Gifting gifts

The thread I essentially highjacked on Simone’s blog has come to a gripping conclusion – of sorts. I think we’ve agreed to disagree – Simone may still disagree but we’ll see.

But it was a worthy exercise.

It raised, for me, a question about how Christians should use their gifts. And how we should balance use of gifts in a part time capacity verses using them in a full time capacity in vocational ministry.

My thinking is that particular gifts lend themselves to “vocational” use at different times. In the past paid organists were as much a part of church furniture as the organ. They were also essentially resident composers.

Now – web masters and graphic designers are playing an increasingly important role in the spread of the Gospel.

My gut feeling is that the Biblical principle of a worker deserving their keep holds for all excercise. If a job needs doing – and there’s nobody to do it – then pay for it.

The worker then has a decision to make – like Paul did – as to whether to accept this payment (he chose to work instead).

I also think there comes a time where a worker playing an essential role should be paid full time in order to free them from that work for the cause of the Gospel.

So the responsibility of the church is to pay – while the worker should consider their gifting as God’s providence and receive the payment (or not) accordingly.

There are different ways that this can work – an article I read about Mars Hill suggested that graphic designers who attend that church “tithe” their time and talents. There’s also an interesting discussion happening at “Communicate Jesus” about how the church should approach the issue. And another discussion in a similar vein at Sydney Anglicans.

The Communicate Jesus article features a quote from the Mars Hill creative director which would seem to indicate some sort of contradiction with the other post –

“I once had a chat with AJ Hamilton who runs all the media stuff for Mars Hill Seattle. I asked him about how he managed to achieve the quality of design across so much of their output – the online work for Death By Love being a prime example. He said they make a habit of recruiting the best designers. Okay I said, but how do you keep them? Answer: they’re the best paid staff in Mars Hill.”

It’s interesting that this is all coming up at around the same time – it creates an opportunity for some synchronous thinking.

Your thoughts?

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

38 thoughts on “Gifting gifts”

  1. Actually, to stimulate your thinking, Nath, give us an example of how you would see an ‘open source’ model of creative communications work in a suburban church.

  2. I came here after skimming through your comments on Simone’s blog. You commented there about a minister’s work being more important than a toilet cleaners. When you think about it, work that has eternal value has more importance than work which doesn’t. Therefore mothering, evangelising, discipling, encouraging etc. are important work. Cleaning toilets has to be done and therefore it is not unimportant, but if you have the opportunity/gifting to do eternal work. Do it. Paid or unpaid. Just because you get paid to do kingdom work, doesn’t make it more valuable, it just means you don’t have to find another way to get food on the table.

    1. Kutz – this needs more thought than I’ve given it today. My blog today has mostly been an outlet for procrastination rather than expression of thoughts. But I’ll get on it…

      Simone – I didn’t know that was actually in doubt… I’m always happy to be disagreed with (in fact I enjoy that more than being agreed with – it helps me flesh out my thinking on things). I would welcome a post of mine generating so much discussion and so many follow up posts on another blog… plus, I greatly respect where you and Phil are coming from.

      Wendy – welcome – thanks for your comments. I agree with the things you say are important. Though I’d replace mothering with parenting… which is just because I’m a male.

      I think it’s more obvious than it seems to some – I really don’t understand people who try to elevate their secular work to ministry status, and I also think the Bible is clear that things that fit into the “teaching” category are of more value than other gifts – this is not to say that the other gifts are not important, or that the people with the gifts are more important, but from a pragmatic sense a church can get by without toilet cleaners and still be a church – but can’t get by without teaching (in all its capacities).

  3. I think that if a church is big enough to warrant it, a paid musical director is in order. I find it odd that many London churches, more so ‘high’ ones, also pay a handful of singers to sing on a sunday morning – indeed, many of my school colleagues have such well paid jobs (they can earn about 70pounds each week for sightsinging the sunday service, and extra for weddings and funerals!)
    I, however, sing at church for free.. I couldn’t stomach the idea of getting paid for it, unless it was a full-time vocation (singing/music in the church) as it’s my ‘day job’ I feel that a sunday service is a kind of tithe.

  4. Of course, Nathan. “Parenting” not “mothering”. How thoughtless of me. And I have the best husband (don’t tell him I forgot for a moment). My excuse is that I am basically in between countries with a young family at present and my brain is a little overwhelmed.

