Fighting Back

Robert Sterling
I am a fortunate man… • Husband to a wonderful woman for so many years it is assumed I must have married her when she was five years old. • Father to two talented, grounded young men, both of whom I would choose as friends if I wasn’t already their dad. • Grandfather to four beautiful grandchildren. I am a fortunate man… • Still finding new avenues for the work I love after some four decades. • Privileged to make music with incredibly talented cowriters, artists, and recording musicians all along the way. • Blessed to work with ethical, creative clients from all around the globe, in the worlds of church music, advertising, musical theater, & broadcast media. I am a fortunate man… • Saved by God’s grace when I was a boy. • Forgiven by God’s mercy every day since. • Still learning how amazing the Lord truly is after all these years. I am a fortunate man. ASSORTED CREDITS (And other things that might make you think I’m a big deal) • Winner of six Dove Awards. (Not as big a deal as some think.) • Writer of eight Top Ten Christian radio hits. (A bigger deal than many think.) • Producer of Point of Grace, the Talleys, Kurt Kaiser and several other talented recording artists. (A bigger deal for me than for them.) • Writer/Arranger/Orchestrator of a small mountain of choral music anthems, collections and musicals. (Which at least speaks to my work ethic.) • Author of The Craft of Christian Songwriting. (Which speaks to my obsession to finish even the most unprofitable of tasks.) • Seller of tacos, airline tickets, jewelry, and frozen cobblers, during a decade of writing radio & TV jingles, including a recording session with the legendary Mel Torme`. (Now that’s a big deal.) • Teacher of songwriting from a Christian POV since 1995. (Only time will tell if that’s a big deal or not.)

Our culture is “dumbing down.”  The evidence is everywhere – from pop music (where melody is almost non-existent), to TV (which gets most of its laughs from sexual innuendo), to movies (preaching the Gospel according to Hollywood). And it’s nothing new, really. This dumbing down has been happening for quite some time.  The question is: What should Christians do about this?

Personally, I think we should fight back.

The first folks who need to lace up their gloves are Christian artists. Whether they be songwriters, performers, filmmakers, or glass blowers, Christian artists should commit to creating the very best art they can – quality art that might stand the test of time. So much for what passes for creativity these days only lasts for a few moments.

We should dedicate ourselves to a higher standard. We should strive to make our next song, or film, or performance, or piece of glassware, our very best ever. We should not hide behind the protective wall of “ministry,” which is akin to saying, “yes, my song is amateurish and boring, but my heart was in the right place when I wrote it.”

We should no longer accept as immutable truth that Christians must copy what the world is doing. We should try from time to time to be original. And we don’t have to hit the listener/viewer over the head with a three-pound Bible to make our point. In short, we should be good at what we do. Really good.

Churches also need to do their part to fight back against the downward spiral of culture. After all, we are the body of Christ, and He is the agent of all creation. The Church should celebrate and encourage creativity among its people. The Church should support Christian artists of all stripes, and demand their very best work. The cultural gatekeepers of the church must dedicate themselves to seek out what is truly good art, and not settle for what is merely popular. Quality and popularity are not mutually exclusive. But neither are they one and the same.

Finally, individual Christians whom God has blessed with financial resources should consider using some of their resources in support of better art – art that can make a positive impact on our culture. These resources should be invested without the expectation of a fantastic monetary return. (That can happen, but it rarely does.) Instead, money should be given because art is worth the investment. Sometimes a profit will follow. Sometimes it won’t. I’m a card-carrying capitalist, but the relentless pursuit of an ever-increasing profit margin has just about destroyed what was once a pretty healthy Christian music industry.

Jesus called us to be salt and light. But we can’t be salt and light if we settle for mediocrity. We need to be as good as the other guys. Otherwise, we’re going to lose this fight.

Editor’s Note:  Below is a list of some of Robert’s fine work and some other “critic’s picks” from recent releases. When you click on the anthem you can take a “Closer Look” at your choices using our ScorePlay feature!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul Krimsier says:

    A good read.
    I have become more concerned about who is influencing who.
    Has the church in an effort to reach people where they are, adopted too much of what the world offers in music and ‘self help’ messages. It is a fine line that is easy to blur when ‘I’ am at the center of all I do.

    We, all of God’s talented and creative people need to revisit the Cross from time to time.

    It is not about me, it is ALL ABOUT GOD.

    God has blessed you Rob, keep on being a blessing.

    Paul Krimsier


    1. sterlingrm says:

      Paul, Thanks for the kind words!


  2. Paul Capehart says:

    I enjoyed reading this, Robert. Thanks for putting it out there to the public. If you’re ever back in the DFW area, give me heads up. Maybe you could come to Stonebriar Church sometime and do one of your pieces. Cheers!


    1. sterlingrm says:

      Hi Paul! I would love to come to Stonebriar some time. We don’t get back to DFW often – but that would give me another good reason to come. Hope you are doing well.


  3. Michael says:

    This is excellent. I follow a blog written by a woodworker. His name is Paul Sellers. He talks a lot about creating and how he makes and teaches for a living. He also talks about the ‘dumbing down’ of society and how to beat it by creating. He lives it and while talking about Woodworking and teaching it.


    1. sterlingrm says:

      Michael – Interestingly, in my book, THE CRAFT OF CHRISTIAN SONGWRITING, I use the Jesus’ craft of carpentry as a metaphor for the attitude every creative Christian should take toward his or her craft.


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