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Mark Minnick addresses evangelicalism, Sovereign Grace music, and more

I highly commend this message by Mark Minnick to you. Unfortunately, it is not free ($1 to download), but it is worth the money for a variety of reasons.

The talk is a “family chat” in his church, the first part of which discusses their financial report and other such matters specific to their church.

However, the end of the talk deals with the state of the Church today, including various matters such as separatism, music style, whether we can sing Sovereign Grace songs, etc. Very helpful.

He begins such discussions about 25 minutes into the talk.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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29 Responses to Mark Minnick addresses evangelicalism, Sovereign Grace music, and more

  1. Scott:

    Dr. Minnick was at my home church for two services today. It was the installation service(s) for our new pastor, Dave Schlagel.

    Dr. Minnick and I had a few moments alone this afternoon. He mentioned this subject to me as we shared some thoughts on related issues. I was gratified to learn he is getting out in front on this. I'll listen to that at my earliest convenience.


  2. Scott,

    I listened to the message last night. In light of our previous discussion on "music is not the problem", I think bro Mark says the opposite in this message. He seems to say music is the primary problem…

    Maybe I'm missing something.

    He also was a little tepid in calling out other fundamentalist churches who are indulging in sanitized SG music.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. Don,

    Just curious, if Dr. Minnick's posture towards churches using SGM songs was tepid (I disagree), then what would be the "hot" or "forceful" way of "calling out other fundamentalist churches who are indulging in sanitized SG music"?

    Nathan Gearhart

  4. Don,

    You're right. I'm still not convinced, and I do think the things that I mentioned are bigger contributors to the problem, but his sentiments did give me pause.


    Minnick simply said that he and his elders have chosen to to use SG songs at this time for various conservative reasons, but he urged for the display of grace to other churches who have chosen to use them conservatively. I happen to agree with him on that.

  5. Scott,

    I really appreciated the way Minnick framed it. I'm curious about what Don is calling for.

  6. A quick response:

    1. If the use of evangelical music is as influential a problem as bro Minnick says it is, then why would you not be making decisions to distance yourself from those using those songs? To not do so seems tepid to me (inconsistent with his own strong stand).

    2. I am not calling for any other stance at the moment, but bro Minnick was making a very strong case against the use of evangelical music. He is saying that it is THE PROBLEM in moving people from fundamentalism to evangelicalism.

    So… that leaves us with more questions than answers, I think.

    Don Johnson
    Jerimiah 33.3

  7. Don,

    On your point 1, do you mean "evangelical music" or do you mean "sanitized evangelical music"? Or do you mean both? In your first comment you refer to one, in this you use a different term. Do you mean to refer to the same thing?

  8. Don, you're not really suggesting that Pastor Minnick should make the use of Getty/SG songs a *separation* issue, are you? He should distance himself from SGI and Dave Doran over this?

    Certainly there are some issues on which we can just differ without making them a test of fellowship. No? That's what Pastor Minnick suggested. That's wise, not tepid.

  9. Chris:

    I’d agree that some forms of music do not constitute a test of fellowship. If I am a guest in a church that uses some SG I would squirm quietly in my seat, but won’t run out the back door shrieking heresy. Some forms, of course, would be far more problematic.

    I do, however, believe there are far more serious concerns in the so-called conservative evangelical wing that consitute a test of fellowship. Concerns such as: non-cessationism and ecumenism.


  10. Fellows, let's not parse blog comments (or exegete them) as if they are holy writ. We are talking about a message by Mark Minnick. Whatever term I have used here, I am referring to the music he has described in the message.

    So let's try this again:

    Mark seems to be saying that the move to using this music (use whatever adjective you want) is the problem that is resulting in people moving from fundamentalism to evangelicalism.

    He also seems to be saying that we should grant liberty to other churches who choose to use such music.

    So… Is my perception of his arguments correct?

