This topic is somewhat difficult to tackle because of its antithetical dimensions – Christ and Contemporary music, both of which are poles apart while at the same time contentious. While Christ is the Head of the Trinity, the Saviour and Redeemer of humankind, and the future Judge of the World, He is unknown to the World He died for. I believe Apostolic Christianity would want to know Him, make Him known and the power of His resurrection. It is based on this premise that I consider this piece a crucial one.
Music generally has been found to be both ambivalent and forceful enough to enhance or destroy God’s works. It has its way of affecting everyone and everything under the planet, earth and beyond. As Martin Luther stated, it is the next thing to theology. A big problem in Christian music is caused by the ever-changing culture of the world to which the Church bends, while the Bible that is the Constitution of the Church is unchangeable! This piece, a rather short one, is meant to present some features of contemporary Christian music, and what Christ expects from the Church.
While the whole Bible is the compass of Christians, the New Testament is their code of conduct and activities. In it are contained the instructions concerning our lives and living ethics. The New Testament therefore contains the mind of Christ concerning the worship of God and the elements of worship, one of which is music. It also records the active use of music in eschatological events. Thus, the New Testament shall form the basis of our thought and submission in this study.
As discussed previously (Adedeji, 2022), ‘the best descriptions for the contemporary time are found in the Bible. Some of them are 1) a perilous time; 2) a time of increased knowledge; 3) the Endtime; 4) time of the antichrist; 5) a period when many shall depart from faith 6) a time Satan is on rampage; 7) a period of tribulation. Really, the contemporary time is not the best of times.
Contemporary music reflects all the features of the contemporary time; so permissive, so perverted, so sensual, so demonic, so occultic, and so corrupt. This is because, the bulk of the music is governed and powered by satanic power and spirits. Music in terms of composition, performance practices, naturally operates on both physical and metaphysical principles. The metaphysical principles are rooted in the source of the music which backs it -God or Satan; good or evil; light or darkness.
This essentially ought to be the main distinguishing factor between religious and secular music. Religious (liturgical and non-liturgical) for all Religions be it Judaism, Christianity, Shinto, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, etc., while Secular – entertainment, educational/didactic, informative, theatrical/film, popular, pop, rock. While religious music should be inspired by the spirit, teachings and ethics of a particular religion, secular music is motivated by entertainment, financial gains, popularity/acceptability, demonic/occultic forces.
However, sadly today, the two have mingled together, with the sacred borrowing without limit from the secular and vice versa. Hence, the ‘gospel’ power in gospel music is no longer there, since the source is polluted. Whereas secular music increasingly pollutes and deforms lives, systems and the society at large. Today, ‘Church members are affected whether positively or negatively by music on the 50% level. Music therefore contributes greatly to their obedience or rebellion; to their love for Christ or their addition to sinful things. Music fuels the love of Christ on the one hand, and lustful desires on the other’ (Adedeji, 2022).
Christ’s Expectations of the Saints in relation to Music
However bad the situation may have become, Christ has His expectations on Christian music. First, He expects that Christian music should be composed and performed by people who are Christians – forgiven, regenerated, holy and righteous (Adedeji, 2007). Unfortunately, the term ‘Christian’ is so relative today, with the advent of several Hell-inspired theologies and doctrines. Secondly, Christ expects contemporary Christian music to glorify God. This is implied in the Pauline instruction given in I Cor 10: 31: ‘Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’. It is therefore expedient for Christians to always examine their making and usage of music whether they glorify God or not.
Thirdly, Christian music must be Christocentric. According to Adedeji (2022), ‘Christocentricism refers to all that has to do with Christ in whatever we do in the ministry. We refer to Christ’s mind, Christ’s purpose, Christ’s teachings, Christ’s glory. For instance, what is the attitude of Christ to music? What is the will of Christ?’ The Christocentric principles are implied in the following expressions: ‘as unto the Lord (Col 3: 23); glory in His cross (Gal 6: 14); we live to the praise of Christ (Eph 1: 12); according to the will of Christ (Heb 2: 4); for this cause will I sing (Rom 15: 9); Let all things be done for the sake of Christ (I Cor 4: 10)’.
