Christians, Šopyright and commercialism.


Jesus had no problem with honest commerce.

Outside church doors where it belonged.

He did have a problem with such commerce coming in to His Father's House - The Church.

And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”  John 2:14-16

What 'merchandise' has come into the church?

Follow this thread of thought.

The Spirit of God inspires a worship song.

It is anointed and touches people’s spirits.

The song becomes popular within the Body of Christ and churches want to use it to help people to worship.

The one given the inspired worship song has copyrighted that song. It has a commercial value as well as a spiritual value.
  Money may well be invested making a CD which is then advertised, and hopefully sold.

Not a problem so far, as buyers have the option to purchase the merchandise or not.

But here comes the problem.

A Christian copyright licensing agency tracks usage of the song within the Body of Christ and ensures that churches pay to sing the song!

Thus God's church is charged money to use God given songs to worship God in His church

The more anointed the song the more usage and therefore the more money it generates for the author from the churches.

Churches pay an amount of money according to the maximum possible size of the audience that they hope to attract in the coming year, and the copyright agents ensure that the song writers get their money from the Body of Christ.

Acetates on an overhead projector or computer generated lyrics usually carry the writer’s name and the churches copyright license number at the base of the songs.  Example (name made up)  

 c. C.K Smith

used under CCL licence no.121153

The legalities behind the licences are plentiful. 

When applying for Christian Restoration in Ireland's mobile (itinerant ministry) Church Copyright Licence and Music Reproduction Licence I was contacted by a customer representative to ensure that I fully understood the licence would cover only me - and not my 'ministry'. To cover my ministry in total every member of the team would have to take out a similar licence. Song lyrics could not be presented by Christian Restoration in Ireland to the public in a venue we were responsible for if I was not present as the leader. I would be able to make copies of songs in Northern Ireland for use in Southern Ireland, but could not make copies in Southern Ireland for use there as my licence only covered the making copies of songs in Northern Ireland. Also,  I must be careful not to leave any of the songs we have used behind when we leave such a venue.  etc etc  

Within days of purchasing my license we could see a problem. 

Our team meets every week for worship and teaching, but I could be away in other countries for maybe a third of the year, which meant that there were times when I would not be there when these worship songs were displayed on the overhead projector. The only way to stay 'legal' was for the person who would lead when I was away to also get a license.

The real shock came when I first realised that we were required to have a church copyright license and a music reproduction licence, and that for five years we had been praising God 'illegally' week after week at our team meetings by projecting hymns and worship song words from an overhead projector and by storing and retrieving some hymns and worship songs from a computer.  (Our weekly training evenings with 12 -14 people fell into category AH which covers groups between 0 -14 people, but we purchased the C licence which covers 100 - 249 people as our weekend seminars draw 100+ people

Think about it. We had been praising God 'illegally'.

Then a thought. Just say I was in Southern Ireland with my team on one of our many weekend conferences and I decided to use a worship song that I had not yet prepared on overhead or on my computer at our base in Northern Ireland.  According to my licence agreement I could not 'legally' type it there and then in Southern Ireland and make an overhead or store it on our computer for use that weekend.   To stay within the agreement of my licence I would have to travel 100 + miles back into Northern Ireland, type out the words, prepare the overhead or Power Point slide, and then drive back to the conference in Southern Ireland to show it.

I began to envision such times when perhaps in Southern Ireland I might be sorely tempted to make a new overhead?  Thinking through the consequences I wondered 'would God still be pleased with the worship that was sung from an illegal overhead?'  If I did break my licence agreement would I repent and confess it to God or also tell the copyright licensing people that I had broken the copyright agreement, and if so what would their response be?

Then there is the annual documentation to be completed. 

One set of documentation - the Church Copyright Licence - deals with reproducing the lyrics (words) of a song. This documentation contains a list of approximately 1000 of the most popular songs and the applicant must read through the list and tick the songs which will have been used by them.  (Songs that are not included on this list must be added in, supplying song title, author and copyright information)   

The second set of documentation - the Music Reproduction Licence - deals with photocopying and customised arrangements from song books.

If you have a licence but choose not to renew it, you are told you must destroy or delete any copies of hymns or songs made either on paper, acetate or stored on computer.

