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No Biblical basis for CCM?

January 2, 2018 Leave a comment

A Baptist minister told me a month or so ago he found “no Biblical basis” for Contemporary Christian Music. I’m not completely sure what he meant. Did he mean nothing in the Bible justifies it, or that CCM is incapable of communicating Biblical truths?

point of grace

Point of Grace, a group I love listening to.

Thirty years ago, I would’ve agreed with him. But as you grow and learn and mature, things tend to change. Many traditional Gospel songs are set to the tune of Irish and English drinking songs. Fanny Crosby, who wrote many Gospel songs adored by the Independent Fundamental Baptists (the Baptist equivalent of the Amish, I like to muse as an ex-IFBer), was considered wordly in her day. One pastor said a few years ago, “Today’s contemporary music is tomorrow’s traditional.”

I also thought about the many CCM artists who’ve blessed me with their music over the years: Point of Grace, Amy Grant, Watermark, Crystal Lewis, Newsboys, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Rebecca St. James and, believe it or not, Petra. My middle son loves Creed.

Years ago at a sheltered Christian college, I worked a summer with a guy named Ray. We teased each other because of our different accents (I grew up in South Texas, and he was from Maine and seldom pronounced his final “r’s”). To me, without glasses, he was a dead ringer for actor Judge Reinhold. We debated music a lot. I told him then I thought Petra was too worldly.

“Man, don’t be knockin’ Petra,” Ray said. “I got saved at a Petra concert.”

I thought about that for a long time, the way you do a first-hand observation that comes in and challenges an opinion you’ve formed in concrete.

Ray left that particular college due to the strict rules. I located him through Facebook a few years ago. Today, Ray is a musician serving the Lord and still going strong as a Christian. I can think of more than a few Christians from then who strictly adhered to tradition–and today, are no longer serving God.

I’ve even grown to like Petra, particularly their versions of “Grave Robber” (a song about 1 Corinthians 15) and “Not of This World.”

Richard Zowie likes all kind of music–except gangsta rap. His current guilty pleasure is KISS. Post comments here or email them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. 

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 1 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Some may read this blog title and wonder, “Is Richard still a Christian?”.

Yes, of course I am.

Others might wonder, “Is Richard backslidden?”

Frankly, I feel more alive as a Christian now than I ever have been.

While I don’t believe God programs certain people to accept Him and others to reject Him, I also do not believe salvation can be lost once attained. And, I also don’t believe that only specific denominations are true believers.

I still consider myself a Baptist, meaning that I believe baptism should take place after a person has reached the age of accountability and has received Christ, and I believe a person should study the Word of God and live a responsible, temperate life. However, I no longer consider myself an Independent, Fundamental Baptist (From here on out, we will abbreviate it as IFB).

Let me start with my background.

I became a Christian when I was eight. After my oldest sister left Mormonism (my parents did not regularly attend church), we attended an IFB church in Alvin, Texas, a town about 20 miles southeast of Houston. Then, we moved to Beeville in South Texas and after about two years attending what I’d consider a Southern Baptist Church, we again attended an IFB church.

In those days, the rules were: short hair for boys, no earrings or necklaces. Clean cut. One Baptist minister, whom I will not name, preached a revival service and announced: “Any man who wears an earring probably wears lace on his underwear!”

For women, they were to guard their modesty and wear dresses, skirts or culottes. No pants, not even Capri pants. Many wore no makeup; some men referred to cosmetics as “fake-up” and “mass-scary”. Hair had to be long or, if cut short, lady-like and easily distinguishable from men.

In the home, the husband was the ruler, although he was gently encouraged to cherish his wife. Many men took this to mean they were the boss, the absolute ruler of their home. This, not surprising, led to many having children living secret lives of rebellion as they grew restless having to share their parents’ IFB convictions that they themselves did not share.

In general: no movies (you might be going to the movies to watch the G-rated movie, but how do others know you’re not there to watch the R-rated one instead? Hmmm?). A strong discouragement of television, no alcohol, no tobacco, no drugs, no rock music, no country music, no music with a beat. No contemporary Christian music: no Steve Green, no Steven Curtis Chapman, no Amy Grant, no Carman and no Michael W. Smith (One famous IFB preacher referred to Smith as “Michael W. Smut”). I imagine some even disliked Rich Mullins because he grew his hair long. A David Benoit-style sermon on rock music was sure to include a story about how the beat of rock music was similar to the drum beat used by primitive African tribes to conjure demons.

Dancing? Forget it. Not even ballroom dancing.

Some would add: No fun, no kidding!

