Tony Fitzgerald: Cross Rhythms Festival - CCM and the rise of the prophetic Psalmist

Thursday 1st April 1999

Bible teacher and preacher TONY FITZGERALD has seen Cross Rhythms and the CCM scene develop down the years. He was quizzed by Tony Cummings.

Tony Fitzgerald
Tony Fitzgerald

Tony Fitzgerald is an acknowledged Father of the Church. An internationally renowned preacher and Bible teacher, this Australian born veteran currently heads up the Church For All Nations in Richmond, Virginia as well as travelling extensively around the world teaching and ministering. Tony has ministered at six of the eight Cross Rhythms festivals and so has had an opportunity to gauge both the spiritual undergirding of the festival and the growth and changes within the Christian music scene. I spoke to Tony when he visited United Christian Broadcasters' Stoke-On-Trent studios in February.

Tony: You've had a long association with Cross Rhythms down the years. How did that begin?
Tony: "I was speaking at a financial seminar in Plymouth, this was when I first met Chris Cole. Out of that a relationship grew and 1 got invited to come down to Cross Rhythms festival in 1992 in ' Exeter. It's grown from there. I've been friends for a long while with Les Moir as well, who's fairly well known in the music world. I think I came to Cross Rhythms with him, or was closely linked with him. That seems many years ago now."

Tony: How would you say the Cross Rhythms Festival has changed down the years?
Tony: "I think it's changed in the sense that it has broadened. My memories of my first one I came to was bringing a message on the Father heart of God with a metal band in the tent next to me and trying to keep my thoughts together to do a seminar. Although that's still a great part of Cross Rhythms, it was a shock to me having been more churched. I think the thing that has broadened now is the ministry. It seems to be touching more families as well and I think the ministry side, at least from my perspective, has gone deeper. We have a ministry tent now where we minister to a lot of people and even in the main stage there is more ministry of the Word that goes forth as well as music. I think it's coming to a very strong place. I enjoy it very much because we can flow in the prophetic, both in the spoken prophetic and through the prophetic brought through music and even through instruments and seeing that God's not narrow. We are broadening with him in understanding the way that he does minister."

Tony: Would you say then Cross Rhythms has played an important role in giving a platform to the prophet musician?
Tony: "Yes I think so. Years ago we preachers used to think in terms of having a musician do some music as a preparation for the serious business of preaching. I think we are going through a tremendous change in that. With so many new prophetic psalmists being raised up as well as prophets proclaiming through the singing word, I think it's changing. Sermons are preached in songs and songs are sung in sermons. There's a whole evolution going on in that area of realising that the creative power of God in expressing himself to people is not isolated just to one specific area or one gifting. I sense more and more when I travel in various places of the world that it is no longer essential that the preacher gets up. It may be that God starts to take a meeting somewhere through worship or through some artists or musician and God just begins to move in that. We don't get to the spoken word. We just pick it up with what God's doing and then begin to move in gifts out of that and begin to see the flow of God. I don't think it is departmentalised like it used to be. There's a tremendous flow."

Tony: For a lot of people the time at the 1998 Festival when you ministered immediately after David Evans was a particularly anointed time.
Tony: "In my experience of Cross Rhythms that was the most powerful 30 minutes since I've been involved there. I was a little nervous because I'd not met David before and he was up there singing and he's very powerful and of course it's out there on the edge contemporary music. I was thinking, '...going up on the main stage after this to share -what a let down for the kids!'. But then David finished the set he was doing by ministering about the Father heart of God, which of course is what is very often on my heart as well. I remember walking out onto the stage that night and sensing a tremendous presence of God. Chris Cole was still there, he'd just introduced me. I think I turned to David and prophesied over him, I had a word for him, and he went down under the power of God, just weeping, then got up. People were starting to come forward and then he took the microphone and began to sing 'Amazing Grace' I think. It was very, very powerful. I remember two days later, at the last session of the festival, a young man came up to me and told me what happened to him in the tent that night. He said, 'You had a word of knowledge for me and I was running out the back of the tent. You said something like 'Don't run now.' I turned around and came the other way and got born again that night.' A few nights ago I was in a meeting and a woman brought her daughter up to me and said, 'You had a word of knowledge at Cross Rhythms. My daughter was standing there and she ran out of the tent because she knew so clearly it was her. She ran out of the tent that night but she's been coming to services ever since.' I met her that night. It's nearly a year on and she was responding to God now. There was great power there that night. I think that was great, just to see the flow. By the time I got up there was no need to be thinking about. 'Well now, before we start to move in gifts or do things we need a 20 minute sermon.' The word was already coming through song, so just picking up the threads of that, the ministry began. I think that's the day we live in. I think we've been very limited in how we've viewed the way God can minister to people."

Tony: Is this move of the Spirit through the vehicle of music an international movement?
Tony: "Yes, definitely, but I do believe Britain is way ahead of much of the world in these things. I believe in the move of the Spirit. Great Britain is a long way ahead of the USA. say, and certainly in the realm of contemporary music as well. There's much more grassroots music coming out of here. I feel that in the States, if it's not professional or stamped by Nashville or something that it's not accepted. The thing I love about Britain is when I get Cross Rhythms and hear the music on the CD some of it is available at some street address in some town somewhere and obviously these guys have got it together themselves and are launching out. Whereas in America you can't get that exposure. The UK is a long way ahead in those areas and has a lot prophetically to say to the rest of the Western world. I see music ministry beginning to break in South Africa, I see it breaking in the youth generation particularly. There is such a hunger for worship, such a desire to be in the presence of God. They will listen to me share a one hour message but it's riot the beginning or end of it anymore and I think that's the great thing."

