WHO OR WHAT'S TO BLAME?
"These kids are not simply memorizing our lyrics. They're living their lives by what we're telling them in our songs, and that has big consequences!" - Religious Rocker in CCM Magazine
A popular youth evangelist recently told me about a large meeting in a metropolitan city in Canada where he preached to some 7,000 young people. The music for the gathering was provided by one of the top male singers in religious rock and his band.
The program began with the musical group at 8 o'clock and the youth evangelist was scheduled to begin preaching at 9 p.m. Instead, the singer and his band took a full hour and 50 minutes.
It was almost 10 o'clock before the youth evangelist was introduced to preach. The scene before him defied almost anything he'd previously seen in ministry.
Seven thousand young people were shouting, screaming, and clapping. Many had been dancing in the aisles and milling around the auditorium while the singer had taken the extra 50 minutes. The last song the musical group performed had - in the evangelist's words - "put the kids on the ceiling."
It took the young preacher some while to get the teenagers in the audience settled. Several times he was forced to yell, "Please sit down...be quiet."
Finally, the audience calmed from its musical frenzy and the youth evangelist preached a tremendous message under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Hundreds of young people - many of them broken and weeping - streamed forward.
Before he had stepped to the microphone to preach, the preacher had asked the coordinator in charge of the meeting to have the band ready to play at the altar call. In fact, he had requested a special song which exactly fit his message.
Now he looked around anxiously for the singer and his band. The musical group never showed back up. Under great pressure with several hundred teenagers at the altar, the young preacher finished the service.
He walked backstage afterwards and asked the coordinator, "What happened? Where was the band?"
"The singer didnt want to come out," the man responded. "He felt that wasnt in his contract."
"His contract?" the youth evangelist mumbled.
The next day the young preacher was given a check for $700 for his services. He thanked the minister in charge of the gathering and asked, "How does this compare with the fee the band received?"
"Oh, that was $6,500," came the reply.
The young preacher was shocked - as I was - at the value placed on the music over the value placed on Gods messenger. It didnt make sense. The music had done nothing but stir the flesh of the thousands in attendance.
It was only through the preaching of the Word of God than any lasting results came from the meeting. Yet the priority had been placed on the music.
Unfortunately, I am convinced this story is repeated countless times across the Body of Christ.
Why does such a situation currently exist? What can really be done about such misplaced priorities? Here are some issues and answers which have been drawn from a series of messages preached by Glen Berteau, Youth Pastor at Family Worship Center.
(1) Why do churches and youth pastors book these religious rock groups in the first place?
There is significant pressure from pastors to have a crowd. I know of churches where the number one objective is to have a lot of people in attendance. To a youth worker, that might justify his position in the church, or even make him feel important if an event can be promoted with a large crowd.
Unfortunately, big crowds dont necessarily mean a concert is of God. Further, just because a popular group with a hit album performs and thousands attend doesnt make it a Godly event.
In truth, such concerts are often a simple reflection of the spiritual depth of the people in attendance. As well, they are also a reflection of the youth pastor's spirituality.
Some pastors will allow these kinds of concerts sponsored by their churches because they simply dont know. There is little teaching about religious rock. Thus, understanding on the subject tends to be very limited.
Thats one of the basic reasons for this book - to provide crucial information to the Body of Christ so that a Spirit-led conclusion can be reached on religious rock by Gods people.
Another factor is that larger churches intimidate smaller churches, while small churches imitate larger churches.
A smaller church will ride in a piggy-back fashion on the program of a larger church body. If a larger church is having concerts and musical programs with religious rock artists, then a small church will do the same. It becomes acceptable in a smaller church because a larger congregation has done it first.
Where in the Bible does it state this is the criterion for making such decisions? That kind of approach is in the same league with the "comparison tests" comparing secular rock artists and religious rockers. All such approaches have no biblical foundation.
Each of us must simply stick with the Bible in our decision-making efforts. That is the only means I know of to keep Gods people from getting their ox carts stuck in the ditch.
"And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?" (Luke 6:39)
(2) Are these religious rockers producing the very results churches are bringing them into town for?
If the concerts are staged in coliseums or city auditoriums, and young people actuall step forward to receive Christ, where will they go to church? Who will do the routine follow-up necessary to bring them into mature disicpleship?
If the concert is held in a particular church, will it produce converts to Jesus who will be active, ongoing members of teh congretation?
All of these are valid considerations when evaluating the proof of a persons ministry - although I know of many of the religious rockers' disdain at the use of the word "ministry". However, the validity of anyone's efforts - whether in evangelism or religious rock - is results.
Ironically, many of the so-called crossover artists talk about results that are not tangible.
I am speaking of genuine conversions, not just those who have been "blessed by the positive, moral message." Im talking about a wholesale surrender of a persons life to the Lordship of Christ, repenting of the old life and beginning a new life characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Nothing else can truly signify the born-again experience.
If young people were really coming to Jesus - in the manner in which some of the religious rockers claim - there wouldnt be room enough to hold them in the churches. There would be massive church construction everywhere to accommodate the numbers.
Ive heard thousands are being saved. In one recent interview, one religious rocker stated "...100,000 people have accepted Christ."
If thats the case, I simply ask, "Where are they?"
Also, the standard for having a religious rock group in a churchis significantly different than having a visiting evangelist. The guest preacher will have cleared some major hurdles before the local pastor allows him to grace the church pulpit.
For instance, the pastor will know something about the preachers personal life, his testimony, and about his relationship to a local church. He may even call other churches where the evangelist has preached to check out his efforts. Then there are the questions about doctrine and denominational affiliation - which can all be thorny issues. All in all, it can be an exhaustive effort before the visiting preacher ever stands to speak.
