Mark de Jong
As Christians we believe that we have the power of the universe living inside of us, yet sometimes we seem to be the most fearful people around. What are we so afraid of? I remember when I was barely in my teens and started playing for artists that performed at Youth for Christ events. My Pastor strongly advised me against taking my musical skills outside of the local church. What was he afraid of? Maybe that I wasn’t safe outside of the security of the church's walls?
In my late teens and early twenties I was in a band that was starting to get a bit of a reputation around town. We organised a concert in the Wellington Town Hall to raise funds for an overseas tour. The concert was a great success and we were feeling pretty elated. But I had a call from a senior church leader asking to talk to me and the other band members. We loved and respected this couple, but that evening they challenged us. They said ‘We believe your hearts are right and that you are trying to use music to spread God’s love. However, you are playing ‘rock music’ and that can be very dangerous. We are worried about what you guys are doing’!
What were they afraid of? Maybe that we would lose our way and be seduced by the evils of worldly music! To put it in context, this was the early 80’s and the whole musical journey was very new for the church.
So we listened to their reasoning but left that night more convinced than ever that we were not doing something ‘wrong’. Imagine if we had heeded that advice - our involvement in music might have finished right there. Instead we set about trying to change the way the church saw music, we tried to help people realise that musical styles are neutral, the important thing is the heart of the person making the music.
Ultimately this all led us to set up Parachute Music, an organisation dedicated to encouraging young Christian musicians to make music that will impact all of society.
A few years ago we invited a great local band to play on the mainstage at Parachute Festival. A number of our friends were in that band. Not all of them attended church and for that we got some harsh criticism from some of our festival attendees, so much so that it grew into a media story! What were people afraid of? Maybe that bringing in people who were on a different part of the journey to them, would somehow make the festival a less Christian place? Really? I was just pleased they wanted to come and hang out with us.
We recently announced a new brand that Parachute is using for managing artists in their music careers, it’s called SMOKE. We’ve had a few e-mails from people concerned that it sounds like we were endorsing smoking. Really? Are we afraid that just using that word could lead us into a habit that will shorten our lives? Did you know that smoke was an ancient method of communication over long distances? It also symbolises the transition of matter into spirit.
I really think we should all be less defensive and afraid. We need to be more willing to embrace the new or unknown, to sit on the edge, to try new things.
Criticism will come, but chances are it will be coming from people who are living in fear. Who knows, our boldness may just inspire them.