The Interceders Encourager No. 54 - Contemporary Christian Music (1)
Contemporary Christian Music (1); and the bearing it has on the coming of
revival and awakening
1. A. Introduction
Many sincere believers, especially in the USA, are very concerned about what is called Contemporary Christian Music, (CCM). This concern covers nine main areas.
1) Some churches today act as though the Christian church started only a few years ago. They sing only those songs that have been written recently. They do not acknowledge the great wealth of Christian hymnology from previous centuries. In this, they are completely out of step with all the great moves of God in the past, where each one built on what they had inherited.
2) These churches produce music that is based on the current pop and rock music of the world, as though no other kinds of music had ever been composed. It displays a very narrow outlook and lack of understanding.
3) These churches produce music that comes from the "youth culture," disregarding other generations; something completely alien to all Biblical ideas of society and family structure.
4)These churches play and sing music that is based on worldly, non-Christian music, without considering whether this is right or good spiritually.
5) These churches produce their music through a loud worldly pop music band, as though no other instruments or type of music was possible.
6) Almost all the music groups have loud drums being banged out all through the songs, something that is completely at variance with the way that psalms and hymns and spiritual songs have always been sung; and which can also be an invitation to demons.
7) Most of these churches produce music that is blasted out at a very high volume, just as the pop/rock world does, as though everybody is deaf, without considering its effects on the hearers.
8) The character of the music produced and the words that are sung are very narrow in scope; over emphasising the joyful and the celebratory, to the exclusion of the the fine, the gentle, the temperate, the modest, the contemplative, the solemn, the subduing, the convicting and the heart searching..
9) Many of these churches meet in large warehouse type buildings that have no windows, and are dependent on artificial light and sound systems, and are therefore completely unnatural, cutting themselves off from the world that God has created, and from the God who made it. Most seriously of all, these churches appear to have no knowledge of the fact that almost all genuine revival meetings have taken place without any musical accompaniment whatsoever.
B. The Historical Background
In A New Song for an Old World, Calvin Stapert challenges contemporary Christians to learn from the wisdom of the early church in the area of music. He draws parallels between the pagan cultures of the early Christian era and our own situation, pointing to the musical ideas of early Christian thinkers, from Clement and Tertullian to John Chrysostom and Augustine. According to Stapert, both the Christian and the Jewish worship music differed from the surrounding pagan temple music by emphasising the words rather than any instruments. The sensuous music of the pagan temple was meant to bring people into ecstatic trances, so the gods could be manipulated. In contrast, in synagogue worship, the music was melodically simple and was unaccompanied by instruments. The first century churches adopted this form of musical worship from the synagogues, in which many of them met, and sang unaccompanied.
The Early Church fathers were very concerned with guiding the music and activities of the early Christians. They understood music's power and effect. Accordingly, they were unanimous and very strong in their denunciations of pagan theatre music, (the popular music of the day), while consistently promoting the singing of Christian hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs.
John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), for example, often preached against the music of Antioch's theatres and scurrilous wedding processions. When confronted with the argument that immoral music does no harm to a listener, John responded by speaking of the public plays and spectacles in the amphitheatres and circuses at Antioch, "If even now you are pure and untainted, you would have become more pure and untainted by avoiding such sights." Even assuming there are no direct sinful effects on a person, John pointed out that they were spending their time fruitlessly and their support of such shows may well cause others to stumble.
Tertullian (160-225 AD) spoke on the same issue, pointing out that the music of the theatre was connected with the bawdy and immoral life of pagans outside the actual theatre. By way of contrast, he emphasised that the music of the Christian should reflect the principles of Scripture.
Clement of Alexandria was also clear that that music must be like the Bible in being ordered, sincere, modest, joyful, celebratory, temperate, grave, and gentle, while he denounced music that was boisterous, rebellious, restless, abusive, humorous, promiscuous, gloomy, wild, agitated or disregarding convention.
Later,Ambrose and Augustine saw music as a means of expressing the order and harmony of God's creation. They therefore, stated that music should be used to calm or control the affections and not inflame them. We see this same thinking carried on in both church and classical music for the next 1500 years. Not until the end of the Romantic period (approx. 1900 AD) were order and harmony questioned, and it was not until the second half of the twentieth century before hymn and song writers began to question the importance of order, harmony, beauty and controlled affections.
