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“But Casting Crowns Are Different!”

The Christian music industry is an industry before anything. Now, you may pretend otherwise, citing “deep” lyrics or some kind of theological emphasis that reverberates with the Gospel Coalition as it was ten years ago. You might be one of those guys whose principles go all weak in the knees as soon as the EL84’s warm up in the ubiquitous Vox AC30. You might think that good theology and rich lyrics make your favorite band safe from those nasty pharisees who want churches to have zero fun. But if you’re willing to look, you will see what I discovered back in the day when I was playing in Christian bands: your principles are always going to be a point of negotiation if you want to succeed in the Christian music industry.

Example: Casting Crowns is playing with Hillsong on their latest tour.

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About Christopher Ames

Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Boyceville, Wisconsin. Bicycle owner and operator. I used to play in a Campus Crusade band.

11 Responses to “But Casting Crowns Are Different!”

  1. Very true. So many Christians are 100% convinced that ONLY the lyrics matter most. Some dont even care to much about the theology, but just that the lyrics seem somewhat in line with scripture. I. Am. Baffled. Why WOULDN’T a Christian want to make sure every element is pleasing to the Lord? I guess there’s just THAT much pride. Scary.

  2. Pastor Chris,

    For what it’s worth, out here in the greater Los Angeles area we have “K-Love, Positive, Encouraging 100.3 on the FM dial”, “92.7 Air One Positive Hits”, and “95.9, The Fish”, and possibly others in the same mold. And they play Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Casting Crowns, et al. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of them going away, at least not in the near future. And I visited a church service a few months ago and one of the featured songs’ lyrics (as I interpreted them) were all about Me, Me, Me, Me, and Me.

    These entities don’t seem to be showing signs of fading away. **shrugs the shoulders and looks off into the distance**

  3. Jesse: some churches in the GARBC here in Wisconsin are singing Hillsong stuff. It’s the New Evangelical Liturgy. Many of the people who say that the lyrics matter either aren’t quite sure what “matter” means or don’t have the bandwidth to understand the lyrics.

    Todd: I know. Life coaching over a drum machine is very profitable. Most of the words are cliches you would not be surprised to find on a greeting card.

    *joins in looking off into the distance*

  4. For what it’s worth, I’m thinking of the band Casting Crowns, and a conversation that might take place between myself and a worship leader who apparently favors contemporary songs, and in the past, has lead a congregation in Casting Crowns’ song “Thrive”.

    Me: What’s with the opening utterances?

    Worship leader: I certainly don’t find anything wrong with them. They’re words.

    Me: Really? Words? Here’s what they are, as I believe you’ve sung in front of the congregation:
    Whoa-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oh, Whoa-o-o-o-oh
    Whoa-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oh, Whoa-o-o-o-oh

    Where’s the meaning in that? How are those utterances meaningful, in the context of a worship/praise song?

    Worship leader: There’s nothing wrong with that. As there’s nothing wrong with an organist or a pianist leading the congregation in a keyboard intro, whether the keyboard intro is a moment or several moments in length, or whether the keyboard intro has three notes or many notes. The Psalms of David as they were performed may have had instrumental introductions. And utterances are, as you know, a valid part of speech — an exclamation — just as are nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs are valid parts of speech. And when sung with the heart, they’re meaningful. They’re not inappropriate for worship of the One True God. And if you listen to George Frederich Handle’s “Messiah”, there are keyboard parts played by the organist — keyboard parts that are music, but no complete sentences as we speak them today.

    Me: What’s with the line, “We were made to thrive”? Doesn’t it rather sound like self-fulfillment? I mean, how are they different from philosopher Abraham Maslow?

    Worship leader: Obviously not — and no, they’re not the theory of that philosopher you mentioned. It’s simply an affirmation that we, as a spiritual community, have value and greatness within the context of God’s Word, His love, His care, His compassion, and His goodness. And two lines clearly speak to this:

    “So living water flowing through
    God we thirst for more of You”

    So it’s clear what the context is.

    Me: What’s with the repetition of the line, “Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable”? And why is the line fragmented?

