The Gospel Music Continuum – Part 3: The Ministry/Entertainment Axis

the last discussion, I focused on the Godly axis and how it relates to the appropriateness of a particular song. Now, we turn to the other axis. Considering that the Godly axis is primarily dealing with the content, I’d almost like to call this “the Effectiveness Axis.”

The Effectiveness Axis: How Music Effects Us As People

Remembering that the other axis is really the only one dealing with “Good vs Bad,” this axis concerns the effect that it has on us, as people. I could even call it “the Human Effect” axis (versus the “Godly” axis). Essentially, music can be ministering and/or entertaining; it can make us think about (or think differently about) some theme or it it can simply make us feel like patting our feet, nodding our head, clapping our hands, or snapping our fingers.  I struggled with these labels, so for the time being I’m assuming that all music is some balance between the two and that we aren’t considering any music that NO ONE finds neither ministering nor entertaining.  This axis deals more with the delivery and also the effect on those that listen to a song.

The Extremes: Ministry

Theoretically, this extreme would mean that the song is 100% speaking to the soul of the listener (i.e. his/her thinking or learning, decisions, or feelings regarding the subject).  For sake of this argument, I’m also expanding the term “ministry” to include songs that have ungodly, secular, as well as Godly themes (“The Alphabet Song” lies close to this extreme). Once again, this has nothing to do with if the song is positive or negative. In short, if the song is mainly providing information, influencing your thoughts or beliefs, or identifying with your emotions it lies closer to this extreme.

The Extremes: Entertainment

This extreme would mean that the song is totally for entertainment value and usually has some effect on your body (it makes you move). It may make you laugh, cry, or dance. “Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer” is a good example of a song close to this extreme.  It’s not meant to make us better (or worse) people than we are; it is simply meant to be entertainment. 

“The Best Use Of…” versus “A Waste Of…” Your Time

Based on what I have said, you might be tempted to think this has nothing to with appropriateness.  In truth, this axis determines, on the ministry side, the effect a song has on its listeners and, on the entertainment side, how many listeners the song will end up having. The music industry is largely concerned with the latter. Additionally, the gospel music industry is very concerned with the former. I want to challenge you, whether you are a listener or a minstrel, to consider the effect of the song on your radio as well as the song that you “cover” or create yourself. In summary, this axis helps us to define a whether a song we listen to (or create) is either a good use of or a complete waste of our time. There are songs I don’t listen to simply because I’m too busy listening to better ones.