Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Difference Between Honor and Glory


The Difference Between Honor and Glory

Last night my group "Love Song" was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (GMHOF) in Nashville Tennessee. I had been ambivalent and conflicted about the whole honor since we were told about nine months ago that we were going to be inducted. I looked ahead to the ceremony with mixed feelings. My attitude was that we as Christians would be better off without a Gospel Hall of Fame at all, but if there's going to be one, I guess I felt that the group Love Song should be in it.
I have been troubled about the issue of elevating one musician above another ever since the early days, when Contemporary Christian Music magazine started, and we began to have charts, reviews of albums, and other things that compared one artist to another.  I have always felt that this was divisive and really had no place in Christian music. To be fair I was always glad when my album did well on the charts, and was always disheartened when it didn't. Honestly I don't know if this proves or disproves my point.

I have often observed that there're no charts for preachers. What if you were a pastor or a preacher and sermons were rated each week on a top 100 chart in the nation?. Or even worse the top 10. Say you were a conscientious preacher who prepared your message carefully every week, delivered it to the best of your ability, and yet it never made the charts. Or say there was a Hall of Fame for preachers. (I don't think there is any of official Hall of Fame, even though I looked online and many people have private ways of honoring preachers.) How would it feel to give your life to be a faithful and obedient pastor, teacher, whatever, and only the famous preachers made the Hall of Fame?

My first hurdle in facing this issue came up in the days when I began to be asked for autographs. I know that Keith Green would never sign a Bible, though I’m not sure about an autograph or an album.  My guess is that he would not. He often told people that it was idolatry for them even ask him to sign their Bible, but I always felt this was a bit excessive and judgmental. However, I myself struggled with the idea of signing autographs, as it seemed to be placing one person above another. When I finally came up with a way to justify it, it was to always put a scripture along with the autograph. This seemed to be a good way to make the act of signing autographs into a kind of ministry as well.

Pastor Jack Hayford of Church On The Way, was one of the first people who put me really at ease in the area of signing autographs. He once handed me one of his new books as a gift, and without even asking, signed it, along with a very nice message personal message. I felt very released by this. I was also on the platform at a Billy Graham Crusade in Anaheim, CA in the 90s. They had given all of the guests a really nice New Testament as a little gift and memento of our participation in the event. Mr. Graham was sitting two seats down from me as the event began. Sitting next to me and in between, was the promoter of the event. I leaned over and asked him if he thought Mr. Graham would object to signing my Bible. He assured me he would not, and handed my Bible to Mr. Graham. Mr. Graham signed my Bible with the inscription "to my friend Chuck". I have to admit, I felt very honored. I have that Bible to this day and have never even read from it, as I want to keep it in mint condition.

Back in the early days at Calvary Chapel, it was common practice to not applaud musical artists after they had performed a song. This stemmed from the idea that we did not want to "rob God of his glory". Instead the whole audience would lift the pointing finger upwards as unto the Lord, making what we called the "one-way sign, and that was the expression of appreciation to the artist, ascribing the credit to God. This was horrible for the artist. You just finished a rocking song with a big ending, and it would be greeted with silence, with all the people pointing their fingers heavenward.

I actually produced the very first Maranatha album. It was called the "Everlasting Living Jesus Music Concert".
I was not given producers credit, because I was told that would be giving the glory to man, not God. (They changed the policy on the next album, and Pete Jacobs did get credit as a producer.)  This thinking would probably be considered old-fashioned today, but did reflect the humble values of the early days of the 70s and the Jesus movement.

It took a while but these incidents and life situations began to show me that there was a difference between giving honor to man and glory to God. I honor Billy Graham, but I give the glory for his ministry to God. If I were able to deliver that sentiment personally, I believe Billy Graham to be a man of God enough to receive my honor, and give that honor to the Lord for his glory.

But that still differs from charts, bad reviews and top 10 lists. I suppose we can be practical, and just say it’s a way to measure the business of music for purposes of being more efficient in promotion and distribution. I’m sure these arguments have been made and have some validity. It has undoubtedly been argued that these are “necessary evils”, collateral damage, the cost of doing business. But when measured against the purity and simplicity of the gospel, it seems very trivial in the light of the sacrifices made by the apostles in Jesus’ time. And all the saints and martyrs to come after them, who gave property, family, citizenship, and even lives to further the cause of the gospel.  Which brings me around to land on a point here.

The event last night was wonderfully produced. It was professional and not too flashy, the perfect tone for the event.. The organizers were wonderful people who only wanted to show us the respect and honor they felt was due. Several of the inductees were personal friends, so I know their lives, and how deserving they are. The event was very spiritual, it truly honored Christ. Dallas Holm gave an acceptance speech which in all my years I have never heard anyone so succinctly articulate the motives, commitment and intent of most every Christian artist I know. If there was a top 10 for acceptance speeches, his would be #1 in my book.

But I’m sure there are many deserving artists out there who will never be recognized. After all, it is largely a human endeavor and the process is fraught with error. As with most award shows and such, it is often more about fame than achievement. After all, people don’t vote for that of which they are unaware. But we as a human species delight in “seeing who will win”, it’s in our DNA. So these kinds of events will probably never go away.

But still, what really matters is the heavenly Hall of Fame. Whether or not such a thing would actually be a way that God would honor the greatest of His servants, if it did exist, we would probably be very surprised to see who might be on it and how they would be ranked. “#25, Billy Graham, #15, the apostle Paul, #3 Mildred Jones” Wait a minute, Mildred Jones? Who is she? God might say, “Mildred, because you prayed without ceasing, fasted once a month, and continued to lift up Billy Graham in intercession, you are #3”. Silly? Probably. But you get my point. The real treasure is in Heaven. The real rewards will not be determined by outward achievement alone but by inner qualities, integrity, truthfulness, obedience. At the end of the day, what do we have that God did not give us?

I would like to thank the GMHOF sincerely for the honor; it is truly validating and appreciated.

I pray that we will all be in Heaven’s Hall of Fame someday and hear the most amazing words we will probably ever hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your lord”.