Mailbag

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

mailbag

 

I’ve noticed that false doctrine is not just restricted to sermons, conferences, and Bible studies, but that I have to watch out for it in the contemporary Christian music (CCM) I listen to as well. Are there any CCM groups, artists, or songs I should avoid? Can you recommend any specific doctrinally sound artists or groups?

You’re absolutely right that we need to be careful about what we listen to that wears the label “Christian.” There is a lot of beautiful, doctrinally sound, theologically rich music of all genres out there, and there’s a lot of junk as well.

I’d like to offer a couple of caveats before diving into the answer for this question:

1. I plead extreme ignorance when it comes to CCM. With rare exception, it’s not a genre I enjoy, I don’t listen to it, and the worship service I attend uses “traditional” (mostly hymns) music, so I’m not often exposed to it. I’m all in favor of doctrinally sound CCM for those who like that genre, it’s just not my personal cup of tea or an area I research.

So, in this article I’m going to tell you what little I know, point you to people and resources better equipped to answer this question, and lean heavily on you discerning CCM listeners for help (more on that in a bit).

2. There is lousy theology in every genre of music. There are lousy hymns, lousy Christian rap, lousy CCM, lousy gospel, lousy Southern gospel, etc. This question was asked specifically about CCM, so that’s what the answer is going to focus on. It’s not a debate about hymns or exclusive psalmody versus CCM.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Why is it important to be discerning about Christian music? Because the music we use in church and listen to at home teaches us theology, and it sticks in our memories (which is why a lot of Scripture memory programs set Bible verses to music to help with memorization). You probably couldn’t recite verbatim a quote from last Sunday’s sermon, but I’ll bet you know the lyrics of a lot of songs by heart. It’s important that those lyrics contain good theology.

It’s imperative for churches to be discerning about the CCM they use in worship. If Jane Churchmember hears a CCM song in church and likes it, she’s likely to Google the song (probably right there in church- I’ve done it!), find out who sings it, and begin following that artist. Worship pastors who use CCM have a responsibility to vet the artists who perform the songs they select for the worship service to make sure they’re not sending Jane into the arms of a heretic. Additionally, music costs money, and you don’t want your church’s offerings supporting false doctrine.

Artists to Avoid:
Hillsong
Jesus Culture
Bethel Music
Elevation Music
Kari Jobe
Nichole Nordeman 
(Nichole has extensive ties to a plethora of false teachers and was recently very vocal in her support of Jen Hatmaker’s embrace of homosexuality in the church.)

There are probably many others, but those are the only names I know to give you.

Doctrinally Sound Artists:
Keith and Kristyn Getty
Sovereign Grace Music
Indelible Grace Music

Again, I’m sure there are many others, I’m just not familiar with them.

Owen Strachan recently made some recommendations, though they’re not all contemporary, on Twitter: (others also responded with suggestions, click here to see):

(I’m not familiar with all of these, but in case you need their first names to look them up: Bob Kauflin, Stuart Townend, Matt Papa, John Newton, Martin Luther, Horatio Spafford.)

I would recommend three things when deciding whether or not to listen to someone:

1. Look up the lyrics of about half a dozen of her latest songs and examine the lyrics against Scripture. It’s helpful to look at the words in front of you without hearing the music so you can really think about them. Are they biblical?

2. Look to see who the artist associates with and admires. The easiest way to do this is to check their Facebook and Twitter feeds. Do you see scads of re-tweets and shares of posts from false teachers?

3. Go to the artist’s web site, and examine her statement of faith (if she has one) and the venues she’ll be playing. Does she frequently play at places like Bethel? Lakewood? The Potter’s House? Is she the worship leader at a lot of conferences featuring false teachers? You might also want to look at her bio to see if she mentions her home church. If she’s a member of a church headed up by a false teacher, that’s definitely a red flag.

Below you’ll find some helpful additional resources relating to specific songs, artists, and the CCM industry. I’d also like to solicit the help of you discerning listeners of CCM:

Are there CCM songs or artists you would recommend avoiding due to biblically demonstrable sin or false doctrine? Please comment below with the exact name of the artist/song, the reason to avoid said artist/song, and a link(s) providing lyrics and/or objective support for your reason.
Unsubstantiated accusations will not be published.
Are there doctrinally sound artists you would recommend? Please comment with the name of the artist (and preferably a link to his/her web site) below.

