Music Brings Us Together – Christian Music and Eccumenism

 

Some have said that “music brings us together”, and this appears to be true.  Calls for unity can be heard from many sectors of culture.  Music bringing different people groups together is not only a secular idea, but it’s also becoming a reality in evangelical circles.  Due to the popularity of worship bands and music in evangelical churches, the worship music industry is being used as a driving force for the evangelical church to join hands with the Vatican.  Many Christian leaders are advocating for unity among denominations, but don’t define what they mean by unity.  We have to look to the words of Jesus in regards to coming together in unity.

Matthew 7:13-14:  “Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the road is spacious that leads to destruction, and many people are entering by it.   How narrow is the gate and how constricted is the road that leads to life, and there aren’t many people who find it!”  Jesus follows this up with a warning of false prophets in verse 15:“ Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are savage wolves.”

By its very nature, popular music brings people from all walks of life together into pubs, concert halls and even sport arena’s to sing their favorite songs with their favorite entertainers.  Singing songs of praise, hymns and spiritual songs is an important aspect of not only learning theology through song, but also expressing praise and worship to God.  The worship music “industry” has come a long way since Fanny Crosby wrote many of the beloved hymns that are sung in congregations.  Even though the modern Christian Worship industry had humble beginnings in the 70’s Jesus Movement, it’s become an industry that draws millions all denominations together.  Drawing millions together is by its very nature ecumenical.

Music Brings Unity

Music itself brings people together.  Any individual can observe this by going to a concert of a popular band.  Most large cities throughout the world host touring pop-stars in a variety of musical genres that fill 200 seat pubs to 50,000 seat sports stadiums.  Large musical festivals can host thousands of people to over a million depending on the location and lineup.  Attenders are from all walks of life with different religious beliefs and worldviews.  At a hard rock concert it’s possible to have practicing Satanists together with Christians singing the same songs.

Dr. Thomas Currie, a lecturer in cultural evolution notes:
““Our findings help explain why humans make music. The results show that the most common features seen in music around the world relate to things that allow people to coordinate their actions, and suggest that the main function of music is to bring people together and bond social groups – it can be a kind of social glue.” (Currie, web)

A study at McGill University notes that singing together activates neurochemicals in the brain bringing health and social affiliation or unity.  (Chanda, web)

Modern music is based on an appeal to popularity.  The goal of a band is to sell CD’s and concert tickets in order to be successful.  The most successful bands can create an atmosphere of excitement where the performers are the object of the worship of the fans in attendance.  The fans have a shared emotional response to the concert which is why the most dedicated fans follow their favorite entertainers throughout their tour.

To highlight the unity that music can create, one of the most successful and worshiped entertainers of all time, Michael Jackson penned the lyrics to the song “We Are The World”:

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me

Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stone to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand
(Jackson, web)

 

We Are The World unified over 40 artists in 1985 crossing many genre borders to raise money for Africa.  The song was written by Jackson and arranged by Christian producer Michael Omartian.  Noting the repeating phrase “we”, scripture incorrectly quoted by the temptation of Satan in the “stones to bread” reference and an appeal to emotion, this song set a standard for artist collaboration on social justice issues.

John Lennon wrote:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
(Lennon, web)

Imagine sets a standard for the idea of a non-religious utopia or “New World Order”.  Both the Beatles and Michael Jackson are well respected for their musical contributions by many Christian artists and even the Christian artists that are uncomfortable with the worldview of popular secular artists realize that it’s poor etiquette to criticize lyrical content of these songs not to mention this would be a career ending statement as their fans highly regard secular pop stars.

The advent of technology in the last 60 years brought the ability for thousands to millions to gather together in unity singing the same songs in an exciting and hypnotic atmosphere.  The performers themselves are well aware of their influence with U2 front man Bono, wearing a COEXIST bandana and repeating the phrase: “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true.” During the song Sunday Bloody Sunday in the Vertigo tour.  (Bono, Youtube)  This is a singer, aware of their status as an idol in a hypnotic atmosphere calling for religious unity.

