It is tempting to say that most evangelical Christians can quote entire lyrics of contemporary christian songs, but can not even remember 5 of the 10 commandments. Would that statement be an embellishment or general fact? I’m inclined to say the latter.
Is the Bible the book for me?
According to research here, here, and here, evangelical Americans do not read their Bible with any regularity. Also Christianity is generally on the decline in the US. However Contemporary Christian Music continues to be most popular form of worship in the growing churches and is not dead as some have supposed.
So are churches trying to remedy the problem of declining church numbers by seeking to change the music. Or to be fair, to change the vibe of the church in general and changing the music is top priority. Somehow if the church can become more relevant, more appealing, then they are more likely to retain the younger people. Is priority on music the answer.
I maintain, the music is not the issue (or the “coolness” factor), the scriptures are the issue. Scripture is greater than music. My take away from the two observations above is: could it be that the decline of the scripture is related to the decline of Christianity. Scripture is the medium that worship (including music) comes out from. Scripture is the fountain head of faith and practice. Scriptural illiteracy leads to superficial faith, idolatry, empty worship, and culturally influenced morality. Scripture illiteracy in the pew (or padded chairs) and scriptural anemia from the pulpit (or platform) equals false converts or no converts.
Scripture is the issue
Don’t misunderstand my point. I am indifferent on contemporary christian music. God has given many gifts and talents for His glory. It is the prominence and priority of music I am addressing.
My principle statement is scripture is greater than music. It follows that the scripture should be studied, meditated on, and taught with rigor, diligence and priority. This will result in mature spiritual men and women that can effectively engage the culture with the Gospel. This is the biblical pattern for church growth and church health. However, if music continues to be priority, we will have an anemic showing of the Gospel.
Case Study: Lauren Daigle
A case in point is the recent interview with popular Christian artist Lauren Daigle. She point-blank avoided the question about her stance on Homosexuality. She simply referred people to read their Bible and let her know what it said about the issue. She was “still learning too.”
Now, I will be gracious with her. She is young, has a lot of fan base to lose, and perhaps was caught off guard by such a question. I give her that. But if she is writing and singing Christian songs she should know what the Bible says. I’m afraid she is displaying the symptom of the greater problem within the church. That is to prioritize music and cool church culture at the expense of scripture.
Again, the lesson here is that scripture is more important than music. The scripture says we are to “study to show ourselves approved rightly dividing the word of truth” II Timothy 2:15. Scripture says that we should be “ready to give an answer to every man for the hope that lies with us” I Peter 3:15. Jesus rebuked people because they did not read or know the scripture Matthew 4:4; 22:9. . I can go on and on. Take away one: know the scriptures. Take away number two: know the scriptures and to be able to engage our culture regarding issues like this.
Someone will say but we should not point out sins. Or say she had to answer in a round about way because it was not a situation favorable for advancing the gospel. Well, we should not misrepresent God or the gospel either. And if someone asks about the nature of our faith we should be able to give a straight answer. That means we bring the gospel into the situation. In presenting the gospel we must accurately represent God. He is Holy and we have offended Him with sin. Yes, it is sin to do this or that. The judgment of God is upon that. But look, there is none without sin, no not one. All have sinned and fell short of God’s mark. We are ruined, corrupt people and at the mercy of a holy God. But listen to the good news, Jesus Christ, God’s son became flesh and paid the penalty for sin. All sin. His righteousness is imputed to us and our sin was laid upon Him. God offers you salvation by trusting in Christ. So repent and believe upon Jesus.
Heart of Worship
Is not this the reason why we sing? Do we not worship God because of His holiness. The power, purity and greatness of His person is the reason of our worship right? It is the same power, purity and holiness that condemns sinful activity of men. It is the consequence of God’s holiness and our sinfulness that Christ rescues us from. This is vital to our message. This is why the world will not receive us. This is why we love Him and sing to Him. The depths of God’s character and the wonderous working of Jesus is found in scripture. Yes, scripture brings us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, everything that pertains to life and godliness. I am convinced that a return to scripture is the answer the church is seeking rather than in music or innovation.
Again scripture is greater than music. God honoring music must proceed out of the truth of the scriptures. Music that is not grounded in scripture is shallow and humanistic. Conversely if music is scriptural, yet with the mouth and action deny that scriptural truth, then it is hypocrisy. Jesus said they honor me with their mouth but deny me with their heart. Without scripture our music can drift into idolatry as we seek to magnify a god of our own desires.
Please do not misrepresent me in thinking that scripture is the end all and churches need to be akin to a seminary lecture hall with only head-knowledge. No. Scripture is our connection to God, the person and plan of God. Scripture is alive by the Holy Spirit. Deviation from or ignorance of scripture breeds idolatry.
God loves music. He gave us an entire book of songs to sing, the Psalms. Yet even in the church’s hymn book the longest chapter of the Bible (Psalm 119) is completely devoted to expressing love to the scripture. Also realize that midway of the Bible is Psalm 118. 594 chapters are before and 594 chapters are after Psalm 118. Music is sacred only when it is embedded within the word.