Posted in church, contemporary music, encouragement, music, worship

Is Music Worship? Do singers "lead worship"?

The selection of music in churches is important and is not based simply on preferences. Do not pooh-pooh the music by marginalizing it to a second tier of concerns and assigning it as simply a “preference.” Music is doctrine, sacred music is unique to the redeemed because it is our response to His redeeming work, and it is either reflective of the culture or it is reflective of the worshipful heart.

EPrata photo

First, let’s talk about what music in church is NOT. These are taken from John MacArthur’s recent sermon “Is Music Worship?” based on the verses at Ephesians 5:18-20.

  • Music is not worship. Music is a means to express worship, but it is not worship.
  • Secondly, a misconception is that music motivates worship, music induces worship. That’s not true either. … [T]he motive for all of our songs is not a sound, it’s a truth.
  • Another misconception is that when people have trouble worshiping, music will create worship, music will create the mood for worship. Worship is not a mood experience.

What true worship IS, is-

a permanent attitude. John 4, “We worship in spirit and truth.” That’s who we are. … The music of the redeemed is different. We live in a different world. We are citizens of a different kingdom. The music of the redeemed is alien to the music of the world. The music of the redeemed is reflective of that which is most lofty, most elevated, most exalted, most noble: the truth of God – it never changes. So our music doesn’t ride the culture. Music doesn’t ride the culture among the redeemed, it simply reveals the truth, and the truth never changes. (Source)

I encourage you to listen to the sermon. The explanation about music and its place in worship among the redeemed is stupendously explained, especially when you arrive at the powerful ending.

Meanwhile, I’d read Gladys Aylward’s autobiography and was struck by something described at the end of the book. The following is my retelling of Aylward’s event.

Unsplash photo- free to use

There is a great story in China Missionary Gladys Aylward’s autobiographical book “The Little Woman.” This occurred in the mid-1930s. She is trying to escape the invading Japanese, because they had put a price on her head. So she walked in a direction no Chinese went, over some mountains where the map was blank. She was with one other missionary. At dusk, seeing no human, no town, no habitation at all, they were debating whether to go back. The man told Aylward to sit on this nearby stump and he would go ahead a bit and see what’s what. Alone, Gladys began to sing hymns.

Soon the man came back and said, no luck. They might freeze out there or if they go back they might be killed. Just then a Lama (Buddhist Monk) came up. He said, come with me, we will take you to our lamastery. No people were EVER invited into a lamastery. But the duo believed it was an ordained appointment. I mean, what were the odds, right? So they went. They were led up the side of the mountain high up to a lamastery carved into the rock. They were greeted happily and warmly and fed and made comfortable.

She asked the head Lama the next day why they had been so cordially welcomed to such a private and mysterious place. Lama said that 7 years ago they brought to town their licorice that they pick and sell. They heard a lone man in the square saying that there is a God who loves them and salvation is free, if they believe- come to this building tonight to hear more. They were astounded that such a doctrine existed. There is a God? He loves? They accepted the tract the man was handing out, simply the verse at John 3:16 and the address, nothing more.

For five years they sought to learn more but were unable. Every time they went to town to sell their licorice they asked everyone about where to find “the God who loves.” No one else could tell them. Then one day a man was there and he did say yes, go to the China Inland Mission over there and they will tell you. A Mission house had been established.

They went to the Mission house and received New Testament bibles and tracts, which they brought back to the lamastery and read eagerly. They delighted in the notion that there was a “God who loves” but there was much in the book they did not understand. Still, they read, and they came to the verse where Christ had said of his apostles, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.” And the monks believed that one day a person would come and preach to them them, because it said so in the book.

And three years later when they heard singing, they knew the person had come, because as the Monk said, “Only people who know God will sing.” And the person was Gladys and her companion. They rejoiced, knowing they were about to learn more. So she and the other missionary told all the monks about Jesus and then they left the next day, not knowing if the lamas were saved or became saved, but trusting that some would, sometime.


I had never thought about it before, but no other major religion really sings. Of course anything other than biblical Christianity is a false religion. In these false religions, there are chants, but no hymns. No singing. On that cold, dusky night, Gladys was recognized by Buddhists because she sang. Our music IS unique and we are eternally identified with it. It is not simply a preference. Toward the end of his sermon, John MacArthur said this:

And by the way, Christians are the only religion that sing. Muslims don’t sing, Buddhists don’t sing, Hindus don’t sing. They don’t sing. Some chant in a minor key; Christians sing. But when the Reformation came, music was reintroduced to the church; and you sing a hymn written by Martin Luther who launched the Reformation: A Mighty Fortress is our God. Five-hundred years after that, we’re still singing that hymn.

We sing because we have been redeemed. We sing a new song, one that the world does not hear. We sing because-

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:2-3)

Posted in contemporary music, divination, false, roma downey

(Updated) Unity is over-inflated. Let’s have more division, please. A report on the CCM free concert "We Will Stand"

UPDATED. Read the link at the end to see what true unity is.

A live-streamed event is occurring online tonight (and in a real life place venue located in Brentwood, Tennessee) which has the potential to reach 40 million people. It is being billed as a Christian event, but we’ll see more about that in a moment. The event is titled “We Will Stand: An Online Concert” and is promoted as “the greatest night in the history of contemporary Christian music.”

