Musing on Music’s Power

Here’s a hot topic for you, let’s explore how the culture has influenced Christians through music. I’m inviting you to chime in with your own personal opinion. 

 

This past Saturday night, I happened to hear Ravi Zacharias on Christian radio—his topic taken from his “Leadership Workshop on Worship” (CD 209). The following quote immediately caught my attention:

“When Lucifer fell, he fell directly into the choir loft.”

Funny? Here are a couple of verses about the scheming of Satan:

  • 2 Cor. 2:11, “…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
  • 2 Cor. 11:14, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

And read Revelation chapters 2 and 3 for more on Satan, and for God’s wake-up call to churches. Stuff like “Synogogues of Satan” and “the few people who have not soiled their garments…” All directed to churches. When you think about music, and how powerful it is, doesn’t it make sense that Satan would see it as a great way to infiltrate Christianity? Especially as the trend for Christian music has historically been to borrow from its secular counterparts?

 

Look how divisive the subject of music is. For starters, the praise and worship time has greater importance now than it ever has. Song time crowds more and more into the sermon time. Church shoppers are wanting the whole package…and good preaching sometimes takes a back seat to good music. Some churches have had to adopt separate services to please their members. Hymns only for one set, CCM (contemporary Christian music) for the other. Some agree that you can listen to whatever you want on your own time, but in church the tone needs to be more reverent. So where is the line drawn regarding the form of worship? Can we Christians remain in touch with the culture without sacrificing to its gods?

 

I admit to a history of struggling when it comes to claiming a stance on CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) and Christian rock, having enjoyed both. Our church music service is a blend of mostly CCM with a hymn or two here and there. It’s not out of the ordinary for our worship team to play guitar along with the keyboard or piano, and recently, one of the worship teams added their drum machine to the background (very subtly)…and I liked it. But that’s a response I’m struggling with and it spawned my post here about music. I want to know what God thinks and says about it in a church setting.

 

For interest, not necessarily to prove any points, here are a couple of verses on praise music. Eph. 5:19 says,

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

And Col. 3:16,

“Teaching and admonishing in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

If our church suddenly went to hymns only, I’d sincerely miss the CCM. And I wouldn’t want to have to choose between the two. (That said, I’ve been in churches where the CCM resembles more of a boyfriend/girlfriend love song than a praise song to the Lord, and I recoil from that with all my heart). 

 

I also fail to appreciate Christian book stores whose music section is full of posters of Christian rock groups with sneers, males with earrings, and other secularly appearing similarities to rock groups. Kutlass, for instance. What would be the Biblical culture’s equivalent? “Come get drunk on wine during communion?” Maybe worshipping God ritualistically, Roman-style? Do we really have to “become” the world in order to win the world?

 

What about the new trend for alternate music that’s neutral? Switchfoot, Reliant K…at first thought it seems admirable…one step in the right direction, but is it just going to become a genre of American “good” apart from God? (Subject for another post…)

 

Ravi Zacharias closed his message with a word picture along these lines. Would you give your spouse your favorite music on CD for their birthday, even knowing they hated it? (Okay, sure, we can’t be positive as to what form of music God loves and hates, but…the question is worth pondering.)

 

What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Musing on Music’s Power”

  1. I totally agree with you.
    I have no personal experience with church music, if one does not count my having been raised in Catholicism, of course, and the kind of music there (organs and traditional).
    Im my church now we mostly sing acapella, due to the very basic conditions and our little number of memebers. We sing traditional psalms and songs.
    However, I have discovered a whole range of Christian music, both in Swedish and English, and listen to it a lot – as long as it is scriptural. I put a post about music on my blog, entry from Saturday, September 23, 2006, where I tried to be more specific on the subject.
    In my car now I have a faithful company of songs written and sung by Steve Camp :)
    Music is important.

  2. The problem with this question is what makes music such a lightning rod. If it were just the words, sounding like boyfriend music, purely secular lyrics or things that are against God would be easy to rule out for the Christian. The problem comes into play when it may be decent lyrics (a psalm even) but the notes/rythm itself is in question.

