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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. 

The Sacred Romance: Relationships versus Rules

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

If I’ve blogged about this before, it’s because it’s a message that desperately needs to resonate in the Christian church.

When I served as best man for my friend Bob’s wedding, he gave me as a gift the book The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. I started reading it, but life got in the way.

Pathetic excuse, indeed.

I regret not having read it sooner. Do I ever!

I know I will offend some I’ve known in Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches, but as I’ve started reading this book again, even before I delve deeply into the book, it is clear to me that in much of Christianity we really are thinking backwards regarding our relationship with God.

Normally, when a person gets saved in the Baptist circles I’m from, they are instructed in the King James Bible and are given a list of do’s and don’t’s.

How does that saying go? “I don’t smoke, drink or chew or go with girls who do.” Furthermore, new Christians are also instructed not to go to movies and not to get tattoos. Guys are told not to wear their hair long (which, for some churches means it should be neatly tapered off the collar and off the ears) and not to wear earrings. Women are told to wear dresses, skirts or culottes, never pants and especially never shorts or skirts that show off the thighs, and to avoid wearing too much makeup (or in some cases, any). They should not work outside the home. Some churches don’t even believe women should wear fingernail polish or hair dye.

Other general convictions also apply. If music has a beat or an electric guitar, it should be avoided. And, for God’s sake, do not listen to Contemporary Christian Music. (I remember how some ministers would refer to Michael W. Smith as “Michael W. Smut” and Amy Grant as “Amy Grunt”). If you must have a television, it should be used only to watch Christian programs and news programs. Some are against watching professional sports due to the cheerleaders dressing immodestly.

And, for some, sex should never, ever openly be talked about. For those who do, they might even say sex is solely for procreating. Missionary position only. Lights off. No role playing. And absolutely, positively, no birth control or masturbation.

One wonderful Christian, who is no longer with us, once said: “If you don’t have convictions, come talk to me and I’ll give you some.” As well-intentioned as this might be, it is a horrible approach. It is one thing to explain to new or struggling Christians why you have certain convictions, but too often I feel they are given convictions they don’t understand and are expected to apply them to their lives. And we wonder why so many get disillusioned and leave the church; some not only leave the church, but abandon their faith altogether and embrace atheism.

This approach to Christianity, which I am convinced stems from personal preferences that magically evolve into convictions instead of developing legitimate Bible-based convictions, probably makes many think of heaven as a place where people dress in iridescent, flowing white robes as they float among the clouds and play harps. Nothing exciting ever happens.

<Yawn>

It seems to me a far better approach to Christianity is to discerningly read the Bible in context, pray for God’s guidance, get involved in your church and surround yourself with wise Christians. For me, among those wise Christians are my sisters, my friends Bob J., Howard H., Joel K. and Jeremy H. and my pastor. There are also Charlie M. and Dave R., college friends whom I will ask questions about the Bible.

Consider this verse from Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

Of course, the verse is referring to “he” and “men” as mankind in general. The same applies to both men and women and whom they choose counsel from, and it’s possible to get wise counsel from a person of either gender.

And as you read the Bible, get involved in godly activities and get wise counsel, you will start to have a more intimate relationship with God and will start seeing things from God’s perspective. From here you will develop your own godly convictions.

As I type this, here are some things about me some Christians may find objectionable: I wear a leather necklace with a cross made from horseshoe ties (which I see nothing wrong with). When I read the Bible, I often read from the New King James Version (even though I still prefer the King James Version). I also sometimes watch R-rated movies and also listen to some forms of rock music. I even like some Van Halen songs, even though there are other songs of theirs that have very unhealthy messages. I also have from time to time used profanity (I have never taken the Lord’s name in vain). Some of these things about me are very unapologetic parts of my life that I feel God is blessing me in or that God has no problem with. They are part of my Christian identity. Some, such as the movies, music and profanity, God is still working on me. I am working to eliminate the profanity from my life since I believe further usage would make me become a person I absolutely loathe.

