Apologies for such a long time between posts…I’ve done two weekend conferences as well as services in between, so it’s been pleasantly busy. Now to the subject matter…

I have come to this train of thought for a few reasons. One is my recent experiences of church, as well as observations of the christian music scene and some amazing essays by a well known and respected minister of the gospel. Despite this essay being written 25 years ago, the comments he was making echo quite precisely what I believe to be revelations from the Spirit into my own life in the last few years as I seek the right way to undertake this ministry He has blessed me with. This is a big and complex issue, so I can only give you a few soundbytes to consider.

Have you ever wondered why so many christian music concert events seem to yield so little fruit? Be honest. If God’s Spirit is as present and as ‘awesomely powerful’ at some events as we are led to believe, don’t you think the Spiritual fall-out would be felt across the towns and cities? How can we be certain that the emotional fervour of a christian rock concert isn’t precisely just that, and nothing much else? Where responses to what is heard in the song amounts to not much more than a vote for Jesus? Where is the conviction? Has the Word cut through people’s lives and shown them who they really are? Do they leave with added zeal to reach the lost and lead holy lives? Do they leave convicted of their need for salvation and truly repent?

Hard questions.

Here’s another one that concerns me: If someone calls themselves a God-fearing Bible reading Christian (ministers included) and the Word clearly says that “you shall have no other gods before Me”, why is it that many young Christians won’t listen to anything else unless it’s ‘rock’, or ‘techno’ or ‘trance’ or whatever? I include myself in this category because I have a penchant for dance music.

Let’s assume I wanted to write a new song for worship. I have written the words, I know how it goes, I have the melody…but I want it to be a ‘dance’ track. Why? What has happened here? I find myself thinking of King Ahaz who ordered an exact copy of the altar of the tabernacle to be built for him (2Kings16:10-11). This altar was placed in front of the original altar so King Ahaz would offer his own sacrifices to God, but upon his own altar – not the one ordained by God.

Hold that scripture for a moment. I’m not saying it’s totally wrong to ever hear rock or techno music in church during worship; my only comment is that when it happens, it should be appropiate. If you go to a worship night at a church and (cultural tendencies aside) all the music is wall-to-wall dance or rock because the musicians won’t consider playing anything else, then there is a problem. Would those musicians not be guilty of worshipping God but off their own altar? Is it not clear that their preference for a certain type of music has taken precedence over ministry at the altar of God and to the people? Are there then not one but two altars in the Holy Place?

Remember when Moses had to leave the Israelites to go up to meet with God? When he came back, the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf…despite the fiery, smoking, rumbling presence of God upon mount Sinai being clearly visible to them all. They were singing and dancing..” This is our god who saved us from Pharaoh and brought us out of slavery!” (my paraphrasing). The words were right, the dance was fine, the song acceptable, the people and circumstance was fine. But the ‘god’ had changed.

I used to think (and to an extent still do) that the argument for worship music deliberately styled in a particular way “because it draws the kids in” was sound. However, I am wondering today if indeed it is a watertight principle. If you talk about this in the constraints of outreach, it is a little different; music becomes the language of the people you wish to reach – the words therein containing the truth of the Gospel. But the event must contain a delivery of the Word of God aside from the music, because the power of God resides in the Word of God as spoken, preached or prophesied – not the music itself.

When worship happens, music has to be born out of the ‘belly’ of the Spirit, because all praise and worship flows from the Spirit within us upward to God and that includes music that is unctioned by the Spirit Himself.

Going back to my hypothetical worship song: Something within me wants to make it into something beyond and away from what God had inspired within me in the first place. Why is this? What is wrong with the original concept? What can I possibly add with my own intellect to something God has inspired? Music should be holy, pleasing to the ear, stirring people to seek His face and meet with Him in the Holy Place. It is worth reminding ourselves what we actually infer when we say “holy music”!

As my “history” read up on the CBF webpage says, my background is dance music. Yet the inspired playing I come up with is light years away from it. Why is that? It’s not my intention, it’s simply what is manifesting out of the ministry I have. Quite often we come to God with stuff that has it’s origins in satan’s kingdom, yet dressed up to satisfy the ears of the listeners with “smooth words”. Beware of songs that exchange the name ‘Jesus’ with “you” instead! The secular market has been flooded recently with gospel sound-alike songs.

To all singers and composers: If you don’t feel able to mention His precious name in song as you minister to the body of Christ then frankly, don’t bother. There is simply no point in playing music in worship if you’re bound to another ‘altar’ and cannot play anything unless it sounds like ‘this’ or ‘that’; you have built your own altar in God’s temple. Get rid of it!