Archive for the 'Music' Category

What’s happening to music in evangelical churches?

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Tuba

(image courtesy ChristArt)

by Spencer D Gear

There was a discussion on the use of instruments in church music on Christian Forums. One writer wrote:

[My] argument is in reference to those churches which have music bands with drummers and guitarists…. it doesn’t’ attract youths but certainly make them comfortable, the music is the same with the world’s music. Furthermore did anyone researched on the origins of drum beats? it originated from voodoo practice whereby they would beat a rhythm during their witchcraft worship. How many churches still practice old fashion hymns with just an organ or piano?[1]

[2]How does this view of drums fit with the use of cymbals? They are pretty loud instruments.

Here are some cross references dealing with loud percussion instruments:

Drum Praise

(image courtesy ChristArt)

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 Samuel 6:5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets[3], harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums[4] and cymbals.[5]

1 Chronicles 13:8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.

1 Chronicles 15:16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.

Ezra 3:10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel.

Nehemiah 12:27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.

New International Version ©2011 by Biblica

As for churches that sing hymns accompanied by piano and/or organ, there are not many around my region. However, the last 2 churches my wife and I have attended, including the current one, sing hymns from hymn books (now on digital projectors). One was Baptist and was packed to the rafters with people, including considerable numbers of teens and young adults. There was no need to do thrash music to attract the youth at that Baptist church.

The other, the one we currently attend, is Presbyterian. The congregation is elderly with a few young families – but not too many – and the numbers are dwindling. That has more to do with the lack of outreach than the nature of the music. I know of another Presbyterian church in Brisbane that has thrash music with expository preaching. A friend I know attends that church and puts up with the music so that he can be edified by the preaching.

Some of the issues for us

Listen to iPod

(image courtesy ChristArt)

These are some of the musical issues in churches for my wife and me:

  1. Does the service focus on worship of the trinitarian Lord God Almighty or is it human-centred? We seek the former.
  2. Is the content of the lyrics of the songs, hymns and spiritual songs Christ-centred and promoting sound doctrine? I’m finding many contemporary songs to have too many trite, subjective lyrics. There are a few with these characteristics in the older songs as well.
  3. Does the music drown out the lyrics or is the music meant to be an accompaniment to help with the adequate singing of the hymns/songs?
  4. Are the melodies singable for the average person who attends a church service? I’m a very average singer and I find many of the contemporary songs to be not meant for congregational singing, but are meant for performance by a group and band.
  5. Does the music support or detract from the message of the preacher/teacher?
  6. How much of the music is influenced by the nature of music in the contemporary culture?

To be honest, I am concerned at the direction in which many evangelical churches are going with music and preaching content in my part of the world. Contemporary music, light lyrics and topical sermons are the order of the day in evangelical churches.

Here are but two examples of the light lyrics, in my understanding:

Air I Breathe[6]

This is the Air I Breathe
This is the Air I Breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

Chorus

And I
I’m desperate for you
And I
I’m lost without you

Never let me go[7]

In the shadows; My spirit weak
Love broke through the darkness and lifted me
And I know you’ll never let me go

In the storm in the raging sea
Love conquered the fear and delivered me
And I know you’ll never let me go

Oh love in the shadows
Be the light who leads me on
You’re love I will follow
Be my guide, You’re will be done
Oh Lord

In the arms of the One unseen
Love carried the cross that was meant for me
And I know you’ll never let me go

Oh love in the shadows
Be the light who leads me on
You’re love I will follow
Be my guide, You’re will be done

Oh Lord I surrender, now forever I’ll be loved
In the love of the Father, You are faithful You are strong
So hold me now, hold me now, hold me now

Nothing in this life has walked these streets
Love opened my eyes show me what You see
And I know I’ll never let You go

Now compare

There is power in the blood

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Refrain

There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Refrain

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Refrain

Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Refrain

How great Thou art

Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;

Refrain:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel he gentle breeze;

Refrain

And when I think that God his son not sparing,
Sent him to die – I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

Refrain

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Do you see the picture of what is happening to music in the evangelical church?

References

Youngblood, R F 1992, 1, 2 Samuel, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 553-1104. Youngblood, R F 1992, 1, 2 Samuel, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 553-1104. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Music: If it feels good, do it!’ zanness#171, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7739696-18/ (Accessed 2 May 2013).

[2] The following is my response as OzSpen#181, ibid.

[3] The 1978 edition of the NIV translated this word as ‘songs’. Youngblood explains: ‘”Songs” (perhaps of victory….), the singular of Hebrew for which is sometimes equivalent to “music” (cf. 1 Chron 25:6-7) introduces the list of accompanying musical instruments that follows’ (Youngblood 1992:870). It does not make sense to me that the 2011 NIV translated with ‘castanets’, which is not common English here in Australia, when ‘songs’ would be much clearer to the contemporary reader. The ESV translates as ‘songs’ but notes that this is from the ‘Septuagint, 1 Chronicles 13:8, Hebrew fir trees’.

[4] ‘The systrum, mentioned only here in the OT, was used widely throughout the ancient Near East, especially in Egypt. It consisted of a handle fitted to “a metal loop with holes through which pieces of wire were inserted and bent at the ends. Since the holes were larger than the wire, the instrument produced a jingling sound when shaken. The Hebrew word comes from a verb which means ‘shake;’ so it is reasonable to suppose that the mea’an’im were sistra (Sellers, “Musical Instruments of Israel,” pp. 44-45)’ (Youngblood 1992:870).

