The nineteen-sixties ushered in numerous revolutions, not the least of which was hyper-individualism over group dynamic. In fact, narcissism was knocking down the doors of all institutions, including the church.
Dancing parallel to the free sixties ran what would become “the Jesus Movement”. Converted Hippies called themselves “Jesus Freaks”. This genuinely spiritual movement would finally wane in the early eighties.
In the wake, churches faced a new dilemma, that of being inclusive of these new converts with hair, clothing and music styles that defined their culture and strong preferences. Once again, the historic battle of logic vs. emotion would be out for display.
What the theologically astute churches often lacked was a hearty dose of emotion and excitement about their faith in Jesus Christ. What Jesus Freaks typically devalued and avoided was biblical understanding and a hearty state of being grounded in theology. Biblical doctrine and human emotion have much to teach each other for they are not mutually exclusive.
While many born again Christians throughout this period became mature in the bible, their faith in God, and their connection with the local church, many more remained infantile and never connected to the church beyond condemning it for not conforming to the new way and accepting all of the jolly newcomers, regardless of any anti-cultural, anti-church biases.
MUSIC USED IN WORSHIP PRACTICES (LITURGIES) WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
Up until this era, no one in the church would have considered bringing Janis Joplin, Glenn Miller or Miles Davis in to take over the music responsibilities within the church. All this would change though, and in no time, rock bands began “gigging” churches and dotting the landscapes. Pipe organs yielded to the guitar, drums, keyboards and saxophones. Hymns were asked to sit in the waiting room as the new, highly personal, often sensational, subjective song portfolio of the movement took center stage.
Mothers and fathers fought hard to keep the rock beats out of the church, but it was not to be. The kids were so engrossed in their cultures music that nothing else made sense or brought them the feelings and elation that they now associated with their newfound faith in Jesus.
The early seventies were the beginning of what we now call the “worship wars”. The new youth were clever. They simply put Jesus words to many existing secular songs and now their parents just couldn’t say no. Soon, bands were erupting everywhere, and church platforms morphed into performance stages. Proud moms, pops, aunts and uncles and grandparents would invite people to “come hear our kids band perform” to the new Jesus audience with money to buy concert tickets and stage passes.
The more fundamentalist churches held the line and never allowed such “heresy” to infect their congregations. Most of these had regular revivals that included burning and banning “secular music”. The Catholics had to create the “Folk Mass” so as not to lose any more youth than had already vamoosed. Most churches struck a deal (balance) with these youth. Youth choirs, complete with upbeat—syncopated pop-style musicals along with mission trips, became strong features of most churches.
One could find a concert on most any weekend by a myriad of traveling Jesus bands now managed and promoted by local churches who would use their facility and take up a “Free-Will-Offering”. You had your country music fans neck-bobbing and foot-tapping to Gospel Quartets, smooth cats snapping to Jesus Jazz, and Rockers ripping off great guitar solos to rival their secular counterparts while smoke machines solidified the “experience”.
Bands would set up and sell their merchandise just like their secular counterparts.
Soon the Dove Awards arrived to make it all seem that much more legit.
Each year that has gone by, many things have remained constant. Here are the ABC’s
1-Appealing Appearance. Those in the band must look the part if they are to be convincing in the role. Skinny jeans, holes, revealing (gotta get the girl), great hair!
2-Bands are Better. This message is promoted at conferences on church growth. Got to have a band or your gonna die.
3-Catchy Content. No matter how embarrassing it is to Christianity, use the fly-paper approach to attract the masses. The illusive “Seeker” has no mind.
ENTER –CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MONEY MARKET — SIMON THE SORCERER
As soon as big money steps through the door, everyone sits up straight.
Would be leaders in the church pale before the god of green.
The church perfects the insecure teenagers plot from the seventies to trick their parents into using the infinitely superior “New Music”. Now, an entire industry has painted JESUS on all their stationary. Every song is “anointed” with Jesus to prevent complaints from the bleachers.
Would be leaders plan to USE this music, not as a means of corporate worship, rather the propping up of a CCM Money Market that sees its own end. They use people just like the world does.
Would be leaders gush over the gods of entertainment. WOW AND DAZZLE!
ENTER THE SORCERER—THE PRAISE-ME-BAND
CHURCH LEADERS ARE EITHER INFECTED OR FIGHTING OFF THE DISEASE
“I WANT SOME OF THAT STUFF THAT MAKES ME POPULAR AND POWERFUL.”
“I want to amaze the people”
“For some time, a man named Simon had lived in the city of Samaria and had amazed the people. He practiced witchcraft and claimed to be somebody great. Everyone, rich and poor, crowded around him. They said, “This man is the power of God called ‘The Great Power.’”
