oh yeah, and before I forget. Here's that video.
Now, Let's Move on to the Questions
1) Why should anyone listen to your music?
2) What do you hope to accomplish as a musician?
3) If your life was a book or movie what would the title be?
4) What kind of person do you envision when you write your music?
5) Do you feel the pressure of responsibility as a musician? Why or why not?
6) What good or bad has come to the world because of your music?
7) Where do you get the ideas for your songs? Where does your music come from?
8) Do you think the world would be better or worse off if you were not a musician?
9) What is the greatest impact your music has had on the world today?
10) What do you think others think of your music?
Answer honestly, and be sure to tag us in your post when you make it on your page this week. Post your answers on your celebrity pages on Facebook or on Instagram and we'll be sure to feature you when we see that tag. Also, be sure to tag three musicians in this post so that they can answer the questions as well. If someone tags you, you have to post!
Something we have been discussing for a bit at Tentmaker Music is what we call The Gatekeepers. The Gatekeepers are individuals (or a system) that make the music industry nearly impossible to break into unless you are willing to jump through their hoops or "play the game". Much of this is a driving force behind why we started Tentmaker Music. We know that there are some amazing bands and artists in the Christian underground that aren't getting the recognition they should and we have watched them grind for years. Sadly, one of the hoops people need to jump through is watering down their material or following the current trend. The industry has a way of shaping and molding artists into what they want and the artists end up sacrificing creative integrity to simply catch a break. Now, I am speaking in generalities and surely there are exceptions to the rule but they are few and far between.
While I was casually scrolling through Facebook the other day I came across some wise words from Matt Hanna. Matt is formally of the band Lastwatch and has experienced the realities of the industry first hand.
Here is what Matt had to say...
"After being In the music industry and seeing how it’s run mostly by bands having to act like they’re bigger than they are I get a good hearty chuckle out of spotting it now.
Be humble. Act your wage.
It’s an impossible industry with impossible to reach goals. I get that everyone wants to be the next Skillet or RED, but there’s a reason nobody has been able to get to that level in 10 years now...
Wanna pay 10 grand to tour with a bigger band and get nowhere? Cool. 👍
Wanna pay 50 grand for a top ten single on secular radio? Cool.
Wanna hop on a tour with 10 other bands because nobody is pulling numbers? Cool.
Wanna pay to win an award? Cool.
Dead industry is dead.
Rant over. Sorry if this offends anyone but it’s the truth. Just tired of seeing people getting destroyed over the industry which is collapsing in on itself. Secular rock included. Maybe one day some young band is gonna figure out a way around this with some sort of new fresh “build” that sticks it to the labels.
We shall see. Dare to be different. Be unique.
But seriously, engage your fans, stay humble."
In-conclusion, we at Tentmaker Music believe that in this day in age it is possible to play by a new set of rules. The reality is, The Gatekeepers only have power if we continue to give it to them. It's a new day, and there are ways to get your music out in front of people without having to compromise your message or your sound. Let's strive for excellence, and make music with the intention of bringing glory to God, may He be our audience and our standard. Tentmaker Music hopes to be a part of that new "build" Matt mentioned. It's a grind but it doesn't have to be for not and your labor doesn't have to be in vain. There is so much more and the time is now. Let's Get It!
Though Lastwatch is no longer together you can check out their music on Spotify (https://spoti.fi/2SwbWth) and all other major digital outlets. I really enjoy their music and it's for sure worth checking out!
Till the next time, God bless!
There has been a lot of chatter and buzz surrounding Lecrae's latest release "Let the Trap Say Amen" and I think rightly so. I will not pretend to know Lecrae's heart, and I can only take him at his word and so as a result this blog will not be addressing that but rather looking at some of the possible issues with the album and as a result of it, asking the question, has Lecrae compromised? I really only have a couple of concerns with the album, I don't think it is a great album but it is good, I can appreciate what Lecrae has stated as far as his intentions and I think it is a bold move for him to change his style and I think he did it well.
