MUSIC FOR EVANGELISM
I am a Christian, so nothing I ever do is secular.
Even when I sing a pop song that doesn't mention
Jesus, it's still a Christian song because I'm
representing it. If it's played on a secular radio
station, then they are playing a Christian song if
they know it or not. My art form to communicate to
people is rock and roll.
-British singer Cliff Richard
The heart of the matter as it relates to religious
rock is that people have brought a musical form,
birthed in the seething cauldron of rebellion, into
the church and attempted to identify it as a tool of
Music is not for evangelism.
There is no biblical case for music to be used for
evangelism as some proponents of religious rock would
suggest. In fact, there is not one scriptural
reference in the Bible tying music and evangelism
Music in the Bible in every instance is either used in
praise and worship to God or to Satan. There appears
to be no biblical ground for the use of music as a
viable soul-winning technique.
Gospel music has always been meant to prepare people's
hearts for the preaching of God's word. Throughout
history, individuals with gospel music ministries have
always been connected to preaching ministries.
The Bible states clearly in I Corinthians 1:21:
"...it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to
save them that believe."
Evangelism, or soul winning, is always tied into the
preaching of the word. Although mentioned over 800
times in Scripture, music is never used as
entertainment or an end within itself. The music
medium can speak to us, soothe and challenge us, but
it takes the preaching of the gospel to transform a
Yet the religious rockers are steadfastly maintaining
that the reason for their approach - manner of dress,
sound systems, strobe lights - is solely for the
purpose of soul-winning.
Mylon LeFevre is quoted as saying:
A light show, flashy dress, and large sound systems
are not used to urge Christians to come to the
concerts. Those things are used to attract the unsaved
to come so we can give them Jesus, the Word of God.
Before you can teach people the gospel, you have to
get them to come to the auditorium where you are
holding a concert.
For that reason, the sound of the band members and the
looks are very important. That's the only reason
Broken Heart looks and sound the way it does. If I
could be a regular preacher and still reach kids, I
Ironically, most of these singers and musicians now
playing religious rock were not won to Jesus Christ by
the same tactics they now claim must be employed to
reach young people. They weren't saved on a rock and
Yet vitually all these artists - some of which sport
mohawk haircuts and wear chains and leather - insist
that young people can be reached only through the
medium of their culture, rock music.
The basic truth is that these individuals like the
trendy clothing of the youth culture and they enjoy
rock music. That's why they've adopted such tactics.
It has very little to do with soul-winning since most
of their efforts are directed at church kids who are
already born again.
Thousands for Christ
Mylon LeFevre indicated in a published interview that
some 30,000 young people had signed a card during a
year's time indicating they had given their lives to
Christ following a religious rock concert by his
group, Broken Heart.
My question is this: Where are these young people
today? What has happened since they supposedly signed
a card? Have they been discipled? Did someone help
them find a Bible-believing local church? Did anybody
do any follow-up on all these so-called conversions?
Any valid evangelism program to reach people for the
Lord Jesus will have a sensible follow-up program to
enable the new converts to grow and mature in the
faith. Without it, an indiviual has been done great
disservice. He has not been blessed.
A Baton Rouge Experience
I would ask these religious rockers who feel their
music is enabling them to win the lost - how do you
reach the unsaved when a Christian promoter books the
groups, Christian radio stations advertise the
concerts , and Christian bookstores sell the tickets
to other Christians?
In essence, religious rock artists are banking on
young people, some of whom have never shared their
faith with anybody, to give them a perfect musical
setting to bring their unsaved freinds. It just
Glen Berteau, youth pastor at Family Worship Center in
Baton Rouge, took a poll this past summer of the young
people attending the weekly Crossfire meeting. He
asked how many had been saved through a church service
or attendance at a Christian camp?
About 70 percent raised their hands.
He then asked how many had been saved through
one-on-one witnessing from another Christian. Almost
all of the remaining young people in the auditorium
raised their hands.
He asked finally how many had been saved at a
religious rock concert. Only one person out of
approximately 800 young people (in attendance that
night) raised his hand.
After the service, the young man told Glen he had
given his life to Christ five years earlier at a
concert. The teenager's cousin had witnessed to him
prior to the concert; thus his heart had already been
Yet the trend persists. Religious rockers claim the
only reason for their approach - the loud music, the
rock outfits styled after the world, the theatrics on
stage - is to win converts to Jesus.
From all information I've received, the religious
rockers aren't reaching new converts for Christ.
They're making disciples to their rock music style out
of church kids because that's 95 percent of their
It is obvious that if the religious rockers are
presenting the gospel of the Lord Jesus, then there
must be an opportunity for the hearers to respond.