  5. Nathan, you wrote:

    “I really don’t understand people who try to elevate their secular work to ministry status, and I also think the Bible is clear that things that fit into the “teaching” category are of more value than other gifts – this is not to say that the other gifts are not important, or that the people with the gifts are more important, but from a pragmatic sense a church can get by without toilet cleaners and still be a church – but can’t get by without teaching (in all its capacities).”

    I would suggest the 1 Cor 12 disagrees with you, to a point. Perhaps a church can ‘get by’ without certain non-teaching roles being fulfilled, but that would be like a person ‘getting by’ without eyes – possible, but not preferable.
    Web design no doubt comes under what Paul call’s the gift of Administration? If so.. isn’t that secular work in fact a ministry then?

    1. I probably wasn’t clear there. I meant elevating secular work to ministry in the way that you might say “I’m in ministry because I sing for God’s glory as an opera singer” – as opposed to singing in church, and a garbage man might say “I’m in ministry because the way I collect garbage is a testimony to my faith in Jesus for my colleagues… collecting the garbage at church, web design for church, and all that stuff, would fit into the 1 Corinthians 12 category.

  6. Nathan.. thinking more about your CC/OS kind of system.. would it only be the larger, more urban churches that would be in a position to commission song writers? Would the country churches have to rely on whatever they had access to?

    It’s interesting to see how the CC system has effected photography, with sites like Flickr. I think it has tended to devalue photography, and indeed, it is harder for photographers to actually make a living. If congregational songs were all CC I suspect that there would still be a demand for recordings, and there would be no reason for labels to simply grab all the popular songs, record them and sell the CD – as we see now with the WOW and Top 25 CDs. However, instead of the songwriter being paid for this, the label would get all the profit, which I think is exploitation.

    Do you think Romans 13:7 where is talks about appropriately paying due revenue is relevant here? Or perhaps you are seeking to look at that payment in a different way?

    1. “it is harder for photographers to actually make a living.”

      I’m not sure that’s true – Creative Commons is great unless you want to use the images for commercial purposes. We’re about to spend $30,000 on a photographer to take about 100 images – I’m not sure you can sustain that argument.

      The Creative Commons movement has opened up new avenues for amateurs to express themselves and put their work in front of a whole new audience – it’s also great for not for profits and bloggers…

      Again, Creative Commons prevents that which is protected from the use you suggest – it’s not open slather.

      Open Source (in my understanding) is the next step from Creative Commons.

      I think Romans 13 is talking about contractual obligations and debts rather than “appropriately paying” – but that may just be me trying to justify my position…

      I am not suggesting artists shouldn’t be paid – the church has a responsibility to do that. Gifted people also have a responsibility to use their gifts to serve the body – this may mean providing their works for free.

      I am of the opinion that whenever an individual is pushing for their individual rights – and copyright is an example – in a Christian context there is a more loving option. I don’t feel like I have a monopoly on theological accuracy so if I write anything I’d like to give others the freedom to redeem it as they see fit.

      But then, I haven’t written any songs, so I don’t know. But it is my general approach to anything I use my creativity and my gifts to produce. I’ll address your first question later.

  7. That your company is about to pay a large sum to a photographer is not necessarily an indicator of the industry.
    Domingo still gets 10k a night while opera companies go bust elsewhere and many singers struggle to pay rent.

    I think CC does, in general devalue images by propagating the idea that if it’s on the web, it should be free. Recent stories of national newspapers publishing copyrighted images without permission is an example of this.

    When people will do it for the glory, why should anyone pay for it?

    But as you say, you’re not suggesting they don’t get paid, just that they don’t get paid royalties.

    I don’t agree that Romans 13:7 is talking about debts – for it talks about giving honour to those who honour is due, likewise, revenue and tax.
    But as it stands, copyright is a kind of contractual obligation – churches pay a licence to use songs, and the song-writers then get paid for that use.

    The only way your suggestion would work, it seems to me, is if every songwriter gave up their royalty rights.

    As it happens, I do give my songs for free – I don’t have them registered with CCLI (mainly because I’m lazy), they’re not officially published anywhere (though I wouln’t mind that!) and who ever wants the sheet music can have it free of charge. I’m led to believe that a couple are still being sung in Toowoomba, which I find very encouraging. But then, they’re not published either, so they’re not going to reach a very large audience.
    Publishers need to make money in order to keep publishing and distributing music, and it doesn’t seem fair for them to make money from someone’s talents, and not that person.

