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Rocketown and secular bands: some thoughts from the other side of the issue

posted by Joanne Brokaw

My story this week about Rocketown’s booking what might be considered “satanic” bands has caused more than a little discussion about when ministries cross the lines to reach out to kids.
I’ve been to Rocketown, and it really is a fantastic facility; but I also understand why people question the whole “we’re a Christian ministry but we book satanic bands to reach out to kids” mentality.
I got an email today from Nashville writer Tracy Moore, who wrote a great story about Rocketown for Nashville Scene in 2007.
In the article, Moore offers a glimpse into why Rocketown books shows like the upcoming Black Dahlia Murder, Toxic Holocaust, Skeletonwitch, and Trap Them show:

“Christian bands are not going to bring the kids we want to minister to,” says Ben Cissell, pastor at Rocketown and former drummer for Audio Adrenaline, in the 2007 article. “We’re called to do shows and minister to kids that churches can’t reach … We bring in those bands so we can show these kids what Rocketown is, show them our programs, and build relationships with these kids. So sometimes we cross that boundary.”

In her email, Moore told me that at first she too questioned the whole Christian club booking mainstream bands.
“But spending time there with Cissell and the kids there,” she wrote, “I realized that not only is it an overwhelmingly decent place, that it makes sense to reach out to kids on their terms, in their world, with the challenges they really face. Anything else is going to be a kind of antiseptic facsimile. I saw them really try to engage kids about the actual world those kids know. And they pretty much use those shows as teaching moments and mentoring moments.”
She agrees that there’s a point where you can cross the line, but talking about Rocketown, she adds, “I think they do a pretty good job hovering right where they should.”
If you’ve never been to Rocketown, Moore’s article, while a few years old, will give you a very good sense of what a night at the club might be like. You can judge for yourself whether or not Rocketown’s ministry allows them to reach out to kids who might slip through the cracks otherwise.
There are not right or wrong answers on this. I do think, though, that it’s worth discussing, buy not to criticize. It’s important that we pray for ministries where God may not have called us, but also hold each other accountable. Discussing issues like this helps us keep (or adjust) our perspective.
RELATED POSTS:
Rocketown’s Black Dahlia Murder Show: give me your recaps of the show!
The Rocketown controversy gets spotlight by News 2 in Nashville
Christian club Rocketown plays host to night of ‘satanic’ rock
Rocketown and secular bands: some thoughts from the other side of the issue
VIDEO: Rocketown’s 2009 fundraising campaign
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Dara

posted October 14, 2009 at 8:47 am


I think there is a huge difference between “mainstream” and satanic. Mainstream music is secular, satanic music is religious. All you have to do is read the lyrics of the bands in question. They call on their “lord” and promote their religious viewpoint. There is nothing mainstream about it.
As far as having those bands perform to bring in the kids most in need of ministry, it sounds to me like offering a spread of cupcakes and pies at the local weight loss center. Sure, it might get them in the door, but ultimately it’s seriously counterproductive. How can we minister Light to kids by offering them darkness? Lose weight…have a cupcake. That’s insanity.
And yes, I’ve been to Rocketown. It seemed chaotic and I saw no evidence of supervision. Maybe it was just a bad night, but I have been reluctant to let my kids return. Their current choice of bands has taken care of any second thoughts I may have had.



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Keith Mohr

posted October 14, 2009 at 9:40 am


Its bad logic.
Wheres’ the salt, you can’t tell the difference there.
I’ve been to quite a few shows at Rocketown and have never seen ministry going on at the shows.
It is chaotic, kids are doing drugs and drinking outside the venue, I was nearly carjacked once by some homeless people one night.
They need better leadership and set rules of conduct for the bands and attendees.
They won’t do that, for fear of “offending” someone, God forbid they offend someone.
They have strayed far from their mission.



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Keith Mohr

posted October 14, 2009 at 11:51 am


Heres the article about the lead singer who exposed himself at a show at Rocketown.
http://www.newschannel5.com/Global/story.asp?S=8587459



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steve

posted October 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm


Those kids aren’t going to see Christian bands. It only makes sense to minister where there is a need. If you only mission to the believer you will never get converts.
I’m a non-believer and I see the logic in this.