    If my perception is correct, it seems there are two conflicting ideas here. One is that this is an essential issue, i.e., one that is moving people away from the separatistic philosophy that is called fundamentalism to the more inclusive philosophy that is evangelicalism. The other idea is that this is simply a matter of Christian liberty.

    I am wondering if my friend Mark is being clear here. If the problem is as severe as he seems to characterize it, then why is he willing to grant others liberty here? Or is the problem not as severe as he is making it.

    For myself, I tend to agree with Scott in his earlier post that music itself is not the problem. I think there is some liberty with respect to the type of music churches might use. I don't think we need to eliminate every hymn from our hymnal that comes from suspect people. Horatio Spafford comes to mind, and even Isaac Watts had some aberrant views. (And some fellow named Zichterman.) There is probably a limit to the amount of liberty we might be willing to grant in this area, but it isn't always easy to define where that limit is.

    So in evaluating the message in question, I guess it comes down to this: Does SG music have the leveling and paradigm shifting influence that Mark seems to be saying it does? And if yes, what should be done about it?

    I don't profess to know how I would answer those last two questions at the moment.

    Don Johnson
    Jerimiah 33.3

  11. What’s interesting to me is that I just listened to a Minnick sermon from several years ago in which they closed their service with “Before the Throne of God Above” but they used a completely different tune than what is normally associated with that song. I was somewhat surprised at the selection until I heard the music that they used with it. Personally, I didn’t think the tune they used was all that great and it seemed to me at least that the congregation struggled to sing it. But that is somewhat beside the point. While the lyrics for this song are not modern (1800’s), the song is something I would put in the SG genre because I think the new tune by Vikki Cook helped popularize it. So, there are ways that even Mt. Calvary can use these songs/texts in a way that is acceptable to them.

    I sympathize with Minnick’s position even though I would approve of a selective use of such songs if I were given that responsibility. I’ve been to churches, however, where I think they have overdone the use of SG-type music. Those songs can start sounding very similar and not all of them have texts that are so compelling. But the real problem with totally avoiding this music is that the cat is already out of the bag. Whether you give people a taste for this type of music or not, they are going to find it out on the Internet and listen to whatever they want. So, might as well feel free to use good texts with good tunes and sung conservatively because it’s not like you are hiding artists from anyone. Those days are long gone.

    BTW, there was song sung at the last MACP about creation that I’ve been trying to find more information on. Does anyone (Scott?) remember anything about that song? Who wrote it? How I could get the lyrics? When I tried to Google the title I couldn’t find anything, and now I’ve forgotten the title.

    Don, my impression from the message was not that Minnick identified SG music in particular as the reason for a shift away from separation but that evangelicalism as a whole has embraced the philosophy of CCM and it can be seen even in those who promote, for the most part, songs with very solid texts. He is concerned with an association with those songs, even when the style has been changed.


  12. Andy,

    The text to "Before the Throne" is in Hymns of Grace and Glory, edited by Joan Pinkston. It's an old hymn, and the tune in that hymnal is pretty good.


    In my opinion Pastor Minnick handled the issue like I wish more pastors would – he carefully and conservatively came to a conclusion for HIS CHURCH, and urged grace toward other churches who would make just as careful decisions for THEIR CHURCHES. He did what he thought was wisest for his congregation and honored the autonomy of the local church.

    I applaud him. In this way, he sets an example in two ways, first in how he made the decision for his church and second in how he made the decision for his church and not for anyone else.

    We should all follow his example.

  13. Hi Andy

    I think our impressions of the message are similar. I think that the "Sovereign Grace" connection actually comes more from Scott's tags in his post here. I would guess that given the current climate, it is the association we would tend to make with the comments Minnick made, but I don't remember him specifically identifying SG.


    Well, I am not disagreeing with making decisions for the local church as opposed to making proclamations for all churches. That is certainly a legitimate option, but it does tend to weaken the overall argument, in my opinion. If the issue is of such a concern that it is causing 'tremors' in the whole church, then perhaps it should be more than just a local church decision. If it doesn't rise above a local church decision, then it is a matter of liberty and not as big a concern.

