CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC:
Inspired By God or Deceived By Devils?
Contemporary Christian Music, or CCM, has incredible influence today. With multi-million dollar sales, thousands of rabid fans packing concert halls, and even a magazine named after the movement. Who can doubt the incredible sway CCM holds over the modern professing church? However, for those who love and obey the Bible, a close and honest examination of CCM reveals an array of troubling issues. It is my observation that CCM has become a much more dangerous threat in the church than even secular music. Someone, somewhere, somehow must face the bold, belligerent, uncircumcised, and unchallenged giant in our midst.
There are many problems with Contemporary Christian Music. Some of the most common issues, but certainly not limited to, would include the following...
The CCM movement is characterized by musicians whose lives are anything but holy and separated from the world (I've personally confronted many of today's most popular CCM artists and have not met one who professes to live a consistently holy life; not one.  “Why, of course we sin every day, who doesn’t?”, they say. see Lk 6:46; Jn 14:23-24; 1 Jn 2:4). The typical CCM stars that I’ve encountered may be sincere but are alarmingly ignorant of the Scriptures, unblushingly sinful, and doctrinally dangerous.
Men who have not been spiritually proven (1 Tim 3:6, 10) and who fail to demonstrate lives of indisputable character, holiness, and an unwavering fidelity to Jesus Christ, are unfit to lead others into the holy presence of God (Lev 21:8; Num 4:19; 2 Chron 23:6; Ps 96:9). According to the Scriptures, those who are allowed in positions of leadership and influence, especially over young people and children, must live holy (Lk 17:2; 1 Tim 3:2).
Moreover, who can deny the spiritual essence and quality of music? Music is a unique way to communicate "spirit" in a medium mere verbal expression alone lacks. Thus, in music, something mystical, even spiritual, is allowed to influence the soul. Those who either compose or play the music itself impose and infuse the presentation with their own spirit. How could it be otherwise? Hence, to truly embrace music, whatever character it may possess, requires we open our heart to the spirit behind the song and commune. If the spirit communicated in such music is unregenerate, we are unwisely opening ourselves up to worldly influence (2 Cor 7:1; Eph 5:11).
A DE-EMPHASIS OF BIBLICAL TRUTH
Typically, songs in the CCM genre’ offer lyrical content that may contain some Biblical words or concepts but usually are either too shallow to communicate full Scriptural truth or subtly undermine sound doctrine (there are occasional exceptions). Or, the music itself is given precedent over the lyric, which defies Biblical protocol. In the Scriptures the music was to serve the text, not vice versa…
“The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.” ―Psalms 68:25
The singers went before because they sang the lyrics of the song which centered on glorifying God. Hence, what they were singing was obviously more important than the accompanying music. Notice, the musicians followed after the singers. In the modern apostate church this Biblical order has often been reversed. Unfortunately, they have made the ‘players’ to walk in front of the ‘singers’. Even more specifically CCM frequently allows the ‘timbrels’ (the drums) to lead. A distinction of much of CCM used in churches today relies heavily on leading, driving drum beats with little care if the all-important lyrical message is drowned out or rendered unintelligible.
In 1999 I did a survey of the most popular “Christian” music airing on a local “Gospel” radio station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The survey essentially included the “Top 40” playlist of current hits by the most popular CCM artists of the day. Of course, love was undoubtedly the major lyrical theme of many of these so-called Christian songs. However, though love is indeed a central theme throughout the Bible, the word love, without qualification, does not unequivocally define a song as distinctly Christian. In other words, just because many CCM songs contain the word love does not qualify them as unmistakably Christian. Why? Because love is also one of the most popular, if not the most popular, theme in secular music as well. Hence, to use the term “love”, so as to judge a song's spirituality, would be faulty. Whereas, the name of Jesus or terms and phrases like the “blood of Jesus”, the “cross of Christ”, or the “Holy Ghost”, etc. are rarely, if ever, mentioned in worldly music and therefore could possibly set a song apart as spiritual.
Nevertheless, what I found in my survey was shocking. For example…
• Amazingly, only 1 out of 8 songs mentioned the name of Jesus. How can you exalt Christ without mentioning His name?