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Keith Mohr

posted October 15, 2009 at 1:36 am


steve..
huh? There’s a huge need down there at every concert.
Especially on October 27, when these satanic bands descend on Rocketown.
When ignorant parents drop off their kids thinking its just another rock concert.
We know better, and we will be praying the concert will not happen.
There are many people praying this concert never happens.



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John

posted October 15, 2009 at 1:51 am


Keith,
Maybe you should step down from your high horse and help them out. Show us all how much you care about people and spend some time with kids and staff. That is of course if you can set aside your self righteous thoughts and perspective of what love is.
Then again its way easier to just throw stones. Not everyone understood what Jesus was doing either. I’m pretty sure he called them pharisees.



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Keith Mohr

posted October 15, 2009 at 10:48 am


Hi John,
how about you come down there with me?



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Eric

posted October 16, 2009 at 2:33 am


Just because a club wants to book “secular” bands doesn’t mean they have to book bands that are contrary to their belief systems. There are a lot of 21 and over bars that wouldn’t book a band that had Satanic lyrics. Rocketown is full of crap. I’ve been there on multiple occasions and have never seen ministry taking place. Let’s get real, how is ministry taking place at a Black Dahlia concert? It’s not.



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Keith Mohr

posted October 18, 2009 at 11:14 pm


So, Rocketown is having a rally Tuesday, Oct 20 to raise money to bring in more satanic bands and influence the youth culture with quality talent..
Michael W Smith will be there as the MC. Tony Dungy will speak, Jeff Fisher will be there, crying over the Titans 59-0 loss to The Patriots.. And Martina McBride and Vince Gill will be there sharing some country twang.
Interesting lineup..bring in country acts, 2 football guys and Smitty, who some people say isn’t involved with RT anymore..
Why not bring in “The Black Dahlia Murder” and have them do a few tunes? “SkeletonSwitch”??
Wonder why they ARENT doing that.
They arent even holding the event at Rocketown.. Wonder why?



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Ben Cissell

posted October 19, 2009 at 12:56 am


Keith, I would love to talk to you about this over the phone or over coffee. If you email me at Rocketown I will give you my phone number. I thank you for your concern. This is a question we face every day and I can assure you there is true ministry happening here every day. If you would like to come hang out here the 27th and see first hand what and why we do what we do I would love that. I feel we could challenge each other and learn a lot from each other. I have the blessing of being with these kids daily and see the impact Rocketown staff makes in these kids lives. I also value someone out there monitoring our ministry and holding us accountable so we need to talk. I look forward to it. Thank you.



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keith Mohr

posted October 19, 2009 at 1:43 am


Ben,
Would love to come down there on the 27th, and interview Michael W Smith, Rocketown Staff, attendees and the bands involved.
Will Smitty be there on the 27th and have his kids and kids from New River Church there to watch this quality entertainment?
Let me know if I can have a press pass. I’ll be a guest reporter/blogger for BeliefNet per Joanne’s request.
Email me at: info@indieheaven,com



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Ben Cissell

posted October 19, 2009 at 12:41 pm


Keith, the email you gave me did not work. I sent one to another address on your site. Your website looks good. I can’t wait to hear what your company does. Yes you can have a press pass. To interview the bands you will have to line that up with their management. I left my number in the message i sent you. I look forward to hearing from you. This is a link to our new Rocketown video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElwDxMV_OEA



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Keith Mohr

posted October 19, 2009 at 12:49 pm


Ben,
I received your email, it works just fine. Lets keep this in the public eye.
Thank you for your quick response. I doubt Michael will be there. His kids do come to a lot of shows however. To interview the bands you will have to clear that with the bands management. I would love to talk to you and answer any questions you might have. Just a warning, we have a wonderful staff here that pour their hearts out to these kids. Some of them have read your posts and are less than pleased. We also understand your concerns and hope you are voicing these from a tone of accountability. I see everyday how our model works, and shows are just one aspect of what we do. I know you have been here many times and that we have many mutual friends. We would love to show you around and explain any aspect you wish. Let me give you a link to our new fundraiser video we will show tomorrow. It is 1 of a thousand stories of a kid who came to Rocketown because of Skateboarding, or a Concert, and is now plugged into our intentional programming.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElwDxMV_OEA
Please feel free to call me at [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] Again thank you for your concern.
Hi Ben
Thanks for your reply. Sorry your staff is not pleased with me. I wouldn’t be pleased either.
Look, the issue I have is booking blatantly hard core anti christian satanic bands at Rocketown.
Where do you guys draw the line?
With your logic, you might as well have prostitutes in there to get sex addicts to come in, and a bar to get the drunks in.
I know you all do good work, Im not saying you dont, but where do you draw the line?
Keith Mohr



