Friday, October 3, 2014

Who owns the preaching of the Gospel?

Young Jeezy has decided not to fight the Bishop.

Jeezy has removed “Holy Ghost Remix” from SoundCloud and YouTube after T.D. Jakes threatened to sue for the use of part of his sermon on the track.

Jeezy used Jakes sermon titled “Don’t Let the Chatter Stop you” as the song’s hook.

"... I'm under attack, but I'm still on fire
 I got some chatter, but I'm still on fire
 I got some threat, but I'm still on fire
 I got some liabilities, but I'm still on fire
 If it's not amazing that I'm on fire
 I've been to hell and back, but I'm still on fire."

Jakes responded on Facebook shortly after the song, also featuring Kendrick Lamar, was released.

"SPECIAL NOTICE: The 'Holy Ghost' remix by Jeezy featuring Kendrick Lamar was produced without the knowledge or consent of T.D. Jakes, TDJ Enterprises, Dexterity Music or its associated companies," the Facebook message from T.D. Jakes Ministries reads. "We are taking the necessary legal actions to stop the unauthorized use of T.D. Jakes' intellectual property."

The pending lawsuit against Jeezy raises a set of theological issues related to the usage of the intellectual property of a preacher.  Do assumptions regarding the source of preaching press us into considering potential contradictions in the way we communicate those views in public space?

Legally, the law is on Jeezy’s side.  Using parts of Jakes sermon, even without permission, is considered “fair use” and not an infringement or theft, because Jeezy gave Jakes credit.

Jakes may be offended by the way his work was used in the song.  Or, it could be that Jakes is upset about not receiving a share of the profit.  Each possibility presents a unique set of issues regarding how the words and thoughts of ministers are presented in public space. 

There is a price that comes with being the poster Bishop of the Church.  The glamor that comes with being the leader of a mega-Church movement comes with being staged in public space in ways that may conflict with the image one wishes to present.

"Please Lord forgive him, you know he got that thug in him, we lust for alcohol and we love women. ... Got the seats reclined and I be doin' the most in the back of this Holy Ghost," Jeezy rhymes on the record. 

I’m sure Jakes didn’t like that.

Taking this matter to court exposes a deeper theological issue that deserves consideration. Who owns the Word? When preaching and teaching, can we claim that the message is the intellectual property of the one delivering the message?

Most ministers promote preaching as the inspired Word of God.  The message and movement of worship are ordered by the Holy Spirit.  Preachers and teachers are vessels of God’s work.  Jakes, and most evangelical ministers, contend the Word of God is God’s word.  God is speaking to and through preachers to promote her will.

So, if the message comes from God, how can it be the intellectual property of those who preach? This lawsuit shifts the conversation from preaching as the instrument of God’s work, to preaching as the property of the preacher.  This asserts ownership and recompense for all profits earned from that intellectual property.

This alters the work and message of the Church. Rather than celebrate parts of a sermon being used to impact those who listen to Jeezy and Lamar, Jakes, and his team, fight to preserve their personal brand.  Isn’t the purpose of preaching and teaching to reach those beyond the idiomatic expression of one’s own claims? Shouldn’t Jakes rejoice in the masses of young people glued to his words and impacted in a way that could lead to change?  Isn’t that the purpose of his work?

Or, is it about the profit?  Is it about controlling the brand?  Is it about more than the calling he claims – to teach and preach to all God’s children?

Yes, God owns our preaching. That is unless your name is Bishop T.D. Jakes.

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