It hurts when you visit a church and for 30mins of praise-worship, you are yet to flow with the music team or the congregation. Not because you are in no mood to worship or because you are not in the spirit but because you are familiar with absolutely none of the songs being sung. Its not as if the gospel community has run out of solid, deep and soul lifting praise-worship songs, its just that these churches and people have so many biblical, theological, pneumatological and christological reasons why these songs (popular and common songs) are unfit for a Christian, but their own songs are highly appropriate.
I have also noticed that most times, these songs are composed by in-house amateur writers. They are lengthy, verbose, unreal and unnatural but their congregations are compelled to sing them anyway. It has devolved to the point where a denomination or even a church network refuses to invite gospel artistes that are not members of their denomination or church network. They would rather continually invite in-house artistes from their church(es) even when these artistes have nothing new and fresh to offer them. It should also be noted that these in-artistes are called for ministrations to other churches outside their denomination (an action that they refuse to reciprocate). But that is an issue for another time.To deal with the subject of this article, firstly, some concepts need to be well understood;
Music: This is the combination of sounds, whether vocals or instrumentals, that give pleasure to the ears.
Gospel music is a subculture of music where the lyrics of any genre reflect the Gospel i.e. the love of God revealed in Jesus.
A gospel artiste is one who creates gospel music as an expression of his/her inner state per time.
Christian Music on the other hand refers to all songs and musical pieces composed in the light of the Christian faith. So, although all praise-worship songs are generally considered gospel music, they aren’t. They are however, Christian music or what you might call, “church music”.
Songs are Songs, not Doctrine
Due to our general expectation for songs to educate us and give direction, we tend to put pressure on songs and song writers to tell us what to do and how to do it. And when these songs don’t align with our Christian theology or philosophy, we lash back with criticisms and condemnation. In turn, we are then compelled to write our own “model” songs (a task that requires grace and anointing). But what we need to understand is that music is an expression. A musician expresses himself or herself via music. Most songs you hear are done based on the songwriter’s mind, mood and message. But instead of listening with empathy, we try to force instruction from these songs. I’ll give examples:
Femi Okunuga’s “Emi Orun” . This song when critically analyzed based on New Testament revelation, is flawed. But if you listen with empathy, you’ll notice his mood. To him the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is as a descending atmosphere that changes the ambiance. Some Christians and churches won’t permit this song to be played or sung in their events because in theory, a Christian carries with him the spirit of God and therefore does not require the Holy Spirit to descend from above.
I give you another song which I personally have heard being criticized for reasons I refused to wait and consider:”I have confidence in you…”, I know the song writer is a lady from the eastern of the Nigeria. In fact this song is originally an Igbo song but the English version has gone worldwide. I have met people who say they don’t allow this song and songs like it to be sung in their churches due to technical flaws in the lyrics based on their theology of man’s faith in God and God’s confidence in man….bla bla bla.
This is the truth; whoever wrote this song was probably in a battle for her faith. This song is a declaration of faith. It reflects the declaration of the three Hebrew young men who were asked to bow before the king’s idol. We may have no exact idea of what the songwriter was going through but at some point in our Christian race, we tend to make this same statement.
There are many other examples of musical expressions….
Kenny Kore’s classic, “your peace”
David’s “teach me to be strong”….And we find faults with them because instead of being blessed, we always try to pull instructions and directions from them.
Stop Shaming Musicians
Another practice I have seen in the body of Christ, especially in Nigeria is the public criticism and shaming of Christian songs by preachers and teachers. They tend to make derogatory statements about musical pieces they do not like or that do not conform to their theological standpoint to their congregations or even when they are guests speakers and worst of all, these statements are posted on social media as well as viewing platforms. I’ve heard songs like “Days of Elijah” by Pastor Donnie McClurkin come under fire multiple times by public figures, mocking the lyrics of the songs in massive conferences. Its one thing to ask your music team to avoid certain songs due to their perceived theological inaccuracies – but to publicly shame an artiste and their songs from the pulpit, that’s very wrong and it has to stop.
If we cannot correct each other in private, then we must keep our opinions to ourselves. These songs were not written to satisfy your intellectual expectations on theology, neither were they written to teach the body of Christ doctrine. These songs are simply what they are; songs, pleasing to the ear and soothing to the soul, that’s all. What you do with them is your business, so let’s refrain from these slanderous and libelous acts before we begin to see musicians suing preachers into bankruptcy.
I do hope we eventually stop starving Christians in the church. I hope we learn to open our hearts and give the spirit of God limitless space to bless our soul with music; even the music we’ve heard over and over again through the years and have concluded to be inadequate. He has a way of pulling right out of wrong.
©2020 Daniel McDon
Singer/ Songer Writer and Team Lead; The Project Salt