For those who read my column regularly, you know I often write about issues or practical matters in Gospel Music. As I write, I aim at accurate solutions and to inspire godly practice.
In this season of change, I want to lead with the spiritual before proceeding to practical matters, by making a declaration:
“2017 is the year – your year – of UNCOMMON ACHIEVEMENTS:
succeeding beyond your own and anybody else’s expectations.”
This is not wishful thinking or resolution. It’s a declaration in prayerful consideration and commitment for those of us of faith – who are involved in the Media, music, entertainment, arts and culture – to aspire and work towards.
SURE OF YOUR CALLING – CLEAR ON YOUR FOCUS
I’m writing this to encourage myself, too. Throughout 2015-16, there were those of us who experienced lots of disappointments, setbacks and what may have been considered as failures. In fact, some of us were on the verge of giving up.
You may have struggled to this point: mentally, physically, emotionally feeling like you’re running on empty. Even if you are – don’t despair!
The foundation for Uncommon Achievements is first to be sure of – and then remaining in -your calling. Worship leader and pastor, Madeleine Kerzner, stated it to me like this: “Stay in your lane.” Secondly, be clear on your focus. The season we are in demands this!
If you’re someone who is confused on your calling or unclear of your focus, consider this step on how you can rectify both:
DEEPEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
This is NUMBER ONE, because it is the first step towards Uncommon Achievements. Very often in our scene, we separate whatever we do to progress our career or business from our spiritual relationship with God. And it’s often only at the point of trouble that we focus on prayer. Too often, prayer is telling God about the problem and asking Him to make certain things work this or that way.
But, here is a better way: LISTEN. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Remember, Jesus said: “He (Holy Spirit) leads and guides into ALL truth.” Listening is hard when your mind is crowded with the challenges that face you. The reality is He already knows. Trust Him. It takes effort, but use your spiritual weapon: private, intense prayer. Jesus said to pray in secret, and Father will reward you openly. In the same chapter of Matthew 6, He encourages fasting. We know there are many types of fasting that can work for us – even if we are taking medication.
Thirdly, praying in the spirit or speaking in a language not known to you. I can appreciate that not all of us are from this Christian spiritual persuasion. The Apostle Paul tells us, in Romans 8:26, that in prayer the Holy Spirit will talk to God through us with groans or sounds that are unintelligible (meaning not being understood, or incomprehensible) words. But He is interceding, talking on our behalf, in the perfect will of God. Isn’t that good news? It makes sense that the Holy Spirit generates the answers within our spirit, and we leave the place of prayer and LIVE IT OUT – just like Jesus did! Remember, God is SPIRIT. He understands and sees the intangible things: the heart of man and the future.
WRITING DOWN THE VISION OF YOUR CALLING
We are individuals, who have experienced the reality of God through JESUS CHRIST by the power of the HOLY SPIRIT. We’ve dedicated our lives to His cause and purpose. We’ve answered The Call. Great!
God’s calling is not stagnant; it’s organic, it’s step by step. It develops as our relationship with Him develops. Look at the life of Abraham and those found in Hebrews Chapter 11 (the ‘Hall Of Faith Achievers’) and you can see this clearly. Nothing was just straight; it was based on their response to Him, and they had to learn, based on what God said to them. As our motives are purified, demonstrated by lifestyle and practice – BOOM! – we’re on a trajectory of reaching heights that give glory due to God, that bless others and that satisfy us.
Regularly record your progress – in writing or audio – with dates and times. Gather these up and make time to THANK GOD. As priests offering up prayers of thanksgiving, this is a critical responsibility. I call this ‘Completing the Full Circle of Glory’. As men are applauding or honouring you – you have given it back to God. He knows when you (truly) have. This means only you can complete this circle, which ensures the glory does not stay with you. He is the One to give you back your portion of glory.
