Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Confusion in Christian Music & Worship

An earlier post called Musical Unity? addressed the conflict between Christians who prefer contemporary music and those who long for the age-old hymns. Chapter Ten in my book addresses these issues at more length. Changes in Christian music spearheaded many changes in the church over the last thirty years. Many scholars and church leaders have addressed the “worship wars” as though the disunity was simply a matter of the seniors not being willing to adapt to the changes. Now some of them realize there is much more at stake than a generation gap. Music should unite, inform, and inspire congregations with biblically correct lyrics; music should encourage the corporate adoration of God.

James K. A. Smith, Philosophy professor at Calvin College, in an article titled Open Letter to Praise Bands lists three points:
1. If we, the congregation, can't hear ourselves, it's not worship.
2. If we, the congregation, can't sing along, it's not worship.
3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it's not worship.

He elaborates on these three points and concludes:"This isn't just some plea for 'traditional' worship and a critique of 'contemporary' worship. Don't mistake this as a defense of pipe organs and a critique of guitars and drums (or banjos and mandolins). My concern isn't with style, but with form: What are we trying to do when we 'lead worship?' If we are intentional about worship as a communal, congregational practice that brings us into an encounter with the living God--that worship is not merely expressive but also formative--then we can do that with cellos or steel guitars, pipe organs or African drums."

In other words, in many congregations worship has been diminished; it has become entertainment, not because of the instruments used but because of the mindset of pastors and leaders. Also, the words to contemporary music are often not accurate biblically. They mislead seekers and even devout Christians.

Ron Rhodes in Christian Research Journal, writing in 1989 says, “a small but growing percentage of Christian songs have lyrics that are “shallow, confusing, doctrinally errant, or even blatantly unbiblical.”

He cites specific questionable lyrics:
Lyrics that portray Jesus as less than fully divine: For example, Jesus "was just an ordinary man--just a carpenter from Galilee."

Salvation is described inadequately. For example, "if you're sorry - I'll wash away your sin." Rhodes says, “There is no mention of faith even though faith is mentioned around 200 times in the New Testament as the condition of salvation. Being just sorry never saved anyone!” I would add, repentance is not mentioned and is not the same as saying you’re sorry. Repentance requires changing your direction.

Lyrics suggest “name it and claim it” theology. For example, "Let the weak say 'I am strong;' Let the sick say 'I am healed.' “With words of faith confess it. And in the name of Jesus claim it. Because what you say is what you get."

And what gives us the strength to get through each day? One song tells us: "In my heart I know there's someone [Christ] who believes in me. I know that He believes in me. He believes in me. That gives me the courage to be what I must be, He believes in me." Where's the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit in this?

Those of us who succeed in living a life worthy of God can look forward to the Rapture, according to another song. “We will be raptured ‘if to God we have been true, and we've lived above all sin.’ This ‘Rapture’ may be a peopleless event!”

Compare the above hymns with “The Old Rugged Cross” or "Amazing Grace" or contemporary songs such as “Majesty” or the “Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power.” Lyrics affect our worship engaging out hearts and minds to bow in awe to our God. Worship that is contrived by man to entertain us, or stir us or falsely reassure us does not compare with worship inspired by the Spirit of God.

Pray the Church will recognize the need to exalt God in music and worship.

Blessings, Dottie

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