You Gotta Be Tuned In and Turned On

While it is not polite to read other people’s mail, this letter was delivered to me by mistake, so you might as well read it, too.

Dear Bob:

Believe me, I’m really proud and humble that you’ve chosen me as your agent. You have a great voice and will do great things in the great world of Christian music. Please don’t think of me as Mr. Fifteen Percent. Think of me as a brother and a friend (that’s 10 percent brother and 5 percent friend).

I have some practical suggestions that will help you succeed in this great business—that is, the ministry of gospel music. To begin with, you’ll need a new name. “Bob Johnson” is a wholesome, American name, but it says nothing to the eager and excited music masses. My research team tells me “Karol” is a popular name in Chicago, but I think they stayed in one neighborhood too long. Well, think about it.

I listened to the tapes of your last perform—uh, concert, and you sounded great, just great. But you didn’t do enough talking. People expect gospel singers to talk a lot. Anyway, talking saves your voice so you don’t have to sing too much. It also cuts down rehearsal time. I’m sending you our book of musical comments and religious ad libs. Study it and develop some patter.

The really big thing, Bob, is your need for sound equipment. I know, some people still like organ and piano accompaniment, but they are a minority. Everyone does it now with tracks, and I’m sending you our equipment catalog; we’ll give you a 10 percent discount. My engineers suggest the xv–143 microphones and the .007 KJX speakers.

Are you dating anybody, or thinking of getting married? I hope not. Nothing ruins record sales like having a wife.

Finally, I think you’ll have to quit this business of accepting whatever honorarium people give you. Believe me, we’ll never retire on retiring offerings! I’m suggesting a fee of $2,500 a performance to start with. You can pay for the new sound equipment in no time. Of course, I’ll be watching for my $375 checks.

I predict great things for us—that is, you.


Dear Church: I Quit

My thanks for “Dear Church, I Quit,” by Gordon MacDonald (June 27). The article described so accurately many of the battles that I, a pastor of three years, am currently struggling with.

I must admit that after enjoying MacDonald’s grasp of the mountain-sized internal problems of irrelevance and integrity, I was disappointed with a concluding paragraph that left me with the internal problem of answers that were only molehills in seeking solutions.

Article continues below

What I need some Monday mornings is not a phone interview with George Gallup, but rather a reaffirming “call” from God.


Lignite Church of God

Lignite, N.D.

Since I did quit the pastoral ministry once and am now back in, I think I can speak from both sides. One question MacDonald failed to touch on: What about the pastor who ought to quit but won’t consider the question seriously enough to actually do it?


Keene, Tex.

The body of Christ is not divided; the work of the ministry is done by all members of the body. Paid professionals are the exception, not the rule, in Scripture. A true local church should have several pastors and teachers, these being among the gifts given to the church. No one man has all the gifts.

I sympathize with men who go through crises such as those described in MacDonald’s article. However, their trauma could be lessened by realizing that what they are leaving is, in many cases, a sub-biblical system.


Poway, Calif.

Out of Tune

C. Nolan Huizenga in “A Biblical ‘Tune-up’ for Hymn Singing” (June 27) assumes that the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are three classes of praise: the biblical psalms, plus two sorts of human compositions designated “hymns” and “spiritual songs.”

I am disappointed that in presenting this popular exegesis, Huizenga does not discuss the view of many of the ablest commentators, that the three terms all refer to the psalms of the Bible.

Paul was familiar with the Septuagint, in which the terms “psalms,” “hymns,” and “songs” are used as titles over the various biblical psalms. Sixty-seven have the title “psalm,” 34 have the title “song,” and 6 the title “hymn.” For some psalms these titles are combined. Most commentators, even in hymn-singing denominations, have accepted these passages as speaking of psalms only, though declining to accept them as regulative.

A truly biblical “tune-up” for hymn singing would begin with the recognition of the Book of Psalms as the divinely appointed manual of praise, and follow the Reformation principle of exclusive psalmody.


