Giving Away Music for the Kingdom by Jeremy Ritch It’s easy to be discouraged by the behavior of record companies. With far more focused on making money than on making a difference, they often sacrifice artistry for sales charts, leaving the artist to choose between compromising or
being dropped from the label. Consistently competitive and cutthroat, the music business has produced many disenfranchised music fans and musicians. Sadly, the practices of Christian recording companies can look indistinguishable from secular ones. Most of the bigger Christian labels are owned by larger secular companies anyway, and those are owned in turn by one of several giant corporations. The smaller independent labels, which struggle so valiantly to compete, are disappearing. In all this madness, however, a few surviving Christian labels do manage to care about the art, the artist, and the message. One of the most notable examples is Come&Live out of Nashville, Tenn. Come&Live was founded in 2009
A few of the more than three dozen artists Come&Live promotes.
by Chad Johnson, a former A&R rep at Tooth and Nail Records in Seattle, Wash., who before that ran the independent label Takehold Records. Weary of the direction in which the industry was headed, Johnson decided to walk away from his career and settled his family in Nashville. But he changed his mind when he realized he could take a different approach—by launching a nonprofit label that gives away its music in mp3 format and promotes not only music but also service. I caught up with Johnson and asked him about the vision behind Come&Live. “We’re a nonprofit missions community,” explains Johnson. “Our mission is to establish the kingdom of God and awaken the world to the love of Jesus. Essentially, we see our core DNA as three strands: discipleship, kingdom living, and radical generosity. Blend the three together and the hope is that we’ve helped the world see Jesus a bit more clearly.” How do they compare with for-profit labels in the industry? “Not very well,” says Johnson. “The reality is that even though we are positioned in Nashville, we are after a very different approach and set of goals than the conventional music model. We don’t exactly fit the current model, but we do have many friends in the industry and are very grateful for what God is doing in the lives of all his children. Unity is key.” With a ministry model based on giveaways, how do they stay afloat? “We see our music as a gift,” says Johnson. “A small gift, but a gift nonetheless. God has gifted artists with the ability to bring him glory. Our desire is to turn that blessing into gifts that keep giving. It is easier to reflect the generous gift of the gospel through the generous giving of songs and records than through selling. We trust the Lord to provide for our needs, and in the almost four years since our inception, he has always been faithful to do so. Staying afloat is God’s call—staying focused on the prize is ours.” What kind of artists does Come&Live look for? “Teachable hearts. Hungry hearts. A desire to see this generation drawn, by the power of the Spirit, into the
loving arms of a King. Willing to potentially forgo their own income streams to see the kingdom of God established. Risk-takers that long for more of Jesus in their daily lives.” This unique approach goes beyond music as they seek to develop leaders, not just musicians. “We’re trying to seek God together as a community,” Johnson continues. “That’s not an easy task when we have artists spread out all
“Staying afloat is God’s call—staying focused on the prize is ours.” over the place. God has opened doors for us to travel around the world with the message of love and simply invest in a fatherless generation. It’s a joy to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, knowing that all these things could be added unto us.” With outreach as their central goal, Come&Live has undertaken several missionsoriented trips, most recently to New Zealand and Brazil. The focus is not just on evangelism but also on being God’s hands and feet on earth, and the artists are part of that vision. “Our goal is to more clearly communicate Jesus to the world,” says Johnson, “specifically in launching monthly conference-style events where we can more steadily invest in a generation of youth and encourage their faith journeys. We’re after true biblical revival—that’s really the goal for every year, in a broad sense. The broken and hurting encountering God. Living a story of transparency along the way.” Learn more at ComeandLive.com. Jeremy Ritch is a copastor at The Exchange, a service at Cornerstone Fellowship in Wormleysburg, Pa., a freelance writer for the Brethren in Christ church, and the author of My Beautiful Mess: A Journey Through Faith, Hope, and Love.