• The lyrics of less than 2 out of 10 songs mentioned terms synonymous with the gospel. Or, in other words, 80% of the music was so ambiguous that it failed to communicate basic Biblical truth. How can Jesus be exalted and the church edified if Biblical truth is withheld (Jn 4:23)?
• Only 3 out of 100 songs could be described as praise or worship songs (simply meaning “vertical songs” – or songs written and sang directly to God in praise, worship, or adoration).
Remember, this survey was undertaken in 1999. The CCM industry today has waxed far more liberal with unspeakable worldliness now overlooked or altogether condoned. As the Church of Jesus Christ, if our music does not clearly and boldly communicate the great truths of the Bible, it must be rejected (2 Cor 3:12; Col 3:16; 1 Thess 2:2-6).
Music, as defined by the Scriptures, has a very narrow and limited purpose, namely, to worship and glorify God (1 Cor 10:31; Col 1:16). CCM, though few would admit it, is generally ego-centric as opposed to what sacred music should be, namely, Christ-centric. In other words, the focus is the sound, the music, the musicians, the show, etc. rather than a simple, pure, and child-like effort to exalt and magnify Jesus Christ. CCM often features disorderly music arrangements utilizing extreme worldly mediums like rap, thrash, punk, and heavy metal. These mediums generally emphasize the “beat” (which is often violent, sensual, and distracting) as opposed to providing a serene backdrop for meaningful lyrics. Such an atmosphere is inconsistent with the worshipful ambience typical where God’s Spirit reigns and leads. The music which is suitable for the worship of our holy God may be fervent and passionate, but will likewise be marked by the stated "fruit of the Spirit" (Ps 29:2; Gal 5:22-23).
The Scriptural model for sacred music is quite clear. Ephesians 5:19 suggests, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." The sister passage, Colossians 3:16, reminds us that we are to be "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Hebrews 2:12 echoes these two passages with ". . . I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." The believer's music is to be an in-house and primarily vertical activity. Speaking to yourselves, teaching one another, and declaring the Lord's name in the midst of the church, does not even hint at evangelism. Sacred music is for the saints and unto the Lord. Over and over the admonition of music references in God's Word includes the same sentiment, "unto Him, unto the Lord, unto the Most High, unto Thee, unto Thy Name."
In CCM there are many unscriptural and humanistic philosophies (i.e. Syncretism, Pragmatism, Antinomianism, etc.) which tend to both doctrinal error and bold misuses of music for purposes other than God's original intention (i.e., wrongly using music for evangelism, entertainment, etc.). Due to these erroneous views on music (and the Christian faith in general), CCM has been rendered spiritually deformed as it wavers under the crisis of extra-Biblical methodology and questionable theology (1 Cor 14:33).
Another glaring problem with CCM is the brazen idolatry among “fans”. This “star-worship”, which is almost always permitted and even promoted by the musicians, is completely contrary to the spirit of Jesus Christ. At many of the concerts, fans will scream wildly when their favorite CCM personality takes the stage or performs their favorite song. Typically, the same huge crowds who pay to attend “Christian concerts” (which incidentally are never mentioned in the N.T.) are unfaithful at the local church level, shun sound doctrine, and would rarely attend a “free” prayer meeting (Ps 118:8; 1 Cor 2:5).
Perhaps the most obvious compromise in the CCM movement today is the almost universal tolerance, use, and sympathy for undisputed secular/worldly music. All the musicians/bands I've studied or confronted openly claim to enjoy, listen to, be inspired by, and some cases, even perform secular music. Such bold worldliness irrefutably proves they are not Christians, but enemies of God (James 4:4).