Well. The promoters are not without hubris, to be sure. But first, here is a bit of background on charitable single songs or concerts by super-groups–

Over thirty years ago, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” a song written in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, was sung by a quickly put-together supergroup. It was written and recorded in reaction to television reports of the 1983–85 famine in Ethiopia. It was sung by a supergroup consisting mainly of the biggest British and Irish musical acts at the time. It was a huge success and raised a lot of money.

In America the next year, We Are the World was sung as a charity single for African relief. It was recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. Do They Know It’s Christmas, sung by Band-Aid, was a direct inspiration for the single We Are the World. We are the World was very successful. (source)

Cut to thirty years later, and today we have the Contemporary Christian Musician’s attempt at a Do They Know It’s Christmas and We Are the World hit, replicated in “We Will Stand” but minus the charity. According to this article, “Stan Moser, Christian music industry veteran and founder of CCM United, he is seeking to create a “We Are The World” type of moment — but one that ultimately has its greatest impact on the world for Christ.” Yet in an interview about the event, he stated his first goal is to be “part of a historic moment.”

Details about exactly what the group stands united around are not clear, neither in that article or on their website. After reading the lengthy article published on 94 The FIsh radio station’s site, and every page on their own website, I’m still not sure as to what is the message they’ll be bringing, except that they will be “Glorifying God with One Voice and One Mind.” – Romans 15:6 HCSB” and their slogan is, CCM UNITED, ONE MESSAGE. MANY VOICES. (source)

Christian Contemporary Music is not typically known for having a strongly doctrinal Christian message. It’s saturated with sentimentalism, laced with emotion, and has an emphasis on experience. In fact, the organizer of this two-hour concert event happening tonight said the genesis for it was a conversation with God and a mystically intuited moment, sans the bible.

In its pursuit of mysticism and experience, CCM usually repeats one line many times until its choruses become mantra and mindlessness is achieved. Its emphasis is usually on our response to worshiping God rather than God’s attributes and how He expects us to worship Him. CCM artists and music producers have not shown the best discernment regarding handling Christian doctrines in song. Nor have they shown the best discernment in who they partner with.

In addition to all that is the problematic nature of Christianity in general these days. Satan always attempts to re-define commonly understood words, until its original meaning has been twisted away from the biblical original meaning. At issue these days is the issue of Unity.

The bible urges unity within the body in many different verses. Here are just three:  Philippians 2:2, 1 Peter 3:8, and 1 Corinthians 1:10. The bible urges the brethren to mark those who cause divisions among us. (Romans 16:17). Originally, Paul meant for the brethren to mark those who are teaching contrary to the doctrines which have been delivered, because confusion divides. However, today it has come to mean mark the brethren that dare to exercise discernment and dividing them. The false teachers aren’t marked out as divisive anymore, that is said to be unloving. Rather, the brethren pointing them out are said to be the divisive ones. What happens is that the false teachers are being protected and the true brethren are marked and shunned as dangerous. Nowadays, unity at the expense of doctrine is sought and seen as desirable, as long as “we agree on the basics.”

The irony is, everyone is divided on just what the basics are, and so everyone gets past any whiff of disagreement by welcoming anyone and everyone as a brother. Unity around nothing is no unity.

Today’s ‘unity’ has also come to mean, unite with Catholics.

CCM’s lack of discernment as revealed repeatedly in their songs is on full display tonight. In addition to the contemporary Christian music they will be playing, appearances will be made by Roma Downey throughout the event. Ms Downey may be remembered for her role in the long-running television series Touched by an Angel, in which she appeared as a female angel. She and her husband Mark Burnett also produced a miniseries several years ago called The Bible, or as the more conservative, doctrinal, discerning Christians like to think of it, as “The-Missing-the-Mark Bible” series due to the fact that Downey and her team re-wrote or twisted many of the biblical events they portrayed in the show. The duo also produced and Downey acted in a theatrical release called Son of God, in which the life of Jesus was portrayed, with Downey playing Jesus’ mother Mary.

Worse still, Ms Downey is a mystic, a Catholic, and a demonic summoner (divination) in which on live television she used a medium to contact and speak with her dead mother.

The bible says of divination, an activity hated by God and expressly forbidden:

When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-1)

You can read more about the doctrinal problems with the faith that Ms Downey claims to have, which is no faith, here.

And lest one believes that God’s hate for divination is just Old Testament wrath and not relevant to today’s loving Jesus, Paul wrote to the Galatians that anyone practicing sorcery will not gain heaven. (Galatians 5:20)

Now when I say that the CCM artists participating in this event show lack of discernment, there it is in full display.

Worse, also participating in this event is Travis Cottrell, Beth Moore’s band leader. Participating also is LifeWay Christian booksellers- they are donating the live-streaming for it.

If the concert event is donating the proceeds to some sort of charitable organization I’ve missed it. All I’ve been able to determine from quotes like the one above where the organizer said they want to be part of an historic moment, and this quote, that “CCM United was created to deliver the music, the ministry, and the life-changing message of many of the greatest CCM artists of today” and that it is a celebration of 40 years of contemporary Christian music, therefore all I can gather is that the event is just simply a celebration of themselves.

And this would make sense, because much of CCM is about celebrating ourselves. “God look at us worshiping you.” “God look at us singing to you.” “God see how we really, really love you.” Why wouldn’t 30 CCM artists get together and celebrate themselves?

