CCM as entertainment

from “Beyond the Worship Wars: Music and Worship in the 21st Century Evangelical Church”   by Adam Sparks

 

5) When worship is good entertainment.

Worship is big business. A growing proportion of the music that many churches use is “owned” by large secular corporations such as EMI. “Worship” music is the fastest growing sector of the American music market, with an annual turnover of $800M outstripping the classical and jazz sectors combined. Delirious have sold more albums in the US than Robbie Williams Worship bands conduct sell-out tours and are often treated with almost idolatrous affection by their fans. Their websites are dominated by pictures of themselves, news of their latest release, and its position in the Worship Charts “Top 10.” I suggest that the comments above regarding our tendency to fall into idolatry are appropriate reflection here.

On the one hand this may appear to be a great victory for the gospel. Getting the gospel out into the real world, reaching our un-churched youth etc. There is undoubtedly some truth in this. However, the undisputed reality is that most of the music is purchased and played by Christians. I am concerned that we do not just adopt the music, songs and practices from the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) movement wholesale and incorporate them into our churches without proper reflection. Some of the dangers in doing so are outlined below, but these can are summarised well for us in the subheading of the CCM magazine. The subheading is “Good Entertainment

When worship becomes entertainment, and those that lead us in worship become performers and icons, then the gospel has been done a great disservice. Steve Camp, a recording artist and member of the CCM movement has become increasingly concerned about the commercialism of worship, writing:

Those of us who are privileged to represent our Lord Jesus Christ in the arts should be galvanized by mission, not by ambition; by mandate, not by accolades; by love for the Master, not by the allurements of this world. ….Music is a powerful tool from the Lord Jesus to his church intended for worship, praise, encouragement, edification, evangelism, teaching and admonishing. And exhorting God’s people to holiness – with always our chief aim ‘to glorify God and worship Him forever’. But beloved, the serpentine foe of compromise has invaded the camp through years of specious living, skewed doctrine and most recently secular ownership of Christian music ministries

If our worship music is owned and distributed by secular companies it is difficult to believe that good doctrine will feature very highly in the list of criteria used to determine what songs should be promoted. Good sales will. Dave Withers, Commercial Director of EMI-owned, Alliance Music admits that they are not free to choose which songs and artists they promote. “We oversee content as far as we can, but our hands are tied a bit.

“This points out a very worrying aspect of the Christian music business”, says Chris Cole of Cross Rhythms.

They have all (Christian recording companies) been bought out by secular companies because they see a growing, lucrative market. So a heavy price is paid – not by the record executives or artists – but by young people buying and absorbing the music. Money is winning over spiritual content, which is being diluted. Where is the accountability in the music industry? For God’s sake, let’s not consign our kids to the fire of nothingness because of the bottom line of dollars

Rob Warner author of I believe in Discipleship highlights another danger:

Just as pop songs give young people a vocabulary of love to express their feelings, so they need Christian songs to express their faith and related experiences. But I have to say that many worship songs do not have a particularly clear and thorough grasp of Bible teaching. Often they are no more profound than secular pop music, and the composer’s grasp of Bible teaching and life is very thin.

Andrew Wilson-Dickson highlights the danger of allowing worship to become entertainment. “To move gospel music out of the church and into the world of entertainment changes it subtly, for the musical and emotional has been exploited while the spiritual has been denied or perverted To this I would add that moving Christian performance music from the stadium to the “sanctuary” is equally dangerous. Montgomery warns “the commercialisation of Christian worship music is sailing perilously close to the winds of materialistic idolatry.

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