    I would suggest that making a ‘rule’ is not going to help – that it’s up to the individual songwriters to determine if what they are doing is best building up the church – to decide if those rights are something that they want to claim or give up.

    I actually wonder whether the commission system would work anywhere near as well. Do most churches have the resources to employ a resident song-writer? Is it not better to spread the ‘cost’ of songwriting around the global church?

    1. “That your company is about to pay a large sum to a photographer is not necessarily an indicator of the industry.”

      Perhaps not – but images aren’t free if you’re in business – and I can’t imagine the people currently using Creative Commons images are the people who would have paid for them otherwise. Creative Commons images have been useful for providing images to those who could not have paid for them – while those who pay still need to pay.

      Romans 13 also, context wise, is talking about relating with the Government. I think it’s a long bow to suggest it’s talking about paying creative people (I think there are better verses for that).

      Do most churches have the resources to employ a song writer? No. Denominations might. Mega churches certainly do. Hillsong has been pretty successful at getting its music global. Wouldn’t it be great if that music was theologically accurate and provided to churches as a service.

      Like I said in the post – the church’s responsibility is to pay for stuff, the individual’s responsibility is to give stuff – you can’t legislate this, but surely the best model for using your gifts is to recognise that they come from God, and the best way for the church to operate is to recognise your gifts by providing for you.

      I don’t know that “royalties” are the most appropriate way to do this. Paying someone in perpetuity for something seems a less than Biblical idea.

      With regards to the question about small churches that I didn’t answer – my thinking would be they’d be the ones who would receive the greatest benefit through having songs provided free of charge. In the same way that my not for profit company benefits from the development of our open source web platform that is paid for by government departments with big budgets (who also use the product).

  8. “I can’t imagine the people currently using Creative Commons images are the people who would have paid for them otherwise.”

    What about the controversial Virgin mobile ads from a few years back?

    But my point was that the invention of CC images changes the value of images in general, and I think we can expect more and more companies who would have paid, to simply use CC. Also, the propagation of the idea that ‘if it’s on the net, it’s free’ as even the Telegraph in the UK seemed to think.
    But that’s another topic. Sorry.

    You say Romans 13 is about relating to the government.. well, I would think that Copyright law also relates to the government.

    “Do most churches have the resources to employ a song writer? No. Denominations might. Mega churches certainly do.”
    What about independent churches?

    “Hillsong has been pretty successful at getting its music global. Wouldn’t it be great if that music was theologically accurate and provided to churches as a service.”

    But would they have been as successful in promoting and producing their music if it provided no income to them?

    “Like I said in the post – the church’s responsibility is to pay for stuff, the individual’s responsibility is to give stuff – you can’t legislate this, but surely the best model for using your gifts is to recognise that they come from God, and the best way for the church to operate is to recognise your gifts by providing for you.”

    I think we are in agreement on this, at least.

    “I don’t know that “royalties” are the most appropriate way to do this. Paying someone in perpetuity for something seems a less than Biblical idea.”

    I think the mode of payment needs to be in keeping with the manner of provision. A preacher will preach on a regular basis, so a salary is the appropriate means of supporting that. A song-writer might spend months on one song. I don’t know of too many churches that would appreciate spending a salary for someone to sit at the piano for 8 months. Though, the reality is that most of the well known songwriters do work in music ministry for churches.
    The question then is whether an abolition of licence fees and royalties – the free use of congregational music throughout the world wide church – would increase the quality of music or not.

    Also, what if that revenue generated from a very popular song is put back into ministry?

    “With regards to the question about small churches that I didn’t answer – my thinking would be they’d be the ones who would receive the greatest benefit through having songs provided free of charge.”

    Does anyone know how much a CCLI licence costs?

    1. “You say Romans 13 is about relating to the government.. well, I would think that Copyright law also relates to the government.”

      Yeah – but you asked about giving appropriate revenue – not about copyright. It’s entirely appropriate to pay people their rights under copyright. I’m not arguing against that. I’m arguing against placing that restriction on your work to begin with – not necessarily that you shouldn’t, just that their might be unconsidered benefits in not.

      “But would they have been as successful in promoting and producing their music if it provided no income to them?”

      They’ve got plenty of other avenues of prosperity…

  9. “Yeah – but you asked about giving appropriate revenue – not about copyright. ”

    Royalties are the appropriate legal ‘revenue’ on copyrighted intellectual property.