    Anyway, don't want to beat a dead horse any further. (I am often quite willing to beat dead horses, it seems!) I hope that my last two comments have helped to clarify what I meant by my earlier comments. If not, well… what can I say? Communication in this medium may require more skill than I have.

    Don Johnson
    Jerimiah 33.3

  14. Minnick did specifically name SG; in fact, he encouraged every parent to go on their website and download some music, even the whole "Songs for a Cross-Centered Life" album, so they would be familiar with what it sounds like when the issue comes up.

    And he also on several occasions made it very clear that he was making these comments for his church only.

  15. I walked away with the impression that the big concern is preserving a certain style of fundamentalism that is the only hope for a pure church, pure kids, etc… I grew up in a Fundamental church where the music was very conservative, but when I look back at 20+ years of ministry there, I don't think the number of their kids turned out any better than the average Southern Baptist church. It was my experience when following up with kids I grew up with on Facebook, Myspace, and other means of re-connecting, that at least 50% of the kids go off into all kinds of sin and never return to the Lord. So, even though godly Christian music is very important to glorify God as he deserves, I don't know if it is the lynch pin that if removed or compromised, will destroy the whole church.

  16. Will, you've hit the nail on the head. I don't think there is any correlation between the type of church or music and the drop-out rate of the kids, or anything else for that matter. I grew up in a town with two baptist churches – one conservative and non-charismatic and the other charismatic. I went to the conservative church and they were always condemning the charismatic church. But I know that plenty of the kids from my old church are no longer walking with the Lord, and the church also had at least two scandals with extra-marital affairs (including at least one deacon) in recent years. I've no idea what the statistics are, but I suspect that there's little difference between types of churches. At one extreme churches are liberal and undisciplined, and at the other they are oppressive and controlling (and plenty of fundamentalist are in the latter category).

  17. As I think more about this issue, I think the last two posts by will and sidefall are correct. Music itself is not the cause of departure for young people. If that is what Mark is saying in his message (I'll have to listen again) then I think he is wrong on that point. I ran across an article by a pretty well left wing SBC pastor about the issue. SHE was lamenting the loss of young people also, citing similar concerns, and proposing pretty lame-brained solutions (IMO).

    That is why I also contend that the problem isn't the controlling atmosphere of some fundie churches. The nice guys are losing young people also.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  18. Don:

    Speaking in general terms it is my opinion that for whatever reason most of those young people who do depart do so quite naturally without any external stimulus or atmosphere. Some just need a villain that made them depart.


  19. Lou, that's true too, foolishness is bound in the heart of a child and he will go his own way and find anyone to rebel against. Just look at the 60's. The rebellion was motivated by the shallow values of their parents and although they pin pointed the problem correctly, they ended up with the same values of thier parents in the end except more radical and dysfunctional in the end. Their diagnosis of the problem was right, but their solutions were wrong. I think that a similar rebellion takes place with young people in the church. They see their parents and pastors values as shallow and meaningless for example: "We need to preserve fundamentalism at all costs!!"
    The young person asks "why? what good has it done in the last 80 years? What is fundamentalism anyway – dress standards and boring music?"
    There's got to be something bigger and more transcendent than that! And they're right, just like the hippies, but they too often turn to the world for the answers and find their lives more wrecked than their parents in the long run. The attraction to the Sovereign Grace, Desiring God, Grace To You type ministries which are FILLED with young people in their 30's and under, is that they are holding forth a transcendent view of the glory of God in everything as the 'big value system' that they need to embrace. If a kid rebels against that, then he has no valid excuse and hell is the only place fit for him.

  20. Will, I am not so sure on your last paragraph. Is it transcendance that people want or is it the feeling of transcendance? What could be more transcendant than Rome or Orthodoxy? Reportedly a number of former evangelicals are shifting in that direction as well, but mostly not those from fundie backgrounds (there are exceptions).

