Contemporary Christian Music and the Local Worship Service
(An article by Dick Healy)
With the advent and emergence of contemporary Christian music in the church of Jesus Christ comes the need to examine this phenomenon within the scriptures to fully understand its’ place in the church of Jesus Christ and our worship activities within the church. Before embarking on this road it is essential for all reading this thesis to understand that this is about revealing what God’s Word has to say about worship practice and Biblical principles that relate to the practice. Scripture must be the final authority on all that happens in His church and we will be held accountable when it is not.
I have been troubled for sometime about the strife and division this movement has caused in the church. Prior to this demand by certain parties that we (the church) must introduce contemporary music in the church service in order to attract the younger population or to be culturally relevant there was for the most part unity in the church and a unified spirit of corporate worship because “worship” was being conducted according to Biblical principles. That being said one may conclude that my premise is that our present contemporary worship style lacks biblical principle. One coming to that conclusion would be correct. If one continues through this thesis with an open mind, I believe that they must come to the same conclusion.
Repeatedly in the Old Testament God judged His people for false worship. Exodus 32 says they were punished for both worshipping false gods and worshipping God falsely. In the book of Acts in the New Testament all references to worship are rebukes of false worship. In Exodus 32:4-6, Israel had come to the place where God was going to personally give them His Word. They missed it. Their self-appointed “worship leader” made a golden calf, called it god, rocked out the music, added dancing and eventually immorality, and called it worship. This led the people into God’s judgment; it was an abomination to God. Aaron (the first worship leader) led the people in dance and music to worship in Egypt’s style. How does this compare to what is taking place with the contemporary music in worship today?
Ron Owens in his book, Return to Worship, talks of “the rise of the chorus finds the death of the hymn”. We are stealing from this generation and consequently from future generations, our greatest heritage and our greatest teaching tool. Martin Luther used the power of hymns as he sent out singing groups to teach the people doctrine (Colossians 3:16) which played a great part in the Reformation.
Lowell Davey, President of Bible Broadcasting Network in his perspective has great concern that a pastor or worship leader may close the hymn book and eliminate the traditional instruments and steal our greatest tool for teaching the Truth to the next generation and beyond. It is like serving the appetizer and forgetting the main course if we neglect the hymns.
Michel Horton, a professor of apologetics and historical theology states that current contemporary/blended worship bespeaks consumerism, marketing and “a modern therapeutic orientation in its preaching, liturgy and music’. Horton adds “such worship echoes the example in the book of Nehemiah in which the Torah was read from the platform and listeners wept in confession of sins as a people and as individuals. Horton continues that the dangers of modern worship, with its long stretches of praise music, is not that one will be smitten by an angry God or lose salvation, but that one might not know God properly. Typically, (modern) praise choruses don’t focus on what God has done for us in Christ but on my response to all of that. I praise you, I serve you. I, I, I. The music has shifted from rehearsing Christ’s work in the history of redemption. Worship is not about the I s, but is about Christ (or should be).
Professor Robert Webber, a non denomination Christian and professor at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of many books on this subject states “that too much praise music” is about my personal experience with God and not reflective of what worship ought to be, which is God’s mission to the world, to save and restore the whole creative order. It’s an epistemological shift from the objective work of God to my subjective experience.
Romans 12:1&2 reads, “1And so, dear brothers and sisters, £ I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” I believe what verse two is saying regarding this subject is, DO NOT FASHION YOURSELF ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN OF THE WORLD. Think about it, isn’t that the opposite of what we are doing in allowing the “PATTERN OF WORLD”, the beat, the rhythms and the styles of secular music to be used in the worship service of Jesus Christ. We are to be in the world but not of the world. John 15:19 reads, “19The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you.” And Titus 2:12-14 states “12And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, 13while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.” My question to you is how can God be pleased with a style of worship music that patterns itself after the immorality and sinful ways of the world?
Rick Warren in his book The Purpose Driven Life, states “One thing worship cost us is our self-centeredness. You can not exalt God and yourself at the same time. You don’t worship to be seen by others or please yourself. You deliberately shift the focus off yourself. Dan Lucarini in his book, Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement reveals from first hand experience how contemporary music in worship is about performance, sensuality, bodily movement brought about by the beat and rhythm of the music. Changing the words of a song set to secular, worldly music does not sanctify the song and make it acceptable for use in the Christian Church.
To be totally fair and objective on this issue we need to look at how those presently in the Contemporary Christian Music Industry view the status of Contemporary Christian Music. Twenty year veteran, Contemporary Christian Music Recording Artist Steven John Camp has published his 107 Theses: A Call for Reformation in the Contemporary Christian Music Industry. In his theses Mr. Camp is very critical of the present day Contemporary Christian Music Industry which is responsible for much of the content used in our present contemporary Christian songs used in the worship setting of many churches today, including FBC Defiance. While Mr. Camp presents issue after issue with the contemporary Christian music of today one of the most, if not the most telling indictment, is the movement on the slippery slope away from the three basic characters of the Christian faith. He says; “In the past several years there has been a not so-subtle drifting away from the Christocentric music to an anthropocentric music. Sadly this has resulted in various visible manifestations of spiritual sedition—where currently, the CCMI finds itself on a slippery slope away at accelerated speeds from the Savior, the Scriptures and the church.” What a damming indictment of this “style” of music and yet the church has invited and endorsed such in its worship services with little to no scrutiny.
My prayer is that anyone reading this paper would take the time to read Mr. Camp’s entire theses which is available on the following website www.worship.com/steve_camp_107_theses.html or you may want to check out Mr. Camp’s website at audienceone.com for other insightful articles and information relative to the Christian faith.
Mr. Camp believes that music created by Christians, amounts to a ministry and should glorify God by proclaiming God’s Word precisely. Contemporary Christian music “has committed a spiritual adultery in joining itself with the wayward world,” a reference to secular companies’ ownership of Christian music labels such as Word, Sparrow and Star Song. “I remember the days when people actually sang about the Lord and weren’t ashamed of it, now it’s simply marketing technique. It’s simply money.” He said other artists have told him privately that record labels have pressured them to leave words such as “Jesus,” “God,” and “sin” out of their songs.
Of course, there are those within the Contemporary Christian Industry and movement that take issue with Mr. Camp’s indictments but there are tons of supporters in Christian Radio and Christian retail who find much truth in his conclusions, according to the managing editor of an industry publication, The Contemporary Christian Music Update. But then Martin Luther had his critics within who feared the truth. Could the same be true of those within the $1 billion a year industry who have threatened to “bury Mr. Camp” if he continues the criticism? This “bury Mr. Camp” approach definitely sounds more like the worlds approach than the Christians approach…doesn’t it?
What is there about the contemporary Christian music in our churches today? Is it the biblical and theological accuracy of the words or is it the beat and rhythm of the music that excites our senses and emotions? Each of use has to individually give account for ourselves. But, we in leadership of the church have a much higher accountability and responsibility according to scripture.
Might each of us seek the Lord’s will in this matter with an open heart and mind to be conformed to the image of Christ.