[5] ‘”Cymbals” were of two kinds, one set of which were struck vertically (harsh/noisy cymbals) and the other horizontally (clear cymbals). The former may be reflected in the “clash of cymbals” and the latter in the “resounding cymbals” of Psalm 150:5. The cymbals here were probably clear cymbals (similar to but smaller than their modern descendants, bronze examples of which (cf. 1 Chron. 15:19) archaeologists have found at several cites in Israel (e.g. Beth Shemesh …; Hazor. While not mentioning sistrums, the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 13:8 concludes the list with “trumpets,” resulting in a total of six different musical instruments used to accompany the first attempt to bring the ark from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem’ (Youngblood 1992:870).

[6] Available at AlltheLyrics: http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/hillsong/air_i_breathe-lyrics-829435.html (Accessed 2 May 2013).

[7] Available at AlltheLyrics: http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/hillsong/never_let_me_go-lyrics-1037607.html (Accessed 2 May 2013).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 April 2016.

Entertainment versus Worship

Sunday, June 26th, 2011
By Spencer D Gear

The controversy over entertainment songs in Christian ‘worship’ services is represented by this comment by MysterE:

“I believe that worship team musicians are aware of the show off tendancies (sic). I know I am because that is where I converted from. The difference between secular entertainment and worship is mostly about crowd focus.

“If a musician starts showing off in church the church stops singing and puts their focus on that musician or singer, and worship becomes entertainment.

“My team is more conserned (sic) with participation than recognition. My church knows that the musicians are capable (sic). There is no desire to show off”.[1]

My response was as follows:[2]

The difference between secular entertainment and worship should NOT BE about crowd focus. It should be about God-focus.

I find much of the current entertainment, contemporary Christian music to be trite in the lyrics. Take this as an example:

Heart Of Worship

when the music fades
all is stripped away
and i simply come
longing just to bring
something that’s of worth
that will bless your heart

i’ll bring you more than a song
for a song in itself
is not what you have required
you search much deeper within
through the way things appear
you’re looking into my heart

chorus

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
and it’s all about you
It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the things i’ve made it
when it’s all about you
it’s all about you, Jesus

King of endless worth
no one could express
how much you deserve
though i’m weak and poor
all i have is yours
every single breath

chorus

Where do we find the glories of the Christ focus of hymns like this:

Crown Him with many crowns

Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

Crown Him the virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem.

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of peace, whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease, and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end, and round His piercèd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.

Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

The stark contrast between the content of the lyrics of these two songs should be obvious to the discerning Christian. Existentialism versus God-exalting is the contrast.

No wonder Christianity is being dumbed-down in many of the churches that have swallowed the hook that contemporary music[3] is the way to go in the modern church. I inquired of a Christian leader in my state for recommendations of a church that was not promoting rock ‘n roll Christianity. One of his responses was a church that  has “quite an older congregation and would probably be quite conservative”. The inference is that the hymn-singing with content is part of the “older” generation that continues to be “conservative” in music style.

What about the content of the lyrics sung and the singability of the tunes. I find many of the contemporary songs to be very difficult for a congregation to sing, while most of the old hymns are designed for congregational singing.

The Berean Call provides this observation by Gary Gilley,

“It would appear, when it comes to entertainment, Christianity has caught up with the culture at large.  One social observer, Neal Gabler, who has no ax to grind in this regard, making no pretense to be a Christian, has noticed, “Evangelical Protestantism, which had begun as a kind of spiritual entertainment in the nineteenth century, only refined its techniques in the twentieth, especially after the advent of television.  Televangelists like Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart recast the old revival meeting as a television variety show, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club was modeled after The Tonight Show, only the guests on this talk show weren’t pitching a new movie or album; they were pitching salvation.”  Christianity on television, by necessity, has always been presented in the form of entertainment.  Theology, rituals, sacred worship, prayer, and most other true components of the Christian faith, simply do not “play” well on television” [Gary Gilley, This Little Church Went to Market, Xulon Publishers, 2002 pp. 35-36].

This website provides what it considers are ….

Basics of Entertainment Christianity:

The entertainment church is stunting the growth of millions.

There is a growing trend to substitute entertainment for ministry and emotion for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is powerful. Let Him rule and reign in the service. Entertainment can never satisfy the desire that you have to be fulfilled in Jesus. There is no exciting speaker or singer who can satisfy that need and longing. The enemy of your soul would love to deceive you into seeking after entertainment rather than seeking after Jesus.

Jesus moves in simple ways. His orders are clear in His Word. 1 Corinthians 14 is the description of a Scriptural church service, but it isn’t compatible with the modern entertainment church. It’s pretty risky to let the Holy Ghost plan and execute the service without any professional entertainers, if you want to build a big, popular church organization.

The reality is that God doesn’t care a thing about building any big organization of any kind. He works through a remnant who will be obedient to His voice. He seeks those who desire Him. He doesn’t need too many of those to usher in the Kingdom age.

Nancy Pearcey has exposed some of the pitfalls of entertainment Christianity in, “When churches try to be cool“.

Notes:


[1] MysterE #24, Christian Forums, Worship Ministry, “Entertainment vs worship”, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7557482-3/ (Accessed 26 June 2011).

[2] OzSpen #25, ibid.

[3] For some, it is rock ‘n roll Christianity. For others it is hard rock noise with lots of gyrations by lead singers and congregational involvement.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015.

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