Additional Resources

The Discernment in Music Archive at Faithful Stewardship

Sound in Worship by Justin Rea

Christian Music Review from Reformed Fellowship Church

Worship Song Ratings by Sandy Simpson

What’s So Bad About Christian Radio by Gabe Hughes

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: Putting Popular Church Music to the Test by Gabe Hughes

In Response to Putting Popular Church Music to the Test by Gabe Hughes

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (vol. 2) by Gabe Hughes


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Ministry, Throwback Thursday, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Real Ministers of Music’s Wives of Anychurch, U.S.A. ~ Part 2

Originally published April 10, 2014diverse-group-of-women

I’ve been married to a minister of music for over 20 years. My husband has served at many different churches in a variety of capacities: on staff, interim, supply, revivals, conferences, retreats, etc. Over those 20+ years and in those various capacities, I’ve observed a number of things about him, pastors, church musicians, and congregations from a unique vantage point.

Now, with a little help and a lot of input from a few sister minister of music’s wives, it’s true confessions time. Time for us to tell all, here in Part 2 of Real Ministers of Music’s Wives of Anychurch, U.S.A. 

You can read Part 1 here.

Turn Your Radio On, and Listen to the Music in The Air
The minister of music understands that there are songs we love to sing along with on KLOVE or Pandora that we’d also like to sing in church, and, in a lot of cases, he’d probably like to, too. There are a variety of reasons why the songs we like might not get sung in church:

  •  It’s a solo. Most of the songs we hear on the radio (especially contemporary ones) are written and performed as solos, and don’t work for congregational singing because: the timing is difficult for a large group to follow, there are too many spontaneous riffs and change ups, there are complicated and/or numerous bridges and tags that are difficult for large groups to follow, etc. Not every song works for large group singing.
  • tube-radio-67772_640 The lyrics contain faulty or watered down theology. The minister of music’s job is to lead us in worship. We can’t worship if we’re singing something that conflicts with God’s word or doesn’t focus on Him and His nature, character, and deeds.
  • The accompanists aren’t comfortable with it. A lot of the songs people want to sing in the worship service can be difficult for pianists and other instrumentalists whose main experience is in other genres of music. While every musician should strive to improve his skills, the minister of music doesn’t want to put his accompanists on the spot if they’re uncomfortable with the technical requirements of the music.
  • Your minister of music isn’t comfortable with it. If the minister of music is in his 60’s he may not feel he can carry off a top ten CCM song made popular by somebody in his 20’s, especially if he doesn’t have a worship band equal to the one we’re used to hearing on the radio.
  • There’s no sheet music available. Or it’s not available in the right key or for the right instruments, etc.
  • It’s “off limits”. Occasionally, and for various reasons, the pastor, elders, or others in leadership over the minister of music will make a decision that a certain song is not to be used in the worship service. Depending on the circumstances, there may not be a diplomatic way to explain this to people who love that song and want to sing it in church.

play-piano-7626_640Play Us a Song, You’re the Piano Woman
Just by way of information, not every minister of music’s wife plays the piano. I’m one of them. Sorry. I wish I could.


One Singular Sensation
sing-201027_640
Regardless of how many pop stars got their start by singing in church, the purpose of the worship service is to worship God. There are many wonderful and talented soloists who, in humility and faithfulness, pour their hearts out to God in song at their local churches and do a great job of it. There are also a few divas on their way up the ladder looking for a stepping stone to greatness. Church isn’t American Idol. Find a karaoke bar.

Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness
It’s always encouraging for a minister of music to hear that he Fool boy is waiting his girlfrienddid a great job with the choir or that you really worshiped this morning. It’s encouraging when a pastor mounts the platform for his sermon and says thank you, or I really liked that song, or refers back to/quotes one of the songs during his sermon. Little things like that go a long way, so offer your minister of music a word of encouragement when you can.

Also, if your church participates in clergy appreciation month (usually the month of October), please don’t forget your minister of music, youth pastor, associate pastor, etc. They all work hard to shepherd you, and it doesn’t feel good to be left out.

War- What is it Good For?
The worship wars (contemporary worship music vs. traditional hymns) are alive and well. Sometimes, rather than being a general in that war, our minister of music might just be a casualty of it.