For a long time, Simon had used witchcraft to amaze the people, and they kept crowding around him. But when they believed what Philip was saying about God’s kingdom and about the name of Jesus Christ, they were all baptized. Even Simon believed and was baptized. He stayed close to Philip, because he marveled at all the miracles and wonders.
The apostles in Jerusalem heard that some people in Samaria had accepted God’s message, and they sent Peter and John. When the two apostles arrived, they prayed that the people would be given the Holy Spirit. Before this, the Holy Spirit had not been given to anyone in Samaria, though some of them had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Peter and John then placed their hands on everyone who had faith in the Lord, and they were given the Holy Spirit.
Simon noticed that the Spirit was given only when the apostles placed their hands on the people. So, he brought money and said to Peter and John, “Let me have this power too! Then anyone I place my hands on will also be given the Holy Spirit.”
Peter said to him, “You and your money will both end up in hell if you think you can buy God’s gift! You don’t have any part in this, and God sees that your heart isn’t right. Get rid of these evil thoughts and ask God to forgive you. I can see that you are jealous and bound by your evil ways.”
Simon said, “Please pray to the Lord, so that what you said won’t happen to me.”
After Peter and John had preached about the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem. On their way they told the good news in many villages of Samaria.” Acts 8:9-25
HELP–WE’VE BEEN HIJACKED!
THE CHURCH MUST ASK MANY QUESTIONS TODAY
WHY DO WE LOVE THE WORLD WHEN WE ARE TOLD WE CAN’T LOVE GOD WHILE DOING SO?
WHERE DID CHURCH DISCIPLINE GO?
The church is sick with and from Simon-Love.
WHERE DID CHURCH DOCTRINE GO?
The church is sick with and from Simon-Love.
WHERE DID CHURCH INTEGRITY TO THE GOSPEL GO?
The church is sick with and from Simon-Love.
WHERE DID CHURCH WITNESS GO?
The church is sick with and from Simon-Love.
HERE ARE FIVE ACTIONS TO REMOVE SIMON
(the hijacker) FROM OUR MIDST
1- Man UP. The emasculated church must have men—men who seek to honor God more than capitulate to money and culture. Men have unique and specific roles that women and children do not share–not better or superior, not worse–just specific to outcome. Christian men must stand tall against any movement that seeks to remove their God-given authority and purpose. Christian men must know their bible better than Sports and Field or techniques for grilling outdoors. That knowledge must be alive and demonstrative as the of fruits of the Spirit, love, works and deeds that prove our faith is real.
2- If you are unconcerned to discern the difference between sorcery (sensationalism in music and performance) FROM the true Spirit of God that expresses itself in the nature and person of Jesus Christ, then you will likely side with the Contemporary Christian Money Market—Praise Me Band Culture of Carnal-Love. And like Simon, you will still want the real thing but not for the right reasons. Like Simon, you may not be a Christian at all.
There is no such thing as “Church Music” any more than “Church Air”
There is no such thing as “Christian Music” any more than “Christian Medicine”
Much of our problem today is that we attempt to “gospelize” our existence. This is akin to visiting an art museum and asking to only see the “Christian Art”. We believe that the curator must paint a cross on all paintings before we look-see. What are we really saying?
There is music at a baseball game but we don’t call it “Baseball Music”. We do have “Elevator Music” but only because people connected it to a certain style of wispy music many years ago and it stuck. Much like the church!
Music is just music
A Bb minor chord or a diminished 7th is neither spiritual nor is it secular
Texts, however, are uniquely capable of associating Christianity with music. It is at this point that style and instrumentation of music have very powerful effects on the text at hand. Christian lyrics found in the bible and in the great history of hymn/song texts that have stood the test of time are central to our faith.
Music has strong associative powers. This is why we do not relish hearing hymn arrangements from the piano and violin while trying to enjoy a sports game. This is why jazz is rarely performed at Mud-Boggins, Hip Hop is most often absent at Orchestral Classics concerts, and great choral arrangements from Howell and Rutter are unwelcome at a Willie Nelson show. (not to mention most churches now)
This is why the church languishes today from performance after performance of music including Pop, Country, Hip Hop and Rock music yet lamely connecting Jesus words–pitifully attempting to perform a SIMON THE SORCERER job on the congregation.
Which styles of music can be combined with the depth and sobriety of the Christian faith before derailing it? MANY CANNOT. The purpose of this writing is not to tell any person or church what they should be using in their worship gatherings. Rather–it asks this question. Who are your discerning leaders of trust, wisdom and godliness that make these decisions? (Ephesians 4) In many churches these leaders are simply AWOL?