    Worship leader: The words sound genuine to me, and there’s nothing wrong with repeating genuine-ness. Just like there’s nothing wrong with repeating lines in Psalm 136, which is a genuine worship song of God’s people in God’s Word. Perhaps you should read a page on this……

    https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-god-worth-repeating-in-worship

    And as to fragmentation, there’s nothing wrong with uttering a name alone. For example, the name “Jesus” or the name, “Lord”. I can continue uttering them repetitively in spirit and in truth.

    Me: What’s with the…..

    Worship leader: Sorry, you seem very contentious and perhaps contemptful or perhaps even resentful. I refuse to engage in such ill-fated dialogue. Bye-Bye.

    Any thoughts, anyone? How might you answer this worship leader?

  5. Todd, I’d recommend that you start by trying to be understanding. Chances are he’s blinded to what you’d be trying to say because he just flat out likes that kind of music. Why does a song start with moaning and yowling? Because songs on the radio start that way.

    I don’t agree with a lot of what this Ted Talk guy says, but he at least correctly identifies part of the issue: songs that sound the same make money. Everyone expects songs that sound the same. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTvwM6S9vxI

  6. It seems people may be on different wavelengths when it comes to ‘worshiping’ through music. I mean how we receive and express what we hear and feel, whether it is words, the lyrics or sounds devoid of words. It is the HEART and spirit of the person that tells us most. Is there a thirst and love and appreciation for the Father, for Jesus? Many of us are at different levels of growth and expression of faith and it is difficult for others to know what that is. Let us unite in our appreciation for what God has done and is doing and will do in words, song and music, albeit the forms can be different and not gel to our personal taste and experience. I love many old hymns but also the modern expressions seen in Hillsong and Culture, etc. I get swept into my love relationship for the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, my saviour and Lord, and seek to honor, obey and love them and his children and God’s creation. Thank you Lord!

  7. Chris,

    Just wondering — on the flip side of things — you’ve referred to a Google search on “evangelical” turning up a lot of pictures of people raising their arms in the air but I don’t see what you find wrong in that? It’s been said that it’s the universal expression of surrendering. This page examines it.
    https://jesusalive.cc/ques187.htm

    What are your thoughts

  8. Todd,

    That’s probably what many of them intend when they do it. But two questions:

    1) Why don’t they do it during the preaching? Or during scripture readings, if they’re old-fashioned enough to have such a thing?

    2) Why did it happen at secular rock shows first and then make its way into the church following secular rock show forms in the 1970’s and 1980’s?

  9. Chris,

    My apologies for lateness in replying. To your points:

    1) As usual, I don’t know. I’m going to speculate that they’d answer, “Maybe we don’t raise our hands during opening scripture reading, but we do stand — as is common in many contemporary church services — and here is biblical support for it”:
    https://www.russellmoore.com/2009/06/04/why-stand-to-read-scripture/

    2) I don’t know how they’d answer that one. I would speculate that they’d answer, “The Jesus Movement began in the early 1970’s, so it actually may have started with the Jesus Movement musical sessions.” (As to The Jesus Movement, I’m referring to the movement started around 1970 with groups such as Pastor Chuck Smith and his early Calvary Chapel bible study groups.) I’m thinking that they might say, “It’s a coincidence that it (has) happened around the same time that rock music fans started raising their arms at concerts.” Or, they might say, “Why do you seem to attribute such wrong/aberrant properties to so many evangelical practices? Why is it that you seem to see such aberrant thought/practice to entities in modern-day churches? Are you on the fringe? And if so, is that a good thing?”

  10. Chris,

    Please forgive me for any wrong choice of words. I should not have said, “Are you on the fringe? And if so, is that a good thing?” Thanks for any and all correction.

    Todd

  11. Todd, if I weren’t on the fringe, would I be hanging out around here casting aspersions on the hottest trend in Christianity today? :)

    I see that people have followed the money in their ecclesial practice. The Word of God is being peddled in pretense. Yes, people are still being called from darkness into light because the gospel itself is durable and powerful despite the charlatans who do ministry for mammon.

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