Mark Driscoll passionately believes the church must impact culture, and rightly so. “To be in reformission, we must embed ourselves in a culture and develop friendships with lost people so that we can be informed and avoid making erroneous judgments…. As a missionary, you will need to watch television shows and movies, listen to music, read books, peruse magazines, attend events, join organizations, surf websites, and befriend people that you might not like to better understand people that Jesus loves” (Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004, pages 97, 103).
The issue is how deeply do we embed in culture to get educated to reach the lost. This philosophy will affect our styles of music. There are basically three styles of music according to Driscoll: high culture music, folk culture music, and pop culture music.
Driscoll describes high culture music as a gourmet meal that is prepared by professionals. Its equivalent in music is opera, classical music, and ballet. The church which prefers high culture music will sing old hymns accompanied by an organ and robed choir.
Folk culture is like mom’s home cooked meal made from scratch. Folk music reflects the personal touch of local communities like black spiritual songs. This church has sold the old hymnals on Amazon.com and writes its own songs and music.
Pop music is like a fast-food meal served without the sophistication of high culture or the personal touch of folk culture. Pop music is fleeting and changing and is represented by Michael Jackson who “continually reinvented his image so thoroughly that he has transformed from a black man to a white woman” (Mark Driscoll, p. 99). Instead of a “minister of music” there is a worship team casually dressed with a keyboard, acoustic guitar, and bongos.
My question for you is, “Which meal do you prefer?” Or do you like eating at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Hillbilly Hide-Away and McDonalds? Is it possible for churches in our circles to have High, Folk, and Pop music if they are done in good taste? I believe it is possible.
Mark Dever offers this advice: “Healthy churches avoid worship wars. They even avoid worship skirmishes. Wise church leaders know that using a wide variety of songs and styles over time broadens a congregation’s tastes, exposing them to different kinds of music from different time periods and cultivating in them at least a modest level of appreciation for the best selection from each. Conversely, variety in worship songs and styles helps prevent people from becoming militantly entrenched in a certain style or period of music” (The Deliberate Church, page 123).
Another question of great importance for me is, “How deeply do we embed in our culture to get educated?” Driscoll discusses three responses to this issue.
The Fundamentalist is not embedded enough and is too restrictive. The Fundamentalist forbids Christians listening to certain musical styles, getting tattoos, watching movies, smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol, and body piercing (Driscoll, 103).
The Liberal is too embedded and too permissive condoning drug use, fornication, homosexuality, and cohabitation before marriage.
The Reformissionist is not too hot or too cold but is just right (Driscoll, 103). I personally think Driscoll is embedded too deeply when he condones drinking and any musical style no matter how radically performed. Driscoll once advised, “If you’re going to be a fundamentalist or moralist… Don’t pick something stupid like, ‘Don’t listen to rock music.’ I don’t know who’s choosing all the legalisms, but they picked the worst ones” (Christianity Today magazine, April 21, 2009). At least, Rick Warren warned against the lyrics of rock music.
Here are some broad principles to help guide us in our music style choices. These principles will be interpreted differently by each of us and therefore we should allow latitude in their application in different churches in different cultures.
1. Does this music offend a weaker brother (Romans 14:13)? This is a tough one for me. If you have a blended service and use traditional hymns, Southern Gospel, and contemporary, one third of your congregation is offended all the time. Probably, “upset” is a better word than “offended.” The youth like the contemporary but not the Southern Gospel. The older generation like the traditional but not the contemporary. The group who likes Southern Gospel accuse the youth of liking rock and roll, worldly music. But Southern Gospel originated from White Jazz. So which is worldly?
Romans 14:23 says, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” If a brother has not been taught liberty to listen to other styles, for him it may be sin (because of the wrong teaching). That weaker brother needs to be taught and hopefully he will become a strong brother who is generous in allowing others to worship to their preferences without judging them. Until a church reaches that kind of maturity we should not needlessly offend by forcing a new style on that church.
Mark Dever gives some helpful counsel: “Don’t try to change all the music all at once. Youth is the mother of impatience, and a young, highly motivated, strongly convicted pastor might tempted to drive 85 miles per hour in a church with a speed limit of 30″ (The Deliberate Church, page 124)
2. Does this music teach God’s Word (Colossians 3:16)? What about hymns that teach unbiblical concepts such as crossing Jordan River as entrance into Heaven?
3. Does this music edify other believers (1 Corinthians 10:23)? Do the lyrics build up believers.
4. Does this music appeal to my emotions more than my intellect or spirit (1 Corinthians 6:12)? The key words are “more than.” Do I want my preaching to appeal to the emotions of my listeners with tear jerking stories “more than” the intellect of my listeners with sound Bible teaching? It not either or but which has the priority in my preaching and singing. The message should trump the music.
Mark Dever says, “Simple is best. There’s certainly nothing wrong with electric guitars or a driving backbeat, and there are plenty of contemporary examples of churches and worship bands that are faithfully wedding popular music with theologically accurate lyrics. We are persuaded, though, that sparse, lightly amplified instrumentation and unobtrusive leaders are best for the weekly corporate worship gathering. The main reason is that quieter instrumentation allows the congregation to hear themselves singing, giving the lyrics center stage” (The Deliberate Church, page 122).
5. Does this music help me worship the Lord (Ephesians 5:19) or the performer? Some, not all, concerts are so entertaining that the unbiblical lyrics in the songs are overlooked because we are caught up in the performance. I recently experienced this at a church concert. The singers were so entertaining that the message at times was lost.
Mark Dever gives this advice: “Many of us have been in churches where the music leaders uses flamboyant hand motions, body language, or even facial expression. Vocalists who are intentionally self-effacing serve the congregation well by taking themselves out of the spotlight so that our attention is not directed toward them” (The Deliberate Church, page 122).
All styles of music can violate these principles if performed in the energy of the flesh and not the power of the Spirit. While some styles more easily disobey these Biblical principles more than other styles, no style is exempt. Someone well said, “The singer and the music should draw attention to the words of the song, and the words should draw attention to Christ.”