    Personally, I think it is the feeling people are after, which speaks to the narcissism and self-absorbtion of this age. I think that it is affecting churches across the board.

    I realize that my views may be a minority position, however!

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  21. Brother Will:

    I appreciate much of your commentary above, however, you wrote, “The attraction to the Sovereign Grace, Desiring God, Grace To You type ministries…

    Although a valid concern IMO the least of the disconcerting issues of the conferences such as: Desiring God, Shepherd’s T4G, Gospel Coalition, Resolved, Passion, et. al. is their music choices.

    The truly BIG issues, are that you have men, who depending on the personality, are teaching that the charismatic sign gifts are active and should be sought after today, are unapologetic ecumenicists, or utilize disgraceful speech in their preaching.

    At a conservative evangelical site I read your note about going to Shepherds next month. What is the “attraction” of those things that draw you to those conferences? Those IMO trump the danger of their music choices.

    I might squirm through the CCM (probably not) if it happened unannounced to me, but with men on the platform who tolerate, stand for and propagate charismatic theology and ecumenism I’d never show up in the first place.

    Part of your reason (you cited) at the ce site for going to Shepherds is to demonstrate to them separatism. You wrote, “to influence some of the conservative evangelicals to exercise more discernment concerning biblical separation and unity if we do it properly first….” May I ask: How can you teach separatism when you do not “withdraw” (2 Thess. 3: 6,14-15) from men who are ecumenicists and/or Charismatics?

    That kind of participate with to “influence” them strategy is what I am now calling “Infiltration Theology” and is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. Furthermore, it is exactly the other way around. It is men like you who are being influenced by the ce men. And some of you have and/or will get caught up in then bring their aberrant distinctives and disdain for balanced, biblical separatism back to your own ministries.

    Is everything coming form these men aberrant or destructive; of course not. Is everything coming from Fundamentalism the ideal; of course not. There is IMO, however, more than enough in aberrant doctrine and practices of the conservative evangelicals to cause a balanced separatist, who also prefers unity in the body, to step back and instead call on them to become the best of what we are in balanced, biblical separatism. Instead I see this “Infiltration Theology” in which some IFB men decide to go to them- willing to tolerate and allow for the aberrant doctrines and practices that thus far would never be allowed for or tolerated in their own IFB ministries.

    IMO, continued exposure to the ce camp apart from an actuve and vital ministry of warning will desensitize you and others to what they are and propagate. As Peter Masters noted, to attend T4G (for example), “the ministry of warning (must be) is killed off.”

    Sorry for the blunt terms, but they are offered from one who desires to speak the truth in love.

    Yours in His name,


  22. Clarification, “I might squirm through the CCM (probably not).” Meaning, I would not stay long enough to even have to worry about squirming through a CCM concert. LM

  23. Don,
    You're probably right about the "feeling" of transcendence and that is what the CCM music supplies…just watch any Hillsong video…they think they're worshipping at the simple strum of a guitar—led away into raptures of bliss, hands held high, crying, blah blah blah…it is phony baloney and most of them know it because after the Hillsong concert, a bunch of them will hook up with their boyfriends and fornicate somewhere. I've seen that at Simpson College, a CMA school when I visited there back in college. Made me sick. But to lump all of broader evangelicalism together is either unfair or it shows that some of you guys don't get out much. When I mention the Desiring God, T4G, Shepherd's Conference, etc…crowd, they would almost have nothing to do with most of what the rest of evangelicalism is doing. But most fundies can't tell the difference between their ministries because they judge everything by appearance.

