"The disciple is not above His Lord. If we want the joy of Christ, we must do what Christ did. For Him, satisfaction was not the result of finding some Christian pleasure to compete with the world's pleasure. It was not a question of being entertained by church performances instead of secular performances. Christ does not compete by promising a religious equivalent of what the world offers, pleasure for pleasure. It is completely different. The pleasure of Christ is the will of God and its enactment. No dance, no concert, no sensational movie can compete with winning a soul for Christ". – Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke.
Communications experts tell us that the words of something comprise about 7% of the total communication content. Even more is communicated via the tone of voice and via the Body Language. Musical performers communicates an attitude as well as a spirit. It is not just what is said, but the way it is said that is important. Often it is an attitude of worldly pride, or rebellion that is communicated. Some of the dancing in church these days would be fit for broadcast on MTV. And young people love that, when they are in the flesh. Doesn't matter whethere they are Christians or not. Sex sells.
Sometimes the message of the way something is being said communicates more than the words. It is possible to say, "Glory to Jesus" with your mouth, while your whole demeanour is saying, "Aren't I awesome?!". I have seen two kinds of brilliant guitarists in the church. One is humble and not trying to attract attention to himself. The other kind is just posing. Everything is done for effect.
Some music ministry, even worship ministry today claims to have Almighty God as the chief object of worship, yet the real admiration is going to the musicians. You can go to Christian concerts where it really looks like the people are worshipping the band! But this hardly seems to be a concern today. Its being done in the name of Jesus, after all, so it must be OK, right?
In the book of Acts Paul and Barnabas spoke a word and a crippled man walked. This happened in a city called Lystra. The people thought they were gods and started to worship them. Paul did not take this in his stride. He did not smile smugly, thinking how wonderful and godlike he really was. No, he and Barnabas tore their clothes in dismay and ended up getting stoned. Acts 14:14
What would happen if a modern rock band upon seeing the adulation of the crowd began to tear their clothes, broken-hearted that perhaps some soul was attributing to them what belonged to God alone? Can you imagine that happening? Perhaps an even greater frenzy would erupt in the crowd, especially amongst the younger teenage girls. Either that, or the promoters of the concert would soon pull them into line. Give the people what they want, right?
Naturally speaking, I enjoy light rock and a lot of pop music seems pretty melodious and catchy. God however, wants our every thought to be made captive to the obedience of Christ. That can't happen in me while some other words of dubious value are buzzing round in my head repetitively. Music was made primarily to praise and worship God with. Beautiful music can give us a sense of the eternal, but only God delivers the substance. A lot of Christians prefer being entertained to worshiping God. This preference has now carried over into our church music. There's tonnes of hype, and not a lot of power.
There is contemporary Christian music worth listening to, but if it is, its because those who play it are people of prayer with a passion for God. But how many are? You can be popular and successful in wordly terms even as a Christian minister without truly being on fire for God. It seems to me there is a mixture of spiritual influences in so much of the CCM scene – God hates these mixtures. A lot of CCM is so wishy-washy because its trying to soft-pedal the name of Jesus. They cannot and do not recommend holiness of heart and life.
You hear the artists complain 'Do we have to bring up the name of Jesus in every song?' Well, what is the motivation for avoiding the mention of His name? Are we ashamed? So many are trying to demonstrate that they are "cooler than thou". If you challenge this attitude, most likely you will be told you are 'religious' as if such name-calling proved anything.