Many cultures use music and instrumentation that is common to their people and do so with great integrity because their culture is not infected with gross immoralities and demeaning associations. eg. Hip-Hop. Music not only has emotive powers, it brands ASSOCIATIVE powers as well. Again the question is set forth:
Which styles of music can be combined with the depth and sobriety of the Christian faith before derailing it?
A scientist knows when one compound is safe – used alone, but very dangerous when combined with another. Church leaders must be equally prudent and pastoral in their selections of music and text for use in services of worship. Cultural, personal and popular music that is a part of the mix in our personal lives need not be “Jeesusfied” and brought into the church for a psuedo blessing. While hanging a picture of the Beatles in ones room is normal, placing it in the church foyer or over the baptistry is to be considered a wee bit odd. Our Scottish friends might say, “Gonnae no’ dae that!”.
When we meet for worship it is not a fashion show or a club convocation. There is a time and place for those in our lives. When we enjoy our musical concerts and performances, this can be a good thing–there is a place in our lives for entertainment. But when the church gathers as the congregation, the world and its place in our lives must become DEFINED not DUPLICATED. Our music is neither contemporary, traditional or blended. It is not an American Idol for believers. Since there is no such thing as “CHURCH MUSIC”, we are left with “music used in the church.” This music must stand out as having evolved from believers immersed in doctrine and biblical understanding–believers more in touch with the sublime divine than poorly converted pop songs. (or well converted for that matter)
If the goal and ambition is WOW factor or nickels and noses–then forge ahead with the bands, set lists and sensationalism and gleeful audience. If however, the ambition is an Ephesians 4 church of mature, discerning believers, then the music will reflect that directive. It will be distinct from the world. It will offer depth in poetic beauty and biblical content. It will offer a brief but necessary respite from the harsh work-a-day-world we live in, not remind us of it or drag us back into its brutal realities.
3- Pray for a courageous, discerning someone in your church who is untainted by all this mess so that they can spot the intruder and call him out. There must be this man in your midst. Used to be, this was the pastor in the pulpit, but no more can we make this assumption. They are all too often bought and paid for by CCM, pride, popularity and large crowd syndrome. They are puppets to committees and slaves to survival at any cost. They much prefer their own image over the image of Christ, and it shows in the performance-driven, disingenuous atmosphere of their church. They are dead to God and alive to the world. Yet the world sees through their phony and wants nothing of it.
4- OUT WITH THE “WORSHIP LEADER”. Worship shall be led by no man. Worship has never asked for or required a leader. And what is a “Worship Pastor”? Titles such as these only serve to secularize and cloud truth. they demonstrate mans desire to control rather than live in humble submission. A pastor may pastor and shepherd. He may even lead people in and through moments of worship. But he cannot lead or pastor worship unless he is like Simon.
This is why Simon is so popular today. We worship phony and we have phony people trying to “lead worship”. People in our congregations are ankle deep from years of poor and weak discipleship. Now their appetites are bent toward the sensational, entertain-me while I sit and soak. O yes, I pay well for good entertainment.
We do need people to lead IN our worship services.
We lead people, yes. We lead horses to water, yes. We do not lead worship, unless we are Simon. Then we get our jollies, kicks and ego-stroking by standing in front of an audience, playing to their satisfaction and applause. (and money)
5- BE THE END OF THE PRAISE-ME-BAND MOVEMENT.
–Send the Simon-Like Musicians packing. They won’t starve. Most have Saturday night club gigs anyhow.
–Take the others off center stage and move them out of view
–Put the Word of God and its preaching back front and center
–Put the platform back in place of the performance stage
–Retrain the “audience of spectators” on how to be a worshiping body—a congregation once again. Expect a fight. Simon worshipers are childish and selfish, especially when the ego and flesh are engaged, not to mention money and profits.
–Be patient and keep the Word central.
THIS WORD AMONG MANY
“Teach these things and tell everyone to do what you say. Don’t let anyone make fun of you, just because you are young. Set an example for other followers by what you say and do, as well as by your love, faith, and purity.
Until I arrive, be sure to keep on reading the Scriptures in worship, and don’t stop preaching and teaching.
Use the gift you were given when the prophets spoke, and the group of church leaders blessed you by placing their hands on you. Remember these things and think about them, so everyone can see how well you are doing. Be careful about the way you live and about what you teach. Keep on doing this, and you will save not only yourself, but the people who hear you.” I Timothy 4:11-16
Church, note that nothing is said about placating and pacissifying the people, much less manipulating them, with music—only caution in how we live and what we teach.
Church, don’t stop until all your Simons and all of the Simon-trickery-allurements are spotted and eliminated from your midst!