I was having a tough time figuring out what to write today. Thankfully a discussion at Abraham Piper’s blog 22 Words sparked some thought. Recently some dear brothers had a rap concert at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Abraham’s thought was—Amen, now lets get a metal band. Then, Frank Turk (of Pyromaniac fame) entered the discussion with this:
No. No to the first half, and no to the second half. Liberty is one thing, and vulgar abuse of liberty (which is not necessarily hinged on vulgar language — only vulgar materialism) is another.
Just no. There should be no belly dancing in church, either; no clowns; no slide whistles; no fireworks or sparklers. Some things are not meant for worship, and we should just face facts.
I've heard this discussion before. Awhile back I had this discussion with a group of brothers. Initially their comment was that there are some forms of music that are simply too pagan in origin and are not redeemable; like rap, metal, and other uncomfortable forms of music.
I have a few students (actually former students) that I love like my own sons. They are in a metal band. I say that just so you know. Also, I am not a huge fan of metal music (especially the screamo kind—which my former students band is). My biggest problem is an inability to hear the words. Yet, I also know that some that listen end up getting the words and singing along with the bands they love.
Now that you know that, let’s move on to the discussion. Should there be rap and metal music in a church service? Is there a style of music that is inherently evil or worldly?
My initial response to Frank was simply this:
Rap or metal is not the same as belly dancing, clowns, slide whistles, fireworks, or sparklers. You are right that some things are not meant for worship…but can you really find me a text that says that the form of music such as rap or metal for that matter can not be used for worship through song?
God has created us with a ton of diversity, and he is redeeming people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language. People of different cultures have different forms of music. What may seem evil to one culture is the common expression of another culture. Deep drum beats are typical in African culture—but to someone in the Deep South it signifies gangsta rap.
My take is that certain expressions can be very helpful within a worship setting. Rap tends to make you feel like it’s subject is amazing. The beats just confirm the awesomeness of the subject being rapped about. There is some Christian music…I won’t mention any names…
T-Bone that seem to use this to display how amazing they are for being Christians. Kind of like a “eat that world…see Christians are amazing”. But other rappers like Flame, Lecrae, those from Reach Records featured at Bethlehem use this genre to say Jesus is absolutely amazing. It’s worship.
Now think about metal music. Metal music (especially screamo) is a good genre for displaying angst, struggle, and explosions. It can be used to say I’m in pain. It can be used to buck the authorities. It can be used to curse God. It can be used to generate an unholy expression for anger. But it can also be a cry out to God that says, “I’m in pain God”. It can be used to say to God “I hate this sin”. It can be used by God to passionately express dedication. It can be used to musically symbolize a violent casting off of the world. It can be used to worship.
Therefore, lets embrace all styles of music provided that everything within the song (music and lyrics) are centered around exalting God and His beautiful Gospel.