I have been playing guitar for all my adult life. Before I was born-again I owned nearly 1500 assorted rock, blues, etc., albums. When I got born-again, God delivered me from my worldly music. As a musician, I realize the I, IV, V chords make up the musical foundation for 90% of the old hymns as well as many, if not all, of the most famous rock anthems. There are only so many chord progressions. It cannot be merely reduced to "style" but rather spirit (though the humanistic concept that all music is morally neutral is erroneous as all music is both written and/or executed by moral agents that logically gives it moral value, holy or unholy). The music Christians play and listen to should be holy, and for one end, the glory of God. The reason CCM should be denounced is not because every single song is wrong, but because it typically is a gross mixture of the holy and profane. For the most part, it is unconverted musicians who listen to and sometimes even perform secular rock music, attempting to lead people into something holy. This cannot be. Many years ago, Elvis Presley released an album featuring traditional hymns. However, though the music and lyrics he sang were of holy origin, he defiled the music because of what he was. Only holy men can lead holy men in holy worship: an apparently forgotten concept in today's morally loose culture, but nevertheless, a truth expressed all over the Bible (imagine that, standards for leaders, is that really such a novel and foreign idea?). When you drop your ice-cream cone in a patty of cow manure you throw it away, right? Why? Because it is defiled; it doesn't take a lot of manure to ruin the ice-cream. Likewise, all it takes is a little leaven to leaven the whole lump (1 Cor 5:6). When the holy is mixed with the unholy the holy is defiled and we do well to remember that God utterly hates mixture (Hag 2:12; Rom 12:2; James 4:4; 1 Jn 2:15). L.E. Maxwell said…
"Never had the Church so much influence over the world as when she had nothing to do with the world!"
Allow me to pose this question to you. Would you agree with me that the music of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Marilyn Manson, Eminem, Jay-Z, The Beatles, Motorhead, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc. is worldly? If you say yes, as any true Christian would, then you find yourself in a perplexing dilemma. Why? Because you must also agree that most popular CCM stars are enemies of God (who openly confess to enjoying such music). You may ask, "How can you say this?" Because they have befriended the world by listening to, being inspired by, and even performing their songs. You will either admit this or endorse secular music as acceptable to God. You can't have it both ways. You cannot condemn secular rock-n-roll and at the same time defend these compromising "Christian" musicians who are inspired and entertained by those you condemn. To do so would be hypocritical, illogical, and even cowardly.
"Any spirit that permits compromise with the world is a false spirit. Any religious movement that imitates the world in any of its manifestations is false to the cross of Christ and on the side of the devil." ―A.W. Tozer
No doubt, the commercialization of spirituality is rampant throughout modern American Christendom but CCM may be one of the brashest exploiters of the flock (2 Pet 2:3). In the Scriptures, the charging of money for ministry is clearly condemned (Matt 10:8; 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8) while taking up a free-will offering to support ministers and their efforts can be acceptable (1 Cor 16:1-3; 2 Cor 8:12-16). Contemporary Christian musicians, generally speaking, charge people a fixed fee for CDs and/or a mandatory door fee at their concerts for what they themselves insist is “ministry”. This is a brazen and inexcusable violation of Scripture (Matt 10:8).
TESTING THE SPIRITS
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many
false prophets are gone out into the world.” ―1 John 4:1
Does God accept all music as worship? Are all musical styles accepted by God? How are we to distinguish between true and false "Christian"music today? Is it really just a matter of preference?
In light of these questions and others I propose the following guidelines in order to correctly judge music. For those who assume the manner of worship means little, remember that Nadab and Abihu were consumed by God's fire for offering unfit worship (Lev 10:1-2).
1) Is the music in question an attempt to appeal to the world and/or emulate the world in order to gain acceptance with the world (Rom 12:2)?
2) Does the music in question contain sound doctrine, promote true holiness, confront sin/error and declare a clear witness of Jesus Christ (Col 3:16)?
3) Concerning the lives of the musicians: are they men of integrity and sound witness? Are they under spiritual authority? Are they living in victory over sin (1 Thess 5:12)?
4) Does the music promote an attitude or cultivate any rebellion (1 Cor 15:33)?
If YES could be answered to question 1 or 4, it is not fit to be used. If NO could be answered to 2 or 3, it is not fit to be used.
Beginning in 1996, this ministry has confronted many different CCM artists including: Praise Road Show, Winter-Jam, Steven Curtis Chapman, Audio Adrenaline, Point of Grace, Jeremy Camp, Family-Force-5, Kutless, Addison Road, MercyMe, Hawk Nelson, Tenth Avenue North, Super-Chick, FlyLeaf, Skillet, Newsboys, Lecrae, KJ-52, David Crowder, Needtobreathe, TobyMac, Brandon Heath, Tim Timmons ,the Rhett Walker Band, Luminate, Switchfoot, We As Human, Third Day ,Casting Crowns, Sidewalk Prophets, Mandisa, Chris Tomlin, Lauren Daigle, and many more.