Thats hardly the case with a singer or a musical group. If they have an album being played over the radio or a video on television or have appeared as guests on one of the popular TV talk shows, they are automatically qualified.
Their personal life may be in shamlbes. The band members my have all backslidden and have no ongoing relationship with Christ, but they will have a ready, responsive full house when they come to "perform."
And, sadly, few people will ever know the difference.
A youth pastor at a large southern California church examined that problem in the Winter 86-87 Calendar magazine:
""...Times have changed and contemporary music ministries are springing up left and right...With this, Im afraid, has come less accountability and less oversight. This is one reason we see ministries falling away, slipping into heresies, etc.
I must admit, Ive been burned by just such ministries, some of which are well known. The artist or band arrived in town only to be spiritually arrogant, theologically unsound, or with a marriage relationship in sin. As I pushed for information with these groups, I found in every case no home church and no pastoral oversight.
Many of the above-mentioned ministries have ended abruptly due to member disputes, outright sin, or perhaps a lack of bookings. Ive since become more selective in choosing the ministry which I want to represent our Lord on my church stage. Some of the criteria for selection reads like this: "Are you regularly attending church? Where? Is the Pastor aware of the ministry and does he support it?""
In closing the article, the youth pastor made a strong observation about the religious rockers connection to a local churc.
""...Little is said about the local church from your stages because few of you attend.""
(3) This question is directed to church leadership: Are your young people becoming more holy and closer to Jesus because of listening to religious rock?
If a person is utilizing religious rock for his growth and maturity instead of time spent in the Bible and in prayer, that individual is on a spiritual crash course. Its just a matter of time before the collision occurs. You can practially set your watch in preparation for the disaster.
There is no power and no spirtually sustaining strength from religious rock. It wouldnt suprise me at all if that person walked away from God over a period of time.
A young person can dance the aisles, rush the stage of their favorite performer and shout "fight on" while shaking a fist in the devils face - but there is no enriching, edifying, or upbuilding of the Spirit man in his heart. There is simply nothing to feed the Spirit fro religious rock. ITs like eating a frothy cotton candy whcih has no substance.
The power to overcome the devil has to be in your heart, not in your ear! It has to be down deep in the inner person, and that can only be developed by communion with God through reading His Word, concentrated prayer, and sitting under anointed preaching. It is further developed through initmate times of praise and worship with God, and utilizing the gift of the Holy Ghost.
If a young person's life reflects the styles in dress, in music, and in conversation as those expressed by the religious rockers, there can be no genuine fruit of the Spirit produced. It is only a paltry reflection of the world. It represents none of the character and spirit of the Lord Jesus.
To our pastors and youth workers, I encourage you to look at your young people and see what this brand of music is producing in them. Is it fruit of this world? Or fruit of the blessed Holy Spirit? The latter is from God; the former is not.
Your responsibility as a leader is to develop the quality and characteristic of the Lord Jesus in your people. If that is not happening, you need to seek the face of God until it does occur. For surely the Holy Spirit would be satisfied with nothing less in all of Gods people.
(4) Who is to blame for the role currently being played by the religious rockers in the Body of Christ?
That blame or responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of leadership in the church, and both pastors and youth pastors are culpable in these areas.
If individual churches and denominational groups stopped booking these musical groups, that would make a drastic difference in religious rock's impact. Interestingly, its not just a few denominations involved; the list could cover the Body of Christ: Assemblies of God, Baptist, Church of God, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Four-square, Word of Faith, and independents from one end of the spectrum to the other, as well as a host of church-related colleges.
Further, if Christian bookstores would quit stocking the individuals' records, tapes, and videos, that would be another step in the right direction.
Lastly, if gospel radio stations would establish some standards for records played, that would severely limit the airtime of religious rock since most of that music would get the axe.
What would be the result of such drastic steps? I honestly believe only the God-called groups would remain. Mylon LeFevre suprisingly has been quoted in Destiny magazine with making a similar comment:
""If money wasnt being made, there wouldnt be many people doing it. It would be wonderful if there wasnt any money being made for the next year, the only people left would be the people that love Jesus....""
Im sure there are those in religious rock, like Mylon and others, who genuinely love the Lord. Yet loving Jesus has nothing to do with being part of a musical trend - religious rock - which is adversely affecting the church of Jesus Christ. Its a case of terribly "wrong direction" on the part of the religious rockers.
None of these people would be playing religious rock if money was not being made. Money is the name of the game.
Im reminded of a phone call my office received from a beer company after I preached a hard message over television on the evils of drinking. The caller attempted to convince my secretary his company was one of the "good beer distributers."
As far as Im concerned, that company is worse than the rest in attempting to place a false facade over what the beer industry creates. Yet it shows you how reasonably intelligent people can be fooled.
The same is true in religious rock. Individuals may continue playing the music and still maintain some type of consecration in their life, but they are only fooling themselves. They are part and parcel of the whole problem.
At times, I am sure that some in church leadership, as well as bookstore owners and radio stations, might offer this religious rock out of ignorance. I find that difficult to understand, but giving everyone the benefit of a doubt, it is possible.
However, I could not understand anyone still providing a conduit of religious rock to their congregation, radio audience, or bookstore customers after reading the information contained in this book. An individual would have to override what the Holy Spirit has imparted to continue as a channel of this religious rock and roll.
Then, the bottom line becomes the grossest reason of all - covetousness. In other words, the dollar bill.