I know many Christians are against consuming alcohol, but I do have one solid brother in Christ who does drink. However, he is a stickler about moderation. While I don’t drink (the last time I consumed alcohol was beer and vodka when I was 15, and I thought both were absolutely disgusting), I can respect someone who does so responsibly. While the Bible may not specifically condemn drinking, it is very strict regarding moderation.

As for me, unless I visit Germany where they frown upon people who don’t accept a drink, I have no plans to drink: I have an addictive personality, and people like me easily fall into alcoholism. And, frankly, I have more than enough problems in my life.

If there’s a point to this blog posting, it would be that instead of just following a set of rules, Christians need to be reading God’s Word and talking to godly Christians and asking tough questions about their faith and investigating why they believe what they believe instead of just following a crowd. To have convictions without understanding them is a recipe for an unsuccessful Christian life that will never be as profitable for yourself or for God as it should be.

Richard Zowie is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. He hopes by early 2011 to complete his first visit in years with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to 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.

Michael W. Smith and umbrellas

July 13, 2009 1 comment

When I typed on this blog Sunday night, I listened to Michael W. Smith’s wonderful song “Jesus is the Answer”.

Smith reminds me of this interesting story about my time at Pensacola Christian College.

PCC’s located in Pensacola, Florida, which receives lots of rain. If there are any prospective PCC students reading this blog posting, I’d strongly advise them to purchase a good umbrella.

Preferably, one that’s not too expensive. Umbrellas at PCC (at least when I was there from 1991-1995) tended to magically disappear. In my four years there, I lost two of them. Ironically enough, to try to keep my second umbrella from getting stolen, I wrote in bold black letters RICHARD ZOWIE’S UMBRELLA and STEAL THIS AND GET SHIPPED! (At PCC, getting “shipped” meant getting kicked out). That umbrella disappeared, and a friend a year behind me told me the year after I graduated it showed up again on campus.

My favorite form of umbrella art belonged to one student named James W. (anyone who graduated from PCC in 1995 probably knows whom I’m talking about). James listed Bible verses that talked of how stealing was prohibited and a sin, but then talked about how he would still forgive the person who committed such an atrocity just as Jesus forgave us. I liked it. James was a serious but very good guy, and he mentioned once wanting to use his engineering degree on the mission field.

One student took umbrella protection to a new level. A fan of Dr. Jack Hyles, “Andrew” filled his umbrella with Dr. Hyles quotes. One panel said, “Yes, I support Dr. Hyles” while another quoted Hyles calling out another minister and saying, “He ain’t no fundamentalist!”

JackHyles

Dr. Jack Hyles

Another panels showed Hyles’ fervent dislike for pants on women along with contemporary Christian music (which, I must confess, I wasn’t a fan of at the time). There was a quote where Hyles referred to Michael W. Smith as “Michael W. Smut”.

Pretty harsh.

I wasn’t too surprised to find out later that Andrew transferred from PCC to either Hyles-Anderson College or some college like it.

As for Smith, “Jesus is the Answer” is one song I’d love to have played at my funeral. I find it to be an encouraging song that also helps to evangelize.

Songs I'd love to have played at my funeral

My wife has asked me to not request any “Weird Al” Yankovic songs since she feels that would be too farcical. So, for now, I have a short list of songs I’d like to have played/sung at my funeral. I’m in good health and not dying, but I figure it’s never too early to have something in mind:

“Jesus is the Answer” by Michael W. Smith (a great song that reminds us God’s in control in this insane world)

“Farther Along” an old Southern Gospel hymn by J.R. Baxter and W.B. Stevens, it’s an encouraging song reminding us that someday in heaven, God will provide answers for all those heartaching questions.

“The Golden City” — not sure exactly who sings it, but it’s a song reminding of us of the beauty of eternity and how all this suffering is only temporary.

And, of course, “Amazing Grace”. I’m not Scottish, but the way it sounds on bagpipes is beautiful.

I’ve also told Jennifer this request: nobody wears black. Colors I’d rather have worn: royal blue, kelly green, scarlet red, purple and yellow. Bright colors. Black is too somber.