These early church fathers are representative of the whole of the early church leaders. Even though they were almost unanimous in what they wrote about music, present day Christians never think about them. Yet what they wrote is very relevant to our situation, for we live in a similar pagan environment. Consequently, we should seriously consider what they said and practised.
Stapert poses the following question. Do we take the voluptuous, boisterous and rebellious sounds that we find in the world, bring them into the sacred abode of our holy God, and use them in our worship of Him, or do we take the beautiful, the fine, the modest, the temperate, the magnificent, the inspiring, the life giving Christian music to the world? Considering the early church fathers' input, the answer is obvious. We should be taking the best of Christian music to the world, not the other way round.
Yet in modern Christian worship the world's way of making music has been accepted, and the joyful and celebratory are emphasized to the exclusion of the decorous, the modest, the quieter, the temperate, the serious, the solemn, the awesome, the fearful, the grand and the magnificent. Ideally, each characteristic should inform and temper any Christian doctrine of worship music.
These fine, gentle, beautiful and harmonious aspects dominated Christian music for the next thousand years, as it survived the barbarism and savagery of the Dark Ages and the Mediaeval Era. Moreover, the music of the Church so dominated the thinking of the Western world that, generally, the music of the Renaissance period was gentle, lyrical and edifying, similar in nature, rhythm and melody.
The Protestant Reformation resulted in two conflicting attitudes to hymns. One approach, 'the regulative principle of worship,' favoured by many Zwinglians, Calvinists and some radical reformers, considered anything that was not directly authorised by the Bible to be a Roman Catholic form of worship, which was to be rejected. All hymns that were not direct quotations
from the Bible fell into this category. Such hymns were banned, along with any form of instrumental musical accompaniment, and organs were ripped out of churches. Instead of hymns, Biblical psalms were chanted, without accompaniment, to very basic melodies. This was known as exclusive psalmody. Examples of this may still be found in various places, including some of the Presbyterian churches of western Scotland.
The other Reformation approach, 'the normative principle of worship,' taught that worship in the Church can include those elements that are not prohibited by Scripture, as long as they agree with the general principles of Biblical teaching, and can aid the Church to fulfil its mission. This
was in line with the New Testament Church which produced its own "hymns and songs," (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19), and in line with some of the wonderful hymns that had been written during the preceding thousand years. Not surprisingly, the acceptance of this principle produced a burst of hymn writing and congregational singing. Martin Luther is notable, not only as a reformer, but as the author of many hymns including Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God), and Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (Praise be to You, Jesus Christ). Luther and his followers often used their hymns, or chorales, to teach the tenets of the faith to worshippers. The first Protestant hymnal was published in Bohemia in 1532 by the Unitas Fratrum. Later, Count Zinzendorf, the Lutheran leader of the Moravian Church in the 18th century, wrote some 2,000 hymns.
There were some English hymn writers during this period, notably Samuel Crossman and John Mason, though others tended just to paraphrase Biblical texts, particularly psalms. Isaac Watts followed this tradition, but being part of a dissenter congregation, complained at the age of 16 that the people, because they were limited to singing only psalms, could not even sing about their Lord Jesus Christ. His father invited him to see what he could do about it. The result was Watts' first hymn, "Behold the glories of the Lamb," based on Revelation 5:6-12.
The Evangelical Awakening of the 18th century created an explosion of hymn-writing, not only in English, notably through the greatest hymn writer of all time, Charles Wesley, but also in Welsh, which continued into the first half of the 19th century. The most prominent names among Welsh hymn-writers are William Williams and Ann Griffiths. The second half of the 19th century witnessed a huge number of hymn tunes composed, many of which are still sung today.
2.The Music of the World
We have mentioned that up to the Renaissance period, the 'secular'music, (if it can be called that), of the Western World, was so influenced by the Church, that it tended to be "gentle, lyrical and edifying." The influence of Christianity continued to affect all good music that was written right up to the end of the 19th Century. Until that time, harmonic, melodic music reigned supreme, whether the music was serious or lighthearted. The rhythm, the harmony and the melodies were controlled, adhering to standards of harmony and beauty. Then, at the beginning of the 20th Century, pride and rebellion reared their ugly heads. Western man, in his arrogance and pomposity, having made so many marvels of engineering, decided he didn't need God any more. He could dispense with old fashioned religion and standards of harmony and order and beauty. These rebellious ideas started to influence every aspect of life, especially music. Most, not all, serious music became unharmonious, unmelodic and discordant. After some time, a queer twisted form of music, more dominated by a strong beat, with a special place given to drums, emerged, called jazz. Jazz is the direct descendant of voodoo music, imparted into the Western world from Africa. This was then followed by music with further distortions called boogie woogie, followed by a form of music where the beat dominated completely, called rock or pop music. It has been shown that there is a direct line from the voodoo ceremonies in Africa through jazz to all forms of rock music today. Some people believe that the rock beat also goes back to the ancient Druids, who used such beats to call up evil spirits to do their bidding, and human sacrifices were made.