CCM is Ecumenical in Nature

CCM was in its earliest stages in the 1970’s as a part of the “Jesus Movement” where teens and young adults that were involved in the 1960’s counterculture came to faith, yet retained their love of music.  As young believers, they looked for a way to use music as an evangelism tool.  Despite the pioneers of CCM being passionate for evangelism, many pastors and church leaders at that time voiced their Biblical concerns.  Some to the point of coming across as “mean spirited”.  Michael Sweet, lead singer for Stryper comments on this in his autobiography:

“He made references to our tossing Bibles into the audience saying that we were casting pearls to swine. That hurt. It didn’t weaken my relationship with God, not in the least. But it did weaken my faith in supposed Christians who were so outspoken against us, with Swaggart leading the pack.”

Sweet goes on to comment on Christians picketing concerts and vilifying them was a catalyst leading to the band members falling in their faith as there were very few coming to disciple them.  This tactic of certain Christian leaders didn’t curtail the popularity of CCM, in fact it arguably increased it as young believers saw this behavior as bullying and rallied around their favorite bands.

CCM moved beyond its origins as being an evangelism tool to reach the lost to become the norm in Christian entertainment and worship stylings.  A majority of attenders of Christian popular music events have a commonality of being “Christians”.  This has led to a more ecumenical nature of concerts and events which confirms the early concerns that Christian leaders had.

David Cloud, a missionary, pastor and researcher has had concerns of the ecumenical nature of CCM for many years.  He observes:

“Contemporary praise music is proving to be one of the most powerful glues to bring together every sort of church in this strange and wicked hour, regardless of its heresies. For reporting purposes, I have attended meetings of a wide range of denominations, Pentecostal, Charismatic, American Baptist, Southern Baptist, Willowcreek, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic, to name some, and the one thing they all have in common today is contemporary music.” (Cloud,web)

Catholic worship leader Matt Maher confirms Cloud’s concern:

“Jesus is at the center of the Church, even for Catholics with the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus, so Jesus is the center of our Catholic faith,” he said. “Being able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other Christians and just proclaim the importance and beauty of who Jesus is is a great thing. And I think this is what the Holy Father (Pope Francis) has been trying to say. ‘Look, if we can stand together and proclaim Christ on the way, we can understand our differences and talk about them and learn to have a greater respect for each other.’” (Maher, web)

Matt Maher is not only a popular musician in the worship genre, he is a “champion of unity” according to his bio. (worshipleaders, web) His influence crosses denominational boundaries as he co-writes and travels in the same circles as protestant-evangelical “worship” leaders.

CCM is not simply becoming ecumenical, as Cloud notes after years of research into CCM, it has always been ecumenical.  Individuals from many Christian denominations and traditions have always been drawn together to see their favorite band in concert.  Catholic musicians are simply becoming more acceptable in today’s Christian marketplace.

To highlight CCM’s acceptance of ecumenism with the Vatican, an event billed as “Reset 2016” was organized to bring believers from all denominations and bring unity with Catholics.  In an interview with Christian Post the organizer Nick Hall said of the Pope:

“We are humbled and honored by his involvement and are eager to share his message with the crowd that gathers at Together 2016,” (hall, web)

Asian example Reset 2016 mainstream CCM artists are on the bill including David Crowder, Hillsong, Michael W Smith and Matthew West.  In addition to these entertainers, prominent speakers such as Francis Chan and Ravi Zacharias are also involved. (reset2016, web)

To be a featured performer or speaker, logically there would have to be agreement to the goals the organizers have for the event itself.  No agreement between the performers and the events agenda would suggest performing at the event to raise your profile.  This is a lack of integrity and equally troublesome.   To state the obvious, thousands of people wouldn’t travel across time zones to see a local Baptist church organist play some hymns followed by a fiery sermon of repentance.  It’s idolatry of Christian celebrities singing and speaking on unity that is the marketing draw.