I’m sad that they have partnered with Roma Downey. If they are attempting to get “one message” out, it is this:

Doctrine is not necessary, our version of love is; and mysticism, Catholicism, and divination are hunky dory. No wonder the organizer said five times in the interview that “We Are the World” was his inspiration and catalyst. They definitely are the world. They definitely are.

As for their event, “We Will Stand” I only have scripture to share:

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)


Further Reading:

This is a good essay, explaining what true biblical unity is.

True Unity

Posted in contemporary music, corinth, pagans, worship

"Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian?"

Todd Pruitt wrote a great article titled, Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian? It begins this way,

There is a great misunderstanding in churches of the purpose of music in Christian worship. Churches routinely advertise their “life-changing” or “dynamic” worship that will “bring you closer to God” or “change your life.” Certain worship CD’s promise that the music will “enable you to enter the presence of God.” … The problem with the flyer and with many church ads is that these kinds of promises reveal a significant theological error. Music is viewed as a means to facilitate an encounter with God; it will move us closer to God. In this schema, music becomes a means of mediation between God and man. But this idea is closer to ecstatic pagan practices than to Christian worship.

Yet in the years since then I have learned some valuable lessons. Chief among them is the realization than an emotional high is no substitute for true spirituality. paperthinhymn
Pruitt continues by explaining the theological errors of churches that use music as a mediator between the people and Jesus. Of course there are further explanations in the article. I recommend it highly. Here are a few more excerpts,

1. God’s Word is marginalized.
In many Churches and Christian gatherings it is not unusual for God’s Word to be shortchanged. Music gives people the elusive “liver quiver” while the Bible is more mundane. Pulpits have shrunk and even disappeared while bands and lighting have grown. But faith does not come from music, dynamic experiences, or supposed encounters with God. Faith is birthed through the proclamation of God’s Word (Rom 10:17).

2. Our assurance is threatened.
If we associate God’s presence with a particular experience or emotion, what happens when we no longer feel it? We search for churches whose praise band, orchestra, or pipe organ produce in us the feelings we are chasing. But the reality of God in our lives depends on the mediation of Christ not on subjective experiences.

3. Musicians are given priestly status.
When music is seen as a means to encounter God, worship leaders and musicians are vested with a priestly role. They become the ones who bring us into the presence of God rather than Jesus Christ who alone has already fulfilled that role. Understandably, when a worship leader or band doesn’t help me experience God they have failed and must be replaced. On the other hand, when we believe that they have successfully moved us into God’s presence they will attain in our minds a status that is far too high for their own good.

4. Division is increased.
If we identify a feeling as an encounter with God, and only a particular kind of music produces that feeling, then we will insist that same music be played regularly in our church or gatherings. As long as everyone else shares our taste then there is no problem. But if others depend upon a different kind of music to produce the feeling that is important to them then division is cultivated. And because we routinely classify particular feelings as encounters with God our demands for what produce those feelings become very rigid. This is why so many churches succumb to offering multiple styles of worship services. By doing so, they unwittingly sanction division and self-centeredness among the people of God.


The pagan music practices to which Mr Pruitt was referring were described in several different ancient writings and modern commentaries.

The cult of Dionysus coming from the northland spread in a great wave of religious enthusiasm over Greece proper, over the island states of the Aegean, and across to the mainland of Asia Minor. At first it met with violent opposition, as the legends of Lycurgus and Pentheus prove. In those early days rarely was the god graciously received as he was, for example, by Icarus in Attica. In spite of opposition, however, the contagious enthusiasm of the wine-god spread with unusual rapidity throughout Greece. In order to restrain Bacchic excesses the city-states of Greece had no other alternative than to adopt the Cult, bring it under state patronage, and by official regulation temper its enthusiasm somewhat. At Delphi Dionysus was associated with Apollo, and there the sacred maidens went mad in the service of the two gods. In Athens he entered into civic partnership with Athena and yearly wedded the Basilinna. At Eleusis he was brought into relation with Demeter and led the march of the candidates along the Sacred Way from Athens. In Teos and Naxos he even became the paramount state deity, the “god of the city” and “protector of the most holy state.”

It was as a private cult, rather than as a state religion, however, that the worship of Dionysus made its deepest impression on both Hellenic and Hellenistic life. In the private brotherhoods, the natural emotions aroused by the cult practices were allowed free play and the guaranties offered to initiates were of a very realistic order; hence the appeal of the cult was strong, particularly to the masses and to women generally. At the beginning of Aristophanes’ comedy, Lysistrate, impatient with waiting, complains that if the women had been invited to the shrine of Bacchus “there would be no getting along for the crowd of timbrels.” Indeed, the prominence of women in the worship of Dionysus is one of the most striking features of the cult. Pagan Regeneration,  A Study of Mystery Initiations in the Graeco Roman World by Harold R. Willoughby, [1929]

Timbrels are an ancient kind of tambourine. The quote meant that if all the women were invited there would be so many clogging the streets with their tambourines, no one would be able to pass by.

The result of pagan cultic worship, especially Dionysian worship, was a frenzied scene at the temple, and a cacophony that permeated the city from on high to down low.

Menander demonstrates women’s role in pagan worship:

‘We were offering sacrifice five times a day, and seven serving women were beating cymbals around us while the rest of the women pitched high the chant (olulugia)’ (Fragment 326).

