Tuesday, August 02, 2005

CCM and Youth in the LCMS

Youth love music. To work with kids at all in anyway is to know something about their music, and what music they are listening to and why.

Often, Christian teenagers must wrestle with the question of what kind of music they will listen to, and in particular, how “Contemporary Christian Music” (CCM) fits into their mix.

I’m not talking here about what music we use in worship. That’s a whole different can of worms. For now let’s just consider the music will be for our private listening enjoyment. My kids at church are often surprised when I tell them, "I don't listen to Contemporary Christian Music."

When it comes to youth ministry in the LCMS, there seem to be at least two differing approaches to this. One, (what I would call the “mainstream” LCMS way of thinking) seems to be “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”. In other words, that CCM has a generally redeeming value, and just needs to be “Lutheranized”. Case in point, the following quotation from our synod’s “official” youth ministry website, “thEsource”:

Contemporary Christian music is a useful tool in the lives of Christians. It's generally positive, edifying, and helpful as we seek to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. However, it is important to realize that because Christian music speaks about God, and in some cases for God, then by definition that music is implementing theology and engaging us in theological discussion. When we speak about God, we are obligated to try and get it right.

In The Listener's Lounge, thESource provides case study examples of popular Christian albums and new releases, and provides a Lutheran examination of the content. How do your favorite artists stack up? You might be surprised. Check it out …

Sometimes, even this level of critical scrutiny seems lacking.
The band above, Fusebox, is one typically used at LCMS gatherings (they were at our Wisconsin State gathering this summer, and at the National Gathering in Orlando). From what I can find on their website, they are not Lutheran. Then why are they featured at Lutheran youth gatherings? Am I being too parochial here? Some would say so.

On the other side, there seem to be those who do not advocate CCM at all, even harbor a disdain (or at least a suspicion of it).

“Higher Things” magazine generally seems to have this approach. Here’s one example:

From the Bible Study Leader’s notes, relating to an article on CCM:

“…saying something false about our relationship with God is considerably worse than not saying anything about Him at all. “Secular” music which talks of other things in this life don’t hurt our relationship with God, unless a particular song specifically advocates or tempts a person to sin (and such songs do exist, so we should be careful). But the music which claims to teach us about Christ causes us to let our guard down, and we are influenced falsely to trust in something besides Christ’s coming to us in Word and Sacrament.”
(i.e. Theology of Glory, Works Righteousness, etc...)

Now, I certainly am open to discussing this, but I tend to agree with the Higher Things approach. No Theology is better than Bad Theology, in my opinion.


Stan said...

It's a matter of bad theology poisoning the soul. Bad theology points us away from Christ crucified and towards our works, which is the path to hell.

Josh Schneider said...

Interesting discussion. I've been wrestling w/ this whole thing for about 6-8 years. I started to listen to CCM in grade school and high school as a cleaner alternative to what was on the radio. I generally don't think it affected me negatively with regard to theology, though I was tremendously blessed w/ great parents and good catechesis at church. I did always examine the lyrics, and would even discuss things that seemed questionable theology w/ my parents. One example I recall...Audio Adrenaline has a song where the refrain is "I don't need theology to know that God's good to me".

Anyhow, as I look at the CCM issue now, I think there was a short time at the end of HS/beginning of college where it was one of a number of factors leading me to think that Contemporary Worship was o.k., but I snappped out of that before graduating from college. I still listen to some Christian rock music (though not exclusively) and I look at it this way: 1) I don't like the idea of labeling this type of music as 'Christian' (i know, i just did it ;) because people are Christians, not 'things' like bookstores or music groups or T-shirts. 2) I do think there is nothing wrong with Christians being musicians and using their talents in entertainment as a legitimate vocation. So I don't have a problem with a Christian being a rock musician. Now I don't think that that should mean they have to have explicitly "Christian" lyrics to all their songs (i.e. problem #1), but if a Christian in their vocation wants to bear witness to their faith in their vocation, there is nothing wrong with that, obviously. Anymore than it would be wrong for an office-worker or mechanic to tell the Gospel in their vocations. But obviously the issue of theology arises. And there I think I generally agree with you. Quite often though, at least in the Christian rock music I've listened to, there isn't much theology to begin with. I listen to the artists mainly for their musical talent, and the fact that they are cleaner than most of what's on the radio. I do listen to a lot of secular music as well, but I'm increasingly bothered by the very explicit references to sex and violence in much of what I hear on the radio (sometimes even from music/bands I like).
Anyhow, those are a few of my thoughts FWIW.

Tim's Ghost said...

Pastor Chryst:

Since you pointed out this post over at Beggars All, I have posted it there for our readers. Thanks!

Blessings from Tim

Chris Winston said...

As a music director for a large LCMS church, I wrestle with this question daily. In addition to "church music" I am heavily involved with "secular" music in my business outside the church.

There are several issues a stake. First and foremost, CCM music, like it or not, is designed to make a profit. The incentive for the music is primarily money. When I compose music for the church, I always try to take a several things into account. For instance, who is performing this? A trained choir or a congregation. How clear is the text? Does the text fit my theological principals. But, I can tell you from experience that the people soliciting music for Christian artists look for whether or not it can "cross over" to the main stream, and what the "hit potential" or "marketability" is.

Secondly, one of the things that surprises most people is that professional performs rarely have a "band". I perform all the time with band where we meet for the first time at the gig. This is true for CCM as well as secular. So, who is representing the message?

Third, the architectural design of new churches has declined sharply. Most now are designed to look like dentist offices. We carpet these buildings to the hilt, and then put in expensive sound systems. Remember - acoustics (the 'liveness' of the room) is primarily designed to support CONGREGATIONAL singing. A dead room is primarily designed to support a sound system. A sound system is designed for a performer not a congregation.

Finally - I am greatly concerned about the future of Church music in the LCMS. I have a son, and I would love to encourage him to study music and to go into Music Ministry. But, what type of music will be available to him when he finishes with collage? Is there a career there for a traditionally trained musician in the LCMS?

I don't see anything wrong with any type of instrumentation. Although I am an organist and pianist, there is nothing inherently more "Christian" about the organ.

Just my thoughts!