One of my former students, and now associate within the Bethel Arts community staff, Tinasha LaRaye, wrote and directed a live docudrama, celebrating the history and influence of Gospel Music.
I had the privilege of attending the performance, hosted by Bethel Church for the Redding community to cap off our city’s partnership in honoring Black History Month.
She powerfully depicted the power of Gospel Music, birthed of suffering slaves, who found solace as they sang songs of hope and the power of Jesus for deliverance from inconceivable injustices.
After slavery was abolished, Gospel music began to take on other flavors and style. It emerged and crossed over into the secular arena, where many artists felt misunderstood by the church and were persecuted for entering the mainstream of pop culture, rather than just playing a certain style of gospel in the church. Many of these artists were able to influence culture in ways that “preaching” could not accomplish.
It’s amazing how many lives were lost in the Civil Rights movement, yet this Gospel music held the black community together in church services, marches, and rallies. They fought with praise more than with weapons of war, and won.
I believe all of us have been born into this era because we have been created by God to creatively collaborate for His goodness, and for His Kingdom to be manifested.
Thomas Dorsey was one of the first Gospel Music voices that emerged in the 1930’s to bring hope and cultural change in our country.
His song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” was played at Martin Luther King’s funeral. Although he was a successful musician in the secular realm, he used his style of blues and jazz to enter into the church realm, which made his sound relevant in his day.
1. Cultivate Your Creative Expression
Dorsey’s mother, a piano teacher and accompanist for the church choir of which his father was pastor, began to teach tommy the piano early in life. It wasn’t long before he began to sneak in blues and jazz riffs into the hymns he was being taught.
Against cultural constraints and norms, he braved his way into music school in Chicago, which eventually opened up many doors for him to work within the music industry as a musician and as an agent for Paramount Music.
Whatever your background or ethnicity, remember that God gave you desires, and He will help you cultivate your talents and abilities to influence the world around you.
2. Let God Lead You
I am raising up many creatives, like Tinasha, to hear from God and follow His voice, as they create. This is a game changer for anyone who has a desire to shape culture. If we ask Holy Spirit to lead us in our creative process, then we will find ourselves co-creating with God, which will have a lasting impact in shaping history.
Tinasha had never been taught how to partner with Holy Spirit in her creativity until she came to Bethel four years ago and took my creative courses. This equipping process has enabled her to produce many other culturally impacting productions because she understands the spiritual dynamics behind her work.
Like Tinasha, Tommy Dorsey had no idea that when he began the journey of writing songs with God that he would end up leading a music movement. Our yes to God leads to an anointing that will go farther than what talent alone can do.
I want to encourage you to not go it alone, but to allow God in your process as you create.
3. Accept That Pain Has A Purpose
Most of us either deny our pain, or want to get away from it, but God always trumps pain as we creatively let Him into our process. I think of the Psalms that are so rich in story as David feels abandoned by God in his pain, only to trust Him in the end.
We are so moved by Paul, who went through severe pain and hardships, but learned the power of singing in prison, which opened up a miraculous escape from certain death (Acts 16).
The reason that Gospel music was so powerful was because it kept slaves alive through hope, and united them as they collectively and courageously faced injustice.
When we create in the midst of our pain with God, we can help others also be set free. Our victory as we creatively express it, allows the key of freedom to be brought to those who live behind prison bars, whether they are social, physical, emotional, or spiritual.
Why not talk to God about your pain and the pain that others may be going through like you, and creatively express your story, so that others can identify with hope rather than hopelessness and despair?
4. Choose To Be Different
Most people who have shaped history were not recognized or accepted, and had to fight against the system.
We need to support those whom are walking with God and are trying to reach the generations who can’t seem to hear God unless we speak their language in relevant way that they can understand.
We must be willing to shape the Gospel into the language, dance, lyrics, and art of its people. Paul said that he was willing to become all things to all people, so that others may be won to Christ (I Cor. 9:22).
Don’t be afraid to try something different and go after a new way of creating. Find out who you are called to reach, and find ways to creatively reach them in relevant ways through your creative expressions.
5. Be Willing To Fail
I think so many of us give up on our dreams to shape culture because we give up too soon because of the cost of failing.
Here are some world changers whom we all know, and who refused to give up even when they failed.
Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1917 because his editor said, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
Oprah Winfrey was a news reporter who apparently got fired because she couldn’t shut off her emotions from her stories.
Thomas Edison was fired from the Western Union for conducting an experiment where his acid burned through the entire floor. Instead of getting another job, he decided to work on his inventions.
Steve Jobs was fired from his own company.
Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four and didn’t read until he was seven. He was subsequently expelled from school- but he came around!
There are so many artists who never saw their success like Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet but that didn’t stop them from creating!
You may not immediately see the fruit of your labor to change the world around you, but we know that God is faithful to give us a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
I am so glad that I was able to inspire Tinasha to follow her dreams to creatively express her talent for Spoken Word and Creative Production. She is now leading others here at Bethel Church and our Redding community to follow their dreams as a change agent.
We all have countless people who have fought for us to enjoy so many creative things because they took a risk- so let’s do the same for those who are right beside us or behind us!
We are part of God’s family and He wants creatives to become the influencers that shape history.
So, follow your passion, and let God become apart of your creative process. I want to challenge you to reach down and find the redemptive work that only comes through facing your pain, and then never, and I mean never, give up on creating.
Remember, you are Born to Create!