    “I’m not arguing against that. I’m arguing against placing that restriction on your work to begin with – not necessarily that you shouldn’t, just that their might be unconsidered benefits in not.”

    Copyright exists automatically. You’re suggesting that Christian songwriters do not reserve that right. I think it would create an administrative nightmare.
    As far as I can see, the only benefit would be that churches would not be required to to pay a licence fee, and you could freely change lyrics (if that is indeed a benefit). What other benefits would there be?

    “They’ve got plenty of other avenues of prosperity…”
    Now, maybe that’s the solution!

    1. “Copyright exists automatically.”

      Copyright is assumed yes. But it’s not an administrative nightmare – it’s simply a matter of waiving that right on publication.

  10. Ironically, that’s essentially what happened in Toowoomba.

    But I don’t think it could realistically work without some level of legislation, even if only at a denominational or diocesan level. Unless a church was going to only use songs which they were given permission to use free of charge, from say a denominational or local song-writer on salary, they would still need to pay the CCLI fee.
    But even this is not strictly ‘open source’. It is simply giving performance and distribution permission (more share/freeware rather than open source), which may save some churches some money, and may cost others more – which to my mind doesn’t seem as fair as the current model, which shares the cost appropriately.

    I’m still interested to know what benefits and open source model might bring. You’ve already talked about allowing you to edit the lyrics, but even that would be localised – how would that increase the quality of the song or of songwriting in general? OS works with software because of a central place for trusted collaborators to improve within an online community. Yes, the source code is available for others to take and modify, but with popular OS software, like OpenOffice.org or Firefox, there is still the central ‘main’ programme that most of us use. It’s also not a great comparison, because functionality in software is no where near as subjective as creative artistic endeavour, nor is it as endowed with as much personal sentiment as a worship song is likely to be.

    I’m much more ‘with you’ on the waiving of royalty rights (though perhaps that’s just because I don’t get any!) but I’m not convinced that waiving of the actual ownership of the song is going to be of any real benefit, except for you to change the lyrics of songs which you probably wouldn’t actually sing anyway.

    1. I just think the Open Source model is most consistent Biblically. I haven’t completely thought through the implications. But I think the essence of copyright is self-glorifying and an elevation of individual rights and a celebration of the creativity of the individual. I think that affirming that your gifts are God given and for the service of the church by giving them to the church to use how they will is a better model. If that means freeing a church to change lyrics to fit a teaching series or their particular interpretation of a passage then they should, in my opinion, be free to do that.

      To insist that my work is better or more correct is pride. It may be right. But it’s pride. If your words are good enough they’ll be convicting and nobody will want or need to change them.

      Your examples of software are fair – though I should point out that in almost all uses of open source code the original authors are acknowledged.

      I’m pretty sure the financial thing is a moot point anyway – I don’t think the established church song writers, Getty, Townend, Richardson et al do it for the money anyway. And there are very few people in Australia outside of Hillsong who vocationally write Christian music. Some of the best known lyricists in Australian evangelical circles (that I can think of) – Rob Smith, Bryson Smith, Simone Richardson – all have day jobs.

      Simone only bothered filling in her paperwork last year (based on some posts on her blog that I can’t be bothered digging up).

  11. “But I think the essence of copyright is self-glorifying and an elevation of individual rights and a celebration of the creativity of the individual.”

    I don’t think it’s self-glorifying, certainly not any more than putting a lock on your front door is self-glorifying.
    I also don’t think the bible has a problem with celebrating individual creativity. Many of the Psalms note the composer, after all.

    “I think that affirming that your gifts are God given and for the service of the church by giving them to the church to use how they will is a better model.”
    I agree that this is good and important, but I don’t think that this is incompatible with copyright law.

    “If that means freeing a church to change lyrics to fit a teaching series or their particular interpretation of a passage then they should, in my opinion, be free to do that.”

    Suppose you write a book, and put it online for free as you’ve said. Now imagine that I like nearly all of what you’ve written, and I want to share that with my congregation, but I take umbrage at the paragraphs you’ve written about infant baptism – I don’t just eliminate that part, I decide to re-write it so it promotes believer baptism and then upload the book again – acknowledging you as the author and perhaps that I edited it. Would you be ok with that? Your book, promoting believer baptism?