Competition

Everybody has particular genres of music that we’re most comfortable with. When a different style comes along, it can be jarring. It can cause angst. It can cause arguments. But when we worship God, our focus is not to be on what makes us happy or comfortable. Often, we get so concerned about whether the worship at church pleases or offends us that we don’t stop to think about whether it pleases or offends God.

But that’s the main concern of the minister of music. Which songs, regardless of style, will be pleasing to the Lord and lead people into truth about Him? While he’s trying to do his best to sort this out week by week, he’s possibly being pulled in a variety of directions by a variety of people over style. How many people will leave the church if we sing more hymns than contemporary songs? How many people will stop giving in the offering if we sing more contemporary songs than hymns? Who’s going to accost me after church and complain? How will the pastor and elders react to this week’s order of service? It can be a lot of pressure and take his focus off of where it needs to be: what will be pleasing to God?

Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, the songs we don’t like might just be someone else’s favorite. What if we looked at singing the songs we don’t particularly like as a way to serve and encourage our brothers and sisters in the congregation who do like those songs?

Why’s Everybody Always Pickin’ on Me?
There’s no nice, sweet way to say this, so I’m just gonna throw it out there. Church members can sometimes be mean. thI mean, mean. Let me hasten to add that most of the time, most church members are not. The majority of church members are kind, loving, supportive, and definitely appreciated by the pastor and staff. However, the others are definitely out there. I have seen church members treat pastors, ministers of music, and other church staff the way I wouldn’t treat a dog. There’s no excuse for that.

The minister of music isn’t perfect. There may be times when he does something unbiblical or hurtful and at those times, it’s necessary for the appropriate person to talk with him, under the provisos of Matthew 18, about whatever is wrong. But there are other times when people get their feathers ruffled –even though the minister of music hasn’t done anything wrong or unbiblical—simply because their personal preferences haven’t been catered to.

It’s OK to talk with our ministers of music about things, even personal preferences, but let’s do it in an encouraging and helpful way rather than a griping or attacking way. Screaming, threatening, name calling, constant complaints, and nasty anonymous notes and emails are never appropriate, and if that’s what is transpiring, then the problem is not with the minister of music it’s with the person who’s acting that way. If we know that a member of our church is acting that way towards anyone, pastor, staff, or layperson, we must intervene and be a catalyst for making things right.

God calls us to encourage one another and build each other up, so let’s get at it! Let’s try to affirm our ministers of music (and pastors and other staff!) whenever we’re able!

 

What’s something you can do
to be an encouragement to your minister of music?

Ministry, Worship

Real Ministers of Music’s Wives of Anychurch, U.S.A. ~ Part 2

diverse-group-of-women

I’ve been married to a minister of music for over 20 years. My husband has served at many different churches in a variety of capacities: on staff, interim, supply, revivals, conferences, retreats, etc. Over those 20+ years and in those various capacities, I’ve observed a number of things about him, pastors, church musicians, and congregations from a unique vantage point.

Now, with a little help and a lot of input from a few sister minister of music’s wives, it’s true confessions time. Time for us to tell all, here in Part 2 of Real Ministers of Music’s Wives of Anychurch, U.S.A. 

You can read Part 1 here.

Turn Your Radio On, and Listen to the Music in The Air
The minister of music understands that there are songs we love to sing along with on KLOVE or Pandora that we’d also like to sing in church, and, in a lot of cases, he’d probably like to, too. There are a variety of reasons why the songs we like might not get sung in church:

  •  It’s a solo. Most of the songs we hear on the radio (especially contemporary ones) are written and performed as solos, and don’t work for congregational singing because: the timing is difficult for a large group to follow, there are too many spontaneous riffs and change ups, there are complicated and/or numerous bridges and tags that are difficult for large groups to follow, etc. Not every song works for large group singing.
  • tube-radio-67772_640 The lyrics contain faulty or watered down theology. The minister of music’s job is to lead us in worship. We can’t worship if we’re singing something that conflicts with God’s word or doesn’t focus on Him and His nature, character, and deeds.
  • The accompanists aren’t comfortable with it. A lot of the songs people want to sing in the worship service can be difficult for pianists and other instrumentalists whose main experience is in other genres of music. While every musician should strive to improve his skills, the minister of music doesn’t want to put his accompanists on the spot if they’re uncomfortable with the technical requirements of the music.
  • Your minister of music isn’t comfortable with it. If the minister of music is in his 60’s he may not feel he can carry off a top ten CCM song made popular by somebody in his 20’s, especially if he doesn’t have a worship band equal to the one we’re used to hearing on the radio.
  • There’s no sheet music available. Or it’s not available in the right key or for the right instruments, etc.
  • It’s “off limits”. Occasionally, and for various reasons, the pastor, elders, or others in leadership over the minister of music will make a decision that a certain song is not to be used in the worship service. Depending on the circumstances, there may not be a diplomatic way to explain this to people who love that song and want to sing it in church.