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Ben Cissell

posted October 19, 2009 at 1:11 pm


Can you take my cell phone off the thread please?



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Keith Mohr

posted October 19, 2009 at 1:13 pm


I watched the video Ben, its a wonderful video of one teen’s experience at Rocketown. Thats great, so happy for him!
Again, my issue is not with the types of programs that were represented in that video.
That is awesome!
Again, for the hundredth time (why are you guys NOT hearing me on this??), the issue I have is bringing in blatantly satanic hard core bands into Rocketown who spout anti-Christian rhetoric, who on their MySpace have videos of them smoking dope, drinking Jack.. etc.
Why give them a platform at Rocketown and then invite impressionable youth to watch them, when what you are promoting is a safe environment where parents can trust you and your staff to watch over them?
Ben, the show on Oct 27 is ridiculous.. I can see having a hard core secular metal band in there, but what Black Dahlia Murder is bringing into your establishment is a religion. To say it isn’t is just plain ignorance.
How do you rationalize this?
You feed sheep to a few wolves to hopefully get them saved?
Doesn’t make sense to me Ben.
Keith



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Joanne Brokaw

posted October 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm


Ben – Absolutely. Done.
Thanks!
Joanne



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a concerned parent

posted October 19, 2009 at 3:49 pm


Do we really need any more evidence than this?
A quote from neufutur.com:
“On the behalf of my mates in The Black Dahlia Murder, we are f*cking pumped to hit the road with Skeletonwitch, Toxic Holocaust, and Trap Them. We have forged this alliance in the name of Satan, hand picking the best bands possible to bring you the most stage dive worthy tour of the fall. Circle up!” comments vocalist Trevor Strnad.
Yep…these are the guys Rocketown is hoping your kids will come to see and hear. They have planned the particular lineup of bands for this tour “in the name of Satan”. This is not “mainstream” or “secular”. This is Satanic. How can this be defended, and who would be crazy enough to try? Giving the benefit of the doubt to the folks at Rocketown, choosing not to believe they are just trying to cash in on something that is potentially harmful to our children, I hope this is a case of good intentions gone awry.



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Joanne Brokaw

posted October 19, 2009 at 5:30 pm


“…but where do you draw the line?”
That really is the question, and I think that while this discussion has gotten a little … er … more heated? … than I expected, I think reasoned, rational discussions about where the line is and when we cross it is important.
Like I said, I can see both sides; I confess that I am uncomfortable with this particular line up. That quote from the lead singer saying they’ve ” We have forged this alliance in the name of Satan” totally freaks me out. http://neufutur.com/?p=11344
Then again, I don’t know what God has called these folks at Rocketown to. All we can do as Christians is voice our concerns, which I think are legitimate, and pray for their ministry. If those bands & their fans are going to meet Jesus at Rocketown, the folks there are going to need a lot of prayer support! And if they’ve veered off the path in their ministry, then let the Holy Spirit convict them of that.
Right? No?
Joanne
host of the GS blog



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yshwa4life

posted October 20, 2009 at 7:05 am


“Christian bands are not going to bring the kids we want to minister to,”
“WHAT?” That’s the stupidest thing i’ve heard in a loooong time.



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Mike Westendorf

posted October 20, 2009 at 9:32 am


So the idea is you use Satanic bands to bring in the satanic kids and then mentor to them… That’s fine if you want to do that, but when you do this and Christian acts/bands and promote it as a place to learn about Christ, I think you do a lot to undermine your mission. The lack of clarity in the way this is presented is frustrating. You ask what the line is:
1 Corinthians 8 9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
I think this has some significant consequences. Credibility is like a currency, be careful where you spend it and how you spend it. Events that go this far can blow up your credibility. I’m sure the Satanic bands will feel GREAT about being used by Christians, Christians will have to wonder how much they can trust the judgment of the leadership of Rocketown.