To say we suddenly felt in legal bondage to Christian copyright would be an understatement. 

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. When the spirit of commercial copyright comes into the church, there is.. well ...not quite the same liberty.

Interestingly, the Christian copyright agency's motto is 'Encouraging the spirit of worship'

I am not deriding what the licensing companies are doing in the world of commerce outside the church. It just seems a pity that they are used to get money for the song owners from the churches.

The heart of the issue is that of Christians making their Holy Spirit inspired praise and worship songs either legal or illegal for the church to use based on whether they have submitted to the legalities of the copyright system.   

Church, it's mine. If you use it, pay for it.

If Jesus walked the earth now would He apply for His itinerant Christian copyright licence in order to hold worship with His followers?  Would he spend hours filling in the documentation?   I just can't picture it.  

(I seek not to be lawless so I have my licence - Romans 13 : 1-2 & 1st Peter 2:13)

However the commercial mind-set gets worse. (And I relate a real life example without naming event or names)

There is going to be a very popular worship event. The organizer phones a writer and tells him that they are ‘thinking of including one of his songs in their worship program’.

The organizer reminds the artist that the song will be exposed to the large numbers attending and that the live worship then becomes a popular CD in several countries, and will produce considerable revenue, so could they talk about percentages should his song be included?  One could easily deduce that the songs for this event were being decided - at least partially - by financial interests rather than by the Holy Spirit. 

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  Matthew 6:24

The issue is Christians legally forcing the Body of Christ to pay money to use these God given songs in their worship. 

The issue is that it makes law breakers out of those small fellowships or small ministries who don't get a license.

If a fellowship or ministry team does not take a license but uses these God given songs in their worship will the Christian songwriters take their fellow Christians to court?

Let’s stop right now and picture Peter or James or John getting a praise or worship song from the Lord. 

Picture them copyrighting it. 

Picture them using Herod's law of the land to ensure that their Christian brothers in Christ would pay to make copies of the words for their home group or church worship. 

Picture them appointing legal agents to track its usage in the churches at Corinth Galatia or Philippi. 

Can’t picture it?  

Nor can I.

This is a music industry phenomenon.

Can you imagine a Christian author employing a copyright agent to get money from the church anytime his writings were quoted in a church service.

Can you imagine a Christian preacher or teacher employing a copyright agent to get money from the church anytime any sentences from his sermons or teachings were quoted in a church service.

What would Charles Wesley or Isaac Watts or John Newton think of those who were privileged to walk in their footsteps?  Their singular desire was to see their songs used to bless God and His people as often and as freely as possible.

We are temporarily part of this world and so it is right that we submit to the world's authorities rendering unto Caesar what he is due and taxes to whom taxes are due, but we on a higher - born again - plane, are eternal members of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Body of Christ should not have to pay money to photocopy, project or sing worship songs that the Spirit of God has freely given in order that we might worship God in spirit and in truth.

Christian music is now such a commercial money spinner that we see a secular company like EMi buying over and running Christian labels.

"It has been said that Christianity started in Israel, then was taken to Greece and turned into a philosophy. Then it was taken to Rome where it was made into an institution. Later, it was taken to Europe where it became a culture, and then it was brought to America where it was made into a business enterprise". 

- 'Let me tell you a story' Tony Campolo


It can be sobering to see how those outside of the Kingdom view us 'the church'

In October 1997 a  Christian friend of mine, and a member of Mensa, wrote a letter to the Mensa newsletter expressing a certain Christian viewpoint.  A fellow Mensa member - a lady - wrote to him privately and challenged him on his doctrinal stance, seeking to convince him of the legitimacy of her doctrine as a Jehovah's Witness.  Since my friend was not well versed in their beliefs he asked me to help him with his reply, and so began an exchange which lasted for several long letters.  I felt that I  'won' the doctrinal debate (see the 'cults' section of this web site) but in her final letter she scored a major hit on my heart with her signing off remark.  