Even David Tame, an unbeliever, wrote, "It can be seen that the technical differences between serious music, jazz and any other form of modern music were less important than the underlying
factor that their philosophical basis was hedonism and anarchy" in other words, rebellion against God. "We do not want this man to reign over us."
We can see that there has been a deliberate injection into our society of anti-authority and anti-God sentiments. Not all, but much of serious music now lacks order, harmony and beauty, and the popular music scene has become debased with jungle music and rhythms associated with animism and evil spirits. The former is ugly, creating animosity, anger and indignation, while the latter intentionally appeals to the flesh and to the baser instincts of the hearers. Not surprisingly, most of the words are full of despair, inciting actions that are sensual or evil. They are thus shown to be devilish, producing the opposite of faith and obedience.
By the 1950s and the 1960s, the music scene in the West had become altogether different from what God intended, as the rebellion of man against established order and beauty had taken over in popular music and many other spheres. According to Basilea Schlink, "Many confirm the fact that aggression, rebellion and every type of anti-authoritarian conduct, as well as sexual promiscuity, are stimulated or heightened by this music."
Christian music should stand in complete contrast to this, seeking to glorify the God of beauty and order and peace in its very form. This is possible only when good, fine, spiritual and inspiring words determine the music and the whole experience of worship, as befits the God who inspired them, and to whom they are addressed. As a consequence, the hymn or song will edify all who hear it and sing it, through the strength, beauty and harmony of the words and the music, so the song will be under the control, at all times, of the Holy Spirit. You may think that such a thing is not possible, but singing in times of revival, when the Holy Spirit is in control, have shown that it is possible, and therefore that is what we should seek.
But the tragedy is that the music of a large part of the Christian church today is not like that at all. It has accepted the world's music, with its inherent spirit of rebellion and pleasure seeking.
The justification given for this is that music is neutral. It is just a collection of notes, and it is the words that accompany the music that make it Christian or secular. But music is not neutral. By itself, it has the ability to affect and change people, to move people for good or evil. It can affect people's feelings and emotions and moods in a way that nothing else can. It can excite, provoke, bring fear, sorrow, sympathy, peacefulness, indignation, anger, tension, uncertainty, rebellion, rejection of restraint, confidence, triumph, expectation, willingness to act, etc. This is why it is used to such effect in films and on television to put people into the desired frame of mind, and why it is played in shops and restaurants to influence people into a sense of wellbeing, so that they will spend more money. These different effects are caused through the balance and interplay of the various factors that make up the music, such as the rhythm, the speed, the volume, the harmony and the melody, irrespective of what words are sung with it. Our thoughts, feelings and emotions are all affected by the music we hear. Music can make us more restrained, more spiritual, more open to Godly influences, or it can make us less restrained, less spiritual and more open to evil influences. Consequently, we need to be continually on our guard against such bad influences.
Certain types of music, therefore, are suitable mediums for certain messages and not for others. Where the beat predominates, as in rock and pop music, the effect is sensual and provoking, especially where it is coupled with high volume, for the louder the beat, the more evil and overpowering are the effects. Researching companies have spent huge amounts of money researching how music can be used to influence people. They discovered that 72 beats a minute increases suggestibility to a high extent.
Frank Garlack said, "When rock music gets into your mind, it will alter your way of thinking. Regardless of what ideology is inserted into the music, the effect of such music is to concentrate the listener's reactions in the instant. What the music says is at a level below words."
William Sheaffer, a non-Christian sociologist, wrote, "Rock music is a tool for altering consciousness. It is a connection of senses beyond the verbal level. There is no separation between words and music, for the sounds are communication without words, regardless of what message is inserted into the music."
