I first saw the expression while riding down Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles.

The “Godfather of Soul” had been arrested after leading police on a high-speed chase through several states. As “the hardest working man in show business” sat in prison, some enterprising brother found a way to profit from his troubles. He stood on Crenshaw, selling t-shirts that read, “Free James Brown!”

Over the years, that expression has been adapted to call for the release – sincerely or sarcastically – of various persons in different forms of bondage.

Consider this my appeal to #FreeGospelMusic.

I love Gospel Music. I buy Gospel Music. I sing Gospel Music. But I am concerned that too much Gospel Music is more about the music than the gospel.

A coward soldier was brought before Alexander the Great for judgment. The great general asked the frightened boy his name. It was Alexander. Angrily, the general charged the young man to change his ways or change his name!

Gospel Music needs to face that same stern challenge. Don’t believe me? Just listen to the radio with a discerning ear. Or just go to church.

Ignore how good the music sounds. Don’t let your emotions get in the way. Think about what the lyrics communicate. Watch the example the worship leaders set. Consider what the music actually communicates.

Gospel Music is in bondage and needs to be set free!

#FreeGospelMusic from Artists Pretending to be Worship Leaders

You wrote the song. You played the instruments. You produced the recording. But you can’t sing. Directing the group or choir doesn’t get you heard. And you are not really a worship leader. So you choose to let the music speak for itself while you stay in the background. Nope. You instead just talk through the song – unnecessarily lining the lyrics, yelling unprocessed adlibs in the name of “ministering” to the people, and playing hype-man for those who are actually singing the song! Why do choir directors now need a microphone to lead the choir? It is because artists set bad examples stealing the spotlight from the actual message of the song.

#FreeGospelMusic from Worldly Competition 

“Separate but equal” did not work in racial segregation. And it does not work in biblical Christianity. The church does not need a Christian alternative to everything the world does. For instance, “American Idol” should not be imitated by a “Sunday’s Best!” The Holy Spirit would never “anoint” you to win record contract, new car, and cash prize! Let the world be the world. And let the church be the church! Exalt Jesus as you sing. Then let him give you a platform for your music that will glorify him. Don’t prostitute your gift to get your big break.

#FreeGospelMusic from Prosperity Theology 

Prosperity Theology has kidnapped Gospel Music. Prominent artists sit under preachers whose theological emphasis is health, wealth, and success. This man-centered poison has become the norm through talented artists who set this damnable heresy to beautiful music. We have plummeted from “Going Up Yonder” to “Let’s Go Back to Eden!” Could this be why people are not buying Gospel Music? Don’t blame the church, or the industry, or the devil. Look in the mirror. Stop trying to fit in with the world. Serve the church by writing and recording doctrinally sound, gospel saturated, Christ-exalting music!

#FreeGospelMusic from Artists Who Can’t Stand the Church

Gospel Music targets several usual suspects as villains. Sin. (Amen!) Satan. (Indeed!) The World. (Absolutely!) And the church. (Wait a minute! What?) Church hurt is brutal. I have the scars to prove it. But the church is not a necessary evil to be mistreated. Jesus loves the church. He died for the church. He is making her a spotless bride. We need Gospel artists who are friends of the Bridegroom. You can’t be pro-kingdom if you are anti-church! You cannot exalt the Bridegroom and insult his bride at the same time. The church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.

#FreeGospelMusic from the Stepping-Stone Mentality

There are many Gospel artists who got their start in the church. There is nothing wrong with that. But it is wrong to unabashedly use the church as a stepping-stone for your music career. Unfortunately, pastors also use churches as stepping-stones. But it is one thing to use a church as a stepping-stone to a bigger church. It is another thing to use the church as a stepping-stone to graduate from leading in worship to performing for the world. You cannot run with the rabbits and hunt with the hounds at the same time. Gospel artists need to pick a side!

I’m sure you can think of other bondages from Gospel Music needs to be delivered.

Join the movement. Pray for Christian artists. Fall in love with the word of God. Use your talents to write good and sound music. Take your craft seriously. Take your walk with Christ even more seriously. Guard your life and your doctrine. Make much of the Lord Jesus Christ. Serve the church. Don’t do it just because it is popular or sell units. Work on the depth of your ministry and trust God to handle the breadth of your ministry. Remember that it’s not about you!

#FreeGospelMusic!