That's the basic with any evangelistic service.
Yet Amy Grant, who has sold more than four million
records and been arguably called "the most popular
Christian singer on the face of the earth," does not
give alter calls in her concerts.
In discussing her album, Unguarded, she gives a hint
at her emphasis:
I wanted to make a record that would basically fit
between Madonna and Huey Lewis.
Perhaps this emphasis is why the Chicago Sun Times, in
its March 23, 1986, edition, dubbed her "the Madonna
of Christian rock." one publication noted:
The lyrics on much of this new album deliver their
message in a much subtle way. The words "Jesus,"
"Lord," and "God" come up less often, and Grant has
even included a straightfoward love song.
She is quoted in another article from U.S. News &
World Report as saying:
If you are really searching for something, my music
will speak to you.
How does she think her music will speak to you? She's
using the tactics and the music of the world. If a
person is really searching for Jesus Christ, there's
virtually no way he could find him in anything this
young lady does.
Jesus declared the following about his presentation of
"...I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the
synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always
resort; and in secret have I said nothing" (John
Why wouldn't a Christian want to proclaim Jesus
openly? I cant understand the reason for not telling
the world about him. That's the approach He took in
preaching His message.
Of course, I know some people will say Jimmy Swaggart
isn't in the modern era. He's somewhere back in the
1950s. If that's your thinking, then read the
following letter written to Contemporary Christian
Magazine from a 17-year-old girl in Charleston S.C.
I'm writing regarding Bob Darden's review of Amy
Grant's latest album, unguarded (June). As a
17-year-old Christian surrounded by "the world," I
feel what I have to say is relevant.
What message is Amy taking to this "dying world"? I've
heard her album and have also heard "Love Will Find a
Way" on both Christian and secular radio stations. I
don't see any message except, as your review put it,
"a positive ethical life-style...without preaching." A
positive ethical life-style is nothing more than
humanism. Yes, her message has gotten through to this
lost and dying world. Perhaops that is the problem -
it's Amy's message and not God's.
Amen, young lady, you've put your finger exactly on
the root of the problem.
"BETWEEN HEAVEN N HELL"
Rez Band, a Chicago-based religious rock band, affiliated with a Christian community in the inner city, is a case in point of a musical group who shapes its appearance and sound based on punk or new wave rock.
A recent profile in the book, THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL, noted the following about the group:
"Guitarist Glenn Kaiser and drummer John Herrin, both pastors in a local Christian community, are leading a rhythmic assault on the ears and bodies of the people in the audience. Glenn slashes at his guitar like he's fighting off a six stringed attacker, while John throws his sticks at his drums. Stu Heill on guitar and John Denotn on bass add their instruments to the musical mix. Then Wendi Kaiser belts out her harsh vocals to the first verse of a song that painst a bleak picture of emptiness of modern life -'Hiding out in my bedroom -I wish that I coud die: - No one seems to love me - But Im not going to cry"
In describing the group, Glen Kaiser is quoted as saying:
"We look at ourselves as a band that just happens to be Christian. We are Christians first, and we make no bones about the fact that we follow Jesus and that we are speaking from a Biblical perspective. But at the same time we are no longer afraid to be known as rock and roll musicians."
For this group to talk about following Jesus in the same breath with boasting about being a rock and roll musician is an oxymoron. Its like trying to combine oil and water, light and darkness, sin and salvation. It CANNOT be done.
What they are advocating is something in biblical terminology that does not exist.
The Word of God looks at these issues with the following instructions:
"Wherefore come out from among them, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (2 Cor. 6:17)
"...choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15)
A sympathetic article (April 1986) in Contemporary Christian Magazine about this religious rock group states"
"While undeniably popular among Christian rock fans, Rez has, since its inception in 1972, been periodically targeted by the church's right-wing factions as immoral, as evil influences, as messengers of Satan, and other such tripe. With their latest career move, the band now runs the risk of alienating even their staunchest allies in the world of Christian rock - but its a risk worth taking."
Just what kind of question would the average Christian raise about a religious rock band interested in a good "career move"? It simply sounds like somebody attempting to carve a bigger piece of the pie for themselves.
The article explains just what kind of "career move" this religious rock band is taking:
"A new album, BETWEEN HEAVEN N HELL [their eighth], recently hit the streets, and with it, Rez begins its campaign aimed at winning over the secular mainstream rock audience. Last fall, their label, Sparrow Records, signed a distribution agreement with Capitol Records - a much-vaunted improvement over Sparrow's previous alliance with MCA. Capitol will not only manufacture Sparrow discs, but it will lend its radio promotion staff to help get them played on secular radio stations. So far, BETWEEN HEAVEN N HELL has seen airplay on a number of AOR (album-oriented rock) stations in Texas, including Dallas' formidible KZEW-FM.