And when it came to the Bible, King James Bible only. Not King James Version, since the term version implies there are other acceptable Bibles to read in the English language. There was no room for the New King James Version or the New International Perversion. One friend at college grew up in Germany and often carried with him a German Bible on campus; there very possibly may have been some who murmured, “How come he doesn’t use a King James?!”

And, speaking of college, I attended Pensacola Christian College. To say there were strict rules at PCC is like saying Baptists love potluck meals. After college, I served four years in the Army. Initially, that was a culture shock for me since I went from sheltered church and sheltered college to the military. Lots of my fellow soldiers, drank, smoke, had tattoos and body piercings. Some didn’t believe in God, some had ideas of God that must’ve originated from a marijuana-induced haze while others couldn’t have cared less.

After the military, I attended an IFB church in Texas that wasn’t as strict (the pastor’s wife wore slacks at times), but the pastor still took time to warn us to not listen to music of the style of Madonna, AC/DC or Hootie and the Blowfish.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 2 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

That being said about my background, I offer this observation: the purpose of IFB, what many might call an ultra-bland, neo-puritanical lifestyle, is to eliminate all sinful elements that would deprive you of being a godly Christian, having an intimate understanding of the Scriptures and having an intimate relationship with God. Sadly, it has turned out to be more about control. If control runs amok without accountability, it results in a cult.

Also, while we were encouraged to study the Bible and ask questions, ultimately it was up to your pastor and church leaders to decide for you what is acceptable and what is sinful. One couple who taught Sunday school resigned from a church I attended rather than sign an agreement stipulating what they could and could not do in their private lives. Others choose to follow without question, even if their church leaders or pastor have no formal Bible training and show it by mispronouncing words in the Bible or showing a consistent inability to understand Bible contexts.

Often I’d see things that, now, leave me speechless. Once during a revival, there was a minister who, as he warmed up early his sermon, took off his suit jacket, removed his tie and preached in his white, short-sleeved dress shirt. The sermon was about continuing in the faith, and somehow, the subject shifted to how women dress.

LADIES,” he thundered in a gravelly voice that reminded me of a used car salesman yelling out all his special deals during a 30-second television commercial, “Deuteronomy 22:5 still means the same thing today that it meant thousands of years ago!”

Any IFB woman knows what this verse says: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” (King James Version)

The verse is interpreted to mean women should not wear pants; ostensibly, men should also not be cross-dressers or transvestites. The fact that Deuteronomy 22 has lots of other verses the same Baptists probably don’t heed, and that fact that many Christians and non-believers alike probably don’t realize that Mosaic Law consists of an intricate network of dietary, moral and ceremonial laws are blog postings for another time.

That being said, I recall a few years ago taking pictures of a church carnival. A woman wearing modest culottes rode down an inflatable slide. And, for about three seconds, her culottes rode up, showing off her thighs and underwear. I did not get a picture of that and if I had, I would have deleted it. I was too busy marveling that a woman riding down the slide in jeans or capris could have been more modest than the woman wearing “women’s attire”.

One very wonderful female Christian friend I know tells me she hates culottes.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 3 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Over the years, as I’ve grown, matured, made mistakes and have stumbled here and there, and have come to one conclusion: while there are wonderful, godly people in IFB circles, I find many of the rules to be personal preferences that have magically evolved into Biblical convictions rather than being true, Bible-established convictions. I also see a culture where it’s far too easy to let others think for you instead of growing in your faith, developing a close relationship with God and allowing God to work in your life.

Christianity should not be primarily about following a set of rules. It should be about learning to develop a closer relationship with God and then, as that relationship matures, you see right and wrong from God’s perspective and better understand how to read, interpret and explain Scripture. In this imperfect world of imperfect churches and imperfect Christians, the rules often tend to be manmade. Granted, there are absolutes and clear Biblical teachings on various subjects, but there are also areas God chooses to be silent about. I suspect those are the minor issues left up to us to decide for ourselves.

When I first moved to Michigan, my family and I temporarily attended a non-denominational Bible church while intending to find a strict Baptist church. We found we liked the Bible church and stayed there. Lots of wonderful people there. Some guys in the youth group wore earrings while many of the women wore jeans on Wednesday nights and slacks on Sunday morning (especially if it was winter).