First thing to look at is the paring up with Zaytoven, from the information available on him, it seems as though Zaytoven grew up in the church and that is where he learned to play instruments etc... I couldn't find any thing on a profession of faith but I am not certain on this and so I won't be addressing that but rather looking at who Zaytoven has aligned himself with. Before working with Lecrae, Zaytoven has been making beats for Gucci Mane, Migos, Future, Waka Flocka Flame, and others. This concerns me a bit but it might not concern you and that is okay, but let me share my thoughts on the matter before you check out. It seems to be clear from my perspective that Zaytoven has aligned himself with the world and is making beats for some rappers with some questionable character traits. I know that there is a lot of discussion concerning secular music and whether the Christian should have any part in it. I will say from my perspective, why would I want to enjoy or participate in music that is promoting, sex, drugs, often times the objectification of women and generally doesn't seem to have much in the way of a positive message (this is not always the case for all secular music and think a large level of discernment is needed, personally for me if it is something I find offense, or goes against the values I hold as a Christian then I choose not to listen or watch). With all that being said, is it possible that Zaytoven grows from this and follows Jesus, maybe turns down some of the artists that he has been working for because he can't get behind their message, only time will tell, but I do think it is important to talk about.
2nd, I found the pair with Waka Flocka Flame very questionable for a couple of reasons. My concern is that him doing a song with Flocka becomes an endorsement of Flocka as a rapper. People look up to Lecrae and a move like this comes across as if he is signing off on Flocka and what he stands for. That can be dangerous and has the potential to lead people astray. Lets say that someone is a Lecrae fan and they listen to this album, they then come to this song and see Waka Flocka's name as a feature, so then they begin to check him out. They then begin to listen to Waka and think that it is okay to listen to him because if Lecrae put him on his album then he must be okay to listen to and support. This is problematic for me because Flocka puts out some very questionable music from a lyrical position. A quick search of Flocka's lyrics and you are entrenched in curse words and some very iffy material for a child of God to be engaging in. One of the first images you will see is Waka flipping the camera off. See you and I may be mature enough to handle that but what of our weaker brothers and sisters? Don't we think this move should at least be examined and discussed? We may agree to disagree but it is for sure a conversation worth having (in love and as mature Christians).
Here is the crux of the issue for me and I am going to use 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 to demonstrate my point. In that Paul notes something very important. "When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ." 1 Corinthians 9:21 In other words, don't compromise who you are in Jesus to gain the favor of others. I am not saying Lecrae has or has not compromised, this is why we are having this discussion. However it does seem to me that he is making some interesting moves in an attempt to reach the lost. Be in the world not of the world (Romans 12:1-2).
We are to engage the world for Jesus, we are to go to great lengths to win the lost to Christ but we are not to sin or unite ourselves to sin in the process. Paul states bad company corrupts good character. Though this is true we are not to hide behind the verse, we are still to engage. Jesus ate with sinners but He Himself was not one, and He never condoned sinful behavior. My issue in this is what it points people towards, Jesus or the world? The argument I see made often is "Lecrae didn't write this album for Christians." Maybe not, but as a Christian Lecrae should be seeking to glorify God in all that he does (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that includes who he aligns himself with. Even though Jesus ate with the sinners, he called them to repentance, he commanded them to change directions and to put the sinful behaviors down and follow Him. Following Jesus means to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow after Jesus... "If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it." Matthew 10:38 This is no small thing. Jesus never compromised who he was to gain favor, not once, never. This blog is in no way an indictment on Lecrae or his character, rather it is seeking to have a discussion and analyze the things we are seeing and challenge ourselves and our presuppositions.
We would love to keep the conversation going, what do you think, has Lecrae compromised? As always, lets keep our comments Christ-centered and loving, our hope is to grow and have mature conversation. So leave a comment and share you thoughts! We look forward to hearing from you!