In the last few years, I have heard of more sad stories of pastors and other Christian parents losing their children to the world then ever before. I also have two children. One is midway through her teenage years while the other has just embarked on her journey. It is little wonder that I and other pastors should be anxious not only about our children, but also those of the people to whom we minister.
The Bible teaches us to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6)." This may be easier said then done in our modern "do your own thing" society. I only wish to add some constructive thoughts to raising up a child. Many have discussed this issue. Because of its size and scope I would like to focus on one aspect, the role that music plays in the church and in training up a child.
When I was a teenager, seemingly a hundred years ago, I remember going to the local United Methodist Church and their "coffeehouse." We had folk type music that seemed to question all of the standard values of our Church and society then. Somehow, the pastors considered this to be very enlightened. Later, the Lord started to deal with me and I found myself attending a fundamental type church. There, the pastor and others who visited that church taught how wrong this sort of thing was. They not only spoke about the lyrics, but the music itself.
During this time Gospel music quartets were evolving into what they are today. Not only that, but "Contemporary Christian Music" was also catching on in the liberal type churches. Most conservative and independent churches spoke against this. As I said before, they not only addressed the lyrics, but also the tempo and the beat. By the time the rock opera "Jesus Christ Super Star" was produced, men like the Rev. Billy Graham had welcomed this style of music as a way to "reach" people for Christ. He and others seemed to excuse the fact that this opera questioned Christ's divinity. They made Christ into "just a man" and this "man" had a secret lover. From that point on, more of the conservative churches, no matter their names, swiftly got on the bandwagon. This was done in the name of "reaching out" to our youth, hoping to bring them to Christ. When people and institutions, like Bob Jones University, questioned the use of this kind of music in the church, the leaders of those churches summarily condemned them as unloving and uncaring for souls.
From that time till now the Contemporary Christian Music industry has become a multimillion dollar industry, and a sacred cow. Many "artists" and "entertainers" live as close to the edge of Christianity as they can without falling off, however some do not succeed in this attempt. They look and act like what they see in Hollywood. They swing their bodies, as I have noticed in "holiness" camp meetings, and act as if they really love the Lord. I am sure that they really feel they do.
Every month some church within the community sends poster size pictures of some contemporary music group coming to town to help reach out to the youth. Some pictures have totally embarrassed me. All too often paint is smeared over their faces. Ear rings tangle. Some have no shirts, and usually have long hair, wacky hairdos or no hair at all. These ads always tell how many youth they have won to Christ and how they "minister" to the inner needs of young people. I just feel sick thinking of it.
Does Christ care nothing about standards? What have we done in the name of winning people to Christ, and reaching our children? Do holiness preaching and holy living have anything in common anymore? Are we really doing it to reach the lost youth, or are we losing our youth through music? Could it be that pastors and Church leaders are promoting this kind of music to fulfill the lust of the flesh? Will we listen to Scripture and what it says, or do we override Scripture with the word "love"? Does one's doctrinal belief have any impact on their view of contemporary music? However, the really important question is, are we really seeing our kids saved using the idea of contemporary music, or are we preparing them to accept worldliness and damn their eternal souls with fleshly evangelism? Frankly, God's Word answers all these questions, and the answer is not in music. Nonetheless, we are not able to hear what God says because the beat just goes on and on in our minds. "We are doing this to reach them," "we are doing this to reach them," "we are doing this to . . . " Just where do we find this great emphasis on music in the New Testament? Let us take some time and focus on the music.
In the Old Testament we find that God commanded what to sing and when during the services. Throughout the Old Testament music was spoken about often and for various reasons. It seemed that music played an important role. Contrast that with the New Testament.
The first mention of any music is found in Matthew 26:30(1) where it says, "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives." This occurred after the Lord's Supper. Note that it implies that only one hymn, not a chorus or praise song, was sung. Also this hymn occurred after the Supper and our Lord's teaching concerning it, and not before. There is no indication that this hymn was one of dedication or invitation. Nor does it imply that they were moved to sing it. All it simply says is that they "had sung an hymn." Wesley says that a song "was constantly sung at the close of the Passover. It consisted of six psalms, from the hundred and thirteenth to the hundred and eighteenth."(2) If what Wesley says is true, it was more a formal act then a spiritual impulse. Also, it is at the end of the "service" not during or to prepare one's heart for worship. What is striking however, is the fact that this is the only time in the Gospels that our Lord had used music. Could it be that this music was an outgrowth of worship and not an outreach?