Believers are to be separate from the world

While believers, followers of Jesus are to be united in truth, we’re also to be separate from the world.  The book of Leviticus is a book of holiness as well as a book that was spoken by Adonai to Moses.   Jesus points out in Mathew 5:17 that He came to fulfill the Torah, not abolish it so believers can’t simply ignore what is written.  Leviticus 20:22-23 states:

“Be sure to keep all my statutes and observe all my ordinances so that the land where I’m about to bring you to live won’t vomit you out.   You are not to live by the customs of the nations, whom I’ve cast away right in front of you. Because they did all of these things, I detested them.”

Customs comes from the Hebrew חֻקָּה chuqqâh.  According to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, this is the practice and customs of the Canaanite’s.  Not only does this include idolatry, but also trimming of beards (Leviticus 19:27) tattoo’s (19:28) and clothing (Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 22:11).  In other words, do not behave, dress, act or worship in the ways the Canaanites do.  In Moses’s sermon in Deuteronomy, he repeats this to the generation that will go into Canaan to conquer the land as the first generation failed.  Deuteronomy 7:5-6:

“This is what you will do to them: tear down their altars, break their pillars, cut down their ritual pillars, and burn their carved idols in fire,   because you are a holy people to the LORD your God. The LORD your God chose you to be his people, his treasured possession from all the peoples on the face of the earth.”

Moses reminds this generation that they are not only set apart, but to completely destroy the altars of the Canaanites.  This is repeated again in Deuteronomy 12.  In speaking to the Corinthian church in his 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 Paul writes:

“Stop becoming unevenly yoked with unbelievers. What partnership can righteousness have with lawlessness? What fellowship can light have with darkness?   What harmony exists between the Messiah and Beliar, or what do a believer and an unbeliever have in common?   What agreement can a temple of God make with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said: “I will live and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

With Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), Christians have adopted the secular entertainment industries model for not only marketing music, but making idols of singers and bands.  Popular singer Keith Green made the following observation more than 30 years ago:

“My dearest family in Jesus…why are we so star struck? Why do we idolize Christian singers and speakers? We go from glorifying musicians in the world, to glorifying Christian musicians. It’s all idolatry! Can’t you see that? It’s true that there are many men and women of God who are greatly anointed to call down the Spirit of God on His people and the unsaved. But Satan is getting a great victory as we seem to worship these ministers on tapes and records, and clamor to get their autographs in churches and concert halls from coast to coast. “ (Green, web)

As the Body of Christ is not in a Holy War with the nations we’re dwelling in, we can’t literally destroy property that’s not ours.  In our legal system, doing an act such as this would be vandalism and terrorism.  However, we’re not to adopt pagan or secular idolatry and customs into the way a Christian is to behave and worship God in song.   The concept of the Hebrews having to be set apart from the Pagan nations is continued by followers of Jesus which is to be separate from the cultures in which we live. The Torah spoken by God, repeated by Moses, the prophets, Jesus, Paul, James and throughout the Gospels and Epistles is consistent that believers are to be separate.  Ecumenism by definition is not separation, but unity.  The caveat is that it’s a false unity as it’s not a unity based in truth.

Ecumenical Events Can Lead to Experiential Truth

Respected theologian A.W. Tozer stated:

“A church fed on excitement is no New Testament church at all. The desire for surface stimulation is a sure mark of the fallen nature, the very thing Christ died to deliver us from. A curious crowd of baptized worldlings waiting each Sunday for the quasi-religious needle to give them a lift bears no relation whatsoever to a true assembly of Christian believers.”  (Tozer, Kindle)

            Tozer makes an important observation in regards to ecumenical events and concerts that are built on an emotional response.  It’s a fleshly desire to experience the excitement that a large concert provides.  The excitement is built on the hypnotizing effect of lights, special effects, fireworks and hours of loud music.  This is the same excitement that attracts millions to secular concerts worldwide.

While Christian concert goers attend concerts in their own reasoning “to worship God”, this is flawed.  Worship is obedience to God and happens in your everyday life.  Event attenders go to experience excitement and see an authority figure.  The band leader can command thousands to stand up, sit down, clap, dance, put your hands in the air and “wave them like you just don’t care”.  Attenders go to be told what to do and have their perception and senses overloaded with sound, lights and excitement.  When a band with this power to influence backs ecumenism and “unity’, this idea doesn’t target the critical thinking, it targets an emotional response that will carry past the event itself.