In Daniel 3:4-6, the passage is talking about King Nebuchadnezzar and his command that all peoples worship him. To that end, he had made a statue and commanded all to worship before it. In the commentary on the verses, James Burton Coffman Commentary (1992) expounds,

the Temple of Aphrodite Pan Demos, located atop the Acro Corinthus, encouraged the patronage of their one thousand sacred prostitutes by a cacophonous blast of instrumental music five times a day, signaling that, the prostitutes had changed their clothes and that another feast on the sacrifices had been made ready. In our own times, with the continued degeneration of the whole science of instrumental music into the vulgar rhythms and noisy cacophony of the current era, such later styles of instrumental music are impossible of reconciliation with any conception whatever of holy worship.

Hear hear. We have come full circle from the days of the AccroCorinth temple worshipers’ ululations and frenzied dancing, to the same today in many Charismatic and other ‘churches’. It wasn’t acceptable then and it isn’t acceptable now. In 1 Corinthians 14:33-34, Paul said,

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. GotQuestions explains,

The concern of 1 Corinthians 14, and much of the epistle, is order and structure in the church. The Corinthian church was noted for the chaos and lack of order rampant in that assembly (verse 33). It is interesting that no elders or pastors are mentioned in the book, and the prophets who were there were not exercising control (see verses 29, 32, 37). Everyone in the church service was participating with whatever expression they desired, whenever they desired. As a result, those with the gift of tongues were speaking simultaneously, those with a revelation from God were shouting out randomly, and no one was concerned with interpreting what was being said, even if what was said could be heard above the din. The meetings quickly descended into chaos.

The Temple at Corinth and other places in the realm were already hotbeds of female chaos, musical cacophony, and wild dance. Women in the pagan temple were temple prostitutes. Part of their worship used music not only as a call to prostitution but as a method of working themselves up (to madness in many cases) and in a fever pitch, unite with the divine. If music did not have that capability the cult of Dionysius would not have spread so quickly and have been so well-known at Corinth as a synonym for debauchery. Christians must be vigilant about music being used to promote feelings and subjective experiences rather than to explain doctrine and praise the Savior. It all too quickly leads to chaos and worse, as Paul warned and as we see in the pagan cultic worship sessions.

Temple of Athena

Paul urged order in the church and the women to remain submissive. This would be an incredible contrast to what was happening in the immediate culture at the pagan temples, and further give Christianity its distinctive stamp.

So that was a short course in pagan worship and the influence music had on it back in the ancient days. When you read a title like Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian? we can easily see that many of the chaotic, music-inflamed services at many churches, youth conferences, and revivals are indeed exactly like the pagan worship at Corinth, and are exactly what Paul railed against.

The point of the article is that when music is used ‘to bring us closer to God’, it actually separates us from God by instilling a false worship, the worship of emotional highs and subjective feelings. It often is used as an intermediary, or a vehicle, to foment a feeling of closeness with the divine,when all it is really doing is exhausting us with its constant undulations from high to low and high again.

From a youth who has lived the pagan worship and come out alive- barely:

That instead of developing depth it breeds shallowness, immaturity, and confusion. I’ve learned that worship can become the biggest draw for the church, and that worship nights will steamroll over bible studies and adult Sunday school. That a church oftentimes will pour much more resources, energy, thought and time into making a killer worship service than they will into developing deep, thoughtful, meaty, mature, theologically precise and provoking bible studies.

Don’t let that be your church. Music is not worship and it should not substitute for true spiritual depth and relationship with the real intermediary- Jesus Christ.


Further reading

How worship music destroyed me. From bitterness to blessing

Posted in contemporary music, discernment, do something, doctrine, matthew west, theology

Matthew West’s "Do Something" is a terrible, terrible song

There’s a song that many Christians today are enjoying on radio: it’s called Do Something by Matthew West. Apparently the background is that he was inspired by an American exchange student who went to Uganda and saved orphans from a terrible orphanage by starting her own.

I’m inspired by proactive Christians who heed the Lord’s call to become missionaries. And of course the bible says we should help orphans too.

Here are the lyrics to Do Something. I’m going to tell you why I don’t like this song. I’m going to tell you why songs like these saturate the Christian mind with a terrible theology under a guise of a happy tune and moral lyrics.

I think our attempts to live radically can ignore the Bible’s concern that we be radically godly in character. There is no doubt that I am called by God to live sacrificially and generously. My first calling, though, is to know God, to be shaped by him and on that basis to preach the gospel and to live as if it is true. I am called to do all of this right where the Lord has placed me. ~Tim Challies: Radical, A Book Review.Verse 1:
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around

So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty

Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”

He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when

Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

Verse 2:
I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves

It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire


I don’t want a flame, I want a fire

I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something (yes, it is)

If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing

It’s time for us to do something

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill (shine shine, shine shine)
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still (x3)

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when

Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

It’s time for us to do something (x2)

[Matthew West – Do Something Lyrics]
I’m sure that skilled discerners can spot the theological issues in this song right away.

1. The song is a song about social justice, and the power of man to fix the wrongs in the world. It is a song that sounds good but is actually the opposite of what the bible teaches about man, man’s purpose, God, and sin.

Lyric: Saw a world full of trouble now. Thought, how’d we ever get so far down?
Answer: Adam. Eve. Lucifer. Rebellion. Sin.

