Full disclosure, the person writing this blog article is nearly 30 years old. I wanted to write about the broad level issues I see with my own generation when it comes to worship music and living out the Christian life. That is quite a lot to attempt to cover, so I will start with the fact that there is no way I can cover all of the aspects, but here is what I see.
I choose to begin writing this article with the announcement that I am doing so with loving motives. I believe that if my generation reads this, they will assume I am not. They will assume I am stodgy, arrogant, and legalistic if I do not. This leads to my first point:
If you talk to my generation and point out that you disagree with them on something, this is translated as something like, “I hate you!” This is the first wall that my generation, and younger, have allowed to be put up. Even if you have set out to do so lovingly, you likely will not be heard that way, unfortunately. This is not your fault! If you’re following the biblical commands of speaking the truth with love to one another, please keep doing so!
“but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” - Ephesians 4:15
This leads to the next issue. We who have been through public school and college have likely been told that someone else’s truth may not be our own truth. This implies that two contradictory beliefs can be true at the same time. This is relativism and postmodernism. You see, we’ve been told that it is better to accept what others believe is true and let it go, rather than confronting people with loving motives. Do you see what kind of culture this creates?
This creates a culture where it is strongly frowned upon to stand for the truth of God’s Word. If you stop for a second you can clearly see the effects this has had on our world. I'm writing this in 2020. Now, we as Christians who follow God’s Word know that we should ignore this teaching from our culture. But herein lies the problem:
We’ve let this kind of thinking creep into the church.
Not every church, thankfully, but many churches today have allowed this kind of thinking to creep in. It is said by many that the SBC has an 11th commandment. Michelle Leslie covers that commandment in this article. She explains it as:
“Thou shalt not publicly criticize other Southern Baptist leaders.”
It’s this kind of conduct that makes it very difficult to point out that something is going wrong. Take worship music for example. My generation is completely wowed by Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Elevation Worship, Hillsong, etc. I take no joy in finding fault in any ministry, but when I do I must lovingly inform my brother and sisters. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't care.
The problem is, and this goes along with many testimonies of brothers and sisters I discuss this topic with often, my generation has experienced something with these groups. Bethel artists and those who follow, for example, often speak about “cultivating an atmosphere” of worship. In this, they have created an atmosphere where strong emotional response is nearly a guarantee. Regardless of truth, my generation does not want to let go of the way they have felt in worship services.
I’ll harp on myself for a minute because I am a member of the millennial generation. I vividly remember being in dark and barely lit worship services where you feel the emotion in the room. Music has the ability to bring on emotion, whether the truth is being sung or not. I remember belting out these popular songs in my car on the way to work and not really remembering what the songs meant at all, yet I would sometimes cry with emotion. Yep, a grown man crying about worship songs that I didn't even truly understand. I wasn't convicted of sin, I was just crying.
I kept returning to these songs because of the way they made me feel. Sadly, I would also feel like I had sort of "done my Christian duty" for the day if I listened to "Christian music". Yikes.
How is this possible? Because this music is coming from churches who are preaching the prosperity gospel and claiming that angel feathers and gold dust are falling from the ceiling during worship services. They are super talented. I’m almost certain that the leaders of these churches are nice people, but this is the result of throwing sound doctrine to the wind. It makes you feel good, but it doesn't accomplish anything worthwhile. Theology matters!
Looking back on this, I'm so thankful for being convicted to dive into God's Word daily and to pursue holiness because of what Christ has done for us in the Gospel. So, fellow millennials and younger, I love you. That's why I'm writing this:
Please don't be like I was.
Pursue sound doctrine from sound teachers. Dive into God's Word regularly. You should yearn to have more knowledge of God and His Word. You should yearn to be sure you're learning, more so than wanting to watch that show on Netflix. You should be convicted about some of the things you were/are watching, if you are like I was.
You are not a legalistic person for believing that sound doctrine matters. Speaking of overseers in the church, Paul writes in Titus 1:9:
“holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
In my experience, when bringing up modern worship music issues and speaking with others who have attempted to do so, you're almost always met with the accusation of being legalistic or not understanding. You're going to be met with arguments like: "the lyrics are good on some of their songs" when you bring up Bethel. This is true, but the source matters. What ministries are you pointing others to through music on Sunday mornings?
The arguments will be made. I hope they're made in love. If not, the arguments are pointless.
I close by saying this, millennials and younger, look into things. We're really good at questioning the "norms" of our society. Why don't we question where our worship music is coming from? Why don't we make sure the teaching we're consuming is coming from a biblically sound source? Why hasn't sound doctrine mattered much to us?
Our culture is fading fast, and the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only effective weapon to change it. He's also the only reason to want to change it. He's the reason we exist. Let's live like it.
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