    “To insist that my work is better or more correct is pride. It may be right. But it’s pride. If your words are good enough they’ll be convicting and nobody will want or need to change them. ”

    Isn’t it also pride to change someone else’s lyrics?
    If the words aren’t good enough, maybe preacher’s need to be better teachers? I would put a a colon and the letter p after that, but I know how you feel. You’ll have to trust me that I’m poking my tongue at you right now. No, really.
    I think a better model, than allowing anyone to change lyrics, is to encourage song-writers to collaborate with others, including theologically trained teachers etc. I think that is more likely to raise the quality than allowing a free for all. But that actually does happen.

    “And there are very few people in Australia outside of Hillsong who vocationally write Christian music.”

    Right. But I still don’t see that because they have a ‘day job’ that they should not be given what they are legally entitled to. If they choose to wave that, as Paul did, then that’s their choice. Perhaps at certain points it is a means of God’s provision, and perhaps, with the royalties of a particularly popular song they can invest that money into further building the kingdom, whether that be in financing more professional equipment for producing and distribution, or perhaps sponsoring someone’s bible training etc.

    1. “I don’t think it’s self-glorifying, certainly not any more than putting a lock on your front door is self-glorifying.”

      They’re very different issues at play – particularly when we’re talking only about Christian music – and expressing your God given gifts in that sphere.

      It would be like baking my biscuits for church and then only giving them to people who theologically got on board with my whole recipe. Or something. It’s a narrow field of application. I’m all for copyright when it comes to secular work and I don’t see this as inconsistent. I think that’s in keeping with the spirit of the original post. I’m also all for people who are full time Christian songwriters being paid their dues. Why should a part time songwriter be paid when a part time baker isn’t?

      I would be fine with the book example provided the attribution to your distinctions/differences was clear – to be otherwise would be inconsistent. I think I’d like them to put the thoughts they’ve changed in the appendix for all to consider, but I’ve got no problem with other thoughts being packaged.

      I don’t know – the Baptism issue is a great example – I assume there’s an element of pride involved in every decision anyone makes ever – but if I truly believe in infant baptism and my church’s doctrinal position is clear, but a song isn’t – surely it’s not pride motivating me to want to incorporate my doctrine into an otherwise solid song…

      Again, this whole avenue of thinking is a moot point – outside of the whole not giving of your gifts freely to the work of the kingdom thing.

      Another example – in my professional capacity I occasionally organise events – I organise events for church – should I be paid to organise those events? I don’t think I should. I give of that ability freely. If the event wouldn’t happen but for payment then the church may seek to pay someone – but shouldn’t we all be trying to be like Paul, and to a greater extent like Jesus.

      Copyright to avoid misrepresentation is one thing – copyright to limit use another all together when it comes to serving God’s kingdom.

  12. “It would be like baking my biscuits for church and then only giving them to people who theologically got on board with my whole recipe.”

    No, it would be like being forced to give everyone your secret family recipe.

    “Why should a part time songwriter be paid when a part time baker isn’t?”

    What defines a ‘part-time’ songwriter – it is based on the amount of time spent on a song, or the amount of usage a song gets?

    “Again, this whole avenue of thinking is a moot point – outside of the whole not giving of your gifts freely to the work of the kingdom thing. ”

    I don’t think it’s moot – because you’re calling for an Open Source kind of model, which not simply about churches getting free music.
    But why should there be a distinction between full-time song-writing (what ever that is) and part-time? Paul could have claimed support from the churches, yet he personally chose not to. I think then the decision should be on the part of the individual – and it’s not wrong to receive royalties, and it’s not wrong to wave royalties. If we use Paul as an example, that would be the conclusion I would come to.

    “Another example – in my professional capacity I occasionally organise events – I organise events for church – should I be paid to organise those events? I don’t think I should. I give of that ability freely.”

    But, as you said earlier they’re ‘different issues at play’. You’re comparing ‘services’ with intellectual property. And moreover, missing the point that most of the major names in Christian song-writing are full-time songwriters (or involved in related ministry).

    Basically, an open source model as you’ve proposed it is untenable, because it should come down to individual conviction, which you can’t make a rule out of. CCLI will still exist, and country churches will still need to pay the licence fee, whether songwriters claim their royalties or not.

    Besides, when you’re a pastor, and one of your congregation writes the next ‘shout to the Lord’, wouldn’t you want the tithe from those royalties coming in to your offering bag?

    (I assume you’ll have an ‘election collection’ rather than a freewill offering?)

    “Copyright to avoid misrepresentation is one thing – copyright to limit use another all together when it comes to serving God’s kingdom.”