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 4 of 4

February 14, 2013 1 comment

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 4 of 4

I don’t see God as a Supreme Being who wants robots to follow Him. We are created in His image, but we are all unique. Each of us has our own DNA (except, of course, for identical twins). We have our own personalities and eccentric ways. Myself, I love ducks, love to cook and eat gourmet food, love to get myself in an energetic mood by listening very loudly to Van Halen, and I love to wear a necklace that represents something about me and my background. I also have an off-beat sense of humor that I make no apologies for. Some might think of me as far too exuberant. I approach life the way I cook: I like food with different ingredients and with spices (this morning, I made scrambled eggs with onions and arugula and loved it). I like to explore and be different. While I don’t drink, I don’t make an issue of others doing so as long as they are responsible.

I currently attend a Regular Baptist Church (equivalent to a Southern Baptist Church or a Bible church) with my sons. The church’s youth pastor looks to be working on a beard, and he had that facial hair while recently preaching. Lots of women wear pants, and lots of men dress casually, even on Sundays. And the Word of God is preached, and there is a friendliness I have seldom seen in other churches!

In my DVD collection are PG, PG-13 and R-rated movies. My favorite movie is the R-rated Heat, where Robert De Niro plays a career criminal who, in a different lifetime, would’ve easily been best friends with the police officer (played by Al Pacino) who’s trying to arrest him. I like contemporary Christian music but also like secular. I very rarely drink but someday out of curiosity might try a tequila sunrise. I also own an empty, skull-shaped vodka bottle, not because I like vodka (I don’t), but because I love to collect unusually-shaped bottles. Someday I’ll add to the collection an 1800 Tequila bottle since I like its very-geometric shape. I’ll also collect a maple syrup bottle that’s shaped like a maple leaf.

My Bible reading? I own four Bibles: a King James, a New King James, an English Standard Version and a New American Standard. I use the ESV and NAS primarily as reference materials and, frankly, do not like the way the NAS reads. Primarily, I read from the New King James. My two youngest sons read from the New King James and from the Holman Study Bible. They were late bloomers in reading, so I prefer to encourage their reading by giving them a Bible in a contemporary language.

I am hoping to move back to Texas this summer. Sorry, but I will not be attending an IFB church. Any church I attend will either be Southern Baptist or a Bible church. Those are the speeds of Christianity I prefer these days and I feel those are the ones where I will grow the best in my walk with the Lord.

What should you do? Seek the Lord, abide in His Word and go where He leads. Maybe you will attend an IFB church, maybe not. All I know is this: one size does not fit all in Christianity.

Richard Zowie currently attends First Baptist Church in Vassar, Michigan. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

‘Bless God, do NOT plug in that electric guitar!’

November 16, 2010 Leave a comment

For Christians, there are certain truths in life that are spelled out in black-and-white terms: salvation, Jesus’ divinity, among them.

And then there are those that abide in gray hues ranging from bright silver to charcoal.

Visit any independent, fundamental Baptist church and you’re bound to hear a pastor from the pulpit thunder about the dangers of rock music. Many of those dangers are warranted; many others are not.

One minister spoke of how music should not be “rhythm dominated” while others believe musical accompaniment should be limited to pianos, acoustic guitars, banjos and other traditional instruments.

For many younger Christians in this generation, that is a one-way ticket to Boredomville.

Twenty summers ago, I went on a missions trip to Victoria Ciudad, Mexico to an independent Baptist church. The night at the service, the pastor took an electric guitar, hooked it up and played it as they sang a few hymns.

An electric guitar?! I wondered.
 
Some Christians would consider this Les Paul Gibson guitar an instrument of evil.

 

The summer before, I’d gone before my home church and had destroyed several cassette tapes of mine: a few mixes of various songs, a Phil Collins tape and four “Weird Al” Yankovic tapes.

I listen to “Weird Al” these days along with many of the songs on those tapes. To me, the line you draw in music is in the message. Some also draw it at the lifestyle of the performer, which is fine also. Others don’t like music that features loud music or music that doesn’t have melody to it.

When it comes to rock music, I like some songs by Van Halen such as Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption guitar solo, Little Dreamer and 5150. I prefer to pass on songs like Jamie’s Cryin’ (about a one-night stand) and Hot For Teacher (too raunchy, especially the video). I never have been a big fan of my high school class song (Beeville, Texas, A.C. Jones High School, Class of 1991), Don Henley’s End of the Innocence. The song starts off with a great message about how we are innocent as kids until we leave the nest, but then it goes into a stupid anti-Ronald Reagan, anti-war rant that seems oblivious of the dangerous enemies we face.

There many country songs I detest. A few weeks ago, I made one of my sons shut off a song where a guy talks about a wet t-shirt contest. Other songs in the genre glorify getting drunk or getting too friendly with someone you’re not married to. But then there are the uplifting songs by Darius Rucker along with Jamey Johnson’s In Color.

