Something happened to me, which made me think long and hard about this topic.
When it comes to my spoken word career, it is both ministry and work for me. Spoken word is the work I do, by which I use to minister directly to people. Unlike people like Janette…ikz and Ezekiel, I am not a Christian spoken word artist. I am a Christian who is a spoken word artist, and they are entirely different.
Just like a Christian who is an accountant, he is first a Christian before he is an accountant. Even when he stops being an accountant, he will keep being a Christian. He is expected to shine the light of Christ in his accountancy profession.
So even though I am not a Christian spoken word artist, it is always evident in my message that I am a Christian, because naturally, my values will be reflected in my message. Also, I organise spoken word and rap concerts that are Christian and kingdom driven, because that is my mandate for now. I also teach spoken word in church. I don’t train my students to become Christian spoken word artists, I simply train them to be spoken word artists. Whether they want to use their skill for evangelism, entertainment or social transformation, it is for them to determine. My own job ends at skills transference.
Because of my kind of message, I get invited to perform at all kinds of event… all kinds. The only kind I haven’t performed at yet is a funeral, and I am up for the challenge whenever it comes.
When I get invited, I state my fees, they pay, I rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. I perform and it ends… mostly in that cycle. If I don’t like the fees, I negotiate upwards or recommend someone else. On very few occasions, I perform for free.
So last week, based on the recommendation of a pastor, a lady invited me to perform at a church departmental end of the year party. I stated my fees, and we reached an agreement.
In the course of the next week, she ran into some personal issues, and some other woman took over. This person didn’t reach out to me on time, so I cancelled out the program from my schedule. Two days to the event, she called, and I made an allusion to the fact that I had almost changed my mind since I didn’t hear from her. We talked a bit more, and I agreed to come even though I’ll be under too much rehearsal pressure. I asked how far with the agreement for my fees, and she was like "what fees?"
She asked for the amount, and then I shouldn’t worry because she was under the impression that I was just coming to ‘bless them’. To say I was shocked was an understatement?
What if I had started working on their piece, which ideally, I should have cos she called 2 days to the event?
She didn’t even try to negotiate me down, or use the usual ‘please come down for us, it is the work of God, church has too many expenses’ line. She just expected me to come and do it for free.
She expected me to invest my time, my sweat, my brain, my saliva, and energy, fuel… for free.
Can you see something wrong with this thinking? And here is my reply for her and other church people who think this way. If you are one of them, please make sure you read well and well enough.
“First of all, I am not coming to bless you. I am coming to work, to do a job. In the process of my work, you will become blessed. If I am coming to sow, I know that's what I'm doing. If I'm coming to work, I know that's what I'm doing. You are not the one that will tell me to sow. I choose to sow when I want.”
When church ministries act this way, and don't want to pay, I don't take them seriously, and I don't go. It is not because I'm mean, greedy or I can't afford to do it for free. It is because in most cases, those people don’t really appreciate you, your art, the work you do, and the time you invest into churning out excellence. The value they place on you can be equated to how hairdressers treat hair lice.
I mean, they paid the caterer, decorator and other service providers, so why shouldn't I get paid? Is my work less important than theirs? Do you know how much intellectual work goes into creating an average piece, talk less of a good one?
Did they ask the caterer to bless them with their food? Of course not. They paid her because they understood the value of good food. No wonder the church loses its talent every day because the secular world never treats talents like this.
When the woman dropped, I didn’t feel bad. I was only sad because she was referred by someone I respect, and if that pastor should ever ask me, I will just show him this blog post.