July 2014 – The Changing Face of Christian Music.

July 31st, 2014

I suppose I was first exposed to the positive power of music, when many years ago my father took me back to his homeland of Wales.

It was there in a little Pentecostal Chapel in Aberaman South Wales, I heard for the first time a Welsh congregation sing in four part harmony. 

Even though I was only a boy, the power of congregational Welsh singing and worship left an indelible impression upon me.

It wasn’t long before I too as an eight year old, learned to sing in harmony.

The Welsh of course are known for their inspirational singing. Before the kick-off of every International Rugby match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff Wales, the massive crowds would sing “Abide with Me”. It gave one the proverbial “goose bumps” just listening to them on radio or TV.

Here is a sample of Welsh singing as the Treorchy Male Voice Choir sing in Welsh that majestic hymn “Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah”. Turn up the volume and you’ll get the “feeling”!

We live in an age where music is everywhere.

It’s in the supermarkets, the banks, the lifts, the aircraft, the factories, the worlds finest hotels, the telephone systems and even the toilets.

Psychological studies have shown that music improves productivity in boring and repetitive jobs. It can change peoples moods and help people to relax and sit for hours in restaurants spending more and more money on drinks and food.

During my life time our society has passed through a musical revolution that has influenced the lives of billions of people, particularly in the western world.

I remember the shock waves that passed through Australia back in the 1950s when three decades of the soothing sounds of Bing Crosby and Perry Como were suddenly taken over by the pounding new beat of Bill Haley & the Comets with Rock Around The Clock.

Jerry Lee Lewis was another rocker of that era that captivated the primitive sounds of the rock & roll genre and shook up the world of music. He was expelled from Southwest Bible Institute (AOG) in Texas, for playing a boogie woogie rendition of “My God Is Real” at a church assembly that sent him packing the same night. 

As the Bodgies & the Widgies were doing their best to destabilise our Australian way of life along came Elvis Presley (who incidentally was also brought up in an Assembly of God home) who began a musical revolution that has lasted to this day.

The 1960s saw the introduction of “protest music” as Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan & others lamented the condition of society.

The Dylan music protesting against the war in Vietnam. “How many deaths are too many” he sang.

Simon & Garfunkel were offering a “Bridge over troubled waters”.

Troubled waters indeed, troubled times and a troubled generation.

The hippie movement of the 1960s was so absorbed in protest and rebellion, I wondered who had failed them?

Was it the government, their parents, the education system, the Church; who?

At that time a counter revolution called the “Jesus Revolution” started in the United States. Tens of thousands of Christian young people marched in the streets of the capital cities, bringing a new music of hope and care.

The songs were simple but had a clear message. In the churches of that era likewise, the music was also simple with a heart warming message that directed people to Christ.

Below is a video recording typical of the solos sung in church services of that time. Des Evans plays the piano accordion and sings about Jesus. 

Dr Desmond T Evans (Emeritus) my first cousin, was the Senior Pastor in Fort Worth USA for 35 years at Bethesda, a large church of 2,000. (http://www.bethesdanet.com/about-us/

He also was pastor of the Assembly of God at Richmond Temple in Melbourne, Australia for 7 years.

On the secular scene one of the most popular tunes in the 1970s was sung by BJ Thomas entitled “Raindrops keep falling on my Head”  while the church kept singing “Showers of Blessing” and later “Rain on Me”. No I’m not trying to be sarcastic or cynical!

In the 1970s music became electronically magnified by synthesisers and other computerised gadgets.

Today music has become so complex and powerful that it literally takes on an image of soul language.

That seems to bother a lot of my contemporaries to the point that their strong objections has lead some to become disillusioned with the contemporary church.

Many long for the music of yesteryear when the lyrics were easily understood with a clear message. The truth of the matter however, is that very few of today’s generation understand the lyrics of past generations and so a new music genre was born out of necessity to reach a contemporary society

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Change in music styles is inevitable. I witnessed it in the 1960s & 70s during the Charismatic renewal, when Scripture in Song took over from the Elim chorus book and the Redemption Hymnal. A new wave of music slowly took over.

I saw it in the Brownsville Pensacola revival, when powerful music lifted the huge congregation to realms of worship that left people standing in awe for hours on end, as they were bathed in potent music and sound.

I remember attending a Planetshaker’s Conference and my nephew Russell Evans arranged for me to have the front seat.

I vividly recall literally ‘feeling’ the thunderous sound of the bass vibrating in my chest, yet there was an incredible anointing upon the place, as thousands of young people worshiped and praised God together.

Likewise the music of Hillsong & others is having a powerful effect upon the face of the world.

Below is a Planetshakers music video that has been seen by over 3 million viewers around the world. It’s called “The Anthem”. You’ll do well to objectively take the time to view this video and observe the impact of this kind of music, particularly upon our young people!

Now that is a far-cry from the few hundred that listen to Fred & Betty sing their old duets of yesteryear. haha!

You may well ask what does the Bible have to say about music and worship? Well, let me give you briefly three practical guidelines based upon scriptural principals.

1.Firstly, Music can be loud but never lewd.

 Check out Psalm 81:1 and Psalm 95:1 Loudness never offends God but lewdness does. Music becomes lewd when it overrides a good musical message and it excites the soulish side of a person.

It is lewd when it draws attention to the body with sexual undertones and not to Jesus. Not many songs do this but there are one or two that I call “crossover” love songs that relate to the act of love but God or Christ’s name is not even mentioned in the song.

I believe loudness becomes lewdness when it exceeds reasonable standards of acceptance and creates a physical excitement that has no connection to the Spirit.

Excessive loudness becomes lewd when people sing themselves into a state of intoxication.

I have seen this at heathen sing-sings in primitive societies where people work themselves into a state of frenzy through repetitive loud hypnotic chanting.

On the other hand there is a time for loudness as illustrated in Psalm 98:5-9.

2. Secondly, Music must never blanket out the message. Ephesians 5:19

One of the most beautiful and uplifting trends in Gospel Music in past decades was the singing of scripture.

I know the temptation for musicians is to place the greater importance on the melody – but its the message, the Word of God that brings life.

Use music to invoke the presence of God as Elisha did in 2 Kings 3:15 so he could prophecy.

3.Music should have a positive effect upon your life not negative.

The Bible says of King Saul that he would have periodic bouts of depression but “Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him”. Music should make you feel better as it says in Psalm 42:11.

Revelation 5:9-13 speaks of a new song. Imagine the sound of angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.

If I may say so, the reason we are seeing a proliferation of new songs spreading out across the world from Hillsong, Planet-shakers, Jesus Culture, Bethel and local church musicians is because the world is in desperate need of Jesus.

To the musicians and singers of the church I say: “God has given you a wonderful gift. It is a gift you can use for yourself. You can use it for God or the Devil. You can use it to bless or to curse. You can use it heal or to hurt. One thing is for sure if you use it for God, do it with skill, make it true to sound doctrine with love for God, commitment and integrity”.

To conclude this Post let me share with you personally how I use music to bless my soul during my times of private devotions.

I like playing a song or tune that I can remember the words and the music. I was brought up listening to this kind of music. The powerful lyrics still grip my soul even more now that I’m old in body but young in mind and spirit.

The Power of Music draws me closer to God. It still blesses my soul and I hope yours too!

Historically church music has often had an attraction all of its own. No less today we are finding that Christian music is like an attractive magnet to those who don’t know Christ. Below is an example of that attraction as the Hollywood producers Warner Bros. are planning to produce a feature film about the music emanating out of Hillsong.

May God bless you as you work your way through the changing sounds and styles of modern Church music without default!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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