In researching the state of the contemporary music bands for a blog essay I wrote a month ago, I came across a winsome new band from Northern Ireland called Rend Collective Experiment. Actually, they remind me of In Tua Nua (kudos if you know who they were ;). Rend Collective Experiment (RCE) deliberately used the word rend purposely to point to God who rent the heavens and sent His Son. The word collective is used to emphasize, well, I'll let the band member explain,
"We are a collective of people like a family and not just a band. We want our music to be what we call Organic worship, an honest and natural connection with God, something which is authentic and not artificial. We want to create an environment for people to have genuine encounters with Him and to find themselves singing to Him in ways that they find real." (source)
So. Whatever that means.
I watched a video in which I enjoyed the song, but for the wrong reasons. This is an example of how and why contemporary praise bands, with all clean eagerness and winsome smiles can be detrimental to the faith.
|RCE video "Come On (My Soul)". She's looking up.|
The first thirty seconds are a simple hypnotic percussion beat. Then the singing kicks in. Here are the lyrics. They are sung repetitiously.
Come on my soul
Come on my soul
Let down the walls
And sing my soul
Come on, come on, come on, come on
It's time to look up
That's it, there is no more. I searched several other sites to try and find lyrics that would expand the song and give it spiritual meaning and depth, but these are the only words for two-and-a-half minutes. The song is repetitive, hypnotic, and throbbing. It is exactly the kind of music used to enter an altered state, not to prepare the heart for worship. I'm the first to admit that it sounds good and it looks good. But it's empty!
|Cool pagan balloons going aloft!!|
I've mentioned the form and the content. Let's look at the images. There is nothing wrong with standing around a bonfire singing. Kumbaya is almost a cliche nowadays, the quintessential campfire song. However look at what the youths are doing. They are lighting sky lanterns, a pagan activity done at pagan festivals. The people look aloft just as the lyrics are sung that 'it's time to look up'. Are we looking up to see if Jesus is returning? Or to send prayers to a false god on a pagan lantern? That is precisely the problem with "organic" & "authentic" worship. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes. They do what feels good for them. The scene has no meaning because it could be anything.
|Because, what's a praise song |
without a flame thrower?
The activity seen in a "Christian" band's video is pagan, and is no different than the Asherah pole Ahab set up which they all danced around. The LORD'S anger was roused at this. (1 Kings 16:33).
Worship is not organic. It has rules and a structure. In the OT Nadab and Abihu discovered the penalty for breaking those rules was instant death. So did Uzzah. So did Korah. In the NT Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and also died instantly. The Corinthians were rebuked for their "organic" worship, which all too easily turned into a drunken fest similar in behavior to what the pagans were doing, and this is always to the derision of God's enemies (Exodus 32:25).
The spiritual seeker wants to be free and worship naturally but natural worship always winds up like the dance around the Golden Calf (or a pagan bonfire with Buddhist prayer balloons). God sent a plague to the people who had made the calf (Exodus 32:35) and further promised to visit their sins upon them in the Day of His visit. Some of the Corinthians who had abused the Lord's table with drunken, gorging behavior had become sick because of it and died. (1 Corinthians 11:30). The Lord is serious about His worship!
As in everything regarding Jesus, in music, watch the small things. Also watch the language. The ethereal language RCE uses is another example of poor worship. God is declarative. He is clear. He is definite. In spiritual realms, there is pressure to offer vague ideals, so that no one will be turned off and all can come and participate. Inclusivity is tantamount, not exclusivity. This is from the RCE song "Second Chance"
"When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption's kiss
Beauty awakens by romance"
It sounds good and it can mean whatever you want it to mean. That's fine, for politics. But not for worship. And romance? People, Jesus is not our boyfriend.
Or this from Shining Star,
The angels watched in mystery
As You bore all our misery
NO! He bore all our SIN. Spell it, S. I. N. Sin sin sin.
In fact, there is no 'second chance' that the cross brought. It is the only chance. We are depraved individuals and our default condition from birth is sinner, and at age of accountability, hell upon our death. The cross brought the only chance. And 'redemption's kiss'? More like God's wrath that Jesus feared so greatly He sweat blood.
And this lyric from Christ Has Set Me Free, is just ridiculously stupid:
"Christ has set me free From negativity ...
You've given my soul the space to breathe,
And discover what it is to simply be."
Did Joel Osteen write that lyric? Imagine your pastor saying that.Uttering words like that and thinking they are worshipful is just wrong. NO, Christ did not set me free from negativity. He absorbed all of God's wrath on the cross as the punishment for my and the world's sin.
If you are a parent looking into who your kids are listening to, look at the band's videos and see if the images being presented are appropriate. And the lyrics, are the lyrics about self, or about God? Is there a lot of talk about what "I" will do? Is the band's bio full of post-modern, vague talk, like this from Rend Collective's Bio?
"Their heart is to bring not only a fresh approach to congregational worship, but also a heart and message through the spoken word. Their partnerships and tours with church leaders like Francis Chan, Louie Giglio and Shane Claiborne certainly shows this."
Any time you hear of a "fresh approach" watch out. If God is the same yesterday today and forever, so is His approach. And since the Word is living and active, He is still fresh. He is not stale. There is no expiration date on Him.
"An inherent desire for something spiritually substantive in our increasingly artificial world is exactly what brought the movement of friends together. United by a common purpose, these twenty-somethings began exploring the intersection between God, life and community."
I still can't figure out their purpose. That is an indicator also. "Something spiritually substantive" sounds good but is just vague enough not to offend.
I don't mean to pick on RCE band. Some of their lyrics are good. Some of their songs are good. I liked their song Alabaster. Keep Me Near is also good. As church worship music though, no. Absolutely not. And just because some of their songs are good doesn't mean that all their songs are. But they are packaged on a CD and if your child is listening to Alabaster then they are listening to Second Chance.
Here is the point of what I'm saying--
1. Don't underestimate the powerful effect of how today's praise band lyrics dilute the essential doctrines. Propositional and definite words we've used for centuries are substituted for nebulous words, used to a softening effect. Words like sin are deleted for negativity, wrath is deleted for redemption's kiss, submission is deleted for romance, guide our hearts is included instead of the concept 'make us holy'.
2. Don't underestimate the power of the absence of the essential doctrines. I looked at lyrics of 15 songs and never read the word holy. Not even in "You Bled."
If Rend Collective Experiment is not in your church yet during 'worship time' (AKA contemporary praise music time AKA Organic and authentic worship, unlike the artificial and fake worship everybody else has been doing) then they probably will be soon. It is a sure bet they are on your teenager's iPod. They're touring heavily Jan-March 2014 though the central US and south. They are appearing at Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in May.
Yes it's tiring to always monitor your child's iPod, iPad, computer, CD collection, friends, and social life. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."(Ephesians 6:4). Training up your child in the way they should go is a moment-by-moment, daily, lifetime commitment. (Proverbs 22:6). Keep alert with all perseverance! (Ephesians 6:18).