    Which leads me to answer Lou's comment:
    Lou: "The truly BIG issues, are that you have men, who depending on the personality, are teaching that the charismatic sign gifts are active and should be sought after today, are unapologetic ecumenicists, or utilize disgraceful speech in their preaching….What is the “attraction” of those things that draw you to those conferences? "

    The only conferences I've been to are the Shepherd's and Ligonier Conferences and at both there has been nothing disagreeable – the music IMO has been God honoring. I realize that Resolved is a problem that is somewhat of an albatross to MacArthur's ministry thought. Anyway, what attracts me to those conferences is the God-centeredness, expository preaching, theological emphasis on every subject that they bring up. It's much better than anything else out here in California. The FBF and BJU crowd is scarce out here and all that's left are conferences like the one at Lancaster Baptist Church which is all about how to grow your church like theirs. The music would be great, but c'mon, I need some real meat!

    I agree with the big issue that you brought up about ecumenicism, charismaticism and disgraceful speech – all of which is denounced at those conferences. True, MacArthur will share a platform with Piper or Mahaney, who are wrong on the sign gifts, but as far as I can understand MacArthur's principles of separation, he will limit cooperation with those whom he disagrees with on those issues depending on the context.

    Lou: "May I ask: How can you teach separatism when you do not “withdraw” (2 Thess. 3: 6,14-15) from men who are ecumenicists and/or Charismatics?"

    How can I teach separatism to them if they don't know I exist and even care about them? They are brothers for goodness sake, not Liberals. I will personally withdraw from anyone who does what those verses tell us to do – depart from the 'tradition' that the Apostles gave the church who walk disorderly (Driscoll for example – disorderly mouth).
    Another term that needs clarification – ecumenicist. I was brought up to think that meant anyone who mingled with anyone else not in our IFB camp!
    But, in reality it's someone who's willing to mingle with unbelievers in spiritual union. As far as I can tell, that doesn't qualify MacArthur…he writes books strongly against cooperating or even dialoging with liberals (The Jesus You Can't Ignore, Thomas Nelson Pub. 2008) .

    I appreciate your warning about being desensitized. I understand your concern and must keep myself vigilant.
    God bless,


  24. Well, I would suggest that the appeal of Piper is the way that he has made Calvinism emotional. It is not quite the same as CCM, but it is emotionally driven, nonetheless.

    As for California, I have enjoyed some good fellowship at the Northern California FBF conference in the past.

    But we might be starting to drift away from Scott's post here…

    Don Johnson
    Jerimiah 33.3

  25. Don, Piper makes Calvinism understandable and makes us see the connection between the head and the heart. All he does is parrot Jonathan Edwards.
    Anyway, to get back on topic, I've said before on a discussion on SI a while ago that another reason people are flocking to these ministries is about leadership, not the music.
    When I look at 9Marks Ministry, without going to their website, I can tell you what they're all about – they are trying to strengthen the local church by bringing people back to a Biblical model. Ligonier Ministries – They want to awaken people to the glory and holiness of God. Grace To You – They want the Word of God to powerfully change people through expository preaching,
    Desiring God – they want to awaken people to the pleasure of knowing God as their supreme pleasure.

    On the other hand, name me any Fundamentalist institution and ask someone what they exist to accomplish…would anyone beside their faculty be able to answer that with clarity?:
    BJU – To preserve fundamentalism??
    FBFI – to make resolutions every year??
    Sword of the Lord – to preserve revivalism? I know that my own alma mater has sent letters encouraging support of their college to keep the "old time religion" around.

    To tell you the truth, I like the visions of the CE's better!
    So, fundamentalists have a choice – they can keep dumping on these guys and drive more of their best people to them, or they can acknowledge what they're doing right and figure out what they're not doing right, have the guts to admit it, change it and keep some of the young generation to carry on.

  26. Will, I'd like to respond to your last post in some detail so I'll try to do that on my own site in a day or two. I've put the address into my name in this post, so you should be able to find it. I'll hope to have it up by Tuesday at the latest.

    I think you are pretty cynical about Fundamentalist institutions. Perhaps that is their fault, but it seems to me that you have missed their reasons for existence.

