What Every Pastor and Musician Needs to Know: An in-depth interview with Jamal Hartwell


To most church musicians, the name Jamal Hartwell certainly does more than just ring a bell. As the founder of Gospel Musicians, LLC, Hartwell has helped musicians of all skill levels improve tremendously through his instructional videos, “Midiculous” software, and power packed sounds and samples. With over 97,000 youtube subscribers, 25,000 Facebook followers and a reach of approximately 300,000 musicians, Gospel Musicians has been impacting church music ministry around the globe since 2003.

Though the company is thriving, Gospel Musicians is far more than a business venture. It’s a ministry on a mission “Making Musicians into Ministers.” While Jamal teaches “phat” chords and flavorful styles, it’s the ability to spiritually empower musicians that is most important to him. As a result, Jamal has found himself unapologetically unmasking hidden truths within music ministry. In fact, his videos, “Message to Young Musicians” and “To Gospel Musicians – You are More Than Your Gift!” address many of the issues commonly ignored within the church.

CBRU News caught up with Jamal Hartwell to discuss music ministry and his message to musicians and pastors:


“So music in this day and age has been used as a substitution for the anointing.”

Alicia Hadley (AH): In the video “Message to Young Musicians,” you expose concerns that I believe many pastors have but won’t address. Why don’t more pastors speak up?

Jamal Hartwell (JH): A lot of pastors are being held hostage by the fact that they need musicians. Musicians can get away with what they get away with because someone told pastors that they can’t grow a church without music. But I’m looking at Jesus and I just don’t remember reading that a praise and worship team followed him or that he had a band. Yet, Jesus had throngs of people following him.

Now that people aren’t doing what Jesus did, they substitute the miracles and the power with music. So music in this day and age has been used as a substitution for the anointing. ‘I can’t fast to get the power to show the miracles. But what I can do is train up a nice band to bring the people in.’ This is what’s going on. ‘I’m not going to down my moneymaker.’ Pastors don’t look at the musician as the minister. They look at him as the moneymaker. ‘If the moneymaker is bringing in the money, I’ll let him get away with certain sins.’ He’s like the asset. ‘And if I tell him who he is in Christ, then maybe he’ll realize that I’m teaching false doctrine. Or maybe he’s gonna want to do different things like go on missionary trips. So, I’m not gonna build him up or encourage him too much because the whole goal is to keep this money going.’…You can’t treat a musician differently than you treat an usher. We are in the New Testament. Holiness is exact across the board.

AH: What were the reactions to your video “Message to Musicians?”

JH: I had a chance to see how musicians reacted first hand. One musician came to me while I was sitting down at a service and said ‘dude I saw the video you did on musicians, did you really have to go in hard on us like that?’ So, once he came to me I said, “Ok, these guys [here] saw the video, so they’re going to be different.” But in reality, they weren’t different at all. They were playing licks all over the place and laughing. It was just a mess.

So, the pastor came to me and said, ‘what do I need help with? How can I get my musicians to tap in?’ There are two parts to that question. One is, you have a lot of musicians playing in church and getting paid and if you sit down and talk to them they literally are not saved. They are just playing and killin’ it, but they don’t know anything about Jesus or a relationship with God. And I use to just blame the musicians. But I can’t blame the musicians; I have to blame the pastor. I said to the pastor, “You’re asking for a spiritual qualification from unspiritual musicians. You’re asking for spirituality from your musicians and you as a pastor haven’t sown spirit into them. How many times have you pulled your musicians aside and went over the bible with them? Do you know their mother’s name? Do you know their last name? “There should be a close unity between the pastor and the musician.

Here’s what happened. We said that in the 80’s and 90’s those Pentecostals were too judgmental and too stuck on holiness. So, when I [the pastor] start a church, I’m going to be open to everybody and I’m going to let everybody do what they need to do. So now we have a church that has forgotten the sanctitude of the service itself. They [pastors] feel like they can bring in a musician and everything is free flowing and fine because they threw the baby away with the bath water. They say, oh this is just a hire. So, they have forgotten the biblical principles that were laid.

“You’re asking for spirituality from your musicians and you as a pastor haven’t sown spirit into them.”