Unless you are really far from God, most CCM won't draw you any closer to God. The music we listen to should praise God or deeply challenge us to live for Him. This is because we are in a spiritual warfare and the battle for our minds is real. If it doesn't draw you to God, drop it and replace it with music that does. Some things that may be alright at first – even things that may have encouraged you – may be holding you back from really focusing your mind on the things that will set you free. This is a matter of conscience between each believer and the Lord, but the fruit of what we love to listen to is showing in the church today. I have a Christian friend and an outstanding guitarist who writes very stirring music for the Lord. He tells me he hardly ever listens to much music himself. God has allowed people to use music as a tool for drawing a crowd of young people to preach to them. Music is also used in many crusade settings, to praise God, and this is fine. However, its my view that this is not the optimum in God. I never see anything like this in the book of Acts. This method of evangelism is used because we are not producing the signs and wonders that follow those who fast and pray for revival, and believe in God's promises enough to boldly step out and expect something to happen. But hey, we can be thankful if by any means some are coming to know the Lord. I would like to say though, that if 'knowing the Lord' is going to be more than a Christian cliche, its going to mean a denial of self in order to seek out God's Word and God's Spirit, not just an emotional high by whatever means.
I personally believe that there are dangers in the modern approach of using groovy music to draw the masses. The attitude it is played in is really important. Let's have talented musicians, with a humble attitude. God can bless that. Until people learn to really pray, much of what I am saying probably won't be received anyway. I do not believe that this rock and roll strategy with its accompanying attitude has been used anywhere where there has been a real revival of purity, holiness and humility. But if God does use it for such a thing, I would be delighted to be proven wrong on this issue.
Music is an idol for many, because it can make you feel better whether God speaks through it or not. Musical talent seems to be a passport to influence. One evangelist told me that he sang and produced albums because that was the only way he could get into some churches. And he was anointed! But if you play popular music, you can get influence in the church whether you are anointed or not! Should the standard required be higher for preachers than for those who may be having far more influence into the lives of young people – the musicians? I have had some personal experience with this and I still ask the questions.
A lot of the material put out by the CCM crowd is designed to appeal to pleasure-loving, carnal Christians. In the last days, the Bible warns, "men will be lovers of pleasure .. having a form of godliness (Christianity) but denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The true power of God comes through the cross. Not the cross as worn by pop icons such as Prince and Madonna, but the principal of (painful) death to the world and the flesh in order to sacrificially devote oneself to God and His pleasure. In a world which worships music and musicians, we Christians must beware of falling into the same trap. Without practising self-denial in this area, we will not grow in discipleship with Jesus Christ, but instead, we will learn from other masters. Jesus said, "if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself".
John Wesley pointed out that the self-denial means to deny oneself any pleasure that does not come from God, or lead to God. I don't believe in the simple rules men have devised to categorise whether a particular style of music could be of God, but I am convinced that much of the church today has opted for man-pleasing and pleasure-loving in the service of Mammon. If entertainers have become the prophets of the church today, then we should expect the highest standards of christian morality from them. Does the fact that someone can play the guitar brilliantly or sing well mean that God wants to put him in a place of prominence in His church? I don't think the message of a true prophet of God is that God wants us to have more fun, to be more cool and things like that. The true message is still "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."
Music as a Tool for Evangelism
One man who did play contemporary style music and who did live a life of dedication to God was Keith Green. He died tragically of an airplane accident back in 1982. He did a lot to reach his generation for Christ, to stir up a passion for holiness and a zeal for missions, but it wasn't by being a carnal compromiser. He said a lot of crazy things like "the definition of a real Christian is someone who's bananas for Jesus". I recommend his music to those Christians who still need to come to the place where they are living for God.
Anything can be used for evangelism, but God wants our hearts to be pure and right, and our expression to be an expression of the nature of Jesus Christ. Those devoted to heavy metal and hard rock have a look in their eyes totally unlike that of Jesus Christ. Why would a real Christian want to look like they do? We are told to "avoid the appearance of evil, " (1 Thessalonians 5:22) not to look as evil as we can to attract sinners to the Lord. Are we now wiser than God?
I've talked with plenty of people who see rock music as a tool of evangelism. Some I've known quite closely. They still had the look of hurt and rebellion and seemed to be inwardly tormented individuals. Rock music has always been strongly hedonistic in nature, and doesn't transmit peace. How suitable is it as a medium for the "gospel of peace"? Yes, Rock Music can attract people to chuch meetings. But then again, so did the Emporer Constantine when he brought a flood of paganism into the church and gave birth to the Roman Catholic/Orthodox church power structure.
