Archive for the 'Worship' Category

Contemporary music in church to the lyrics of spiritual death

Monday, May 9th, 2016

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Recently a fellow introduced me to this Christian song by Flame, Start Over‘. You can read its lyrics at Flame Lyrics (2000-2016).

Is this an example of the type of music being heard in your Christian church service?

Has Alistair Begg hit the mark with his assessment of contemporary Christian music (CCM)? See YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhCWrdckpc&feature=youtu.be

1. Who is Alistair Begg?

Alistair Begg(photo Alistair Begg, senior pastor, courtesy Parkside Church)

 

His ministry’s homepage states:

Alistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry since 1975. Following graduation from The London School of Theology, he served eight years in Scotland at both Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and Hamilton Baptist Church.

In 1983, he became the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life.  The teaching on Truth For Life stems from the week by week Bible teaching at Parkside Church.[1]

Alistair Begg is a Scotsman who has been pastor at the one church since 1983 near Cleveland, Ohio. Are you and I ready for that pointed critique of CCM in churches, by this experienced pastor, to address the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing? Three weeks ago,[2] I attended a near-by Baptist church for the first time. What kind of music was presented? The band with 6 female singers up front on the stage, led the congregation in singing contemporary songs (some were identified as from Hillsong) that I had never heard before. The melodies were unsingable for me, a very average singer. The words were available on the digital screen for the congregation to see.

My estimate was that they were meant to be performed and not for congregational singing. We had to stand for about 10-15 minutes as the band took us from one contemporary song to another. I sat down after about 7 minutes as my legs were weary. I’m no youngster.

2. Contemporary music killing theology

CCM is killing theology in song. Sound biblical teaching is rapidly on the descent. Take a read of the lyrics from this song by Jesus Culture (the music ministry from Bethel Church, Redding CA):

Rooftops Lyrics
[Metro Lyrics: Jesus Culture Lyrics]
from Come Away
New! Highlight lyrics to add Meanings, Special Memories, and Misheard Lyrics…
Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

Is all satisfactory biblically with these lyrics? Is there anything we should warn people about in this song? See my assessment of this song in:

clip_image002 What’s wrong with these CCM songs?

I’ve addressed some of the music issues previously in these articles:

clip_image004 What’s happening to music in evangelical churches?

clip_image004[1] Worldliness in church music

clip_image004[2] Entertainment versus Worship

clip_image004[3] Do words matter in worship songs in church?

I’m not discussing the style of music but the content of the words. In recently written CCM, where is the depth of words such as in these lyrics?

Charles Wesley.jpg(portrait Charles Wesley, courtesy Wikipedia)

And Can It Be That I Should Gain[3]

 

by Charles Wesley

 

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

clip_image006

(music & words, courtesy openhymnal.org, public domain)

3. Crisis point

I’ve been a Christian for around 50 years. I’m considered an oldie by many, including my grandchildren, since I’ve recently reached 70 years of age. I won’t take nonsense behaviour from them and I do not tolerate theological baloney in the lyrics of CCM or older music. Much of what I hear online in the promotion of CCM and what I hear from the platform of contemporary evangelical churches lacks sound theological content. It fails to glorify God in his majesty and point to the cross and the reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I’ve presented only a few examples in this article, but it is representative of what is being pumped out by evangelical churches in Australia.

4. Sermons join the light-weight chorus

What is just as alarming is that the sermons from the pulpit are as theologically lite as the songs in the service. My son obtained an MDiv degree from a renowned evangelical theological college in Brisbane, Qld and he was told by one lecturer not to worry about reading any books that were more than 10 years old.

Do you understand what that means? God’s great teachers throughout church history, from Athanasius and Augustine to Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Tozer and many others are irrelevant to the church of today. That’s a theologically noxious view that will poison the biblical life out of any church.

Then you encounter what I was exposed to on a Christian forum on the Internet where a Pentecostal believer told me, ‘I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’.[4] I was discussing with him the theology of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones who died in 1981.[5]

5. The here and now false teaching

I tackled this fellow’s false teaching:[6]

So you ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. Does that mean you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant (and I know you are), you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, who you claim had a ministry that is ‘out of date’. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Lk 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have lived before us – way before us! Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this fellow!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with his ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘ (my emphasis). Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’ short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. It really is pathetic that this person wanted to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.
Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). But this poster excludes them and their influence!

