Yep…it’s all about God, right? Uh…sure.
Yep…it’s all about God, right? Uh…sure.
I started playing drums in the 5th grade, while I was also playing the cornet, the piano, and singing in school and church choruses. I’ve always enjoyed music and during my growing up years, we enjoyed Bubble Gum favorites like “Sugar, Sugar” (The Archies), “Cherry Hill Park” (Billy Joe Royal), “Dizzy” (Tommy Roe), and a host of other tunes that were upbeat (and you could dance to them).
It was during those same days in church that the music there was completely separate. People sang hymns which were filled with theological truth with a musical accompaniment that matched the majesty of the lyrics. The world’s music remained securely in the world and the hymns remained a staple of worship.
But then the 1960s hit with a fervor and secular music changed big time. Gone was the Bubble Gum, in exchange for the harder edges of the Beatles’ music, which had once sounded so innocuous (“I wanna hold your hand!”). In fact, with the British Invasion, secular music took on a more hardcore flavor and pursuit. It became more provocative and even sensual to a degree, with songs like “Sympathy for the Devil” (Rolling Stones) and many others.
The proliferation of drugs into the mainstream culture of the world’s (especially America’s) youth seemed to open the door even further with songs that tried to express or explain what a drug-induced high was like. Songs like “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. Supposedly, this particular song was designed by Grace Slick to be a smack against parents who would encourage their children to read “Alice in Wonderland” but then wonder why they got involved in drugs.
Music at this point took a decidedly psychedelic turn and that pretty much invaded the musical culture. From that point onward, music got very hardcore and seemed to go off in numerous directions, with the onslaught of “metal,” “power rock,” and other genres. Religious music also seemed to change at this time with groups like the Resurrection Band producing what they called Christian music that could have easily been mistaken for something the most popular secular bands produced at the time. These Christian bands were allegedly trying to reach the unchurched young people within the psychedelic movement. There is no way to know how successful they were, but they may have had at least some impact.
This was all happening outside the church, but eventually, the music inside the church also began to change, somewhat mirroring the milder forms of secular music. Goodness, even the music that we all used to hear in stores and on elevators (called “Muzak”) was being replaced with music that had lyrics. It was still called “easy listening” at the time, but eventually also became more hardcore. Go into just about any store today and you’ll likely hear hip-hop style music coming from the loudspeakers. What makes things worse is the fact that it is usually loud enough to make holding a conversation with someone right next to you difficult.
Eventually though, the music inside churches really began to change until we have what we have today. In many ways, the so-called worship songs sung in today’s churches are very upbeat, with lots of instrumentation, vocals, and volume. These songs are designed to prompt a “worshipful” response to God. Of course, it goes without saying that the worship leaders who use this style of music probably wouldn’t mind if people started dancing in the aisles…as long as the dancing is directed to God at least.
But there is a huge problem with most of today’s so-called Christian music. It is simply a few years behind secular music and in many cases, it may not even be a few years behind it. If you take away the lyrics from many of the songs, there is really no difference between the styles of music heard on secular radio today and what is often played in churches as worship.
In fact, I believe the overt sensuality that has become part and parcel in secular music has also made its way into the church service under the guise of “worship” because the two styles – secular and worship – are no longer that far apart, if at all. They both have beats that you can dance to and it is normal to find women swaying to the worship music in so-called worship services.
That, in a nutshell, is the problem (aside from the terribly uninspired lyrics for the most part). Much of the music that passes off as “worship” is anything but, unless a person is simply worshiping the music itself. I’ve been to too many services where the music is so upbeat it promotes swaying, clapping, and moving to the “groove.” As a drummer and musician, I certainly understand how music can move people. Watch any video of a live concert by any music group. They’ll play a song that was a hit and the crowd goes wild with clapping, gyrating (yep, a term from the 60s) and even dancing.
In my opinion, this is what our church services are becoming and people see nothing wrong with that because of the fact that their emotions are involved in the worship experience and they fully believe that they feel the way they do as a response to the truth of God’s Word or His Presence in that service. In reality, it is the music itself (not necessarily even the lyrics) that promotes the type of swaying and/or dancing that so many churches excel at these days. Unfortunately, when people start swaying to the music, it promotes a sensuality that should not be part of the worship experience.
Let me give you an example. There is one Christian musician that I really enjoy. You’d know his name as soon as you read it, but I don’t want to sound like I’m attacking him, so I won’t print it. He used to work in the secular world of entertainment and segued over to the Christian side of things. He’s a very talented musician and has produced quite a few secular CDs with some very uplifting music. Some of his releases have included Christian style music.
He has of course given numerous live performances and they are all very well done. One of them was designed as an outdoor worship festival. Some of the musicians he used for the event were not Christians (he stated he did not necessarily just seek out Christians who were also musicians to work with). Aside from the orchestra he had and individual musicians (drummer, keys, guitarist, bass, etc.), there was also a small group of vocalists and two women who backed him up and also had solos at various times throughout the event.
As would be natural, during the music, these women (as well as those in the small group of vocalists, would sway to the music to keep the beat. Without meaning to be, it became sensual, especially during the slower tunes. In my opinion, rather than sway to the music, these two women should have simply tapped their toes to keep time. Instead, their bodies kept time and it could easily have been very distracting for any of the men in the audience.
Oh, by the way, I still play drums, but not in church. I don’t put my feet up on the furniture in church either like I do at home. When I go to church, I am there to worship God and learn more about Him from His Word by a pastor who knows how to rightly divide it. I’m not there for a concert or to get my emotions all worked up so that I can convince myself I am truly worshiping God.
Churches need to kick the world out. If the music of any song is causing a distraction and prompting dancing, swaying, or what have you, then it needs to go.Give me the old-time hymns any day for worship. They speak volumes. They are majestic. They are based solidly on Scripture, not some ethereal experience. They point to God, not people and certainly not women swaying in the pews.
By Fred DeRuvo
Visit Fred’s website at – https://studygrowknowblog.com