    For this question, there are two lines of reasoning as far as what a person should listen to and what should be used in church, yea, what God would approve of. I hesitate to go here, but for the sake of discussion, you’ll need to hear me out.

    The first line is the line of “what is the beat and notes trying to accomplish” and “where is the music directed.” Music is an interesting medium, because the tune actually has an effect on us emotionally. Hollywood uses music to get us to think something scary, sad, happy is coming in their picture without someone singing words to it. Fast food places play uptempo music to get you in and out with a happy feeling. Doctor’s offices and elevators play soothing music so that you aren’t agitated.

    So, what emotions are rock musicians targeting with their tunes and beat? They’re appealing to sex. Don’t take my word for it– ask them. They are trying to tap into your natural rhythm and appeal to the carnal side of you– trying to get an emotional reaction that will feel good to you.

    Knowing that our worship to God is supposed to be something aimed at Him, is it wise to use tunes and beats that are designed to appeal to the flesh? Is that contradictory?

    The second line is the question of separation from the world. I think you were headed this way, Mary, when you talked about could this be the equivalent of worshipping idols in Paul’s day. The questions I would be asking is, are we supposed to be the same or different from the world?

    It’s here that we come to the whole question of what we are trying to accomplish with music. If music is purely for God then it shouldn’t matter what we sing/listen to as long as it fits God’s standard. Is God glorified when His children sing/listen to music that is just like the world’s (which we already discussed what they are trying to accomplish with their tunes)? Must music appeal to me for it to be appealing to God?

    And what about the entertainment question? Is it that churches are crowding out messages for music, or have to have a certain style of music because they feel that if they didn’t have that music people would leave or not come? I don’t know of many people that believe that hymns don’t glorify God, but CCM there’s a lot of discussion over.

    And how about those that have been “saved from rock music.” Are we hurting them, perhaps causing them to stumble, when we sing our contemporary music with a rock beat?

    All of these questions need answers.

  3. Well, I’ll go out on my little limb here. I think we grossly underestimate God (and overestimate ourselves) when we think we can make the assumption that God does or doesn’t like certain tunes and beats. I, for one, have never been to hear what the choirs of heaven are singing, but I would guess that it is beyond my wildest imagination.

    I am more than opposed to going to church to receive, receive, receive; and I am also sickened by the idea that the old-time hymns are no longer relevant and should therefore be phased out of the worship service. However, I get a little irritated when I hear people argue that the old-time hymns are somehow more “sacred” or “God-honoring” than the worldly contemporary beat and sound of CCM and praise and worship music.

    My hunch is that God is just thrilled when we worship Him, is thrilled when we take a gift of song and use it for Him, is more concerned with why we are singing to Him than what we are singing.

    And I can promise you that I, for one, have never thought of sex while listening to CCM or singing praise and worship music. I think that is more of question of “where is your heart” and a problem that, if it is going to occur, will occur regardless of the music being played, and should probably be addressed through a sermon on purity of mind and thought not contemporary culture (after all, the founders of our Chrisitian faith probably struggled with lust too, right?).

    But, to end on a harmonizing note (NPI) I do think that music has become way too important to the church. If it is causing arguments and splitting congregations into different services than it has gone beyond singing hymns or praise music to honor God and has gone to singing hymns or praise songs to please ourselves and make ourselves feel good on Sunday morning — and I think both sides are guilty of this.

  4. In general, the only problem I have with Christian metal/hard rock/alternative is the atmosphere it sets. When I was in the world, I listened to those types of music when I was angry, plotting revenge and other nasty things. So now, those same beats bring up those same emotions… and that, to me, is very counterproductive. I don’t want to set an atmosphere of anger in my home. I’ve noticed similar reactions when our youth group would listen to metal music… the music you put on has HUGE impacts on the behavior of the youth!

  5. I so agree with you here, I think the main problem is with secular music is that it appeals so much to us in words and sound. When the bible says we should do all things to glorify God, to me that means in what music we listen to as well. I’ve found personally that when I listen to Christian based music it lifts me up and makes me feel at one with God whereas secular just makes me feel at one with the world. Hope that makes sense.

