THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN
Most of us have read the story in Genesis. Adam and Eve give into temptation by taking a bite of the apple, and the snowball of sin in the world begins to roll.
We are all faced with temptation on a regular basis. What we do with temptation determines our path in life. The temptation of doing something to become popular or famous is one of the most effective and dangerous tools the enemy uses. As an artist manager, I try to help artists anticipate and recognize temptation early on. If they learn to avoid temptation, their careers will bear much fruit; but the pursuit of fame will most certainly yield a harvest of rotten fruit. Jesus was very frank about the dangers of temptation.
Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
(Matthew 18:7-9, ESV)
Jesus Himself experienced temptation from Satan while He was in the wilderness to fast and pray. Knowing the power and danger of temptation, Jesus made praying for deliverance from temptation a key element in His instructions on how we should pray.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:13, ESV)
One artist we worked with wanted to be famous so badly that they were willing to do just about anything for fame. While the artist was in the studio working on a Christian record, they were having a diffcult time hitting notes and capturing a great vocal pass. There was a deadline approaching to finish the record, and the artist was feeling pressured. A young producer convinced the artist to drink whiskey in order to sing the notes. This particular artist had never drunk alcohol and had made a decision earlier in life not to drink. The young producer knew about those convictions, yet still encouraged the action. I am certainly not the alcohol police, as the Bible tells me that Jesus turned water into the finest wine; but there is importance in standing strong in your convictions whatever they may be. God puts those convictions in place for a reason. I was saddened and disturbed by how quickly the artist set his convictions aside in order to do whatever it takes to “make it.” Diana and I had spent hours preparing this artist for these very scenarios he would encounter in the industry and encouraged him to prepare an escape plan for those situations. Sadly, temptation and pressure from the producer trumped any escape plan he may have laid out in advance. Assuming my role of mentor and protector, I confronted the young producer and tried to help him understand how detrimental his actions could be for the young artist’s life and career. He had created the perfect catalyst for addiction: “Drink this and you will sing well.” I’ve been around enough addiction in my life to recognize the time bomb. If the alcohol trick works, the artist could quickly become dependent on the crutch every time they sing. What about alternatives like tea with lemon and honey or recording the song in a key more comfortable for the artist’s voice? The young producer was offended when I confronted him with the issue, and the artist sided with the producer. Not only did the artist carelessly set his convictions aside, but he embraced the violator and was angry at me for looking out for his convictions. What a perfect meal the enemy cooked up to feed the monster. Unfortunately, the incident drove a wedge in the relationship between me and the artist.
When the artist’s first single didn’t perform well at radio, the artist was devastated. While I was disappointed with the lack of radio success, I wasn’t surprised. Is God really going to fully bless a Christian song recorded under those conditions? While I don’t have God’s answer to that question, it is one to ponder. The artist’s bad decision shouldn’t have been surprising as I recall an earlier conversation with his parents about their son becoming a sex symbol, and their exact words were “whatever it takes.” The “whatever it takes to be successful” attitude was used often by the artist’s parents. Unfortunately, “whatever it takes” mixed with “alcohol” and “sex symbol” creates the perfect cocktail for disaster. Billy Ray Cyrus, the father of Miley Cyrus, might have some words of wisdom regarding the “whatever it takes” approach. I can only pray God will cause the advice we shared to linger in the artist’s mind and give him something to draw from when encountering future temptations.
When an artist gives into the celebrity temptation, the snowball effect takes place. It’s like pouring Miracle Grow on the monster gene. The snowball gains momentum and becomes so big it morphs into the abominable snowman. The abominable snowman listens to no one and convinces themselves they are the biggest and baddest while daring anyone to challenge them. I’ve seen a few of those monsters walking around, and honestly, no one wants to be around them.
When I see a successful Christian headliner refuse to allow the opening artist access to the full stage and lights, it’s a sure sign that the monster is present. The God I serve calls us to serve one another.
The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:11-12, ESV)
When I read Matthew 23 I don’t see any mentions of exceptions for celebrity Christian artists. Yes, denying opening artists access to full production is a normal practice in mainstream music, but doesn’t God call believers to be different? What if denying the opening act full access to sound and lights prevented one person from being impacted enough to find Jesus? Obviously, the headliner has worked hard to earn that status on the music success pyramid, but does that exalt them in the eyes of God or earn them special privileges? Jesus had some powerful words for two of His disciples who thought they were pretty special.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “ The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
(Mark 10:35-40, ESV)
Shining above some of the disappointing examples, there are some Christian headliners who manage the monster well and model great examples for others. TobyMac is one I have witnessed in action. His incredibly successful music career could very well have created the biggest monster of all. Instead, he goes out of his way to make other artists feel equal. Unlike some headliners, Toby allows opening artists access to all parts of his stage. It’s apparent Toby understands the production he travels with is owned by God, and he treats it as such. He serves as a great mentor for young artists. I have worked with several of Toby’s band members, and they are all stand-up Jesus followers. Toby has taken great care in surrounding himself with a godly team in an effort to foster a monster-free environment. MercyMe is another act I’ve seen show extreme kindness to new artists. While I haven’t had the opportunity to work around Casting Crowns, their reputation of kindness and humility reverberates throughout the industry.
God knew, without Him in our lives, we would find it diffcult to resist being tempted by desires for pleasure, fame and other things that being a celebrity promises. Jesus tells us:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the esh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.
(1 John 2:15-16, ESV)
He is calling Christians to live differently from those of the world. Through Jesus, we can find the power to resist worldly desires that feed the monster. Walking in God’s light will melt the snow, making it impossible for the abominable snowman to exist.