Though Romans 15:9 deals with music, not much can be said on how it could be applied to the current subject. However, I Corinthians 14:15 is worthy of note. "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." Noting that Paul is discussing tongues and other gifts in this chapter is important. Nevertheless, there is no instruction to use music as an evangelistic tool. The only thing to be noted is to sing with understanding. Dr. Adam Clarke has an interesting comment here to which the Church should listen. He says, "Those whose hearts are right with God have generally no skill in music, and those who are well skilled in music have seldom a devotional spirit, but are generally proud, self-willed, contentious, and arrogant. Do not these persons entirely overrate themselves?"(3) "Some of these persons, I mean they who sing with the understanding without the spirit, suppose themselves of great consequence in the Church of Christ; and they find foolish superficial people whom they persuade to be of their own mind and soon raise parties and contentions if they hand not everything their own way."(4) Clarke is not against music. However, he witnessed the use of music in his generation, and we see all to many examples of it today. Let me examine this point a bit more.
About a year ago, Rev. Douglas A. Crossman wrote an article entitled "Why the Holiness Movement Died." Among the reasons for the death of "Holiness," he sited music as one of the causes. He explained his view of music like this. "Now every service, has to have its 'special,' that is, a solo or other musical performance, often followed by a round of applause from the 'audience.' It would surprise many to realize Wesley and Whitefield never used a soloist. All music was an act of worship and adoration addressed to God. Whole meetings are now handed over as concerts, 'sacred' concerts, but concerts nevertheless. Charging a thousand dollars or more for a performance is common for professional musicians. This is nothing less than a form of prostitution, a sale of the gifts God has given, which surely must result in a grieving of the Spirit. We have lost the scriptural position of the primacy of preaching."(5) According to the editor of The Arminian, this statement provoked an outcry of protest and response such as they never had from any other article. After researching Wesley's Works I found what Rev. Crossman said concerning Wesley to be true. Again, music in the New Testament was an outgrowth of worship and was never used as an outreach, or even something to make us feel good.
The next place we find music being spoken of is in Ephesians 5:19. It says "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." I am sure that the Scripture here is wrong when it says "to yourselves." No, I just checked and found that is what it says. There is no doubt that one can also sing with their voice and still not hurt the spirit of this verse. Yet nothing here would compel us to think there is a major emphasis put on music in the New Testament. Again, music in the New Testament was an out growth of worship and was never used as an outreach.
There are still other verses in the New Testament, such as Hebrews 2:12, Col. 3:16, James 5:13 and Revelation 15:3. From none of these verses can one honestly say that music was used as an evangelistic tool or much less the way it is being used today. It was an outgrowth of worship. It seems to come after the heart was already lifted by the preaching of the Word or reading of Scripture. It also seemed to be something very personal. We need to note two major points here: 1. The New Testament does not place the same emphasis on music as we do today. 2. Where it was used, it is an outgrowth of worship, and never used for evangelism or to prepare a heart for worship.
Does it not seem strange that they put so little emphasis on music in the New Testament? As one looks at the contemporary Christian Church of today, one would think that much has been said about music in the New Testament. Music in the Church today has taken on its own independent identity. It has become a major component of worship and often it directs the preaching of the Word. Yet, as we have just seen, music did not play a very important role in our Lord's ministry while He was with us. It is evident that Paul was very careful in his endorsement of music. Nothing here suggests that music play a critical role in worship or even in evangelism. Therefore, can Satan use music within the Church to cause great harm? Before we answer this question, let's first look at what holy living and Godliness means in the New Testament.
Seeing what passes for Christian living today is sad. Some place the blame for the lack of holy living and Godliness on the doctrine of eternal security or the lack of holiness preaching. While there is some truth to this idea, why do those who don't agree with eternal security live more Godly since they have more to lose? When it comes to music, the doctrines of holiness and eternal security seem to have little or no real consequence.
The Bible is clear when it says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy (I Peter 1:16)." What is holy living? Surely the idea that some foster that we "sin in word and deed" every day, and that we are nothing more then "sinning saints" does not agree with Scripture. Christ came so that we could be free from sin. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2)." The Christian is not in bondage to sin at all, but has complete victory in Christ's work on the cross. Charles Wesley puts it this way, "He breaks the power of canceled sin," and again he writes of the victory over sin when he says, "take away our bent to sinning." One does not have to sin to prove grace. Maybe we need to rephrase the question. Can a person live and act like the world and still holy or Godly?
We find no support for this from the Old New Testament. The reason for Israel's backsliding was that they lived and acted in ways that God did not command. It is interesting that Joshua, upon Moses' return from the mountain, called the singing in the camp of the children of Israel a "noise."(6) This noise, singing, here represented the sins of the people of God. This bombastic noise that Joshua heard was the same sound that the heathen nation around them celebrated as music. When he and Moses arrived in the camp, they found them dancing around an idol. God saw fit to destroy them. Lot's case really brings into focus the fact that going along with the world will not help one's spiritual life. His sin vexed his soul. Finally, in the New Testament, Christ tells us to abstain from even the appearance of evil. The conclusion is that living according to the world and using its music is dangerous to the soul and the Church. Our apathy over the lack of the Holy Spirit really moving in the Church has allowed music to stir the human spirits.