"It seems to me that mainstream Christendom have more against them than just their doctrinal points. Their involvement with war, commercialism, politics, idolatry, paganism, and the attitude of some of their adherents, which I experience on a daily basis, I feel precludes them from receiving Holy Spirit. God cannot be backing an organisation which has shown itself to be so unclean in all these areas, and the evidence supports the view that He is not"

What she was saying was that she saw the culture of this world running through 'Christendom'. 

As followers of Christ we are called to be living letters from Christ and ambassadors for His Kingdom, and yet too often the truth is that the above is what we so often portray.

Paul declared that God's workers are due material benefit from their work.   1st Corinthians 9: from verse 14..

"You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? 

Paul chose not exercise this right to reap materially from his ministry lest he 'hinder the gospel of Christ'.

Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.

However he immediately re-iterated that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?  Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel

He re-stated his personal stance when he said..

But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.

That is the core of the issue. Asking nothing that might hinder the gospel of Christ or abuse one's authority in the gospel.

So Christians can live 'from the gospel' but it must always be with integrity, without greed and must not financially hinder the gospel.

Those who invest much money in employing Bible translators, typesetting, printing, paper, binding, advertising, warehousing and distribution are entitled to protect their 'merchandise' with commercial copyright.

Where would we be without their efforts?

Bibles, hymn books, devotional and teaching books etc -all requiring considerable investment - have generally been sold to bless the purchaser and give the writer and publisher and distributor their honourable wages.

As mentioned earlier, we all have the option to purchase the merchandise or not. 

In recent decades another unpleasant flavour of commercialism has crept into the church.

When famous preachers set ‘minimum fees’ for appearances they ape the culture of the world.  In effect they are saying ' if you can't afford God's anointed servant then you can't have him!'

Expenses covered, gifts and freewill offerings, are a natural and honourable way for those who minister to reap materially from their ministry. These benefits should be freely given and not be demanded from believers.

Paul was generously supported by the Macedonian church and accepted wages from other churches (which he said 'felt was like robbery') so that he would place no financial burden on the Corinthian church.

Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.  2nd Corinthians 11:7

If you are an anointed and appointed preacher or teacher and you truly believe that God wants you to go to a church or venue, then go in His Name, use your God given gifting to bless His precious flock, and leave the rest to Him. He is no man's debtor. Our Father knows the things we have need of.

For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:32-33

Sadly many true servants have been financially abused by greedy churches but that is not the servant’s concern. Their Master will deal with that. They work for the Master not for other servants of the Master.

If it costs to serve Jesus so be it.  It is a sacrifice unto the Lord.

If the Lord has blessed you with spiritual gifts is for the benefit of His people, not for you.

Jesus did not say count how much you would make by following Him. 

He said count the cost before you chose that walk.

When underground churches (in China for instance) are seeking to present the Kingdom of God they drive forward with purity, presenting Christ's Kingdom with no thought of making money and certainly no thought of employing the services of licensing companies to make sure that they extract money from their brothers and sisters.    

It is such a blessing that Derek Prince did not claim copyright for his teaching tapes and cd's, stating 'reproduction of this message for commercial purpoises is not permitted.

Likewise New Zealand's late Barry Smith. He used to say that buying and selling was the culture of the world, whereas giving and receiving was the culture of the Kingdom of God.

I place no copyright on any of Christian Restoration in Ireland's teaching notes cd's or dvd's. 

Most are given away freely in personal ministry or when people write and request them from anywhere in the world. 

When a conference or school is held we give all notes free and sell the recordings at cost price or close to it (usually £2), but give them freely to anyone who cannot afford even that. We encourage as many copies to be made as possible and to be distributed freely to people hungry for truth.

When I read the following comment on a feedback form it really blessed me..

"...we have been very fed by Ken's ministry and it is multiplying across our church, thanks to a bit of a tape ministry. We have practically all the tapes Ken made available on his previous internet site and since there is no copyright we have been able to share them around"


However when I am invited to teach under the covering of another's ministry I fully accept that they are free to claim copyright and benefit commercially from that.  

But in my heart I wonder if any of us would commercially copyright anything that Jesus freely gives us if we knew for certain that He was coming back for His Bride this year.


Come Lord Jesus.

Listen to this beautiful anointed worship song by Hanna Hood, released to the Body without charge.


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