Tony: What about the risk that the increasing popularity of Christian music will bring more and more businessmen and marketing approaches that aren't godly?
Tony: "I personally see great dangers in it and yet I feel it is inevitable in certain ways because we live in a consumer/commerce-based society at large and that's the way things happen. I think there is going to be a tremendous need for prayer, intercession, to protect spiritual musicians, because obviously once it becomes the prophet thing some big monies can be released and all the things that go with it and there can be a lot of hurt and damage. You talk to musicians all the time who feel they've been ripped off by this company or that company or someone's abused this or that. But I sense there's that inevitability there's going to be that side of it. I feel probably the key to the answer to it is whether we can see if musicians can walk in humility, to keep themselves submitted and committed into local churches and that local churches can be big enough in heart and expression to walk with the musicians and yet fully release the giftings that are being released. I think there is going to be great tension on all sides. I feel like in pastoring a church as well as watching over churches worldwide and that kind of thing. God had to deal in my heart a number of years ago when I was speaking at a rally in Southampton and there was a band playing and I was going to speak after them. My life at that time had begun to minister in the charismatic celebration kind of meeting where you had a worship band then the speaker got up and then you had altar calls. So it was a huge challenge to go on straight away after a band that is not a worship band but a band that is really doing a gig. I felt totally out of my depth. It was probably not long after that I first had contact with Cross Rhythms. But what had to happen in my life at that time was I had to understand the difference in my life between conviction and preference and deal with that in music styles. I realised that much of what goes on in church life, even in music styles when people say 'this can't be from God', it's really preference more than true conviction.

"Also, I want to find some way, not to lock musicians up or protect them, but to save them from the damage of over-commercialisation or the over-business side of it. And yet I realise that God is going to take some musicians and lead them into secular charts and the Gospel will get out into the nations that way as well. So I believe that we are going to live with tremendous tensions. I believe as a pastor when you deal with musicians you're often dealing with an independent spirit, you are often dealing with people that have got there own set of where they want to go with their life and not a lot of room for others. But I see both on church side and musician side a lot of breaking down of old attitudes. Probably one of the keys to that is the real emphases of the releasing of prophetic worship that has begun to come; music much more directed towards God and flowing out of the heart of God more than just performance. But both are there and both are essential."

Tony: The British CCM musician seems to be getting a lot of attention currently in the USA.
Tony: "Yes, a good example of that is Delirious?' exposure in America. Some friends of mine were at a Delirious? concert up on a mountain in America not long ago -they said just going up the mountain when Delirious? began to do their thing you could sense the presence of God hovering over the mountain. That was a young American pastor who'd never heard Delirious? before. It was the anointing that they brought with them. One of the signs will be not so much whether they take the congregation into worship with them but whether at the end of the hour, hour and a half, whether the kids are seeing Jesus or the band. Now I know you can't totally divide the two 'cause you can't divide the oil from the vessel. But the signs are encouraging. I've enjoyed very much being in some situations where Matt Redman has been ministering. At- the end of the night everyone's not chanting 'Matt, Matt', they are lost in the Lord. Matt has a tremendous ability to somehow lose himself up there and let Jesus come forth. There's much more of that coming forth at the moment. I still see a place for the Christian concert where the band's doing Christian contemporary music and the kids are there primarily for entertainment. I would still sooner see my kids entertained at a Christian concert as anywhere else. There's a place for that. But I feel there is a strong, prophetic worship heart coming and even when bands may be not leading congregational worship in that-sense like we tend to think of with the overhead up showing the words, etc, there's still a sense in which they're bringing a crowd of people into the presence of God. I think there's something very powerful taking place in that area."

Tony: What do you see as the older generation's function in all this?
Tony: "I personally believe there is a generation being touched right now and I feel one of the greatest roles my generation has to play now is helping to father and disciple the next generation into the fullness of what we would talk about as the five fold ministry. I think it's going to be much broader in understanding to how we had it some years back, but fathering this next generation of leaders in every sphere of Christian life. I would say that most of our churches, in Church Of The Nations around the world, and most of the age groups would accept the fact that most music in church is going to be led out by the younger generation. I find most enjoy that, as long as they can still have some balance over the course of their week. In the church where I personally live in Richmond, Virginia, we sing a lot of Delirious? music, Matt Redman music, so called music a little bit more on the edge and our older people enjoy it tremendously."

Tony: Finally, Tony, where do you think we're heading in the future?
Tony: "I think facing a new millennium, with which of course we can all have questions on the actual dates and the year, the fact that we are facing this time in history with a tremendous sense of concern around the world with what will happen in the year 2000 with Y2K and computer glitches and this kind of thing, I think there is a sense in which we are yet to know what will happen with all that. But I think there is an awareness and somewhat of a fear growing in society. I think there is a sense in which there has never been a more open time for the Gospel. So I do believe this is the time for the Church to rise very triumphant and move into a harvest time. A message I've been sharing recently, even on this trip into the UK, God's been speaking to me afresh about his entrance in the last time of his life into Jerusalem. In entering the city he was going to release incredible things, freeing people from sin. But his concern coming into the city was his first trip into the temple, to deal with the temple before he released the city. I think God has taken us in this move of the Spirit into a deep work in the temple, in his Church, individually and collectively. I feel this points to the fact that he is turning over all the tables in us, he's getting rid of all the unclean things in us. And all this points that he's about to do a very significant thing in the city. We've got to be ready for the harvest now.

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.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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