Jimi Hendrix articulates this coercive power very well in an interview with Life magazine in 1969:

“You hypnotize people to where they go right back to their natural state which is pure positive – like in childhood when you got natural highs.  And when you got people at that weakest point, you can preach into the subconscious what we want to say.  That’s why the name “electric church” flashes in and out.”(Hendrix, 74)

Hendrix alone didn’t note this power of persuasion, author and Author and analyst Neil Sanders notes the emotional appeal of music and the connection to propaganda and selling of an idea or product.

“Musicians and film stars are held up as celebrities to emulate and follow. They are raised on a pedestal, their lifestyles are portrayed as desirable and are imitable so long as you purchase the correct product or have the requisite opinions and ideals. This is what is termed the ‘muse class’, the utilization of the lionized in order to depict levels of success, normalization of trends and to give the public an aspiration to try and achieve.” (Sanders, Kindle)

Experience is a very powerful motivator and concerts sell an experience.  The better the concert, the better the experience.  While the Christian will say “God really moved” in regards to the event they attended, a secular concert goer will have the exact same response but phrase it as “That was awesome!”.  This is why bands like U2, Rolling Stones and even Iron Maiden can attract crowds in excess of 50,000 people.   To say “God really moved” as an emotional response to excitement is affirming the consequent.

Biblical Truth Brings Division

The current trend in Christian culture is “unity”.  With the advent of the internet and social media, not only are denominational lines being crossed in evangelical Protestants, but for many years influential Christian leaders have been making alliances with the Vatican from Billy Graham to current Charismatic and Emergent Church leaders.  The emotional appeal would say that “God wants all His followers to be united”.  This is the message being proclaimed at events such as Reset 2016 as well as secular pop stars such as Bono of U2.  But does the Bible really want unity at all costs?

Jesus stated in Luke 12:51-53:

“Do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? Not at all, I tell you, but rather division!    From now on, five people in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Division comes from the Greek: diamerismos which means “a parting or breaking up”.  This is contrasted with “peace”from the Greek: eirene meaning “harmonious relationships between men” according to Vines dictionary.  Jesus didn’t come to bring harmonious relationships but rather a parting of relationships.  If there are two understandings of the Gospel and who Jesus is, there will be division.  Having a false unity in a concert atmosphere doesn’t change the facts.

As believers, we are to be united in truth.  The Vatican proclaims a different Gospel as well as adding many elements and practices to “Christianity”.  This is well established by many scholars and theologians.  The Gospel proclaimed by the Vatican is another Gospel and Paul states of proclaiming another Gospel to the Galatian church in 1:8:

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that person be condemned!”

Jesus warns of false prophets in Matthew 7 and follows up with the statement:

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name, drove out demons in your name, and performed many miracles in your name, didn’t we?’  (23)  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!'”

As believers, we simply can’t be united with what the scriptures teach is false.  This isn’t unity among believers, this is unity in a false Gospel.  The Vatican will not bend or change the traditions they have established for 1700 years, it’s evangelicals who compromise.

Music itself brings unity and the top touring acts in CCM are being billed at ecumenical events.  While there has always been an ecumenical nature to CCM, Catholic singers such as Matt Maher are openly accepted by the industry as a whole.  The influence of these performers have an appeal to emotion and popularity to the young concert attenders who are not rooted in the truth of the scriptures.  As its poor etiquette for musicians to speak against what other popular CCM artists are a part of, the silence is deafening in regards to ecumenical unity.

This begs the question of what can the believer who understands where the wide road is going can do.  In the ‘70’s and ‘80’s some Christians decided that the best course of action was to picket these events.  However, this tactic had no positive effect for the intended goal.  In fact it had the opposite effect and CCM grew in popularity.  What the believer can do however, is to speak the truth in love.

