Rock Music In The Church!
By Eric Barger - written in 1993
In every church and in many families the influence of today's music is evident. It's here, and its effect upon our homes and the body of Christ cannot be ignored. To deal effectively with the area of modern music, its images, effects and consequences, Christian parents must recognize the sheer power of attorney that it holds in the culture. The rock musicians of today are THE role models - the most heralded individuals in the eyes of our kids. What's a concerned party to do? Give up? Ignore it? I say no! We must understand the challenge to be able to effectively minister life back into a desensitized, estranged segment of the church body.
Over the past eight years I have given many hundreds of seminars on the subject of music across North America. Before my conversion to Christ, I spent an additional 19+ years as a secular musician and recording engineer/producer. I can safely say that music ranks as one of the most powerful sociological force's known to man. God's Word speaks of music as an awesome spiritual tool as well. But in our time music has evolved into something even more. Today, rock music (rap, pop, heavy metal, etc.) is not just entertainment but a sub-culture - a way of life to millions of children, teens and adults. To try to ignore the drawing, seducing power of secular music and those who perform it, can and all too often does become the key to tragedy in many families. The issue of rock music is simply not going to go away as many adults hope it will. Just wishing it away doesn't work! It is not just a "phase" that teens go through as some have erroneously thought. The philosophy that a person fills his or her mind with at 15 will, short of an absolute creative miracle by God, continue to permeate their thinking at 35 and beyond. And when one considers that today's teens listen to an average of 10,500 hours of rock music between 7th and 12th grades (1) this, according to some researchers, is the number one preoccupation of our youth culture.
But It Couldn't Be In The Church...
As with other areas of controversy within the body of Christ, the common response is too often one of denial on the part of many adults. The responses are all too often something like: "Our kids don't listen to secular music, we're Christians"; "Our youth group only likes Christian music. We don't have a secular rock problem here"; "My son would never listen to such trash"; or "My daughter knows better than to buy that cassette." However, the truth remains that all the "Christian rhetoric" in the world cannot and will not change the fact that the majority of Christian kids make a steady diet of secular rock, rap and pop music that is replete with messages of violence, sex, substance abuse and occultism today. One study reported that 98% of the Christian teens surveyed listen to secular music regularly. A study that our ministry conducted found the figure to be markedly less however, if just 50% of our Christian kids are listening to and supporting secular music today we have a tragedy of compromise on our hands of immense proportions. With liberal newsmen, such as NBC's Tom Brokaw, now openly associating the cause of social unrest, crime, murder and rape with today's music and entertainment (2) how can any Christian remain demur?
Parents aren't the only ones who suffer from the denial syndrome concerning rock and its players. Recognizing that one's idolized, emulated role models and personal heroes may possess gigantic character flaws, that have previously been undetected or ignored, is often hard to deal with for an impressionable child or teen. Musical abilities, talent and personal charisma cannot dictate our listening habits. Biblical Christians cannot ignore the Scriptural inference that warns of lending even a casual acceptance of the principals reflected in the lyrics and lifestyles of many popular musicians. We are responsible for whom we advocate and by our volitional actions of listening to, watching and/or buying the products (cassettes, CD's concert tickets, T-shirts, etc.) we place our "stamp of approval" on the philosophies endorsed by the entertainers. Regardless of how unpopular it may be, it is time that we examine what many young Christians are so openly and willingly accepting.
In the first chapter of Romans Paul lists a host of ungodly problems that faced the Roman culture 2,000 years ago. These sins still plague us today. In verse 32 he states: "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, (see verse 28-30 for the "things") they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." The Full Life Study Bible notes on this verse are sobering considering today's entertainment and it's place (or lack of it) in a Christian's life. It says: "Paul's last word on human sinfulness is God's condemnation of a condition even more damning than the practice itself, i.e., supporting and encouraging evil by taking pleasure in the immoral actions of others. This is the ultimate in depravity - vicarious enjoyment of lust and evil. Sin becomes entertainment...Being entertained by watching other people sin and engage in ungodly actions, even while you yourself abstain, brings you under the same divine condemnation as those engaging in such evil practices...Those (and especially those who profess faith in Christ) who use the immoral actions of others for entertainment and enjoyment are directly contributing to public opinion favorable to immorality and therefore to the corruption and eternal damnation of an indefinite number of other people. This sin is worthy of death and will be exposed and judged at the final day of judgment (II Thessalonians 2:12)."
