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Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Christian Music’

In the early 1970s, I noticed a shift in the emphasis of many evangelical churches. They increasingly incorporated methods such as “easy to understand” Bible versions and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) to “draw in the youth”. Today, over forty years later, many evangelical churches are postmodern and youth oriented, lacking the leadership of the elder generations. Many attenders (particularly the young people) in evangelical churches have not even had a born again “crisis conversion experience”. Tragic!

Concerned Nazarene John Henderson posted a more detailed article about this shift in youth ministries, here in the Concerned Nazarene Facebook Group. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

Reaching Today’s Youth
By John Henderson

Life has spanned enough years for me to observe the different modes leaders in the church have used to reach the youth of our generation. My wife and I are products of the youth outreach of our time. There has been a noticeable change in the approach to reaching the young people from that time to this.

Even before our own time, there was the YMCA and YWCA. Those were actually evangelistic arms of the church. We have seen now that not only has evangelism ceased in them but any real semblance of Christ or Christianity exists except for smatterings of some sort of general morality. Even that is not all that much emphasized.

We were exposed to Youth for Christ and came to Christ and grew spiritually under its banner. Churches had Sunday evening youth services that have now gone from what they once were to being hardly noticeable, if at all. Not much is heard of YFC these days. It, Campus Crusade for Christ, and others seem to have faded and some have taken on the identity and mission of the emergent church movement.

Somehow and gradually, the notion arose that assumed young people should be reached in their own sub-culture. That sub-culture was largely identified by the worldly influences in vogue at the time, especially in the “music” of that sub-culture. The choruses and gospel songs were soon replaced with rock-and-roll sounds that contained hints of being gospel in some way. That was further enhanced by “worship” music set to shallow ditties that were justified because they somehow alluded to something Christian. Gone were the youth songs and choruses of the past that always supplemented the major hymns and songs of Christ and the entire shebang was replaced by this new music.

Music has always been a teacher of theology and so it still is. It is just that the theology changed to suit the music or else the music was changed to reflect the new theology. We may sometimes call it contemporary but [it] is far from contemporary. It is just rehashed out of the world into a veneer of gospel.

Frankly, we have it all wrong. We shall never reach young people for Christ by giving them amended worldliness. If nothing has changed over the years, it is the simplicity of the gospel. It is like a beautiful girl and when we gaudily dress it up like a floozy, we ruin the beauty that is there by nature. I have peered into areas used for youth activities and saw what resembled night clubs more than places for prayer. Add to that the stage performances—and the stages themselves—and there is no doubt as to what is being learned.

We should be bringing our youth into environments that more resemble the church as it should be. They should be exposed to learning the Bible and memorizing the Scriptures. They should be trained in praying and in witnessing so that they can actually pray with a fellow young person until that person meets Christ in repentance and faith. Their music doesn’t have to sound like it is from the Middle Ages but it should have the same depth of message in it that they should be hearing in regular church. In other words, they should be in training for taking the leadership when they become responsible adults. If they remain trained in shallowness that is what they will carry into the church’s leadership when it is their turn to lead. That is, those who hang around long enough to actually take the reins of leadership.

I can fondly remember the experiences [in] the youth services of my day. I loved walking into a meeting being conducted by youth and hearing gospel songs being sung and a young person preaching as well as many adults I ever heard. I loved standing around a [bonfire] on the beach at night while we shared memory verses and testimonies of the saving grace of Christ and the struggles we were having at school because of our testimonies. I recall youth camps that were reflections of the old-fashioned camp meetings the adults were running. In fact, there were no serious differences between youth and adult services except perhaps ours were more youthfully vibrant. The content was just as deep biblically.

By the way! Good marriages were bred in those environments. Calls to the ministry and the mission field were answered there. Lives I still know about were rooted in Christ there and are still grounded in Him. Time never changes anything. The only thing that ever changes is commitment to Christ and the Word of God.

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The shallowness of today’s church music – especially the downplaying of Christ’s Atonement on Calvary – concerns me greatly.

I have reposted a blog by Bill Muehlenberg, in which he addresses the lack of theology in today’s songs. Click here for the original source. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

Hymns, Theology and Spirituality

One of the greatest sources of Christian theology and spirituality is the old hymns. In marked contrast to most of the worship choruses found in today’s church services, the old hymns were rich depositories of biblical spirituality, theological truth, and Christian belief.

There is nothing like going back to the old hymns for spiritual nourishment, especially in times of spiritual dryness, difficulty or pain. They stir the soul, sustain the spirit, and enrich the mind. They reflect so much theological depth – compared to what we find today – that is a real tragedy that we are neglecting these stirring anthems.

James Montgomery Boice once lamented, “One of the saddest features of contemporary worship is that the great hymns of the church are on the way out. They are not gone entirely, but they are going. And in their place have come trite jingles that have more in common with contemporary advertising ditties than the psalms. The problem here is not so much the style of the music, though trite words fit best with trite tunes and harmonies. Rather it is with the content of the songs. The old hymns expressed the theology of the church in profound and perceptive ways and with winsome memorable language. Today’s songs reflect only our shallow or non-existent theology and do almost nothing to elevate one’s thoughts about God.