5.1 The here and now promoter in full flight

Here he how he responded to what I wrote immediately above:

I was saved in 1971 under the tutelage of Bob Johnson. He himself was mentored by Dr. C.M. Ward who was greatly influenced by John Wesley. If pedigree is your thing then there’s enough pedigree there for me. The point is that all these men had their Ministry at their time but the only historical characters that I am concerned with are those that are represented in the Bible. Nothing I have ever learned from reading any thing by the ECF’s [early church fathers] and all these men down through history has enlightened me one bit. What does enlighten me is my Bible. It is what has taught me that many of these men taught false Doctrine. I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before, accept as it relates to my Lord and Savior. I don’t denigrate them I just don’t deify them or put them up on a pedestal for everyone to look at. They served their purpose, but they’re dead now and God is not the God of the dead but of the living. If all you have to say is based on your knowledge of what these men taught and you have none of it yourself, then exactly what is it you do know other than what you read in books about them? It’s great that you have been able to recently secure your doctorate and I applaud you for that but that doesn’t mean is that do you need to use all these past Scholars to justify your opinions. Those opinions should be justified and corroborated by the word of God.

The thing you don’t seem to get Oz is that this is a discussion forum with live people and I can’t very well question and discuss with those who are dead and gone as to why they thought what they did. You see I know how to think for myself. Maybe you should try it?[7]

Note his language, ‘I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before’. This is Gnosticism in action. His knowledge is from living in the present, the here and now. The inference seems to be that he does not want the correction of historical teachers. He assumes that ‘many of these men taught false Doctrine’ (i.e. early church fathers), but he gave not one example in that post. Some did promote erroneous doctrine when compared with the Bible such as Origen’s allegorical preaching in which he inserted material that was not in the text. Others taught baptismal regeneration (e.g. Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Ambrose). See the article, ‘Baptism and salvation’.[8] Arius was a Unitarian heretic who did not believe Trinitarian theology, but he was corrected at the Council of Nicea.[9]

However, in what way is that different from today with the teaching of error such as modern Gnosticism,[10] baptismal regeneration,[11] Unitarianism[12] and what is taught in some Contemporary Christian songs? Living in the present without knowledge of history does not preserve anyone from exposure to false doctrine.

6. Conclusion

The best antidote for exposing false doctrine is with a person’s and a church’s thorough knowledge of Scripture. To be able to recognise the false, know the truth.

Contemporary Christian music is feeding modern Christians a new diet of doctrinally light teaching. Much of it is existential, egocentric and focussed on what Jesus can do for ME. We are not being taught theology in song like we did under the songs of Charles Wesley, John Newton, Isaac Watts, Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, and a trail of biblical hymnists who have preceded us.

Pastor Alistair Begg has exposed the repetitive, bland material being sung in many Christian songs in the church services of the twenty-first century. The disease the church is suffering is in the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing. Sadness surrounds the fact that many in the evangelical church accept this music as what is needed in a church that wants to reach young people.

If we ignore the content of the church music we sing, we will become theologically light-weight in our understanding of the Trinitarian Lord God and his mission in the world.

What’s happening in your church? Are you whooping it up with rap music and heading towards spiritual death in your congregation? Or, are you careful about the lyrics you sing and are making sure they conform with biblical integrity? Try raising this issue (at the appropriate time) in one of your church’s cell groups. Please understand that I’m not talking about hymns sung to an organ being superior to contemporary style music. I’m discussing the content of the songs you sing and how they match biblical faithfulness in content.

However, there are elements of insensitivity by musicians to the content of the word s. Today[13] I visited a local Baptist church where the congregation sang, ‘Be still and know that I am God’, which is a meditative chorus that emphasises the need to quieten a person’s heart and meditate on who God is. However, what did the drummer do (he was accompanied by organ, piano and rhythm guitar)? He created a loud, thumping, drumming interlude that was totally out of place for such a meditative song. He sounded more like a drummer for a rock band in a nightclub. Such insensitivity should be addressed by musical directors in a church.

clip_image007

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

Notes


[1] ‘About Alistair Begg’, Truth for Life. Available at: https://www.truthforlife.org/about/about-alistair-begg/ (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[2] I’m writing this on Tues, 2 May 2016.

[3] 2012 HymnsUntoGod.org (public domain USA). Available at: http://www.hymnsuntogod.org/Hymns-PD/A-Hymns/And-Can-It-Be-That-I-Should-Gain.html (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[4] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, 23 April 2016, StanJ#123. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-5 (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[5] See MLJ Trust (Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Available at: http://www.mljtrust.org/meet-mlj/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[6] Christianity Board, op cit., OzSpen#127.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#130.

[8] By Matt Slick, CARM.

[9] See James R White, ‘What really happened at Nicea?’ (CRI 2009). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/what-really-happened-at-nicea/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[10] See Dr Douglas Groothuis’s article, ‘Modern Gnosticism’ (CRI 2016). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/modern-gnosticism/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[11] The Orthodox denomination promotes baptismal regeneration. See the article, ‘Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy’, available at: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2015/02/17/born-experience-baptismal-regeneration/ (Accessed 8 May 2016). The Roman Catholic Church endorses baptismal regeneration. See, ‘What is baptismal regeneration?’ Christian Courier, Wayne Jackson 2016. Available at: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/416-what-is-baptismal-regeneration (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[12] Key promoters of Unitarianism today are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and the Unitarian Universalist denomination. See ‘Unitarian Christianity’ at: http://www.americanunitarian.org/AUCChristian.htm (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[13] This was Sunday, 8 May 2015, in the greater Brisbane area.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 May 2016.

