Tuesday, February 5, 2008

CCM: Art Imitating Life

Contemporary Christian Music is a valuable resource for the LCMS in the days of the post-modern world.

How is that?

Contemporary Christian Music is valuable to us because it serves as an indicator of the health of the laity in the church. Unlike hymns, the vast majority of Contemporary Christian songs are not written by theologeans, pastors, and doctors of theology. For the most part, they are written by ordinary people. A songwriter will typically put at least three things into his music: (1) what he knows, (2) what he feels, (3) what he believes.

You can learn alot about people by listening to the music that they create and listen to. It is a valuable daignostic and psychological tool. Contemporary Christian Music is the voice of modern American Christianity. If you do not like what you are hearing, your problem is not with the composition, but the composers. The composers are your neighbors. They are your peers. What are you doing to improve their doctrinal understanding?

Many will say that CCM is devoid of doctrinal content. They will be the first to discourage its use on these grounds. Not so fast. The question is: Why is it devoid of doctrinal content?

Many will say that CCM is anthropocentric. They complain that it does not talk about Christ enough. It is all about the singer and how he feels. Not so fast. The question is: Why is it so self-centered and selfish?

Many will say that CCM contains heresy and doctrinal error. They complain that the music is full of unbiblical themes and questionable analogies. Not so fast. The question is: Why is it filled with error?

Contemporary Chrsitian Music is the canary in the mineshaft of the modern church. It is an indicator of the maturity and doctrinal understanding of the modern Christian layman. CCM is not sweeping away Christians into error and mediocrity. It is the other way around. In those places where you find strong Christians with a firm grasp of doctrine, you find quality contemporary music. The scarcity of this quality contemporary music should alarm the church.

If there is a deficiency in the musical style, I say that the problem does not lie in the medium that communicates it, but in the artists that conceive it and the audiences that support it. Strong Christians do not compose weak music. What does a significant sample of modern Christian music say about modern Christians? What do we do about the problems that we see?

Do we throw out this art form that we judge to be deficient? Or do we help those who have an imperfect understanding of what the faith is about? The music is just a symptom. The people are the issue. Instead of degrading their admirable efforts, we should be helping them to hone their craft and improve the value of their art. The solution is not a worship war about musical taste. The answer is not closing ourselves off from these people and allowing them to wallow in their ignorance and shallow doctrine. It is a teaching opportunity that we have been largely overlooking for nearly four decades.

The effective solution is found in a constant stream of loving support to our weaker brothers and sisters. It does not take the form of a harsh debate, but a long process of exposure, mentoring, and catechesis. Doctrinal truth is not won by logical arguement. It is received by revelation through the preaching and teaching of God's Holy Word.

When one matures theologically and spiritually, the music improves automatically. When one comes to enjoy the solid food of deep theology, the Holy Spirit takes away the desire for anything less. We must address this problem at its source. That is the only approach that consistantly works. The Body of Christ is enclusive and supportive.

The deficiencies in Contemporary Christian Music say alot about where the church is at and what she has become. It says a great deal about those of us who have let the problem of doctrinal ignorance become as big as it is. These specks of ignorance that exist in the eyes of our neighbors expose the planks of neglect in our own eyes.


Cindy R. said...

This is an excellent appraisal of CCM and the issues surrounding it. What you say makes perfect sense, but sadly, the way the topic is normally approached is much different. The typical worship wars are not very fun or edifying for either side. You make many good points: focusing on the people instead of the problem; showing an attitude of understanding, kindness, and love; teaching, not arguing; and most of all, letting the Word do its work instead of relying on the power of our own logic.

Wow! I hope a lot of people read this post. I don’t think I’m the only one who needs to be straightened out.

Mike Baker said...

Thank you for your post, Cindy. I am glad that you and I see the issue the same way.

I assure you that we are not alone. This is how many churches work through these issues. Because conflict resolution in our churches is so often done according to the instructions of Holy Scripture, issues are often diffused before they spread beyond the walls of the congregation.

You never hear about the victories, but they do happen. The real work of the Christian is not glamorous. It is daily service. It is grunt work in the trenches.

We need to serve each other as we serve Christ. We need to be more concerned about our neighbor's needs than our own. We should gladly suffer for our brothers and sisters in Christ without complaint. This is the heroic work of the saints of God. So often, it goes unnoticed.

"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:1-10