Reformed Presbyterian Minister

Oskaloosa, Iowa

The articles by Margaret Clarkson and Richard Dinwiddie (“What Makes a Hymn Good?” and “Did I Really Sing That?” June 27) advising us as to what are proper hymns to sing left me somewhat bewildered and amused. For many years I have enjoyed and felt uplifted and worshipful when singing most of the songs they considered unsuitable.

Article continues below

All except the most naive and biblically ignorant recognize the poetic license taken by some of the songwriters. Neither can they be expected to run the gamut of qualities explained by Clarkson in every song.

Perhaps to satisfy Clarkson and Dinwiddie the publishers of songs should put seals of approval on them or else give them star ratings. I’m looking forward to seeing these critics compile a quick reference list of approved songs for evangelicals to sing without feeling guilty. Imagine the kettle of fish David would have been in if he had written the Psalms in the twentieth century.


Wheaton, Ill.

Mr. Dinwiddie’s article on theologically “unsound” songs is more of a reflection on his rather narrow views than on the supposedly unsound theology of most of the songs he mentions. When scholars trained in the analysis of minutiae come face to face with a work of the creative imagination, they are often incapable of seeing the forest for the trees.


Woodford, Va.

Paul Wohlgemuth is right, of course; people should not be deprived of their rightful compensation in the matter of copyrighted material. There is, however, a deeper issue. Can or should the language of devotion be copyrighted? Can or should the songs of the faithful be subject to any law?

The songs of devotion ought to be the public property of the universal Christian church and not subject to the vagaries of the profit margin. Use the copyright to protect the authenticity of a historic text. Give credit where credit is due. But let the people sing!


St. Paul’s United Methodist Church

New Bedford, Mass.

Porn Again

In your editorial, “Policing Pornography: For Christians Who Care” (June 27), you twice cited drugstores as sources of neighborhood pornography. As a pharmacist, I agree that drugstores openly displaying Playboy and other “girlie” magazines should be approached and petitioned, but these types of “soft-core” pornography are not the gravest threat to family stability.

The real family threat lies in our growing permissiveness toward sex outside of marriage. As Christians we should: (1) support groups pressuring television networks to produce more family-oriented programs that do not suggest extramarital sex as acceptable behavior; (2) strive to limit “hard-core” pornography to adult bookstores that have no proximity to residential areas; and (3) approach store managers of reputable businesses that display certain pornographic magazines. Many of these managers are probably church members and share our concerns about this moral issue.

Article continues below


Durham, N.C.


Congratulations! In your news article, “Black-Ruled Zimbabwe’s Church: The Premonitions of Doom Fade” (June 6), you at last attempted to be fair to [Prime Minister] Mugabe. During the height of the war in Zimbabwe, CT called Mugabe and Nkomo “the externally-based and Communist-backed leaders” (June 8, 1979). It was his followers (guerrillas) who did all the killings and not the Smith government. According to CT (July 21, 1978), “Many other blacks have been hideously maimed by terrorists.” Now the people you used to call terrorists are in government.

Bishop Joshua Dube is right when he says that Zimbabwean Christians have to find their own identity in terms of their culture and country. In doing so, Christianity will be rooted in African soil. Unless that is done, Christianity will remain a foreign religion in Zimbabwe, and indeed in the rest of Africa. As a Zimbabwean Christian, I rejoice with my fellow countrymen that at last we are a free people.


Salisbury, Zimbabwe


We regret that in the July 18 issue, page 28, the denominational percentages in the chart were wrong. We ask readers to insert the correct figures, as follows:

General Public Priorities for Christians

Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a Christian, which one of these actions would you say should be the top priority of Christians?

1. Help to win the world for Jesus Christ.

2. Concentrate on the spiritual growth of one’s family and self.

3. Join groups and support causes that will improve the entire community.

4. Help strengthen the local church.

5. Take part in efforts to influence local, state, and national legislation on important issues.

6. Don’t know.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.