There is no vast conspiracy among Christian musicians to unite in a false gospel with Mystery Babylon and bring about the New World Order.  The singers and musicians in a majority of the popular Christian bands have a desire to bring people together and worship the Lord in song.  They view these events as a positive trend.  As many of these bands speak highly of secular artists such as U2 and the Beatles, “unity” is ingrained into their worldview.  Furthermore many have a strong association with the New Apostolic Reformation which promotes dominionism, a “victorious eschatology” as opposed to seeing a coming tribulation and the rise of a New World Order.  In short, they are sitting under false teaching and are deceived themselves.

While one might say that large ecumenical events such as Reset2016 are rare, many cities have city wide worship events with local church worship teams that include Catholic worship teams.

An action point is to keep Christian Musicians in your prayer as they may have to make difficult decisions that will affect their popularity which affects their income and feeding their family.  To choose to not be on a bill at an event hosted by ecumenical pastors would negatively affect them and they would face tremendous pressure by record companies, executives and band members to play popular events.  To walk away from your main source of income and what you love to do is a difficult choice, but that’s the cost of integrity and following Jesus faithfully.

Resources

Burgess, By Jenara Kocks. “Matt Maher Reflects on Being Catholic in the Largely-Protestant Contemporary Christian Music World.” Matt Maher Reflects on Being Catholic in the Largely-Protestant Contemporary Christian Music World. N.p., 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.

<http://www.northtexascatholic.org/features-article?r=Y51YV19X5C>.

Chanda, Mona Lisa, and Daniel J. Levitin. “The Neurochemistry of Music.”Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17.4 (2013): 179-93. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

Cloud, David. “Why We Are Opposed to CCM.” Why We Are Opposed to CCM. Way Of Life, 21

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Currie, Thomas, Dr. “University of Exeter.” Research News. N.p., 29 June 2015. Web. 29 Oct.<http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_458550_en.html>.

“”diamerismos” Def. 1.” Blue Letter Bible. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.            < https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1267&t=KJV >.

“”eirene” Def. 1.” Blue Letter Bible. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.<https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1515&t=KJV>

Green, Keith. “So You Wanna Be A Rock Star.” Last Days Ministries : Keith Green. Last Days Ministries, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2016. <http://www.lastdaysministries.org/Groups/1000008644/Last_Days_Ministries/Keith_Green/Keith_Green.aspx>.

Hendrix, Jimi. “An Infinity Of Jimis.” Life 3 Oct. 1969: 74. Web.
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@JesusIsTheReset. “Confirmed – Together 2016.” Together 2016. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.            <https://reset2016.com/confirmed/>.

Jackson, Michael. “We Are The World.” N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.            <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaeljackson/weretheworldusaforafrica.html>.

Kai007U2. “U2 Sunday Bloody Sunday Live Chicago Vertigo Tour.” YouTube. YouTube, 23 Mar. Web. 29 Oct. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnVpPq1kyGY>.

Lennon, John. “Imagine.” N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.            <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html>.

“Matt Maher.” Songs, Videos and Lyrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.            <http://www.worshiptogether.com/worship-leaders/matt-maher/>.

Sanders, Neil. Your Thoughts Are Not Your Own Mind Control, Mass Manipulation and Perception Management Volume Two: Marketing, Movies and Music  Sanders Nottingham: NumberSixDance UK, 2012. Kindle

Showalter, Brandon, and Nick Hall. “Together 2016: Pope Francis Urges Millennials to ‘Find the One Who Can Give You an Answer to Your Restlessness'” Christian Post. N.p., 16 July 2016. Web. 29 Oct. 2016. <http://www.christianpost.com/news/together-2016-pope-francis-urges-millennials-to-find-the-one-who-can-give-you-an-answer-to-your-restlessness-166598/>.

Sweet, Michael. My Life and Stryper Revealed. N.p.: Big 3 Records, 2014. Kindle.

Tozer, A. W. Tozer on Worship and Entertainment. Camp Hill: Wing Spread, 1997. Print.

 

 

 

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