In recent times studies have shown the effects on music on people. In 1998 the governor of Georgia wanted to provide a CD player with classical CD music for each pregnant woman in the state. Why? A recent study suggested that pregnant women who listen to classical music increase the academic achievement of their children. Wesley even noted the impact of music on both people and animals.(7) I should also hasten to add the example of the effects that David's music had on King Saul. If music is this powerful, as many claim and studies suggest, than handling it very carefully would be wise.
I contend that Contemporary Christian, Christian Rock, and the current Gospel quartet music have brought into the Church a sense of worldliness that the devil could not have done otherwise. With this kind of music comes the same loose living connected with its counterpart in the world. With this sort of music we can look like and sound like the world and still "feel" like we are reaching the youth and the world for Christ. This sort of music illustrates the general apathy that now exists in the Church. Has the music "ministry" taken over the role of the moving of the Spirit? As our Churches look, act, and sound like the world our youth get the message clearly. There is no real difference, except "preaching," between Christianity and the world.
As apathy increases in our time it will also reflect in all areas of our life. That includes worship and the moral separation of the Church and the world. No one seems to care in high places, and that includes the Church of Christ. Sex and lies in high places are accepted as less than "high crimes" against the people, even in my beloved Methodist Church.
According to the late Dr. Schaeffer such was the case in the Roman Empire. He says, "One of the ways the apathy showed itself was in the lack of creativity in the arts. One easily observed example of the decadence of officially sponsored art is that fourth-century work on the Arch of Constantine in Rome stands in poor contrast to its second-century sculptures which were borrowed form monuments for the Emperor Trajan. The elite abandoned their intellectual pursuits for social life. Officially sponsored art was decadent, and music was increasingly bombastic."(8) Compare the music of Wesley, Watts, and Handel to the music of today. That music was an out growth of the Reformation and the preaching of God's Word. This is a sad commentary on the current music situation of our age. That is, our music has become increasingly "bombastic" as apathy grows in the lack of a desire to live holy. Music has replaced the movement of the energy of the Holy Spirit.
This apathy for holy living has grown with the idea being pounded into our heads daily over Christian radio that we sin in "word and deed" daily, and there is no getting around it. We cheapen the Grace of God. Our music has also followed the same path. We have turned to the devil and asked him for his help. We now have the Christian music "hit charts." The "latest" songs. Big business. Never mind holy standards. Give the people what they want. Music that sounds like the world and artists that look and act like the world. Speak out against the promoters and users of this kind of music and what Adam Clarke said will be proven.
Again our youth gets the message clearly. For them contemporary Christian music becomes nothing more then another existential leap from the reality of real Christianity. Now they can get "high" on Jesus instead of drugs. With its beat and contemporary style comes sex, loose living, disobedience to parents, and it blends in well with the world around them so that they don't look too different when around unsaved friends. Young people understand this idea. The music of the world has invaded the Church and we welcomed it so as not to lose our children. There is no longer a difference between worship and concerts. All is the same. All has become a show, the main event. With the arrival of Contemporary Christian music, we have broken down the absolutes in Christianity.
Instead of making another Charles Wesley, Watts, or Handle, our churches now produce a "Christianized" version of Elvis. Music has died in the Church. Nevertheless, why do we allow this music to help in destruction of our children? This sort of music does not increase Godliness among our youth nor does it help in bringing up a child in the way that he or she should go. If the State of Georgia wants to give classical CDs to pregnant women to improve academics for children, how much more should we as Christians be concerned over the music that our children hear inside or outside the Church? Maybe we ought to investigate this kind of music and see what impact it is really having on our kids?
1. Mark 14:26 essentially says the same.
2. Wesley, John, Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, 1966; rpt. London, England, p 125
3. Clarke, Adam, Clarke's Commentary, Abingdon Press, p. 275-276
4. Ibid Clarke's Commentary
5. Crossman, Douglas A., "Why the Holiness Movement Died," The Arminian, Fall 1997, p. 1-2
6. Exodus 32:1-29
7. Wesley, John, The Works of John Wesley, 14 Vols. Salem, Ohio, Schmul Publishers, 1997 Wesley shares some interesting stories on the effects of music on animals in volume 3 pages 202-203, and effects on humans in volume 13 pages 470-473. It seems that the contemporary Christian community only cares about the emotions and feelings which they mistake as a true moving of the Holy Spirit. Wesley spoke out against the misuse of music. He even instructed his people on how to use music. It is no small secret how music can be used for both evil and good. If our founder was careful concerning music, how much more ought we to be careful with so much technology at hand.
8. Schaeffer, Francis A., How Should We then Live. Westchester, Illinois,
Crossway Books, 1983, p 26