    I don’t think the current system limits use, but rather facilitates legal use.

    1. What I don’t get in all of this is that it seems so obvious to me that giving one’s property – intellectual or tangible – to the work of the kingdom is surely the best model. In all cases. As a general rule.

  13. I’m not denying that the giving of our gifts and talents for the Kingdom is the best thing. I just don’t see that the current system is hindering this in any way, rather, I would argue that it facilitates it on a wider scale.

    But it seems you’re switching from arguing that they should be given for free, and then saying that it’s right to pay for them, but that the current system which is fair and works should be replaced by a system that to my mind seems much less efficient and places a heavier burden on certain churches.

    It also occurred to me, that if you are so keen on using Paul as an example, then you’ll be required, or rather ‘encouraged’ to keep your job as a marketer while being a “full-time” pastor, would you not?

    1. “I just don’t see that the current system is hindering this in any way, rather, I would argue that it facilitates it on a wider scale.”

      Yes, and this is where we disagree. I see throwing the doors open to everybody as the best way to produce the best songs.

      “It also occurred to me, that if you are so keen on using Paul as an example, then you’ll be required, or rather ‘encouraged’ to keep your job as a marketer while being a “full-time” pastor, would you not?”

      Only if I’m in Thessalonica surrounded by lazy Thessalonians who need to be taught about hard work. Or in Corinth where that would have been a source of pride for whoever was “sponsoring” him. I think you’ll find he was paid by others… particularly the Philippians.

  14. So we agree that it’s not unbiblical for song-writers to get paid for what they do, nor does this stop them giving freely of their gifts (though you’ve not clarified what separates a full-time songwriter from a part-time one) which means your suggestion is not strictly Open Source.
    But you do suggest a different method of payment, which seems to be less fair to churches and disallows for the kind of revenue that will enable development, production and distribution, but which does away with the idea of copyright, allowing free modification. Essentially you seem to advocate a kind of patronage system where the produce is Creative Commons.

    “I see throwing the doors open to everybody as the best way to produce the best songs. ”

    You’ve said this, yet the only benefit that you’ve shown is that you would be able to change the odd word of a song you otherwise like (surely a very small number?). What I don’t think you’ve shown is how this system would increase the overall quality of songs for the wider church.

    I think the best way to produce good songs is for songwriters to have good biblical and theological knowledge!

    I really can’t see how allowing non-musician / lyricists to fiddle with songs is going to prove extensively beneficial in the long term. Songwriters collaborating with pastors and other songwriters would be better.

    I think your proposed system would make commercial publication untenable, which would actually harm the facility of songs to be of benefit to the global church.

    Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but it seems to throw too much benefit out the window just to be legally allowed to change ‘darling of heaven’ to something less offensive to stoic evangelical sensibilities.

    1. “So we agree that it’s not unbiblical for song-writers to get paid for what they do, nor does this stop them giving freely of their gifts”

      Did you even read my original post – this has been my position all along.

      “Essentially you seem to advocate a kind of patronage system where the produce is Creative Commons.”

      Advocate – no, I said that was one possible option. I see the collaborative approach as possibly being a much more fruitful benefit of the Open Source methodology.

      “I think the best way to produce good songs is for songwriters to have good biblical and theological knowledge! ”

      I think that’s obvious. I think the approach taken in this debate by musicians and songwriters has been a little bit “elitist”, you’re all the Microsofts of the songwriting world. There are plenty of other people out there not writing songs because it seems overly complicated, opening up new avenues for distribution would help these people expose their work to the world. Only the good ones (or the really bad ones) would go “viral” – it’s much the same as Flickr, it might hurt the few, but it will benefit the many.

      It’s the same argument established journalists are making about blogs and new media.

      “I think your proposed system would make commercial publication untenable, which would actually harm the facility of songs to be of benefit to the global church.”

      Not if churches subscribe to a “free” system. Flickr for church music would be great – type in a theological key word, or a passage and there you go. If people have a reputation for being good then their work is more likely to be used. That is the chief aim of ministry isn’t it? To have your content used/heard/believed by as many people as possible?

  15. “Did you even read my original post – this has been my position all along. ”

    In fairness, Nathan, you do appear to have oscillated between this opening position, and one which says that we should just give away songs without payment.

    Re-reading your OP, I do agree – it’s up the songwriter to decide if they will take payment, or indeed, what they will do with that payment. In such a case, churches are still going to be paying the CCLI licence fee.