AH: What would you say about a musician that first looks for the paycheck before they look at a church where they can grow?

JH: We’re Christians before we’re entrepreneurs. You desecrate worship when you go into a place of worship other than to receive and to give to God. I did a video on Facebook called, “I’m playing at a church but I’m dying.”  I was basically telling musicians that if you’re at a church and you’re dying, but you’re still at the church for a check, it’s actually considered almost an anti-anointing. But this is what some musicians do…They are literally dying if they are at the wrong church.

AH: In your videos, you said you were “that guy” who was ridiculed, laughed at, and mistreated as a young musician. I can identify and there are probably readers going through the same. Can you give godly advice on how to weather the storm?

JH: The Bible says, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Loving God’s word is the answer to offense because you know that He is the lifter of your head… I was so in love with God that none of that really affected me. Which brings me to this point; I would say that 90% of all musicians have an identity crisis. The identity crisis is based on ‘I’m nothing if I can’t play well or at a certain level.’ So, our identity that is supposed to be in Christ is actually in our gift. If someone downs our gift, in a sense we feel rejected as a person. When your identity is in Christ, the rejection should only fuel you to get better.

AH: How should a pastor go about developing musicians from within their own congregation?

JH: Find the one who has the passion. Get them resources like some of the ones we have. But most importantly, build them up spiritually. I can’t emphasis enough the direct link between Word [scripture] knowledge and chord knowledge.  Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these chords will be added unto you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to the radio and said, “I wish I had that chord.” And literally go sit down and my hands would fall on the chord that I wished I had. And that was God’s way of saying, ‘if you seek me, I’ll teach you the chords.’ –And then, God has a particular style that’s right for you. It has your marker on it but a lot of musicians are trying to mimic other musicians instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to craft their style.

AH: Before rehearsals, I have a 30 to 45 minute devotion with my music ministry. It helps us understand our roles and grow spiritually. What are some other things music ministers can do to help spiritual growth among musicians and singers?

JH: One of the lost arts is the art of fellowship. If you look at the early church, the bible said they fellowshipped. Fellowship is important because the Father looks at us as kids. I didn’t understand this until I became a father…There is a great joy in seeing my sons playing and fellowshipping together. The scriptures say that there’s no greater joy than for brethren to dwell together in unity. It doesn’t stop there, it says, it’s like the precious oil that ran down Aaron’s beard… The key to the anointing is fellowshipping in unity. So, I’m talking about musicians getting together and not even playing the keys. Just getting together and encouraging each other, laughing, talking and eating.

AH: Any final thoughts?

JH: The main thing is that many of the requirements for being a musician, pastor, evangelist, and teacher…. many of the problems would be solved if people just first be Christians.  Another thing is that the evil spirit left Saul when David played for him. In the church, demons are cast out when we lay hands and rebuke it. But David didn’t lay hands at all. So that let’s me know that as a musician, when I play my instrument, I’m laying hands on the congregation. And so somebody’s deliverance or break through can be dependent upon what I do in my secret time. When you’re a baby Christian, you just willy-nilly go and live a Christian life. But when you mature, you begin to take more responsibility of the power God has entrusted in you.

Can you imagine a generation of musicians that just went out and played on the street or set up a tent and as they play, people just start falling out or getting healed.

…Asaph was called the chief musician; he was also called Asaph the seer. He wasn’t just a musician; he was skillful in seeing in the spirit realm. So, seeing in the spirit realm and playing your instrument should be a part of the musician’s package…Elijah said bring me the minstrel that I may prophesy. There is a dimension of anointing and power that is only reserved for musicians. And God is looking for musicians that are going to take this power seriously so he can display what he wants to display through his musicians. All of this was in the Old Testament. How much of a  greater anointing should a musician have under the new covenant?

Check out Gospel Musicians and their awesome music ministry products at www.GospelMusicians.com

Connect with Jamal Hartwell…

Youtube: GospelMusicians

Facebook: @GospelMusicians

Help your music ministry by sharing this article with your pastor and music ministry leaders!

Got a great story for CBRU to write about? Email us at pitch@CBRUnews.com