  6. Guess so, Jana! Glad you pointed that out, we’ll have to visit the other “Jana’s site”! :O) Waving at both of you!

    MInTheGap, thank you for taking the time to muse even deeper with me! I get what you’re saying about the way secular music appeals to the flesh (ie, sex), and why would we want to borrow from that? I hope everyone read your response!

    Erika, same to you, great response and I’m so glad you added your thoughts. I hear you on every point, and sense you might have some of the same frustrations with the whole debate as I have. We may not think of sex (btw, thanks for that smile!) while Christian music is on, but I know my response to it isn’t always Godly. In fact, the drum machine elicits pleasure from me, it heightens my endorphins but my reaction in itself usually distracts my mind from God as I find myself enjoying the music for the music’s sake. Make sense? Maybe I’m the only one that has this problem. It appeals to my “flesh” not my “spirit”. And I’m not blanketing ALL CCM with that statement, only that with the really secular rhythms.

    Amy, everything you said makes perfect sense. I’m just curious,when you say Christian based music, are you saying all music, as long as its got Godly lyrics?

  7. Mary, to add to what you said, and to clarify what I’m saying: Music has its effect on us whether we are aware or not. Just like the music that it played is intended to soothe us in the doctor’s office, make us leave the fast food chain, and ellicit or heighten emotion from us in a movie, those who designed rock music want the beat to appeal to our flesh. Those that design speed music want to give us a rush, etc. These are playing on our body’s reaction.

    Have you ever sang a song and said “Man! I’m praising the God of Heaven!” That feeling I believe is directed toward Him. I’ve actually gotten goose bumps!

    but I alos find that it’s just as easy to find something where I say “I like this tune, I like this song, it makes me feel good!” That’s more self serving and looking for my pleasure.

  8. Yes! I get it. That goose bump feeling is one I’ve gotten with both kinds (hymns and CCM), and I love it when it happens. That’s why it seems so hard to make a blanket statement about Christian music. It seems like we’re basing it on each individual’s response to the beat/form.

    But really, what I think we’re trying to get across, is that there’s enough room for “problems” that something is wrong with the way Christian music is headed. I don’t think it’s about limiting God here. If we get to Heaven and find out that any and all forms of praise music are acceptable, then wonderful. But, in the meantime, if we feel a check in our spirit about a certain type of music…we can’t ignore it.

    I *know* the difference between the “goose bump” feeling of awe and the “happy feeling” response, and there’s no doubt that the first type is the more genuine form of worship. I don’t get teary-eyed over what He’s done for me when I’m listening to a hard rock (Christian) song. I have gotten this way over certain CCM songs though.

    What we’re doing when we explore these issues is heightening awareness of potential for sin. How many things sneak up on us when we just accept them as “the way things are”? Remember when abortions were first legalized? People were told, “it’s not a baby till it’s born” and even Christians were taking their teenage daughters in for abortions. The same thing with the feminist agenda. It started slowly and then snowballed. Now we’re getting desensitized to homosexuality. You mentioned in one of your posts, MIn, that you unknowingly rented a movie in which a main character was gay, and he was portrayed very humorously. If they can get us to laugh at it, then we’re that much closer to accepting it.

    I think we need to be able to discuss things like Christian music with open minds and hearts. I’m not at all legalistic, but I don’t believe that having freedom in Christ means we can make our own rules. We all agree that the Bible doesn’t come out and say anything against certain forms of music, but can’t we take “Come out from among them and be ye separate” to mean that everything about Christians should be distinguishable from the things of the world?

    For the sake of learning, what would be some of the key arguments FOR heavy metal/Christian rock music? Would the ones who really prefer worshiping God by these means like to have more of it during the church service and why? I’ve really only heard a couple reasons for it being a good thing. First, that it attracts unchurched people to Christ. And the second reason, to me, hinges upon the first. Once these people are saved, their musical leanings are so strong for the heavier stuff, that “normal” Christian music just doesn’t do anything for them.

    I’ve rambled on enough, but this topic fascinates me.

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