Lyric: How’s it ever gonna turn around?
Answer: Jesus. Revelation 19:11, “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war”

Lyric: I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Answer: Like He’s not doing something? He is. John 5:17. “In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (NIV)

Lyric: He said, “I did, I created you”
Answer: UNTRUE. He created us to worship Him and enjoy Him forever.
From the very beginning of the song it shows us how man-centric it is. There are no out-of-control world problems God created us to fix. We are not the solution. We are the problem! God did not create us to fix the world’s problems! There is your first opposite-from-the bible issue. In Do Something, it’s Bizarro World.

Bizarro World: In popular culture “Bizarro World” has come to mean a situation or setting which is weirdly inverted or opposite of expectations.

Lyric: Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of People living in poverty
Answer: Well Jesus just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in sin. Sin is the problem. (Luke 19:10). Poverty isn’t. (Matthew 26:11). If more people sang about people living in sin with the reality of hell, perhaps people would ‘do something’, i.e, witness, instead of throw money at a problem Jesus said would always exist. The problem is not the wallet. It’s the soul.

Lyric: Children sold into slavery, The thought disgusted me. So, I shook my fist at Heaven, Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Answer: Child slavery is the new, sexy, socially conscious charity. I’m not making light of the reality of it. But it has emerged of late and it will sink back to the muck of all the other sins and diseases that occasionally get people’s attention, like HIV/Aids, Alzheimer’s, adoption, orphans, child abuse, elder abuse, drug abuse… “Causes” come and causes go. People still need the remedy: Jesus.

Secondly, shaking your fist at God for failing to do the things WE think He should be doing? Is that wise? Is that even warranted? No. Ask Job. God answered when Job asked- (Job 38:3-5)

Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements?
Since you know…
Job and his friends. Ilya Repin. The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

Since you know all about what God is doing or not doing, Mr West. Since you know.

As Richard Haas said, in his essay “What’s Wrong with Social Justice?

people like these “are trying to play god over God and tell Him what is best for society.”

Lyric: If not us, then who? If not me and you
Answer: It all depends on us? Wow. A heavy load.

Lyric: But we’re never gonna change the world By standing still.
Answer: Ah! There it is! ‘Change the world.’ People, changing the world is NOT OUR JOB. Our job is to witness to the peace and salvation of Jesus Christ, (Matthew 28:19), who has another world for us to dwell in! This is not our home, it is God’s. It is the job of God almighty to change it, when He comes. (2 Peter 3:10).

I could continue about the lyrics, the repetitiveness, (drilling into our minds this false vision of our position in Christ), the man-centric attitude, but you get the idea.

Here is what Justin Woodall said about Matthew West’s lyrics and all songs like these–

The music behind these songs is relatively good. The problem is theological. We have to abandon notions of musical excellence until we can recapture the transcendence and a healthy dose of the immanence of God. We have sacrificed our theology on the altar of music.

After the wrong-headed theology, the second thing wrong with this song is that it subtly disenfranchises the “Wow! Christians” from the “Quiet Christians”. Just as not all are called to be the tongue in the Body, not all are eyes, not all are ears. Some are elbows. Some are toenails. It is the same with the way we live our lives. Not everyone is a Charles Spurgeon. Not all are Martin Luther. Not everyone can be a missionary to China like Eugene Sallee. Not all go to Uganda and start an orphanage.

As the song says, we are all lights, not called to put it under a bushel. Some lights are saving Ugandan orphans. Some lights are on a factory line in Detroit and witness at lunch. Some are quiet, joyful, persevering secretaries in St. Louis. Some are impoverished but fervent recycle scavenge-recycle workers in Calcutta. Some are hospitable shack dwellers in Guatemala. The message of ‘Do Something’ is wrongly two-fold. First, it tells us that we’re here to save the world, and second, it two-tiers Christians, the ones doing something big and sexy, and the rest of us schlubs doing nothing big, sexy, showy, or splashy.

But the quiet influence of a quiet Christian like Larry will change hearts and lives just as much if not more than the splashy new orphanages in Uganda, which will more than likely fall by the wayside in a few years due to corruption, bribery, and lack of funds and materials. Though they will never lack for orphans.

Why don’t these contemporary songs ever call us to persevere in a menial job we hate under a boss who doesn’t care with co-workers who mock, just so we can be the only light in their dark, Godless lives?

Do THAT, and you’re really doing something.


Further Reading

An Unremarkable Faith

Radical: Book Review by Tim Challies

What’s Wrong With Social Justice?

Posted in children's ministry, contemporary music, discernment, elevation church, steven furtick

Two examples of satan’s attacks through children’s ministries

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17)

God and Jesus and the Spirit are always working. We know this. But we forget that satan is always working too.

I’m not equating satan with Jesus, but I’m reminding us that satan is restless, relentless, and remorseless.

Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan roams the earth (Job 1:7).
Satan schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Satan blinds. (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Satan sifts. (Luke 22:31).
Satan deceives. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

I have recently published a review of Rend Collective Experiment‘s music, a contemporary music-worship band. Some contemporary music sung in church as praise music is theologically OK, much of it is not. I’ve been concerned with the appearance of theologically weak adult contemporary music and its rapid embeddedness into worship. I’m also concerned of course with the outright biblically aberrant adult contemporary music.

However, where we think satan has been resisted successfully in one area, he appears in another. Like children’s music.

Thank the Lord we are in a body and working as a unit, each of us operating in the gifts He has given us. I read a very good essay by Tom Chantry this morning about the theology of some children’s music sung in church.

It’s Sunday Morning; Do You Know What Your Children Are Singing?

