In the last post we discussed the largest justification that pastors and worship leaders use to lead their churches away from traditional music, the amorality of instrumental music. However, there are others they routinely offer. In today's blog post I offer you five with a relatively quick deconstruction of each one.
First, they will say that CCM rescues church services from being dry, dull, and boring. Larry Norman, one of the early Christian rock pioneers, expressed this in his 1972 hit, "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?":
I want the people to know that He saved my soul
But I still like to listen to the radio,
They say that "Rock 'n roll is wrong, give you one more chance"
I said "I Feel so good, I gotta get up and dance"
I know what's right, I know what's wrong, I don't confuse it
Well, all I'm really tryin' to say is
Why should the devil have all the good music?
They say to cut my hair, they're drivin' me insane
I grew it out long to make room for my brain
But sometimes people don't understand
What's a good boy doin' in a rock n' roll band
There's nothin' wrong with playin' blues licks
If you've got a reason, tell me to my face
Why should the devil have all the good music?
There's nothing wrong with what we play
'Cause Jesus is the rock and He rolled my blues away
I ain't knockin' the hymns, just give me a song that has a beat
I ain't knockin' the hymns, give me a song that moves my feet
Now I am the first one to admit that I've attended a whole bunch of boring church services. I will not admit, however, that the cure is a driving rock beat added to the music. The cure for a boring service is to develop a real and vital relationship with Jesus. If you do that it does not really matter what the service is like. To you, it will be the equivalent of a cool, refreshing drink after wandering around in the Sahara.
My father pastored for 38 years. I grew up listening to him drone on and on world without end. Something funny happened, though, as I got older. I got serious about the Lord and gradually those dry, boring sermons became mighty interesting. The same old hymns that had become background static to me came alive.
See, genuine Scriptural content is only boring to people similar to those Jesus described in Matthew 13.15. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
The solution here is not to shake up the church service by turning it into the Christian equivalent of a nightclub. The solution is to build in the people a genuine hunger for God. You do that and nothing scriptural is ever boring again.
Second, CCM's proponents will say that their music gets a lot of people saved. They reason that their kind of atmosphere is more comfortable for the lost man, and that after drawing him in this way he is easier to lead to Christ.
My response to this is two-fold. First, there is zero indication given in the New Testament that corporate music is to be used as a tool to reach the lost. There are two specific passages that indicate the purpose of music in the church service and both of them say that it is given to edify God's people.
Second, I am not willing to concede that CCM types of churches actually do get more people saved. I think they get more people into a room but that is not nearly the same thing. Granger Community Church is a massive church based in Muncie, Indiana. It is fair to say it typifies the contemporary evangelical approach to church that I find so deeply troubling. Each week they gather a crowd of thousands but interestingly enough, by their own self-confessed account, most of them are not saved. In 2008 they surveyed an ordinary Sunday crowd and discovered to their horror that 47% did not believe in salvation by grace and that 56% did not believe Jesus is the only way to Heaven. I personally watched their pastor Mark Beeson roll those numbers out on their own church website during a discussion several years ago. Now I full well realize that even in my church each week there are a small percentage of unsaved people in attendance. But half? More than half? See, I am just not convinced at all that the modern contemporary movement is reaching people for Jesus. Not at all. They are reaching people, all right, but not to Jesus.
Next, CCM advocates will defend their use of such music by asserting it is their personal preference. They are simply exercising Christian liberty. They do not mind if I prefer to sing the old hymns, and they ask that I honor their preference to do the opposite.
Such a position assumes that music in the Christian's life and in the church service is simply a matter of personal preference and style. It assumes that God does not give us any musically related principles in the Scripture. Such an assumption is wildly incorrect. In other words, this justification rests on the premise that God does not express His thoughts about good and bad music in the Bible, and that is a faulty premise. Men and women have been using the concept of Christian liberty to shield their fleshly desires for millennia. (Galatians 5.13) Just because you label your choice such in no way removes from me the responsibility to express biblical truth regarding your inept justification.
Fourth, they will say loudly and often that CCM is just a new method, and that all methods used in church were new at some point. "Hey, fundamentalist Bible thumper man, you used a microphone in your church yesterday, didn't ya'? You had electric lights didn't ya?" Such a position seeks to paint the conservative as hypocritical in using things in church that were once contemporary themselves.
Agreed. Guilty as charged. Yet… a PA system simply increases the volume; it does not change the fabric of the church service. Electric lights simply let you see what you used to need candles to see; they do not change the character of the church service, let alone the underlying philosophical approach of a church entirely. And this is why CCM is entirely different. It is not just a new method; it dramatically alters the philosophy and practice of the church entire. I am not being hypocritical. You are comparing tangelos to elephants.
Lastly, CCM points to the Bible and says that the instruments it chooses to use are nowhere forbidden in Scripture. They are correct. Scripture mentions in a positive sense string, brass, wind, and percussion instruments being used in God's service. Which changes nothing. The problem I and so many other conservative Christians have with CCM is not the instruments themselves; it is with how those instruments are played. In fact, in addition to a piano and organ we use a guitar for musical accompaniment in every church service. But is certainly is not played in a rock style. To me, scriptural teaching is clear: an over emphasis on rhythm in music produces bad effects in both the musician and the listener. In other words, it is not the instruments of CCM themselves that are wrong; it is the manner in which they are played that is wrong.
Next week, believe it or not, I am going to discuss three things I like about contemporary music. My opponents and supporters may find themselves switching sides for a week. Stay tuned…