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer who, though a Christian for 29 years, still has a lot to learn about God, the Bible, the world, life, etc. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

The Zowie Family searches for a church, Part 1

Since my wife had just recently been discharged from the hospital with a heart problem that she’s now treating with meds, a low-fat, low-sodium diet and by losing weight, I decided to use my day off last Sunday to engage in a long put-off task–finding a good, local church to attend. I work two jobs, so it’s a challenge having work scheduled around church services.

We had attended one in Lapeer for the past few years but decided to look for something closer (among other reasons). On Easter Sunday, I visited a nice church in Frankenmuth, but it wasn’t a good fit. The preaching and contemporary music weren’t bad, but they had two services due to overflow: 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. When we arrived there, I was told that they did not have children’s church at the 10:45 a.m. service, which really soured me. If the day comes that we are still looking for a church and they’re in their own building again and are able to offer normal services and offer children’s church at a decent time, we’ll check them out again.

This past Sunday by myself, I attended First Baptist Church here in Vassar. The people were pretty friendly, and I liked the Bible teaching. The pastor also encouraged anyone who didn’t know the Lord to get that settled, which was also a huge plus. Some snooty Christians treat invitations as something only done in the “embarrassing” circles of Independent Fundamental Baptists.

As someone who’s heavy and is losing weight, I don’t have any dressy clothes in my closet that fit. So, I wore a nice pair of jeans, tennis shoes and a button-down shirt. Turns out, many of the men in the church also wore this style. It reminds me a little of that one church’s slogan: “Dress casual. Jesus did.” Nothing is more embarrassing than to go into a church and see you’re extremely under-dressed.

Overall, I liked FBC in Vassar. There are two other churches in the area I plan to check out, but I definitely liked what I saw. And, of course, it’s only a few blocks away from our house.

I come from a Baptist/Independent Fundamental Churches of America/Non-denominational background. Here’s what I look for in a church:

Teaching of the Bible. Preaching is great, but I really like it when a pastor digs deep into what the Word says and telling how it can be applied to our own lives. Two former pastors, including Don Ohm of San Antonio’s Lighthouse Baptist Church, are great at this. You come away knowing something about the Bible and its historical backgrond.

Separating personal preferences from convictions. In Baptist circles, I’ve seen this far too much as the lines between personal preferences and convictions frequently get too blurred. One pastor decides he doesn’t like Michael W. Smith’s music, and then soon it becomes a Biblical dogma that Smith’s music is not to be listened to. I remember once that the late Dr. Jack Hyles once referred to the “Jesus is the Answer” singer as “Michael W. Smut”. It’s one thing to not like the Power Rangers or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I personally find the turtles very obnoxious), but if you’re going to tell your youth group they’re “new age”, do research to see what they are about, compare it with the Bible and make sure it’s really harmful rather than just a harmless kids’ entertainment.

Contemporary music. I used to be vehemently opposed to Contemporary Christian Music, until I started learning a few things. First, as one pastor once said, today’s CCM is tomorrow’s traditional music. IFB-ers love Fanny Crosby’s hymns, but my understanding is in her day she was considered pretty worldly and radical with her music. I love songs like Watermark’s “More Than You’ll Ever Know”, Stacie Orrico’s “Don’t Look At Me”, Rebecca St. James’ “Don’t Worry” and Crystal Lewis’ “Only Fools”. Huge blessings, including the evil Michael W. Smith’s song “Jesus is the Answer”. I even like Petra’s version of “The Graverobber” and “Not of This World”. It’s ok to use an amplified guitar in church, kids. And it’s also ok to use drums and a bass guitar. Heck, when I was at a Baptist church in Mexico back in 1990, guess what they used for musical accompaniment? An electric guitar!

Various activities. A church needs to busy itself serving its members, encouraging people, edifying and evangelizing the community.

Children’s programs. I’m not just talking about Awana or Patch the Pirate, nor am I just talking about Sunday School and Children’s Church. There needs to be activities for children during Sunday night services, midweek services and during revival meetings. When kids are stuck in adult services, they get bored. Very. Quickly. Nothing’s worse than for kids to associate church with boredom.

Keeping things fresh and thinking outside the box. Churches that adopt the “We’ve never done it this way before” attitude are doomed–especially with how our society (and especially technology) is constantly changing. Even Pope Benedict XVI has recently encouraged Catholic ministers to use the internet and blog as a way of reaching out to parishioners.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian since 1981 and blogs here about Christian issues. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.