Here is an excerpt. I recommend reading the full essay at Mr Chantry’s blog

I am no advocate of the full-throttle family-integrated approach, but I have been concerned by what is now the well-established trend of separate worship for kids. Parents accept the idea that children’s ministries do a better job than church of introducing their kids to Jesus. What they fail to ask themselves is just who this “Jesus” is that their kids will meet.

His essay is a good reminder to me that there is no sphere satan will overlook in his attempts to weaken the Bride. He even attacks children! So let us remember that we work too. It is a never-ending work in which we are not to become weary. We’re not only working, but we are in a battle. Keep up your sword! If your arms become weary, let another help you lift them! (Exodus 17:12). We can do it until He comes!

We resist satan. (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:9)
We humble ourselves. (1 Peter 5:6)
We obey. (Colossians 3:22)
We fight the good fight of the faith. (1 Timothy 6:12)
We wrestle. (Ephesians 6:12).

We stand!

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. 

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…
(Ephesians 6:12-18)

And it might do to take a look at the lyrics of the songs your children are singing in your church. The controversy surrounding Steven Furtick and Elevation Church’s children’s ministry, his cult-like exhortations in his church’s children’s coloring book, is even more evidence that satan will not overlook children’s ministries in order to do his hellish work.

But if we resist the devil, he will flee from us, and the Light of Jesus’s glory will shine so brightly! May all that we do be for Your glory, Jesus, now and forever.

Posted in contemporary music, discernment, praise band, rend collective experiment, worship

A review of new contemporary music band: Rend Collective Experiment

Does the kind of music we worship in church matter? Yes, it does.

In researching the state of the contemporary music bands for a blog essay I wrote a month ago, I came across a winsome new band from Northern Ireland called Rend Collective Experiment. Actually, they remind me of In Tua Nua (kudos if you know who they were ;). Rend Collective Experiment (RCE) deliberately used the word rend purposely to point to God who rent the heavens and sent His Son. The word collective is used to emphasize, well, I’ll let the band member explain,

We are a collective of people like a family and not just a band. We want our music to be what we call Organic worship, an honest and natural connection with God, something which is authentic and not artificial. We want to create an environment for people to have genuine encounters with Him and to find themselves singing to Him in ways that they find real.” (source)

So. Whatever that means.

I watched a video in which I enjoyed the song, but for the wrong reasons. This is an example of how and why contemporary praise bands, with all clean eagerness and winsome smiles can be detrimental to the faith.

RCE video “Come On (My Soul)”. She’s looking up.

The song I’d listened to is called “Come on (My Soul).” It is a three-minute song. I enjoyed the video, it was very well done cinematically and stylistically. Attractive youths in a variety of funky garb, nose earrings, and cool haircuts dance around an evening bonfire. Embers fly to the sky. A man displays skill using a flame thrower. The youths dance on the sand around the fire, and they make Chinese Sky Lanterns and light them and launch them aloft as they look up in wonder and ecstatic joy. They twirl. They look sincere. They are having a unique, organic worship experience.

The first thirty seconds are a simple hypnotic percussion beat. Then the singing kicks in. Here are the lyrics. They are sung repetitiously.

Come on my soul
Come on my soul
Let down the walls
And sing my soul
Come on, come on, come on, come on
It’s time to look up

That’s it, there is no more. I searched several other sites to try and find lyrics that would expand the song and give it spiritual meaning and depth, but these are the only words for two-and-a-half minutes. The song is repetitive, hypnotic, and throbbing. It is exactly the kind of music used to enter an altered state, not to prepare the heart for worship. I’m the first to admit that it sounds good and it looks good. But it’s empty!

Cool pagan balloons going aloft!!

 As for the content of the lyrics, they are sung about one’s self, to one’s self, urging one’s self to do something (nebulously). It is not about Jesus and does not prepare the mind to think of Him. This is the kind of music I am talking about in a previous blog I wrote a month ago exploring this issue of vacuousness of today’s contemporary music in general.

I’ve mentioned the form and the content. Let’s look at the images. There is nothing wrong with standing around a bonfire singing. Kumbaya is almost a cliche nowadays, the quintessential campfire song. However look at what the youths are doing. They are lighting sky lanterns, a pagan activity done at pagan festivals. The people look aloft just as the lyrics are sung that ‘it’s time to look up’. Are we looking up to see if Jesus is returning? Or to send prayers to a false god on a pagan lantern? That is precisely the problem with “organic” & “authentic” worship. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes. They do what feels good for them. The scene has no meaning because it could be anything.

Because, what’s a praise song
without a flame thrower?

During the Yi Peng festival, a multitude of lanterns are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the sky. The most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations can be seen in Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom. The festival is meant as a time to obtain Buddhist merit.” (source)

The activity seen in a “Christian” band’s video is pagan, and is no different than the Asherah pole Ahab set up which they all danced around. The LORD’S anger was roused at this. (1 Kings 16:33).

Worship is not organic. It has rules and a structure. In the OT Nadab and Abihu discovered the penalty for breaking those rules was instant death. So did Uzzah. So did Korah. In the NT Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and also died instantly. The Corinthians were rebuked for their “organic” worship, which all too easily turned into a drunken fest similar in behavior to what the pagans were doing, and this is always to the derision of God’s enemies (Exodus 32:25).