Do words matter in worship songs in church?

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Humming Bird

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Take a read of what one poster wrote on Christian Forums in the thread, ‘Entertainment vs worship:

Music is one element of a church meeting. Church building decorations are another. The clothes we wear are another. These are all important things. My wish is that we would treat everything as important as we treat choice of music and words of teaching. As for this thread, well it does seem like it turned into an oldies vs newies debate. I can’t really judge I guess, because it has been a long time since I sung an oldie in a church service, so I guess I don’t know what I’m missing.

I will say however that for a lot of young people, the reason they prefer newies is that they are simply written in the language they would use everyday, so they are more comfortable singing those. Its an expression of where you are on your journey. So yeah, old songs may have a depth sometimes older people would pick up on, but maybe that is because they have the wisdom that comes with age. If you want to bash the young generation fine, but remember how many years it took you to get that wisdom. Or maybe you picked up on the depth of hymns such as Charles Wesley’s from a very early age? Well, I salute you then.

We are the younger generation though, hopefully we do get wisdom with age. Personally, I don’t always pay attention to the words I am singing in worship anyway. I mean they are true words, of course, I wouldn’t sing something I didn’t think was true. But as for depth, wisdom sincerity, fellowship, communion and intimacy with God, well, every time what God does through us is different and all a song needs to have to promote that is a long quiet instrumentally bit where can be still, and instead of focus on what we are saying to God, focus on what God is saying to us.[1]

This was my response:[2]

Since you say, ‘I don’t always pay attention to the words I am singing in worship anyway’, you have nailed one of the key issues in worship singing. Why sing these words if you don’t pay attention to the words?

That to me is one of the key issues. There’s a radical difference between ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemer’s praise’ than some of the light stuff I sang last Sunday night at a church I visited with my wife to hear an Open Doors persecuted believer from North Korea.

Those folks rose to sing Hillsong lite stuff and were on their feet for 25 minutes. I’m a former radio DJ and those songs could have competed with some of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix stuff I played way back when.

They sang a string of existential nothingness while some in the congregation waved, spoke to and gestured to each other – paying no attention to the content of the songs. We had 25 minutes of this and it all began with the rolling of the drums (with 5 microphones behind a cage) that caused my wife and me to jump from our seats with fright when the amplified drums were hammered for the first time to begin ‘worship’ singing.

The music was so loud in this large auditorium that my wife could not tolerate it, so she left the building until the speaker came to the stage.

(Hillsong Church logo – courtesy Wikipedia)

Here’s an example of the Hillsong kind of lyrics:

All Day[3]

[Verse 1]:
I don’t care what they say about me
It’s alright, alright
I don’t care they think about me
It’s alright, they’ll get it one day

[Pre-Chorus]
I love you, I’ll follow you
You are my, my life
I will read my bible and pray
I will follow you all day

[Verse 2]:
I don’t care what it costs anymore
Cos’ you gave it all and I’m following you
I don’t care what it takes anymore
No matter what happens I’m going your way
[Pre-Chorus]
[Chorus]:
All Day
All Day now
All Day
[Verse 1]
[Pre-Chorus]
[Chorus]
[Bridge]:

Anyone around can see
just how good you’ve been to me
For all my friends that don’t know you
I pray that you would save them too
[Chorus]

I listen to the words I sing and refuse to sing trite, existential experiences.

Words matter when we worship God.

Here’s the contrast:

(image of Charles Wesley, courtesy Wikipedia)

Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing[4]

[words by Charles Wesley]

1. Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

2. My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honors of Thy name.

3. Jesus!–the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life and health and peace.

4. He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood avails for me.

5. Look unto Him, ye nations; own
Your God, ye fallen race,
Look and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.

6. See all your sins on Jesus laid;
The Lamb of God was slain;
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

7. Glory to God and praise and love
Be ever, ever given
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven.

See my other articles:

6pointMetal-smallCompare Charles Wesley’s hymn with a Hillsong song

6pointMetal-smallEntertainment vs Worship

6pointMetal-smallWorldliness in church music

Notes:


[1] ACWaller #57. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7557482-6/#post61544906 (Accessed 12 October 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #58.

[3] Words available from LyricsMode at: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/h/hillsong/all_day.html (Accessed 12 October 2012).

[4] The Lutheran Hymnal, available at: http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/lyrics/tlh360.htm (Accessed 12 October 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.
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