play-piano-7626_640Play Us a Song, You’re the Piano Woman
Just by way of information, not every minister of music’s wife plays the piano. I’m one of them. Sorry. I wish I could.


One Singular Sensation
sing-201027_640
Regardless of how many pop stars got their start by singing in church, the purpose of the worship service is to worship God. There are many wonderful and talented soloists who, in humility and faithfulness, pour their hearts out to God in song at their local churches and do a great job of it. There are also a few divas on their way up the ladder looking for a stepping stone to greatness. Church isn’t American Idol. Find a karaoke bar.

Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness
It’s always encouraging for a minister of music to hear that he Fool boy is waiting his girlfrienddid a great job with the choir or that you really worshiped this morning. It’s encouraging when a pastor mounts the platform for his sermon and says thank you, or I really liked that song, or refers back to/quotes one of the songs during his sermon. Little things like that go a long way, so offer your minister of music a word of encouragement when you can.

Also, if your church participates in clergy appreciation month (usually the month of October), please don’t forget your minister of music, youth pastor, associate pastor, etc. They all work hard to shepherd you, and it doesn’t feel good to be left out.

War- What is it Good For?
The worship wars (contemporary worship music vs. traditional hymns) are alive and well. Sometimes, rather than being a general in that war, our minister of music might just be a casualty of it.

Competition

Everybody has particular genres of music that we’re most comfortable with. When a different style comes along, it can be jarring. It can cause angst. It can cause arguments. But when we worship God, our focus is not to be on what makes us happy or comfortable. Often, we get so concerned about whether the worship at church pleases or offends us that we don’t stop to think about whether it pleases or offends God.

But that’s the main concern of the minister of music. Which songs, regardless of style, will be pleasing to the Lord and lead people into truth about Him? While he’s trying to do his best to sort this out week by week, he’s possibly being pulled in a variety of directions by a variety of people over style. How many people will leave the church if we sing more hymns than contemporary songs? How many people will stop giving in the offering if we sing more contemporary songs than hymns? Who’s going to accost me after church and complain? How will the pastor and elders react to this week’s order of service? It can be a lot of pressure and take his focus off of where it needs to be: what will be pleasing to God?

Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, the songs we don’t like might just be someone else’s favorite. What if we looked at singing the songs we don’t particularly like as a way to serve and encourage our brothers and sisters in the congregation who do like those songs?

Why’s Everybody Always Pickin’ on Me?
There’s no nice, sweet way to say this, so I’m just gonna throw it out there. Church members can sometimes be mean. thI mean, mean. Let me hasten to add that most of the time, most church members are not. The majority of church members are kind, loving, supportive, and definitely appreciated by the pastor and staff. However, the others are definitely out there. I have seen church members treat pastors, ministers of music, and other church staff the way I wouldn’t treat a dog. There’s no excuse for that.

The minister of music isn’t perfect. There may be times when he does something unbiblical or hurtful and at those times, it’s necessary for the appropriate person to talk with him, under the provisos of Matthew 18, about whatever is wrong. But there are other times when people get their feathers ruffled –even though the minister of music hasn’t done anything wrong or unbiblical—simply because their personal preferences haven’t been catered to.

It’s OK to talk with our ministers of music about things, even personal preferences, but let’s do it in an encouraging and helpful way rather than a griping or attacking way. Screaming, threatening, name calling, constant complaints, and nasty anonymous notes and emails are never appropriate, and if that’s what is transpiring, then the problem is not with the minister of music it’s with the person who’s acting that way. If we know that a member of our church is acting that way towards anyone, pastor, staff, or layperson, we must intervene and be a catalyst for making things right.

God calls us to encourage one another and build each other up, so let’s get at it! Let’s try to affirm our ministers of music (and pastors and other staff!) whenever we’re able!

 

What’s something you can do
to be an encouragement to your minister of music?