In addition, Christ expects Christian music to be transformative. It is not just music for the sake of it; but music to save, heal, deliver, comfort, teach, admonish and generally edify. This is what Paul stresses in Col 3: 16-17 and Eph 5: 19. In order to achieve these, Paul gives the basic requisite: musicians and worshippers should let the word of Christ dwell in their hearts richly in all wisdom. From the above passages, it is made clear that the acceptable forms of music for Christians’ usage are Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs.
Furthermore, Christ and His disciples sang hymns (Mk 14: 26; Mat 26: 30). This singular event recorded in the two of the synoptic gospels is a confirmation that Jesus and His disciples recognised and used hymns as part of the liturgy. Thus, ministers must learn and effectively make use of hymn-singing in the liturgy. Though waning in Churches today due to many factors, it must be revived as part of the rescue mission of the Christian youth.
Perhaps, we could still look into other areas. Christ’s birth was celebrated with music (Lk 2: 13-14). The musical celebration was however done by the heavenly musicians. Today, Christians too celebrate birthdays just as we do for Christ through Carols during Christmas’ season. Christians however seems to have gone the way of King Herod, using secular, sensual music that corrupts the mind and such that claims the head of a genuine prophet of God. We must never be associated with this deadly practice (Adedeji, 2022).
It is instructive to know that Christians are free to make use of music whenever they are happy to refresh their spirit, soul and body (Cf. Jam 5: 13). This means the New Testament recognises Christian entertainment music. Jesus demonstrated this in the parable of the prodigal son in Lk 15: 23-25, where he referred to merriment in association with music and dancing. But which type of songs did James mention? Sacred songs such as Psalms only; not juju, not fuji, and not hip-hop. ‘Is there any one merry? Let him/her sing Psalms’. The recommended music for this kind of function is sacred gospel music and not the secular type.
Moreover, Christ requires us to worship God in spirit and truth only (Jn 4: 23-24). The right music philosophy should be adopted for our Churches – music that would please God and not people or that would feed the flesh. All of us ministers need to meet up with this standard otherwise our worship would be in vain. We should bear in mind always that hypocritical singing of praises to God is already condemned by Jesus (Mat 15: 8-9: ‘This people draw near to me with their mouth, and honour me with their lips; But their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’) and the Kingdom standard is already set by Jesus in Matthew 7: 21: ‘Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of My Father which is in Heaven’.
Finally, Christians should always be reminded that they should not be unequally yoked with the unbelievers (II Cor 6: 14-18). This golden rule ought to be applied to the making and usage of music. The Bible also commands: ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers’ (Eph 4: 29); neither should Christians allow corrupt things or contaminants enter into them through listening or watching secular music. Because they are the temples of the living God (I Cor 3: 16-17; 6: 19).
The bulk of contemporary music practices, especially in the Church, has departed from Christ’s mind and teachings. Contemporary Church music ought to be acceptable to God in terms of praise and worship, and praying to Him, and should be effective in evangelising sinners, admonishing, teaching, refreshing, healing, comforting, reviving believers and the Church at large. The Church is errant, defiant and rebellious today because the pulpit is bastardised and the righteous music is no longer fashionable.
What then is the way-out? There is need for a reversal and cleansing. Few remnant churches that are struggling to maintain the status quo should be encouraged to hold the fort till Jesus comes back. It is not going to be an easy task because the world has made its choice, which is against Christ. Christians were supposed to be followers of Christ, who uphold His values and practise His teachings. I believe there is need for a re-evangelisation of the altar today, for that is when contemporary Christian music can glorify God and fulfill Christ’s parameters and expectations.
- Adedeji, ‘Femi 2007. ‘Christian Music in Contemporary Africa: A Re-examination of its Essentials’. KOERS. South Africa. 72(1). 85 – 100.
- Adedeji, ‘Femi 2022. Following Christocentric Steps in Contemporary Christian Music. Conference Proceeding of Babajide International Ministerial Sharpening Conference (BIMSCON 2022) held at CAC Babajide School of Prophets and Evangelists, Ilesa, 13-14 January.
Femi Adedeji is a professor of Musicology at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife and a minister of the Gospel