"The wisdom which is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." (James 3:17,18). To me, even the style of rock music communicates agitation, restlessness and distraction. Its proven to be the perfect medium to promote the spirit of rebellion against God. Is Christian rock pure? Is it peaceable? Is it gentle? It is only because we the church in the west have abandoned the wisdom of God that we find it necessary to use the method of rock music as a tool of evangelism. Like the Israelites who used some of the Canaanites as servants instead of slaying them, we too have been more tolerant than God, and more pragmatic than God also. This is one reason why the church today lacks convicting power and seems to need all kinds of gimmicks to avoid boring people. We want to fascinate, rather than confront. I'm telling you, when God is there in power, its highly relevant to your personal life, and it has nothing to do with the presence or absence of gimmicks. Paul experienced God in a horrible prison cell. He didn't even have a radio.
What are we feeding on?
If we as Christians feed our souls on Christian Contemporary Music we will only be slightly better off than had we fed them on the music of people like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Fleetwood Mac and so on. There's a pleasure-seeking spirit in most of this music. People listen to it, not to hear from God, but to feel good. There's nothing wrong in itself with feeling good, but the pursuit of pleasure will not fill your soul with God. Its true that there is a pleasure, there is a joy in God's presence, and anyone who doesn't have this is missing the mark seriously. Yet the mere presence of goose bumps on one's flesh does not mean that music is anointed by the Holy Spirit. I've had goose bumps while tuning into ungodly secular pop/rock music too. There's a basic lack of discernment in the church today which we all suffer from to a certain extent. One of the consequences of this is that people think that God's anointing is on everything done in the name of Christ that makes them feel good. Actually, that's a pretty dangerous way to think.
Some make a case that all CCM and Christian Rock is fleshly and we have no business listening to it. Its true that a lot of compromise has entered this billion dollar industry in the last 20 years. To see this, I recommend the Dial the Truth Ministries site which exposes a lot of the vile garbage coming out of the lives of popular Christian entertainers today.
I am prepared to say that anyone who listens to CCM more than they pray or read the Word is in idolatry. Because most church-going young people don't find pleasure in prayer or the Word like they do in pop music, it seems like the Christian Music Entertainment business will continue to rake in far more money in America than the cause of world evangelisation amongst those people groups that have never heard the Good News. That's a reflection of our pleasure-loving hearts and our lack of sympathy with Jesus Christ. May God help us to change.
When musicians play their music, the spirit that is on them is transmitted to those who listen. This is true of preachers also. The church has exalted those with money and talent and they have imparted their spirit to the rest of us. I am not against electric guitars, drums or synthesizers, but no amount of feel-good music will benefit our souls – if those who play it publicly are not sold-out in their dedication to Jesus Christ. If we living lives of prayer and fasting then our hearts and the words which issue forth from them will touch God and draw people to God. Our music will exalt Christ and people will come to him. Its hard to exalt Christ and strive for a cool image at the same time. As John Wimber said, "Coolness is a jazz musician's euphemism for pride." In a lot of so-called Christian concerts, its pretty obvious that the artists are being worshiped. Some of them receive this worship even while telling people to give glory to Jesus.
I've never seen the genuine power of God for signs and wonders operate in a Christian rock concert type situation. Maybe you have, I don't know. Sure there is plenty of emotional energy in such settings, and it may be that many people will respond in some way to the message also. Hopefully, the musicians themselves are sold out to God because if not, like produces like, and the reality of God won't be seen. What is built on soul power and hype will not last. God is merciful and will use whatever occasion we give him to lift up the name of Jesus, but I am still hoping that there will be a return to apostolic evangelism methods in our western culture and we won't lean on the arm of the flesh to make things happen. But for that to happen, we need an army that will pray and fast and boldly preach until men shake like leaves and turn back to the living God. Do I sound like a voice in the wilderness?