Nothing But A Party...
There is a pervading party attitude among many Christian young people today. Party we should - if it's focused on Christ and His values. However, most churched teens can tell you who's hot on the Billboard charts or who's new on TV but when quizzed about Biblical principals and basic Scriptural teachings many are stunningly illiterate. The things of God are unmistakably far from our youth's heart and lips today. I will take some heat for that statement, but I know this to be true from hundreds of encounters with churched youth. In saying this, I am in no way pointing an accusatory finger at youth pastors or Sunday school teachers. Christian leaders cannot force the flock to godliness. I know of many committed pastors who share my conviction and remorse about the spiritual condition of our young. Sadly, the Christian teen who puts Christ first and abstains from the world is often the "odd man out" in the eyes of his peers. Granted, the very basis of this article is about the acceptance of secularism (music in particular) among Christians, but in all honesty and with a breaking heart, God and his agenda takes a generally lower priority with church kids than does the increasingly perverted and evil worldly trends. We must pray for a Holy Ghost led revival to sweep through our youth so they can have a fighting chance in the dark days that may lie ahead.
Playing With Fire Will Get You Burned...
Occasionally a parent will approach me and comment that their kids will make it through the rock music "phase" OK because they themselves did. Often skeptics will say to me, "Look at you Eric Barger. You made it through all those years in rock music OK." My answer is that though I am here, safe, somewhat sane and soundly converted to Christianity, I did not make it through "OK." Though I have been a minister for several years the fact is that Satan still does his utmost to haunt me with thoughts from my past. The drugs, images, immorality and general lifestyle advocated by the bulk of the rock music community has left a deep scar on my mind. My only defense is to remind the devil that though that was the same body and mind who carried out the works of the flesh, I am now a new creation in Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). This constant attack is thwarted only through hours of prayer and warfare declaring the power of the blood of Christ and my position in Him against the enemy. Thankfully, I can say that each day my mind becomes more my own and less that of my past. My objective by the transparency of these statements is meant as a warning. Secularism, be it the New Age, humanism, greed, immorality - the lifestyle that being a rock musician leads - leaves a potent, poisonous mark on each human it ravages. Let my warning be clear: if you aren't involved in degenerate activities openly advocated by the entertainers of today, do not start. One of Satan's best lies is that you can have "fun" now, live loose, party it up and then just stop and get saved later. Today, graveyards are full of teens who took the advice doled out daily by those appearing on MTV, Much Music, VH-1 and thousands of radio stations worldwide. Your only defense is to run from every temptation to give in to the flesh and the societal pressure to looseness. Yes, if you've already given in to the rock lifestyle there is hope and forgiveness. Thank God Jesus gave His life for us to be free, but that freedom is often a life-long struggle fought in Satan's playground - the mind.
So What Do I Do? - I'm Hooked on the Music
In the next article in this series we'll examine the question "What's a rock lover to do?" The first practical step I will outline then is a spiritual step as well. It is simple repentance. That is the place to start for anyone who's given their time, mind, money and emotions to the rock musicians of today. You can reclaim your life and destiny. You can make a choice and you can do it right now wherever you are. It may be tough but so was the sacrifice Christ made for your life. If you are addicted to music and need help Christ can set you free. It is possible to serve Him and to have peace again. As I said, there may be a struggle. Quite probably there will be a battle, but if you ask for His forgiveness and direction He will lead you into all truth by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). Ask Christ for a fresh start today. For the Christian, the time for repentance and separation from all unscriptural entertainment is now - not later.
1. U.S. News and World Report, October 28, 1985, p.46
2. The Brokah Report (NBC Television), June 5, 1992
© Eric Barger 1993