    “I see the collaborative approach as possibly being a much more fruitful benefit of the Open Source methodology. ”

    I still don’t see how it’s truly a ‘collaboration’ for me to write a song and you to come along and change a word without my knowledge?
    True colloboration happens when people like Townend and Getty get together, or when places like HTB hold song-writing days etc.

    “I think the approach taken in this debate by musicians and songwriters has been a little bit “elitist”, you’re all the Microsofts of the songwriting world. There are plenty of other people out there not writing songs because it seems overly complicated, opening up new avenues for distribution would help these people expose their work to the world.”

    I disagree. People will write songs even if the only one to hear it is their cat. Of course, these days, with the web, a cat-only audience is unlikely. And besides, sharesong.org has been running for at least 10 years or more now. You can download and use songs even if you don’t have a CCLI licence (if you do, then the writer, if they’re registered, will get royalties).

    “Only the good ones (or the really bad ones) would go “viral” – it’s much the same as Flickr, it might hurt the few, but it will benefit the many.”

    I don’t know that church admin are necessarily savvy enough, or have enough to time for this kind of model. The current system, whereby they automatically receive new stuff from the major publishers would, to my mind, be more efficient.

    “Not if churches subscribe to a “free” system. Flickr for church music would be great – type in a theological key word, or a passage and there you go. If people have a reputation for being good then their work is more likely to be used.”

    Sharesong.org

    “That is the chief aim of ministry isn’t it? To have your content used/heard/believed by as many people as possible?”

    Yes, but it’s hard to do that outside of the current model.

    It seems there are two issues that we have perhaps been confusing – free distribution and royalty free usage.
    I can definitely see the benefits of free distribution, but ditching royalties, to my mind, will not provide any benefits, and only make things more complicated.

    1. “In fairness, Nathan, you do appear to have oscillated between this opening position, and one which says that we should just give away songs without payment.”

      No I haven’t. Songwriters should do that. If they choose not to, and a church wants to use their song, then the church should pay. The church should obey the law. Songwriters should obey the spirit.

      “I don’t know that church admin are necessarily savvy enough, or have enough to time for this kind of model.”

      I would suggest they were saying the same thing thirty years ago when churches started using OHPs, and ten years ago when they started using data projectors… that’s a crap argument. We’re talking about a possible future direction. The fact that the technology is hard to grasp is irrelevant.

      “Yes, but it’s hard to do that outside of the current model.”

      That’s because Sharesong has not penetrated the market so there is no alternative to the current model.

      “I still don’t see how it’s truly a ‘collaboration’ for me to write a song and you to come along and change a word without my knowledge?”

      How about, I post a suggested change to your song on a forum, other people consider the theological implications of the changes and voice their opinions the song gets refined. It might get better, it might be that the original songwriter was a genius, or the song might be unredeemable. The system as it stands puts songwriters on a pedestal that no other gospel minister enjoys – or rather, songwriters do that. You don’t see preachers running around accusing other preachers of illustration plagiarism. And indeed, many ministers when stealing an illustration acknowledge the original source.

      Why is theology set to music of more value than theology set to analogy?

      I still think it’s funny that those with a vested interest in the system continuing to maintain the status quo are the ones voicing opposition on this matter.

  16. “Songwriters should do that. If they choose not to, and a church wants to use their song, then the church should pay. The church should obey the law. Songwriters should obey the spirit.”

    This is essentially saying that it’s wrong (against the spirit) for songwriters to receive payment for writing songs.

    “I would suggest they were saying the same thing thirty years ago when churches started using OHPs, and ten years ago when they started using data projectors… that’s a crap argument. We’re talking about a possible future direction. The fact that the technology is hard to grasp is irrelevant.”

    Fair point. But it remains that a ‘viral’ model is less efficient than a standing order from publishers.

    “That’s because Sharesong has not penetrated the market so there is no alternative to the current model. ”

    But you seem to miss the point that Sharesong basically does what you are asking, yet it hasn’t penetrated the market (though does do a good job of providing an outlet for unpublished songwriters), so how do you propose to penetrate the market? Could it be that perhaps this kind of medium is not actually able to do a flickr / youtube kind of explosion?

    “How about, I post a suggested change to your song on a forum, other people consider the theological implications of the changes and voice their opinions the song gets refined. It might get better, it might be that the original songwriter was a genius, or the song might be unredeemable.”