Rez has made a number of moves designed to facilitate their transition to the secular market. They've pacted with a New York based management/marketing firm on a four-month trial basis. They have signed with the venerable Divisified Management Agency (DMA) out of Detroit who wil be handling concert bookings. (Other heavy DMA clients include the Scorpions, Quiet Riot, and Autograph) And they've been concentrating more on videos, resulting in MTV's picking up LOVE COMES DOWN, the bands latest video effort as well as their latest single release""
No doubt this religious rock group will have to adopt some changes in this big switch. I wonder if any of the changes will be significant? The article continues:
""The members of Rez band realize their secular move is double jeopardy: they might be rejected by the non-Christian rock establishment for their religious roots and their old fans might take exception to their taking on the world....In order to do that, Rez is all too aware, they're going to "play by certain rules," as Herrin puts it. They've already stopped the practice of altar calls in the concert, and their toning down overt references to the Lord. In general, they want to present themselves, first and foremost, as a rock band""
Do you recognize a trend developing with the religious rockers? Some are quitting the practice of altar calls. Most are dropping clear-cut references to the Lord. The emphasis is on raw rock and roll.
Jesus declared about Himself:
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32).
The WOrd of God does not say adopt the tactics, methods, and styles of a rock band.
Can Jesus be really lifted up at a rock concert? Can anyone be genuinely converted while these rock musicians scream their message and play their blaring instruments? The audience wont even know the purpose for any of this so-called "sanctified entertainment."
Contemporary Christian Magazine's article noted that: "...Rez had gotten the distince impression that they were preaching primarily to the converted."
If thats the case, why has this group been attempting to convince Christians for the last twelve years they were playing their brand of music and dressing as the did to reach lost souls? Did it honestly take them that long to reach such a conclusion?
In truth, an altar call does not fit the setting for what most of these groups create. It would be like casting pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). An altar call should be given when the Spirit of God is present, moving with conviction to touch the hearts and lives of people.
The Spirit of God is not in such concerts, so why give an altar call?
"...THATS NOT MY CALLING"
Michael W. Smith, a talented keyboard musician who has played on a number of Amy Grants records and also written several popular praise songs, was aided on his new album by producer John Potoker, who produced records for Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, The Thompson Twins, and Mick Jagger.
On Smiths newest album, THE BIG PICTURE, he has sprinkled fewer overt religious references and has omitted from the LP any praise songs. He figures the best way to take the message to young people is "wrap it up in a package they would want to open"
Regarding his concerts, (Contemporary Christian Magazine/ June 1986) Smith is quoted as saying:
The people coming to the concerts are ready to rock. They come out and want to have a good time. Some people need to get out there and preach to them. Ask them for a decision at the end, but thats not my calling. The kids I see are just ready to kick it out and have fun."
Im frankly amazed that anyone feels his calling in life is "to rock". If the music is supposed to be about Christ, why wouldnt there be an opportunity to receive Him? Would somebody's conversion mess up the program?
Somehow the music has become more important than either the Messiah or the message. To be frank with you, Jesus Christ was never the purpose. He was only the pawn in this money game.
REACHING THE KIDS
All of these religious rockers will tell you their number one goal is to reach the kids with their music and/or their message. Perhaps we need to re-define the word "reach."
My concept of "reach" is to extend an opportunity for non-believers to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Webster's Dictionary says reach means "to stretch out" or "to extend"
I am totally mystified how anyone can be reached with the Gospel when the music dominates the message...when the name of Jesus is no longer mentioned...when no altar call is given...and when the style of the musicians and singers becomes the focal point of the entire concert.
Such presentations, programs, and albums have nothing to do with the Gospel. No tangible, worthwile result can be achieved because the Lord Jesus Christ has not been lifted up. That scriptural method - by lifting up the Son of God - is the only proven way to ever get any results.
Religious rocker Steve Taylor went so far as to criticize another contemporary singer, Carman, for establishing some criteria for a concert. Taylor is quoted in the February 1986 issue of Contemporary Christian Magazine as saying:
"...I heard the other day that Carman had come up with four criteria for Christian concerts that he shares. One was that you had to talk about a literal devil, one was that you had to give an altar call, and I cant remember the other two. Now Carmans and intelligent guy. Where does he get off laying down these rules?"
Id suggest a good place - the Bible. Its a place many of the religious rockers have drifted far from.