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Keith Mohr

posted October 22, 2009 at 9:39 pm


Channel 2 news in Nashville interviewed me for a story on this issue.
Click this link to watch the video.
http://tinyurl.com/yj3exh2
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Am I making a big deal about nothing?
Does Rocketown need to have more accountability on the acts they bring in?



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Robert

posted October 23, 2009 at 1:02 am


Keith – I watched the video link that you posted, and after watching it would like to commend you on making an effort to research the bands your children are listening to. Was your son wanting to go to the concert at Rocketown to see a band he already listens to? Or was he simply trying to find something to do on a Tuesday night? If he is already listening to the music then I think the concert itself should not be your concern.
In regards to your question, “Does Rocketown need to have more accountability on the acts they bring in?”, I would say no. That is the job of parents. Rocketown is not affiliated with any denomination or Church. Rocketown does not claim to be a “Christian Music Venue” (which I think would imply Christian-only bands), but simply “shares Christ’s love with youth through creative programs and mentoring relationships” http://rocketown.com/about. They are there to LOVE these people… these kids… no mater what band they are in or listen to.
Some of the shows at Rocketown may be too much for you or your family, but Rocketown provides a drug/alcohol free, supervised, and safe place for those who want to see the music. I don’t know if you actually understand the value here. This is something that I wish I had as a kid… and would have helped me and many of my friends tremendously. It may seem a little “rough” or be “pushing the boundaries” to some Christians who have not experienced life outside the Church, but that is not who I think Rocketown is trying to help. Rocketown is helping those who never would step foot in a Church, who don’t subscribe to religion, who don’t believe in God, who have never read the Bible… and that is a lot of people; the people “of the world” that Christians are called to love. They need help too… someone to talk to, someone to listen, and someone to love them.
And you know what – they are serving many people who love God, who attend church, who believe in Allah, who believe in nothing… They are not excluding anyone. If Rocketown was a venue that played only “Christian” music then it would never succeed… even in the Christian Music Capital of the world. The Church does not want to touch these “satanic” bands or kids with a 10ft pole; just perhaps with a loud speaker or maybe some hateful “you are going to hell” comments. And so I think Rocketown is doing something great here.
I didn’t mean for this to go so long. Sorry! Just my thoughts…



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keith Mohr

posted October 25, 2009 at 1:11 am


Hi Robert, thanks for your well thought out post. I can see your point, but I still believe Rocketown is in error bringing in hard core anti-christian satanic based bands to their venue. Its my opinion, and Im sticking to it. So, how does Rocketown share the love of christ while condoning the message of these bands? By being nice?



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Your Name

posted October 25, 2009 at 11:19 pm


Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one (KJV)
.. notice the words? .. “NOT ONE” (Gal 3:3)
You can argue ministry principles with the Lord if you like, but one does have to wonder just what you are winning kids too, that really counts. Either you believe in righteous (clean) methods of truth or they are denied. It is an indisputable fact that Jesus was always careful to instruct his disciples in such matters. To otherwise ignore His guidelines for ministry methods (and that would include any form of outreach defined under the heading of reaching people) is to be in dire need of mending the nets. I hope you reconsider. Please realize, the aspirations of men and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit are light years apart and when it comes to spiritual need. You may feel you’re on the cutting edge of being contemporary but there is nothing new under the sun in terms of carnal nature of man in any age. Therefore, the same need for purity and holiness to be empowered with the anointing of the Lord that breaks every yoke. Jesus was commissioned that way, how can we be different?



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Joanne Brokaw

posted October 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm


Did you go to the show? Give me your recap here:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/gospelsoundcheck/2009/10/rocketowns-black-dahlia-murder.html
Joanne
host of the Gospel Soundcheck blog



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Keith Mohr

posted October 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm


It is my hope that all of you who are reading this are as passionate about your relationship with Christ as you are about your defense of Rocketown, music, and freedom.



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