    Or we could end up with 10 different versions and cause a lot of confusion down the track.

    “The system as it stands puts songwriters on a pedestal that no other gospel minister enjoys – or rather, songwriters do that. ”

    I disagree. You don’t see Piper or anyone putting their books or sermons up for change on a forum.

    “You don’t see preachers running around accusing other preachers of illustration plagiarism. And indeed, many ministers when stealing an illustration acknowledge the original source.

    Why is theology set to music of more value than theology set to analogy?”

    It’s totally different. Quoting somebody in your own sermon (under fair use) is entirely different to changing the lyrics of a song.
    It’s not that theology set to music is of more value, but words selected and arranged in a particular order by someone else is something we don’t have a right to just change. That goes for lyrics, sermons, books, articles…

    “I still think it’s funny that those with a vested interest in the system continuing to maintain the status quo are the ones voicing opposition on this matter.”

    I actually don’t have a vested interest. I have never made any money from my congregational songs, and I probably never will. I can see that the system is fair and works and in my opinion works better than what you are suggesting. My opinion is based on that.

    1. “I disagree. You don’t see Piper or anyone putting their books or sermons up for change on a forum.”

      I see plenty of people putting sermons up as “resources” for other preaches with the option to change them implicit in that action.

      Isn’t that the whole point of commentaries – or any Christian publication – that the material be reappropriated and used in the life and practice of the reader.

      Republishing is one thing – modifying slightly (with attribution – note that I’ve never suggested removing attribution) entirely another.

      If a Christian songwriter is writing for the money then they shouldn’t be doing it.

  17. “I see plenty of people putting sermons up as “resources” for other preaches with the option to change them implicit in that action.”

    Really?

    “Isn’t that the whole point of commentaries – or any Christian publication – that the material be reappropriated and used in the life and practice of the reader.”

    Not in the sense we are talking about.
    Songs too are meant to be ‘appropriated’ and used in the life and practice of Christians. This is not the same as altering them.

    “Republishing is one thing – modifying slightly (with attribution – note that I’ve never suggested removing attribution) entirely another.”

    I can’t take a commentary by Don Carson, change a few words and republish it, even with attribution. And I don’t think we should be able to do that either.

    “If a Christian songwriter is writing for the money then they shouldn’t be doing it.”

    Of course not. But we’ve seen that the ‘free’ system isn’t very effective for wide distribution, and so publishers need to make money.

    You seem to have either missed, or ignored my point about songwriters investing royalties back into ministry, which seems a more beneficial idea to me than simply declining them and instead having a mega church pay them a salary.

    “You know you’re not going to get the last word right? But do go on.”

    zyzzyva is allegedly the last word (in the dictionary). I don’t think either of us were going to get that one in.

    1. ““I see plenty of people putting sermons up as “resources” for other preaches with the option to change them implicit in that action.”

      Really?”

      Yes. For example, my dad and his friends produced a semi-popular magazine called Perspective – where sermon series were included and many other ministers used illustrations, applications, or passages from these sermons in their work – and that was the point.

      I can think of no other area of ministry where the proponent is so “protective” (for want of a better word) of their work and their rights.

      “I can’t take a commentary by Don Carson, change a few words and republish it, even with attribution. And I don’t think we should be able to do that either.”

      But you can, in the context of your congregation, say “Carson was right about 99% of this, here’s where we disagree” and use his work… you can’t do that with a song that you agree with 99% of – nor can you change it in the context of your congregation (under the current system).

  18. “I can think of no other area of ministry where the proponent is so “protective” (for want of a better word) of their work and their rights.”

    I can see your point about wanting to change words, I really can. But I get the feeling you can’t see it from the perspective of a song-writer who has laboured and poured their own spirit and emotions into something to express poetically a truth, only to have someone blithely come along and change the word because they don’t like the word ‘darling’ or whatever it is.
    Letting go for free use is one thing, but allowing others to just change what you wanted to say is something else.

    “But you can, in the context of your congregation, say “Carson was right about 99% of this, here’s where we disagree” and use his work… you can’t do that with a song that you agree with 99% of – nor can you change it in the context of your congregation (under the current system).”

    Do you not see a difference between quoting and editing?

    I think rather than give blanket permission for anybody to edit anything, if there’s a lyric you don’t like, contact the writer and ask permission to use a slightly altered version. That solves your problem, and avoids the pitfalls of a free for all.

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