The singer and guitar player, Bob Larson, warned that rock music is a subtle, morally erosive force. By its beat and sound it has always implicitly rejected restraints, and celebrated freedom and sexuality. The electronic insistence of guitars accompanied by the neurotic throbbing of drums compels the shedding of inhibitions."
Timothy Leary said, "Don't listen to the words. It is the music that has its own message." Yet there are some deceived Christian leaders who still try to maintain that music is neutral!
Dave Bowie said, "Rock music will occupy and destroy you. It lets in lower elements and shadows. It's always been the devil's music."
John Lennon said, "Rock music has still got the same message. It is anti-religious, anti-nationalistic and anti-morality."
In view of the above, and the fact that rock music, as we have seen, is a powerful means of influencing people downwards into evil and pernicious ways, because it is basically rebellious and anti Christian, to then realize that many people have put Christian words to music that is very similar to rock music, in the attempt to use it for their purposes, should make us feel very sad, if not angry. They call it "Christian Rock," but we can see that they are just deluding themselves, for the Godless "music" is the message. Rock music is based on rebellion, is destructive in tone and arrogant in style, so to mix the two is an impossibility, a contradiction in words. For if the Christian words can be heard, a basic disagreement must be set up between the words and the music; and as the beat and the volume have a much stronger influence over the words, the Christian influence will be minimal, and the evil influences will predominate and win.
It is interesting that a letter was sent from the Unregistered Union of Churches in Russia to the American churches, asking them not to send any more 'Christian' Rock groups to Russia. "Rock music has nothing in common with ministry or service to God," they wrote. "We need spiritual
bread, not false cakes. It is true that rock music attracts people to the church, but not to Godly living." The two writers of the letter said, "We were in prison for fifteen years, and were not allowed to have Christian music, but rock music was used as a weapon against us to destroy our souls. We could resist only through much prayer and fasting. But now it is Christians from
America that are seeking to damage our souls….Do not desecrate our young people with it. Even the unbelievers recognize it is unholy music, and they cannot understand how American Christians can be so much like the world. After Russian unbelievers attended these rock concerts, although God's word was preached, the people were very disillusioned with Christianity."
Some of you may be well aware of this so called 'Christian rock music,' but may say that what you have at your church is not rock music, but is more like pop music.
John Blanchard dealt with the link between rock and pop music. "There are strong similarities between the two," he said, for:
a) In both, the words are secondary, the beat and the melody are primary. In both the aim is the same, to the feelings and not to the mind. Graham Cray said: "Pop is music of feeling, spoken primarily to the body, and only secondarily to the mind."
"But the gospel," said Blanchard, "is primarily directed at man through the mind; 'Come now, let
us reason together,' says the Lord. Therefore pop music cannot be a suitable vehicle for
communicating the gospel.
b) Both pop and rock music are worldly and make people more worldly. They are both based on
pride, on show, on competition, on advertising and on entertainment, so both are the complete
opposite of the humility and self-denial that is to be the mark of Christ's disciples. The whole
spirit of them is of the world and not of Christ.
That should apply just to the world, but the tragedy is that the pop world church music has gone the same way. "Both pop and rock 'Christian' music are presented as entertainment. But entertainment has no place in the Christian life. It had no place in the life of the Lord Jesus, and should have no place in our lives. The gospel is not entertainment, but challenge. It is a serious business. It is to do with life and death, heaven and hell. Therefore it can never be entertainment. All the great evangelists and missionaries knew nothing of entertainment, but preached with tears. The gospel is a lifeboat, not a showboat." But you would never believe that if you were to look at a modern Christian magazine, especially a Christian radio magazine, where the advertisements for the performers dominate the magazine with their size, pointing out how great, how impressive this or that singer or group are. It is all a long way away from the humble carpenter of Nazareth.
c) "Both pop and rock music widen the generation gap. They have both created and developed the whole idea of a 'youth culture,' and thereby severely damaged the unity of the church and the whole of society." God never intended for there to be a generation gap. We have seen how when God works in power, especially during the awakenings in Wales in 1904-6 and in the Hebrides in 1949-53, there was no generation gap; but pop and rock music have gone right against that, so they have actually been doing the devil's work.
Basilea Schlink pointed out that even though there are different degrees of intensity in modern pop music, and there are milder forms of it, we need to remember that basically all pop music is foreign in its essence to the divine world.