The spiritual seeker wants to be free and worship naturally but natural worship always winds up like the dance around the Golden Calf (or a pagan bonfire with Buddhist prayer balloons). God sent a plague to the people who had made the calf (Exodus 32:35) and further promised to visit their sins upon them in the Day of His visit. Some of the Corinthians who had abused the Lord’s table with drunken, gorging behavior had become sick because of it and died. (1 Corinthians 11:30). The Lord is serious about His worship!

As in everything regarding Jesus, in music, watch the small things. Also watch the language. The ethereal language RCE uses is another example of poor worship. God is declarative. He is clear. He is definite. In spiritual realms, there is pressure to offer vague ideals, so that no one will be turned off and all can come and participate. Inclusivity is tantamount, not exclusivity. This is from the RCE song “Second Chance

When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption’s kiss
Beauty awakens by romance

It sounds good and it can mean whatever you want it to mean. That’s fine, for politics. But not for worship. And romance? People, Jesus is not our boyfriend.

Or this from Shining Star,

The angels watched in mystery
As You bore all our misery

NO! He bore all our SIN. Spell it, S. I. N. Sin sin sin.

In fact, there is no ‘second chance’ that the cross brought. It is the only chance. We are depraved individuals and our default condition from birth is sinner, and at age of accountability, hell upon our death. The cross brought the only chance. And ‘redemption’s kiss’? More like God’s wrath that Jesus feared so greatly He sweat blood.

And this lyric from Christ Has Set Me Free, is just ridiculously stupid:

Christ has set me free From negativity …
You’ve given my soul the space to breathe, 
And discover what it is to simply be.”

Did Joel Osteen write that lyric? Imagine your pastor saying that.Uttering words like that and thinking they are worshipful is just wrong. NO, Christ did not set me free from negativity. He absorbed all of God’s wrath on the cross as the punishment for my and the world’s sin.

If you are a parent looking into who your kids are listening to, look at the band’s videos and see if the images being presented are appropriate. And the lyrics, are the lyrics about self, or about God? Is there a lot of talk about what “I” will do? Is the band’s bio full of post-modern, vague talk, like this from Rend Collective’s Bio?

Their heart is to bring not only a fresh approach to congregational worship, but also a heart and message through the spoken word. Their partnerships and tours with church leaders like Francis Chan, Louie Giglio and Shane Claiborne certainly shows this.”

Any time you hear of a “fresh approach” watch out. If God is the same yesterday today and forever, so is His approach. And since the Word is living and active, He is still fresh. He is not stale. There is no expiration date on Him.

An inherent desire for something spiritually substantive in our increasingly artificial world is exactly what brought the movement of friends together. United by a common purpose, these twenty-somethings began exploring the intersection between God, life and community.”

I still can’t figure out their purpose. That is an indicator also. “Something spiritually substantive” sounds good but is just vague enough not to offend.

I don’t mean to pick on RCE band. Some of their lyrics are good. Some of their songs are good. I liked their song Alabaster. Keep Me Near is also good. As church worship music though, no. Absolutely not. And just because some of their songs are good doesn’t mean that all their songs are. But they are packaged on a CD and if your child is listening to Alabaster then they are listening to Second Chance.

Here is the point of what I’m saying–

1. Don’t underestimate the powerful effect of how today’s praise band lyrics dilute the essential doctrines. Propositional and definite words we’ve used for centuries are substituted for nebulous words, used to a softening effect. Words like sin are deleted for negativity, wrath is deleted for redemption’s kiss, submission is deleted for romance, guide our hearts is included instead of the concept ‘make us holy‘.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of the absence of the essential doctrines. I looked at lyrics of 15 songs and never read the word holy. Not even in “You Bled.”

If Rend Collective Experiment is not in your church yet during ‘worship time’ (AKA contemporary praise music time AKA Organic and authentic worship, unlike the artificial and fake worship everybody else has been doing) then they probably will be soon. It is a sure bet they are on your teenager’s iPod. They’re touring heavily Jan-March 2014 though the central US and south. They are appearing at Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in May.

Wikipedia commons

Too many contemporary music bands are like shark’s teeth. “Shark teeth are attached to the jaw by soft tissue, and they fall out all the time. This is crucial to the shark’s effectiveness — worn or broken teeth are continually replaced by new, sharper teeth. In some sharks, such as the great white, these teeth are arranged in several rows.” For every Petra that disbands, another one like RCE is pushed forward into the spotlight.

Yes it’s tiring to always monitor your child’s iPod, iPad, computer, CD collection, friends, and social life. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”(Ephesians 6:4). Training up your child in the way they should go is a moment-by-moment, daily, lifetime commitment. (Proverbs 22:6). Keep alert with all perseverance! (Ephesians 6:18).

Posted in contemporary music, praise band

Does it really matter what kind of worship music is played in church services?

But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.” (2 Kings 3:15)

To answer the question I’d posed in the title right away, yes, it matters. Here is why, from the bible.

In the scene above in 2 Kings 3, after Ahab King of Israel died, Ahab’s son Jehoram took over. At that time, Moab decided to cease their tribute to Israel. Mesha, King of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he was bound “to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams.” (2 Kings 3:4). This was a heavy burden so one day Mesha King of Moab decided to stop paying it. This could not stand, so Jehoram of Israel formed a coalition with two kings, Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and the King of Edom. The three kings set off south toward the Dead Sea to circle around and attack Moab.

