The Allure of Fancy Gear and Equipment

Can you really worship Jesus without expensive equipment like the world uses?

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I've acquired a lot of gear over the years. Much of the time, it felt kind of like I was chasing my own tail. I mean that I was chasing something, but that thing I was chasing seemed to only get further away the more I thought I was getting closer to it.

That happened with my overall entire experience of secular worldly guitar playing, but it definitely also happened with buying gear. After a while I realised that the more I got, the more I wanted. And then I pretty much stopped buying more gear.

I really am very lucky to have such nice equipment. The odd things is, as I was buying all those guitars and still in my mind chasing my old ideas and goals of worldly success, I was not happy. I was not satisfied. I was never really "there", because "there" was an idea of success that I formed a long time ago, when I was a teenager, and a very, very different person to what I am now.

Below is one of the most recent guitars I got. It was about three years ago. It's a copy I made up from parts of what Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits played on many of their early hit songs, like Telegraph Road, and Tunnel of Love. About $2000 of parts for a guitar that would have cost maybe $3000-5000 if it had been made up by a profesional boutique manufacturer. And play, and sound, and look ever so slightly, subtly different to other guitars much cheaper — and in the big picture really not a lot different at all. And which I already owned.

This is one of the most recent guitars I got. It's a copy that I made from parts of what Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits played on many of his early hit songs, like Telegraph Road, and Tunnel of Love.

Apart from the obvious difference (and problem) that those other guitars wouldn't quite as perfectly fill the exact size and shape of the hole of gear-lust and coveting that opened up in my 15-year-old heart, watching videos of Mark Knopfler play that guitar over and over. I had a lot of other holes in my heart of gear-lust and coveting waiting to be filled from those days too. Each with a slightly different shape and size, and each with its own particular look, and sound, and imagery that was burned into my mind as something I dearly wanted to have later on in my life. And be later on in life — in terms of being a successful professional guitar player, a.k.a. rock star. Or at least a session musician, or something to do with (worldly) music.

By comparison, I heard that it also costs $2000 for the entire process involved to rescue a girl from sexual slavery in a third world country.

Keeping My Eyes on Christ

Now, it feels good to have all this nice gear, and to be able to learn to use it in a more prayerful sense. I definitely wouldn't be buying all that gear now, if I had my current attitude all along. So in a way, having this nice gear feels like one of the few positive things I'm left over with from my days of obsession with "success" as a guitarist. Since I've got it, I might as well appreciate it, and be grateful for it (now that I can be)... And use it as best I can to enhance the Kingdom of God in this world — as Jesus instructs.

Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

After years of trying to fill those holes from my years before of wanting to be a career guitarist, I've got a lot of gear. And much of it I acquired, sadly, with more of a feeling of stress and worry, and not feeling like what I had was good enough, than anything else. These feelings originated in my youth and from stressing about how I could extract a highly successful musical career out of guitar playing — as those were my original plans and obsession as a teenager.

Now that I've changed my focus entirely, I can just enjoy it. And use it for actual praise and worship of Christ. And actually enjoy it, rather than continually, massively stressing out about how I'm going to achieve "success" with it.

I bought this guitar and amp shortly after completing my Physics degree, after I'd given up guitar for most of ten years.

The White Stripes were a popular non-Christian band known for their philosophy of minimal use of fancy gear and equipment (and fancy, complicated things in general). If a non-Christian band can live by this credo and still be widely accepted, it must be possible for Christians.

You Really Don't Need to Spend a Lot of Money

Back in the old days of the 1960s and 70s, and to some (but a lesser) extent the years not long after that, you did have to spend a few dollars to get decent quality musical equipment. This has completely changed now. Manufacturing costs are almost unbelieveably cheaper than they were decades ago.

You can buy musical instruments (and other types of gear like amplifiers, microphones, etc.) which work quite well, for very little money compared to way back when modern music (like "rock") got started. When the big name brands like Fender and Gibson became established, they had a reputation for quality. This was largely because the quality of their instruments (in terms of construction, playability, sound, fit-and-finish, etc.) was a large step up from the very cheap instruments available in those days.

Today this rule does not apply. You can pay a lot more and get a bit more in terms of quality, and sometimes only a tiny bit more. If you look and ask around a bit, read some reviews (everything is reviewed online in multiple places now), and do a bit of homework, you can buy gear for almost nothing these days. If you look around a bit, it's even possible to spend more on a take-away meal for a family than you might on a guitar that actually plays pretty well.

If you keep in mind the objectives of Christian music as being completely different to that of worldy music, that will help a lot also. In other words, not having to emulate the exact sounds and sound "quality" of the secular music industry.

Music is an art form, and in a sense Christian music even more so than worldly music. Christian music (I guess unless your aim is to use it to get a record deal with Sony, or something, for your Christian album) doesn't require the praise or the acclaim of the world and its standards.

If Jesus had been a musician, I wonder how much money he would have spent on musical instruments? Compared to the cost of the instruments used in the high places of the Roman empire, that were played to the Emperor and the other nobles of the day.