Having studied the subject for many years, David Cloud, one of the greatest exponents of the deficiencies of CCM, knows that "worldly music is music with a heavy back beat. The beat goes 1, 2, 3, 4 or 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, as against the straight beat, which is: 1, 2, 3, 4, or 1, 2, 3, 4." It is rather difficult to describe this, but I think that we know when the beat changes, and it is 'jazzed up' or syncopated. I have personally witnessed this when the beat has been changed, and it has been deliberately 'jazzed up.' At such times, I sensed the Holy Spirit leaving the place, and a different spirit coming in. We are dealing with serious things here.
Yet many Christian meetings have music which is very similar to pop or rock music, where the beat predominates, so that the effects of the music, as we have seen, are very dangerous, especially where it is coupled with high volume, for the louder the beat, the more evil and overpowering are the effects.
This matter of sound volume needs to be looked at a little more. Medical experts declare that anything above 90 decibels constitutes a health hazard. Yet in rock concerts, levels of 110 decibels and more have been recorded. But churches are no better. I have been to many Christian gatherings, in Britain, in America, and even in India, where the sound level of the 'music' produced was far too high. Not only are such high sound volumes unnecessary, they are positively harmful to people's ears. A study at Leeds Polytechnic many years ago came to the conclusion that up to one million young people in Britain had already suffered some hearing loss because of loud music; so that figure would be far higher today.
Far more importantly, there is not only a physical danger here, but also a spiritual danger. "When there is a great volume of noise, evil powers blend in with the din and the noise. Some have mistaken this for the working of the Holy Spirit, but the pure and holy Spirit of God would not reveal Himself in such a bedlam of noise. The high volume is the invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious method of making the pure, sincere, ennobling, sanctifying truth lose all its effect. For this reason, no encouragement should ever be given to this kind of 'worship.' It is not just a mockery of the real thing; it is a destruction of the real thing." (Christian Berdahl)
3. The use of drums
This high volume of sound is largely due to the use of drums, as they are the loudest, the most obtrusive and the most abrasive of the parts of a pop music group. Some people defend them, saying that they are mentioned in the Bible. The controversy centres round the meaning of the word translated as "timbrel," found in Ps.68:25, Ps.81:2, Ps.149:3 and Ps.150:4. The first reference talks about a procession, in which the singers go first, followed by maidens playing timbrels. So the instruments must have been quite light for young girls to carry, nothing like the huge modern drums. It is said to be a skin stretched over a hoop. The second reference speaks about raising a song and striking the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the lute. Again, the instrument could not possibly have been like the modern drum set, for the noise it makes would drown out the sound of the lute and the harp. The third reference is similar, speaking of just the timbrel and the harp. Again, the modern drum set would not be a suitable instrument to go with a harp being played. The fourth reference speaks of praising God with the timbrel and a pipe instrument, (not a dance, according to Hebrew scholar, Adam Clarke). The instrument could have been a fairly gentle banging instrument beating out the rhythm for a procession, but certainly not a big, loud drum. Whatever the instrument was, it was obviously nothing like the modern drum set.
If we look at the use of drums in an orchestra, they are used only at particular times during some pieces, and even then are used just to support the orchestra, not dominate it. The orchestra may have around 100 musicians, but only one or two play the percussion. This shows that less than 3% of the orchestra is responsible for the rhythm beat. For most of the time, the rhythm is produced by non-percussion instruments, but in a pop or rock band, this lack of balance is shown by the fact that all or most of the instruments are used to provide the rhythm. The typical pop or rock group is at least 75% rhythm, and the beat predominates for 100% of the time. Apart from any other aspects, this shows that the pop group, with its incessant banging, is a musical aberration, which, even the world acknowledges has no place in a concert hall, much less in a place of worship. Our spiritual forefathers, who were far more spiritual than we are, wouldn't have allowed any of these loud, banging sounds anywhere near a service of worship.
Some people might say, "But what about the Early Methodists, with their exuberant praise of their Redeemer?" It is true that they worshipped with joy and exultation, but it was all unaccompanied singing, with no instruments at all.
Rhythm is the element in music that is most closely allied to body movement and physical action. It has been shown that incessant banging drum rhythms, especially in excess of three or four beats a second, will put the human mind into a state of stress, especially when they are played loudly. Loud booming bass guitar music has a similar effect. It is the volume that is a big part of the problem. The drums, along with the other instruments, are electronically amplified in a way that no instrument would have been 3000 years ago. So no justification for today's amplified instruments can be made from the Psalms in the Bible. It is the huge amplification that stirs people up in a rebellious way. Even 100 trumpets playing together create only seven times the volume of one trumpet, whereas just one band with four amplified instruments can create as much noise as a jumbo jet at take off!