The area at the bottom of the Dead Sea is arid and desolate. The advancing army ran out of water. No spring was found in the area either. (2 Kings 3:9). It is a serious matter for three armies on the march to run out of water, and they were only halfway there. They were about to circle north, march through Edom and set upon Moab. They had to be refreshed. What to do?

King Jehoshaphat of Judah asked if there was a prophet among them to which they could go and inquire of the LORD. (2 Kings 3:11). There was, Elisha.

As the kings approached Elisha and posed their petition, Elisha called for a musician. That was the verse I opened with. You can see from the context, that the situation is dire, they Kings needed to commune with the LORD and receive direction. Elisha was the prophetic intermediary at the time, and the scene was one of entering into prayer and supplication to the LORD. It was a worshipful situation.

So why was Elisha’s immediate response to call for a musician? Was he going to party? Did he want to ‘rock the house’? Did he feel like performing a jig? Was he not taking the situation seriously? As a matter of fact, Elisha was taking it extremely seriously, that was why he called for a musician.

“But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.” (2 Kings 3:15)

Pulpit Commentary says of this verse,
But now bring me a minstrel. A player on the harp seems to be intended. Music was cultivated in the schools of the prophets (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1-3), and was employed to soothe and quiet the soul, to help it to forget things earthly and external, and bring it into that ecstatic condition in which it was most open to the reception of Divine influences.”

Ah! Music was the precursor to prayer and petition and thanks and praise! Music was used as a vehicle to alter a physical, emotional, and biological state; and to prepare the heart and mind for close communion with God.

David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. ” (1 Chronicles 25:1).

They prophesied with Lyre.

King David composing the Psalms.
From Folio 30V of The Vespasian Psalter, English c750
Public domain image

After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying.” (1 Samuel 10:5)

They prophesied with instruments.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says, “bring me a minstrel—The effect of music in soothing the mind is much regarded in the East; and it appears that the ancient prophets, before entering their work, commonly resorted to it, as a preparative, by praise and prayer, to their receiving the prophetic afflatus.

We are not prophets today, seeking a direct revelation from the Lord (I hope) but when we enter the church sanctuary, we are there to inquire of the Lord via preaching of the Word, there to praise Him, and to offer our thanks to Him. It is an important moment in our worship. Even though we are not prophets as Elisha was, we are still humans, with the same variety of emotions we experience at any given moment, and the same proclivities which prevent us from a proper attitude of receptivity. Music is acknowledged as a method for altering our mental state and bringing us into receptivity. The kind of music therefore played brings us into which kind of receptivity- Divine or demonic.

As Dr John MacArthur explained in his Q&A “Contemporary Worship, Civil War in the Church
“I think you have to be very careful with music, musical form that is inseparably linked to the base expressions of the culture. I just don’t think you go there and bring honor to the Lord with that. You say, “Well the words sanctify the music.” I don’t think so. The music is the power in the expression, that’s why it’s musical. And I think you have to be very careful using that which is associated with sex and drugs and the baser things as a vehicle to convey the lofty sacred holy serious realities about God and the glory of Christ.”

Rend Collective Experiment,
a ‘worship’ band from N. Ireland.

As we press our position that the type of worship music matters, we are far from old fuddy-duddies who are out of touch with the ‘new’ styles. Music is linked to base expressions, our baser instincts, and can bring about an interior attitude that either reflects holiness or accepts carnality.

Let’s look at the comment Pulpit Commentary again. If music was used throughout the Old Testament in prophetic and worship situations in order to bring it into that ecstatic condition in which it was most open to the reception of Divine influences, then does one not believe that satan also brings us into that ecstatic condition in which it was most open to the reception of demonic influences? Music has the power to prepare us to receive Him, it also has the power to prepare us to receive the beast, also. That’s what Dr MacArthur was referring to when he mentioned the base expressions.

Satan is a liar and a beast. He seeks to thwart every move of God in every arena possible. Corporate worship is a high target for him to disrupt. We have seen even in the last five short years, the decline of preaching, the collapse of biblical discernment among the sheep, the rise of false teachers and doctrines and the worldwide desire for tickled ears. Of course satan will use music in order to confuse the heart and make it receptive to his demon-influence. Do we think that we are appropriately prepared for respectful worship after this?

Passion 2013: We Rocked the Dome

Is that the job of preparatory worship music, to ‘rock it out’? Is this what Elisha did as he prepared his heart to go before the LORD? Hardly.

still from video of Elevation Church, Charlotte, NC
Code Orange Christmas dance

The war on music is not one of tastes. There is terrific modern music which uplifts Jesus as much as music from past centuries. The issue isn’t which instruments should be allowed on the stage, either. Drums, piano, guitars, trumpets, as long as the music the instruments are playing uplifts Jesus … AND adequately creates an atmosphere where the hearts of people can be soothed and prepared for communion with Him. I’m not saying music has to be quiet, as long as the worship team, choir, or praise band has mindfully prepared it to play for the people to create an atmosphere of reverence.

Be aware of music’s influence. Just as it lifts your spirits in the car when your favorite song comes on, so it lifts or depresses your spirits at church. Music opens you to the Divine or the demonic. Music pleases or displeases the Lord.

Music prepares the listener for receiving satan, or receiving God. He hates the former (Amos 5:21-23) and loves the latter. (2 Chronicles 5:13)

Which do you listen to? Which does your child listen to? Which does your church play? Yes, it matters what kind of worship music is played in church services.

And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.