“Worst of all are songs that merely repeat a trite idea, word or phrase over and over again. Songs like this are not worship, though they may give the church goer a religious feeling. They are mantras, which belong more in a gathering of New Agers than among the worshipping people of God.”

It is not just great theology which can be found in the old hymns, but very moving spiritual riches, aiding the Christian in his devotional life. Tozer was quite right when he wrote: “After the Bible the next most valuable book for the Christian is a good hymnal. Let any young Christian spend a year prayerfully meditating on the hymns of Watts and Wesley alone and he will become a fine theologian. Then let him read a balanced diet of the Puritans and the Christian mystics. [Although Tozer wrote many great things, I disagree strongly with Tozer’s recommendation of “Christian” mystics.] The results will be more wonderful than he could have dreamed.”

But enough from me. Let me just mention a few hymns (out of so many) and offer a few verses from them. Where does one begin? One thinks of course as such classics as How Great Thou Art, Rock of Ages and Amazing Grace. And we can never go past Luther’s c.1528 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Consider verses 1 and 3:

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
Our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us:
the Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure,
one little word shall fell him.

Charles Wesley is always another great source. Consider the last verse of his Love Divine, All Loves Excelling from 1747:

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Or the fourth verse of his And Can It Be That I Should Gain (1738):

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Isaac Watts of course wrote many great hymns as well. As an example, Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed written in the early 1700s. Here is the last verse:

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.

Katharina A. von Schlegel’s 1752 hymn, Be Still My Soul, begins this way:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

And consider Be Thou My Vision. The fourth verse of this eight century hymn goes this way:

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

The third verse of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson (1758) is also well worth sharing:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded, attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, has this as its fifth verse:

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

Also worth highlighting, verse six of Crown Him with Many Crowns by Matthew Bridges (1852):

Crown Him the Lord of love:
Behold His hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified;
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends His wondering eye
At mysteries so bright.

There is a Fountain Filled With Blood by William Cowper (1772) has this as its first verse:

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

One last example, but a somewhat newer one: The Love of God. The lyrics were penned in 1917 by Frederick M. Lehman, but it is based on an old Jewish poem from the eleventh century. The third and final verse is remarkable:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

One could keep on like this forever; and we will in eternity – singing his praises, never tiring of worshipping him, and rejoicing in what he has done for us.

For more:

There are a number of very helpful sites to find hymns, get the lyrics, listen to the songs, learn about the composers and history, etc. Here are three of them:

www.hymnlyrics.org/

www.hymntime.com/tch/

www.cyberhymnal.org/

And to round this off, listen to one great hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdIMYTwCQKY

FOR FURTHER READING

Wikipedia list of hymnals

Hymnary.org

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What is wrong with CCM (Contemporary Christian Music)? Everything!

I grew up in a biblically sound, born again, evangelical denomination, the Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI)[at least at the time it was biblically sound]. I recall CCM coming on the scene in the early 1970s. A few of the groups I followed were Evie, Keith Green, and Second Chapter of Acts. These were relatively “tame” groups – CCM artists have grown more and more worldly over the years. And worldliness is just one of the problems with CCM groups.

History

Wikipedia article on CCM

Genres

Today there are a dizzying array of CCM genres.  Check out the following articles:

Wikipedia list of CCM genres

Today’s Christian Music website (click on “Search by Genre” to see a pull-down window with various genres)

The Many Genres of Christian Music

List of CCM genres (most were located at this website)

Acoustic/Folk
Alternative
Contemporary
Dance/Techno
Gospel
Heavy Metal
Pop
Praise & Worship
Punk
R&B
Rap/Hip-Hop
Rock
Ska
Soaking Music (New Age-ish Third Wave Pentecostal  music – very dangerous)

Give me a break! Most of these CCM songs are obviously entertainment. CCM is an abomination. Most CCM songs:

1) Are not worshipful towards the Lord
2) Are not reverent
3) Are not edifying for Christians
4) Are not a godly witness to nonchristians

I could go on and on. Instead, following I will provide links to articles by others, critiquing CCM. Many, many articles can be found on the Internet.

Articles

The Beatles and Contemporary Christian Music (by David Cloud, first published April 12, 2006)

Musical Associations and CCM Adaptation (by David Cloud, revised Oct 17, 2011)

FOR FURTHER READING

Lists of articles critiquing CCM

Most of these lists are from Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB). I admire IFBs for protesting CCM as well as ecumenism, modernism, modern Bible versions, etc.

Amazing Grace Baptist Church
Calvary Baptist Church
Dial-the-Truth Ministries
He Who Has Ears Let Him Hear
Jesus-is-Savior.com
Way of Life Literature (David Cloud)

CCM groups pushing Spiritual Formation (aka Contemplative Spirituality)

David Crowder Band

Also: all Soaking Music involves Contemplative Spirituality (see link on Soaking Music above)

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