One of the main arguments against the use of drums is that drums are used in the activities of witchdoctors and voodoo priests, who claim that their gods respond to certain drum rhythms. It is known that drums have the power to carry people into spirit worlds where evil spirits can take over people's lives. In the past, the tearing of the skin of the drum was a symbol of conversion to
Christianity. This was based on the belief that the drum was a medium of communication between the traditional healer and the ancestors. The sound of the drum is believed to arouse the ancestral spirits; that through the sound of the drum together with the accompanying rhythmic dancing and the clapping of hands, the traditional healer can bring the ancestral spirits into the meeting.
A person who was demon possessed by twelve demons, and who was delivered, testified that demons like worldly music with drums, and they wonder why similar music is played in church meetings.
It is interesting to note that when the first negro slaves from Africa were converted to Christ in the 1840s, in the USA, they knew all about the evil power and influence of drums, so they forbade their use in their services. They referred to them as "the devil's drums." They permitted tambourines, but not drums, because of their association with the demonic. But others, unfortunately, incorporated them into their new songs, beating out the rhythms on logs or wooden or leather drums. Through this, their music became sensual and it led to them opening themselves up to evil spirits. The even greater tragedy was that when revivals came and the Pentecostal movement started, they confused the Holy Spirit with evil spirits. They claimed all kinds of things for the Holy Spirit, which were usually due to other spirits.
To summarise, because of its loudness, its jarring domination of everything else, and its association with sorcery, witchcraft and demon worship, the pure Church of Christ should have nothing to do with drums, just as the Early Church did not. Furthermore, due to the high association of drums with evil, making drums the appearance of evil to all those who have seen the evil that they have been associated with, no church should have them, for we are told to "abstain from all appearance of evil,"(1Thess.5:22).
If a church still thinks it is right to use them, it should remember:
a) There are literally millions of associations between drums and sorcery, witchcraft and spiritualism, therefore any church that uses them should realize that they are playing with fire; and should make sure that it is thoroughly protected from all the possible attacks of the evil one.
b) Their use should be very sparing, just occasionally, like an orchestra.
c) The volume must be far, far, lower than the level they are normally amplified.
d) The beat must never override the melody or the singing.
e) They should be placed discreetly at the side, preferably where they cannot be seen.
f) Their limitations should be realized. They cannot be used to express reverence or contrition or repentance or any genuine, heartfelt dealings with God.
g) All the churches in the past, especially those who experienced revival, would never accept them in a million years, believing that they are indeed, "the devil's drums."
4. Using music for evangelism
Basilea Schlink emphasises that it is not the words of the songs but the spirit that lies behind them that is important and decisive. She points out that that the direction to sing psalms, hymns
and spiritual songs is prefaced with the directive, 'Be filled with the Spirit.' God's purpose is that we might be filled with His Spirit so that we can sing to Him. Therefore, even if the texts of the songs have Christian words, but the beat, the volume and even the melody have been inspired by a bad spirit, they will not be able to impart a spiritual blessing, however religious they may seem.
The devil has deceived the churches in this respect, where pop music, including even rock music, has been used to draw young people. He lets the Christian words stand, but the melody and the beat are his work. In this way, he draws people under his influence, without their realizing it. The emotions that have been stimulated by the beat and the volume induce the listeners, particularly the impressionable younger generation, to adopt patterns of behaviour that are pleasing to the enemy. This can then lead to the destruction of the person's faith and morals, and finally cast him or her into a state of despair and misery. No church should be responsible for that.
If Christians use worldly music to attract unbelievers so they can be won for the Lord, we need to ask what kind of Christianity they are being won to. If they make any kind of decision, it is bound to be shallow, for they will think that you can be a Christian and accept the world's standards and behaviour. On the other hand, when truly Christian music is played and sung, and non-Christians are there, the music will bear the imprint of the Holy Spirit, so there will be a true work of God in their lives.
Some people have pointed out that Martin Luther used the tavern songs of his day, and put Christian words to them, so it must be all right for us to do so, they claim. "But," wrote Carl Johanssen,"the general tone and genre of the popular music in Luther's time compared to today's music, is as different as night is from day. There was a systematic unity in the musical world of the 16th Century which no longer exists in today's music, (as we noted before.) The popular music of the day had a folk like character that was far removed from modern day pop music."