    Enough for now, my response to all of this will just keep us going away from Scott's post, so perhaps it will be better to move the conversation elsewhere.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  27. Brother Will:

    Thanks for the gracious, thoughtful reply. This is going to be much more brief than I’d prefer. A thread does not allow for a thorough discussion and we are staying from the subject matter of the article. I’ll post my final here in two segments.

    Clarifying my use of “ecumenism” is in regard to setting aside and/or tolerating (major) theological differences to (“mingle”) work in cooperation towards mutually shared goals. The kind of alliance the Scriptures clearly forbid. For example, Mohler and Duncan formally mingled with liberals and unbelievers through the Manhattan Declaration. The MD is the fifth of five documented egregious ecumenical compromises in Mohler’s resume.

    You wrote that ecumenism, Charismatic teaching and filth speech are, “denounced at those conferences.” That is debatable in light of the fact that the prime instigators are in the leadership of and honored with a platform presence at these “conservative” evangelical (ce) conferences. Although JMac rejects these aberrations he does host, honor and share platforms with certain ce men who do, “mingle with unbelievers in spiritual union.”

    You asked, “How can I teach separatism to them if they don’t know I exist and even care about them?”

    The Scriptures have taught the ce men “separatism.” Those passages are clear, they are not unknown to the evangelicals. None of us can improve on what the Lord has taught, but we can exemplify what He has taught, give Him the preeminence by believing and obeying Him in this regard. Demonstrate biblical separatism to them and admonish them to do likewise. Do so because you care first about absolute fidelity to the biblical mandates and that you care enough for the ce men to call on them to believe and obey the Lord’s mandates also.

    Earlier I cited 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15. Briefly, the passage has to do with not working and busybodies, then surely when we are faced with ecumenical cooperation with unbelievers and liberals, like that of Al Mohler’s examples, surely the charge to “admonish” and if rejected then “withdraw from” must be our response; right? Ecumenism as I defined it is “disorderly;” isn’t it?

    Here is Dave Doran from his series, Gospel-Driven Separation, “For the sake of the clarity of the gospel, believers and churches must separate from those who compromise the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith (Rom 16:17; Phil 3:17-19; 2 Thess 3:6-15).”

    I trust we can agree signing the MD granted, “Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith”? That may not have been the intention, but clearly was the result.


  28. Will:

    I’ll close with sermon excerpts from the man who this article has to do with. I draw your attention to Rom. 16:17-20 In 1997 Dr. Minnick preached two messages on that passage. He said:

    What is this paragraph talking about? If you would look at verse 17 you will see that it is a paragraph dealing with people who are teaching contrary doctrine. . . . These are people who are teaching as truth doctrine that actually is alongside orthodoxy. They are teaching what is a contradiction to, what is the opposite of, what is antithetical to, the doctrines that are taught in the Scripture.”

    Charismatic theology, disgraceful speech and ecumenical compromise are “contrary” doctrine and/or practices. They are, “antithetical to the doctrines that are taught in Scripture.” Do we agree on that point? Piper, Mahaney, Mohler, Duncan, Driscoll, et. al., have been admonished, refuse to respond to correction and repent. If we agree, then as Minnick also said,

    If you take those terms (v. 17) and you ponder them for just a moment, what becomes apparent is this: our response in the first place is mandated. We have no subjective decision to make. The decision has already been made and the mandate is objective; it is in print! It has been in print for centuries! I exhort you, ‘mark’ them and ‘avoid’ them. . . . The response that we are given is a mandated response. We are obligated to obey what is here.”

    I appreciate we’ve had this brief exchange. Most in our circles who have an affinity for the ce camp bristle at any suggestion that we must admonish, mark and avoid them.

    In the near future I am going to post an article at my blog on this theme we’ve discussed here. I’d enjoy discussing this more thoroughly, with you, Don Johnson and any others who are willing to do so.

    Yours faithfully,

    Lou Martuneac

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