A COLLECTIVE ACHIEVEMENT
There is substantive evidence that we have got the foundation set to experience Uncommon Achievements. If you can’t see it, allow me to point out a few key factors:
RECORDINGS RELEASES: I believe there will be a new level of successful albums and EPs that will resound not only in the UK, but also in the US, Africa and across the nations of Europe. Great releases are becoming more consistent. This has been building for some time, with albums like Seth & A.N.T.’s ‘Midnight Oil: Live In Worship’ and, more recently, Lurine Cato’s ‘Chosen To Serve’.
Pray for: Music producers, like Ian Green, Marcus Johnson, Paul Watson, Evans Ogboi, Eddie Martin, Goz-I-Am.
SONGS & SONGWRITING: A new prominence of songs from the UK, sung across the world. Our writers have had some success, like Duke Kerr’s ‘It Is To You’, Roger & Sam Grandison’s ‘Awesome Wonder’ and Mark Beswick’s ‘Sing Unto The Lord’. But, for various reasons, they experience less recognition and receive even less for their labours. There are some very strong female writers, like Donna Akodu, who co-wrote ‘Rain’ with Noel Robinson – an anthemic song that still leads the way.
Pray for: Songwriters, like Madeleine Kerzner, Marcia Walder-Thomas and Isabella Ogo-Uzodike.
LIVE EVENTS & TOURS: Exciting live performances in and out of the gospel /church scene, with choirs and various artists, are set to become more prevalent. The BBC’s Religion and Ethics Department has maintained the excellent Songs Of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year (recently won by Wayne Ellington and Manchester Inspirational Voices). Also, the return of Gospel Proms during the BBC Proms Season; the University Gospel Choir Of The Year and WeSingUSing are other major initiatives. We need to build up touring and festival events that draw large audiences to experience gospel at its best and undergird our economy!
Pray for: Organisers and churches, like the promoter ‘T’ of Black Grape Global and RCCG’s Festival Of Life.
MEDIA & MEDIA PERSONALITIES: Our media platforms can achieve greater connectivity to one another, and help create a wider impact upon the public awareness of our music, arts and culture. I believe this collective drive could prove to be one of the tipping points for propelling our scene forward. And, at the forefront, we must have even more articulate artists, like GuvnaB, Muyiwa, Bazil Meade, Karen Gibson and Ken Burton – certain personalities to arise and drive a new understanding of the positive contribution of gospel.
Pray for: Media sources, like Keep The Faith, Testify, Premier Gospel, aStepFwd, Vinejuice, UGN Radio, Soulcure Radio, UCB, TBN, ABN.
INDUSTRY INITIATIVES: Great things don’t happen by accident; it takes determination and strategic working. More than ever before, we need to have systems in place that work and enable/empower Uncommon Achievements. There are systems that exist to do that, and we need to be educated into knowing and practising how to use these systems.
Pray for: The GMIA, in its unique industry ambitions. I’ll take the liberty here to ask specifically for prayer in my new role as Chairperson of the GMIA Board, focused on vision and legacy. And equally, pray for Anu Omideyi, our newly appointed Chief Executive, who leads the delivery of our overall activities. Both our time and effort are currently offered on an unpaid voluntarily basis.
Anu is the leader of the award-winning The Reapers Choir. She has given up her lucrative profession as a barrister for a season, to focus on her call into gospel music – truly an uncommon step, however she is proving her calling and is set for achieving.
Days following her appointment, Anu wrote an open letter, which stated: “Firstly, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for the hard work you put into writing, creating, producing, promoting, distributing, broadcasting, listening to, buying and championing gospel music week in, week out in the United Kingdom and abroad. Many of you work tirelessly, simply for the sheer love of the Gospel and without much public recognition at all. Without you, there would be no need for my new role as the Chief Executive of the Gospel Music Industry Alliance. We, at the GMIA, appreciate, recognise and thank you. Please let me assure you immediately that you are crucially important to the future of our industry going forward.”
Yes. Uncommon Achievements in 2017. We have to make it happen. You may not feel you can say “YES WE CAN!” because Obama is out of office (LOL) but think this way : the spirit of Uncommon Achievement has brought us Trump. Let’s use that same attitude to bring us what we need to transform and do good!
And let the people say – AMEN!