Sunday, August 7, 2016

Three Things I Like About Contemporary Music

Music 27

For the past two months I have been unsparing in my attack on CCM. I do not apologize for that a whit. It is hollowing out the core of the modern American church, weakening it just as the storm clouds of persecution begin to gather on the far horizon. Having said that, it is also worth noting that I do not believe that my brethren in Christ who genuinely preach Jesus are entirely wrong. Such a position is held by some I know but I find such total rejection to be undiscerning, uncharitable, needlessly harsh, and arrogant. In due course, I feel it is necessary to publicly say that I do find some redeeming value in the contemporary American Christian music scene, specifically in three areas.

passion7First, I have a great appreciation for the genuine emotional passion that so many CCM artists bring to their music. For the life of me I do not understand how a person can sing about the grace of God, about Jesus, about Calvary, about Heaven, or any of a myriad of other scriptural themes with all the enthusiasm of a cigar store Indian. Music is an emotional language. I am a Baptist not a charismatic. But just because I will not allow emotions to rule me does not mean I think emoting during a church service is wrong. No, beloved, I believe there is everything right with it. God made us in His own image. He made us emotional creatures because He is an emotional God. He rejoices; so should we. He weeps; so should we. He loves fiercely and passionately; so should we. Fraudulent emotion while singing in church is ever inappropriate, but so is no emotion. Blank faces, monotone mumblings, bored body language – I have seen them all far too often in the thousands of church services I have attended. Some of our people would do well to take a page from CCM's approach in this department. Billy Sunday used to say that if you are saved you should tell your face. I also think you should tell your voice. The great themes of Scripture and the great God Who is therein revealed are worth being passionate about in a church service setting. Sing aloud unto God our strength: Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. (Psalm 81.1)

Second, I commend modern American Christianity for its desire to writeP5309-Music.indd new music. I confess I like old music best. By that I mean both my taste and my heart are drawn to songs that have meant something to me for a long time. There is a sweetness in such old music. There is a sense of place, of stability, of a precious solidity. But having said that I am bound to admit that Scripture clearly encourages God's people to sing unto him a new song, which phrase is repeated almost word for word nine times in the Bible. I have heard some on my side of the aisle say that "new" here means "different." In other words, God's people should embrace a new kind of music after salvation, different than their old kind of music. I obviously agree with that but I do not think this is the proper interpretation of those scriptural admonitions. Revelation twice points out that new songs are sung in Heaven constantly and the context certainly is not of a lost man becoming saved, rather it is of new music as in newly written and composed music. New songs should be written for each generation just like new sermons should be preached for each generation. Our religion needs to be fresh. Contemporary Christianity is constantly writing new music, and its churches and musicians welcome such songs readily. Assuming such songs are scriptural in their content I think that is a genuine strength, and one our side could do well to learn from.

thThird, and most importantly, contemporary Christian music carries within its DNA a never failing emphasis on praising the Lord. This is true to such an extent that their own self-chosen moniker – praise and worship – includes this. To me, this is absolutely excellent. Praising the Lord is something that is emphasized hundreds of times in Scripture and yet far too often in our circles it is only paid lip service. Contemporary Christianity has more than its share of flaws but this is not one of them. Passionately, repeatedly, loudly, and often they sing their praise to the Lord that bought them. Our kind of churches, however, whether out of a fear of emotionalism or a lack of teaching, assumes a hasty "Praise the Lord" every now and again covers its responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. Praising the Lord is not a phrase you recite occasionally; it is rather detailed and emotional chunks of time set purposely aside to tell God how amazing He is in a large variety of ways.

Some will no doubt read today's post and misunderstand. They will shake their head and say, "If you like CCM so much why in the world have you skewered it so loudly and often in this series." The simple answer is that CCM needs skewered, for the most part. Does it have some good elements? Yes – and so do my alley trash cans but I would be unwise in the extreme to eat from them. Not only that, but these good elements in CCM that I have spoken of today can readily be incorporated in traditional church music without swallowing the massive amounts of damaging philosophy and practice that CCM thrives upon. We do not need a driving rock beat to passionately sing new music that praises the Lord. Neither do they, and I feel sorry for them that they do not see this.

Indeed, I hurt much for my generation of American Christianity. It has swallowed the hook of the world's system because that hook was covered in the lure of church growth. And then it reacts in puzzlement when the devil yanks it further and further away from the Word of God. Go ahead. Swallow that hook. Pat the traditional church on the head, and sigh over our thick-headed intransigence. We are glad that you preach Christ but know this: we have thought our position through. We have examined the Word of God. We have studied sociology, history, and music. We see where you are going even when you do not; we know we do not want to go there. We are where we are and not where you are for a whole bunch of very good reasons. And we plan to keep standing right here on the Word of God regardless of popularity, relevance, size, success or trends. Our audience is not the world; it is Him. He is the one we aim to please.

May God grant that He finds us faithful when He comes. In the meantime may we pray for and love our brethren in Christ who have been so deceived by the contemporary American music movement.


  1. Brother Tom,

    I surely have appreciated both the content and the spirit of this series. Thank you for the amount of time you have spent in study on this intensely important subject. Thank you for this study on the good you have found as well. I have been helped and challenged!

    1. "Not only that, but these good elements in CCM that I have spoken of today can readily be incorporated in traditional church music without swallowing the massive amounts of damaging philosophy and practice that CCM thrives upon. We do not need a driving rock beat to passionately sing new music that praises the Lord. Neither do they, and I feel sorry for them that they do not see this."

      Pastor Brennan,

      I've only read a small part of this series, but I can already see that there's much Scriptural food for discernment concerning CCM. I agree with the other comment, thank you for the time, & research you've put into this issue which can't be over estimated as far as music's powerful influence as a part of worship, and how we see God. I try to keep an open-mind towards it, mainly because of the nature of music & art where elements of taste & expression are involved. But when it comes to music and worshipping the Lord, these subjectivities are all about Him, taste and see that the Lord is good.
      Vashti Varnado