Other people have referred to the fact that Charles Wesley and William Booth both used the songs of the day for their hymns to be sung to. Again, I would point out that the contemporary songs were nothing like today's songs. They had stronger tunes, were more melodic, and, of course, did not have the modern syncopation nor the incessant banging. Even then, only a small number of common song tunes were used. Most tunes were specially written for the hymns.
We can also remember that the Church has used many tunes composed by the great composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, Joseph Haydn, Ralph Vaughan Williams and many others. So we can and should use the music of the world, if the tunes are good and strong or beautiful, but that is a very different thing from adopting the forms and rhythms and syncopation of modern worldly music.
"There has been a great change," Christian Berdahl wrote, "not for the better, but for the worse, in the habits and reactions of people with reference to Christian worship. The precious and the sacred things which should connect us with God, are fast losing their hold upon our minds and hearts, so that our worship has been brought down to the level of common things. The reverence which people traditionally had for the sanctuary, where the purpose was to meet with God and acknowledge Him as great and high and holy, has largely passed away." There is now very little sense of the sacred, of reverence, of the fear of God. Before a service starts, people talk as if it was a secular meeting, whereas they should be praying for the Holy Spirit of God to come down and have mercy on them. Consequently, there is very little chance of an unbeliever coming in, falling down on his face, worshipping God, and saying that God is truly among us. How we need to get back to centring all our thoughts and aspirations on worshipping God with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire. (Heb.12:28-29)
Much of this change has come about through the introduction of modern worship songs and instruments that are basically worldly in character. Most churches in the past had one keyboard, a piano or an organ. Yet many churches have suddenly jumped from that to a music group that is very similar to a worldly pop group. The jump is simply enormous, and there is no justification for it at all, especially as the spiritual cost is so great. Wherever these kind of songs and instruments are introduced, unless it is carefully controlled, it results in a lowering of Christian standards, especially of dress and behaviour, down to the world's standards. I have experienced this in many places. On the other hand, wherever the main concern of the church is the raising of standards of behaviour through separation from the world's standards and the seeking of the
highest standards of holiness, which is, of course, what every church should be doing, the music generally matches this, and is more sacred and more spiritual.
David Cloud stated: "We need to be very careful that the music in our churches is not following the fashions of the world. We need to bear in mind the teaching of the New Testament, such as 1Jn.2:15-17, James 4: 4, Titus 2:11-14, Eph.5:11 and 2Cor. 6:14-17, where we are told that we have been redeemed from worldly passions and all iniquity, therefore we should take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but expose them. We are not to love the world and worldly things, but to come out of anything sinful or unclean. We must be sure that we know the difference between the holy and the profane, (Ezek.22:26), and apply this to the whole area of music."
In these days, it is very important for the true church to be kept pure and strong and very distinct from the world, its fashions, its way of life and its music. The bride that the Lord will return for, has to be pure and spotless, uncontaminated with the world.
We are surrounded by a pagan world, with its loud music, just as the Early Church was. They rejected the music of their world because they knew it was associated with pagan rituals and immorality. They survived and grew because they were completely different in every aspect of their lives, especially their music. The result was they won and the pagan world lost.
But in our day, most of the churches have accepted the world and its music; and the result is that the world is winning and we are losing. The world is carrying on in its sinful ways, and we are making very little impression, because we are so like them. We are surrounded by worldly music that is basically rebellious and anti-God, and is linked to immorality and promiscuity, so the Church should make it very clear that we reject its standards and its music, for we have higher standards, and much better music because it is spiritual, beautiful, magnificent and different.
The whole matter of music in the Church today is a very big subject. I am sorry that it has taken longer than I thought to write this article, and there are still more aspects of it to look at.
I must also apologize that what I have written has been largely negative and critical, but in the next article, I would like to be much more positive and write about testing Christian music, what are the guidelines to be set, and recommendations to make. I would also like to look at unaccompanied singing, the practice of singing only psalms, and a consideration of the words of Christian songs.
In the meantime, keep close to the Lord; obey His word; ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment, that you may know His mind and heart.
Continue to pray for the churches of this land, many of which are getting so far away from God.
Continue to pray for God to have mercy on them, in their blindness, and on all of us, before it is too late.