I have been discussing Christian rock and music in the church with my friends back in my college singing group. This is issue is dear to all of us since we all share the same passion for Christian music during those days.
I’d like to share my discoveries over these past few years on the issue of contemporary Christian music.
1. Music is neutral — it isn’t good nor bad. It’s how one uses it that makes it good or bad. When I was in college, I have attended almost every seminar and video showing that discusses the “evil that is rock music”. Years after graduation, I realized that the primary reason why they placed an “of the devil” name tag to rock music is primarily because of rock groups like Bon Jovi, AC-DC, Metalica and the likes. These groups declares that they “are of the devil”, “the devil made us famous” and “we love Satan”. Those are the primary reasons why rock music is tagged as devilish and therefore cannot be used by God and should not be used as a music in the church.
A knife is a neutral object. Place it on top of a table and it does nothing. If one grabs it to cut cucumber into pieces, it becomes useful for cooking but becomes destructive when someone uses it to stab a nagging wife. :-) That’s the very same thing with music. Rock is simply a musical genre as with Jazz, Pop and Gospel. If someone uses rock to worship the devil, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that genre automatically becomes of the devil. What if a group like Petra who declares:
Gonna say it loud – gonna say it proud
Hey! I, I love the Lord
I, I love the Lord
(from the song “I love the Lord”)
Does that mean that this song — a song of declaration of love to God — is still “of the devil” simply because the artists used rock as a musical genre?
You see, even musical styles like jazz, country or pop can be used to praise the devil. Ah, and yes even classical music (really! here’s something interesting about 16th century violinist Niccolò Paganini and stories of his being in league with the devil). Not just rock for that matter! So what makes the difference? If, by using these creative sounds praises and gives glory to the One who deserves all the glory, then even rock music becomes holy in the sight of God!
The hardest thing to do is to prove biblically that rock music is created by the devil because according to my observation, any conclusions that supports it is a product of a biased mind — they simply do not like that genre, and they doesn’t want anybody else to like it too.
2. God owns everything — including rock. Keith Green says, “I do not believe that any kind of music is “evil” in itself. I mean, that there are no such things as rhythms or chord structures or melody lines that were born in hell. The idea that the devil has invented certain styles of music so that he could capture the innocent young souls of today’s youth is not only without foundation, but is the same kind of ridiculous tale that was told to young people by the church as recently as a generation ago – that “masturbation could cause blindness.”
Romans 14:14 says, ‘“I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything is unclean, to him it is unclean.” God owns everything in this world. And, yes, even rock music. Satan can only distort his creation but not create it because he is not THE creator.
Satan does distort rock music thru rock artists. And he is continually using it to mess up the lives of people. Which made me think, if satan do not own rock music and simply distorts it to mess up the lives of people, we should even be greatful for Christian rock for bringing back that genre to where it belongs — to God! Of course, I’m not saying that all Christian artists live it up to God’s purposes. Keith Green continued, “It isn’t the beat that offends me, nor the volume – It’s the spirit. It’s the ‘Look at me!’ attitude I have seen in concert after concert, and the ‘Can’t you see we’re as good as the world?’ syndrome I have heard on record after record … If there’s anything wrong or worldly at all about so-called “Christian rock,” it’s the self-exalting spirit and attitude that comes across so loud and clear in many of the records and concerts today.”
I believe that God created every musical genre for a purpose. We should take note then, that rock is the language where most kids nowadays can relate to. And if rock is used to worship God, these kids who do not need to learn another language to speak ‘worship’, will be brought to the feet of Jesus.
3. Worshiping God thru music is not something that should only come from a box with a label “This is church music” I learned from the recent SW@P (Seminar on Worship @ Praise) last January 23, 2004, sponsored by Praise, Inc. and conducted by Ruth Athanasio, Hillsong Australia’s choir director, that the secret of a vibrant, dynamic worship experience is Extravagant Worship. Extravagant in a sense that you push yourself to excessive, unrestrained worship.You push yourself to the limit. If you know that you’re not worshiping God enough, find out how you can worship him more. God deserves our best worship because in the first place, he has given all of the heavens when Jesus died on the cross just so that we can live with him forever.
Extravagant worship is not something that came out of the box. It cannot be experienced if you are governed by sets of (human) standards. I often hear this line from my friends: “We worship this way because this was the standard set by the General Conference” and some variants of that answer. How can a worshipper push himself to the limit if there’s a limit set by someone other than himself?
If a teenager can worship God in the beat of a rock music and not with the strings of an orchestra, go ahead and worship God extravagantly. The same principles apply to those contemplative ones. The principle is, seek your heart and find out why you are not worshipping God with your all and worship him at all cost! And I’m not only talking about worshipping God in music, mind you.
My brother, Tzad, attended the Praise and Worship concert in the evening of the SW@P seminar. I am moved with his testimony. He said, he realized that he’s not worshiping God enough. That realization alone can push anyone to worship God with whatever ways he finds fit him, even if those are going beyond the bonderies we grew up with.
4. Worship is an experience, it’s not a set of rules. I was participating in an Adventist online forum years ago. One of the topics discussed is if it’s ok to raise your hands when singing songs for God. One answer caught my attention. He said it is ok to raise your hand — not hands, just one — but don’t raise it too high, just raise it up to the shoulder level. It almost threw me out of my seat! :-) Where does that come from? How can raising your hand in praise of God be governed by specific rules?
The bible says “shout to God with cries of Joy” (Psalms 47:1). How will you shout with cries of Joy to God? Shout, but not too loud? Shout, but don’t let your seatmate hear it? Or shout from your heart, not with your mouth?
Going back to rock music and worship, most often, the prohibition of its use is primarily influenced by rules and regulations of a certain group. “Do not use drum set (like that of a rock band) but tympani for orchestra is good.” “You can use a guitar, but not the amplified (electric) one. Use preferably classical guitar”. The list goes on.
Here’s what I’ve discovered. In the 15th century, organ is banned in the church. Yet, today it is being used in almost every church I know. Did God change his preference? Bottom line, it’s not the use of these instruments that matters. It’s the spirit behind it.
Worship, like the relationship between spouses, is experiential and should not be governed primarily by rules and regulations. When the bible says, “lift up your hands unto the Lord” (Psalms 63:4), why not forget about the rules and just lift up your hands and praise the Almighty! Some people like it loud, some people like it contemplative. What matters is the heart that worships God. The heart that seeks to experience a living, interacting God.
5. I may hate rock, but I love the “rock of my salvation” Here’s an interesting note: I’m not a fan of rock myself. I’m a jazzer as far as music preference is concerned. At Grace Place, we don’t intend to be as rockish as Hillsong — at least that’s not the vision God is showing to our senior pastor today. We play more of contemplative but joyful acoustic type of music most fitted for a young urban professional.
I’m not an advocate of Christian rock. I am an advocate of extravagant worship. I may not like rock music, but every song that I sing is for the Rock of my salvation. I have worshiped with my pentecostal brethren, and boy, do they have a great role in building up the body of Christ! If, by their loud music, we call them of the devil, I don’t know what will be of us.
The bottom line is this: worship God in whatever form you feel comfortable with, worship him with extravagance, push yourself to the limit, and be blessed when others are blessed.