Visions are hard to hang on to when times are tough. Cross Rhythms publisher and broadcaster CHRIS COLE speaks from the pain ... and hope ... of recent experience.

Chris Cole FRSA
Chris Cole FRSA

Life has a knack of occasionally knocking the wind out of us all. We aren't all Frank Sinatras who are able to sing 'I did it my way'. In fact all of us get some sort of challenging set of circumstances to work through be it health, finance or relationships. So how do we respond to these pressures and how do we view God in it all? What happens when we face ill health, relational strife or financial ruin?

As we've told you, our readers, in the past, Cross Rhythms is a 'faith ministry' with little or no financial resources to support what we're doing. At the time of writing this article in March, Cornerstone House was in need of £4.000 to pay off print bills. Our printer John Hammond had been long suffering and stood with us in the vision as we waited for monies owed to us to come in. But it came in painfully slowly. We twice made the decision to suspend the printing of this issue. Previous experience had shown me that presumption isn't good stewardship. Many questions needed to be asked. Was God calling the Cross Rhythms vision to an end? Was He testing our obedience? What about the dynamics of spiritual warfare which we believe to be a very real undercurrent in publishing a magazine committed to gospel truth in a culture awash with humanism, lust and the occult? As we waited on the Lord to provide our immediate financial needs we saw afresh that timing is a crucial factor in any strategy or vision. Through the lack of financial provision the Cross Rhythms team were forced to look at the motives of their hearts concerning Cross Rhythms. We're still looking.

As you can see from the fact that you're holding this issue in your hands, God has provided, at least in part. But we've still some way to go to move off the money-losing treadmill. Personally, I am not a hundred percent sure that I know why all those involved in the Cross Rhythms ministry are all going through these difficult times. But I have a strong conviction that this process of adversity is producing 'gold'. God is more interested in prospering our souls than He is our bank balance. The 'gold' that God is interested in is eternal in quality. Many of us in Cross Rhythms/Cornerstone House have experienced a gentle 'breaking' in the past few weeks. But through the pressure we are more fully able to understand our own motives and why we are doing what we're doing. Maybe all this sounds a little super-spiritual or unduly pious. After all, on one level Cross Rhythms is perceived as being 'culturally relevant' (meaning, we're au fait with AOR, grunge, and acid house as well as Kendricks and plainsong). And clearly, Cross Rhythms is a magazine that values and encourages the Arts and Human Creativity. But the Cross Rhythms team live and work, often sacrificially, not because we have collective bees in our bonnets about Art or Music. Although we're committed to Cross Rhythms magazine, the radio broadcasts and the Festival and are striving to help build an infrastructure to support all forms of Christian music, our vision isn't directed towards Cross Rhythms or Christian music but is, I believe directed towards Jesus Christ Himself. The spiritual foundation of all that we are trying to do with music has got to be built on a what the Bible calls 'a true faith'. True faith is experienced when our security as creative people is in Him and not in what we do, achieve or create.

A supernatural relationship with God is imperative if we want to live the Christian life to the full. A relationship with the Holy Spirit isn't an optional extra, it's foundational biblical teaching. Neither is the relationship with the Holy Spirit a triumphal charismatic bless me up. The Holy Spirit desires to lead us into all truth. He desires to create the attitude and character of Jesus Christ so that we may fulfil the will of our Father on earth. He desires that when we move in the power of His Spirit to perform miracles of healing and deliverance we do it because we passionately love the people who are being set free through the gifts. (God preserve us from charismatics on ego trips.) The importance of God's miraculous provision and involvement in our lives is of manifold importance to the whole concept of Cross Rhythms. Obviously, without God's financial provision the magazine doesn't get printed. But more importantly, perhaps, is that when God produces a miracle then the people who are themselves involved with the process are wonderfully built up within their faith. Character is developed and the true attitude of Christ Jesus is evidenced in the lives of those who have been changed and often broken gently through their obedience to this radical commitment.

Circumstances, whether they concern health, relationships or finance, which require miraculous solutions produce in our hearts a dependency upon God which in turn develops a deeper relationship of intimate trust with Him as our Heavenly Father. Basically, this is the 'good news' of the Gospel. The 'good news' isn't that every circumstance goes well or even necessarily turns out for our benefit. (You've only got to look at the life of the Apostles to work that one out.) No, the 'good news' is that we may know Him through the wisdom of the Cross. True faith breaks the independence of our hearts into a realisation that true freedom and purpose comes from only doing His will. In other words, what we do or create comes out of who we are. We are human beings not human goings.

This principle is at the very heart of the Cross Rhythms theology and ethos. None of us associated with this project want to be involved with an organisation motivated by empire building. We want to share resources and opportunities with others already functioning within the Christian music world. We also want to challenge some of the 'power bases' in Christendom who are perhaps too insecure to serve and work with fellow believers. What would have happened if King Saul had listened to David? Jealousy is rooted in insecurity.

The circumstances which we all face as Christians in the "Decade of Evangelism" are formidable to say the least. With biblical values being replaced by secular humanism, a great sense of insecurity is being experienced by many including Christians. When we again look at the story of David and King Saul we can see a king well organised with many men and much armour and yet in fear of Goliath. David on the other hand through his personal relationship with God and the experience of deliverance from a lion and a bear demonstrated a confidence, courage and supernatural ability which destroyed the giant. It's not the world's idea of success which we need, it's God's. It's not Christian musicians with secular record deals which will change our nation, it's Christian musicians manifesting the full power of the Holy Spirit which will change our society. That doesn't mean I'm opposed to secular record deals for Christians because I'm not - but I hunger for holiness as the record says and I want to see a spiritual quality that exemplifies Christ Jesus. To me that is what makes gospel music truly inspirational and a force to be reckoned with. Personally, I believe that Christian music has a vital role to reach, encourage, rebuke and build up a young generation -and an older generation also if I had time to debate the issue.

If what I say about the key part in God's plan for Christian music is true, then clearly Cross Rhythms has much still to achieve. When Tony Cummings started the magazine in May 1990, he perceived it very much as 'a consciousness builder' alerting both the Church and the mass media to the wealth of excellent music existing within the Christian community. The original dual roles of Cross Rhythms, to inform potential album buyers/concert goers and to encourage and assist Christian musicians, remain our aims today. But our vision has expanded. If the magazine was the forerunner, getting Christian music onto the radio is clearly 'Phase Two' of the vision. Progress is being made. With a Cross Rhythms radio programme on two I.L.R. stations in the U.K. and now our broadcasts into Africa, Cross Rhythms is slowly but surely challenging the ludicrous situation of people having to buy Christian music without first hearing it. The magazine is increasing in sales every issue according to our distributors STL and our subscription department. It's slow growth, but it's organic and without any "hype".

Prophets of doom predicted Cross Rhythms would "not survive past three issues". They have been proven wrong of course. Indeed we are at this moment looking forward to a potentially more secure future financially if the promise of increased support for the Cross Rhythms Festival comes to pass. But whatever the future holds, we are sure of one thing. Among the most important things Cross Rhythms has achieved has nothing to do with helping such-and-such-an-artist make the pop playlists, getting more Christians to buy CCM albums or helping an 'unknown' land a Word recording deal. I believe one of the most significant things in Cross Rhythms' life is how God has reminded those who work for it that unless God builds the temple we labour in vain. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.