Last night I had the privilege of attending my second real contemporary Christian concert ever. The band was Kutless, the place was Valley Bible Fellowship; and I must say that I had a great time. For better or for worse, Kutless is one of my favorite bands, and it was fun to see them live. They put on a pretty good show; rocking out for several songs, calming down for a more "serious" time, and then ending the concert with several more crazy songs. Musically, they were great and Jon Micah was acceptable with vocals. Yes, he could've been a bit better on some songs, but he was good. Better yet, the opening group, lead by Eric Mizelle, was decent as well.
Now I like Kutless a lot. I have all of their albums, and all are really solid, each one bringing a slightly new feel lyrically and musically, but all retaining just a bit of that signature Kutless sound that fans like me know and love. I think that their lyrics are more biblically sound and God-centered than most "Christian" bands these days, and their music, quite frankly, rocks. Despite how awesome they are, though, it's hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend them to someone. For instance, two of their songs (which isn't too bad over five albums) revolve around such bad/weak theology that I've completely deleted them from my itunes.
You see, the tough thing about music, especially CCM, is that contemporary songs are by nature somewhat subjective. Even if you don't understand exactly what the artist was originally trying to say, it's fairly easy to read or interpret the lyrics in a way that you agree with. Consider Wavorly, another one of my favorite bands. It's pretty clear from reading their "behind the song" blurb online that they operate from an Arminian viewpoint (Kutless does too, btw), and as such speak of human choice in several of their songs. A line from one song goes "when choice spans such a great divorce (between heaven and hell)." Now they're obviously speaking of human choice, but when I listen to the song, I interpret the song to mean God's choice spanning a great divorce. It's possible to find much truth in Kutless' songs, but when the band actually talks explicitly about important spiritual stuff in their concerts, it's pretty weak. Nothing about sin, hell, or repentance, just stuff about how the Christian life is so much better, there's a "God shaped hole in our heart" and how only God can satisfy all our wants and desires.
Now don't get me wrong, that's all true, and fantastic, and good (besides the "God shaped hole" thing). It's great to hear someone in a band talk about how their music does not bring satisfaction or happiness. It's great to hear the lead singer pray that God would be glorified tonight. That's fine and that's beautiful, but there's something missing. Jon Micah mentions Christ, but little about who He is or what He did. He talks about living with God forever, but nothing about the judgment that awaits us if we leave this life without Christ.
After the concert, one of the pastor's of Valley Bible Fellowship got up and spoke for a few moments. Now given that this concert was free and that there were probably quite a few unbelievers in the crowd, he gave a little talk about becoming a Christian. Again, it was a good idea to use this as an outreach event. Here was a great opportunity to preach the gospel to hundreds, if not thousands, of unsaved people. Did this guy do that?
Yeah...well...maybe not. He started off great, using Paul's Gentile strategy of starting with general revelation. He talked about creation, and how there simply must be a creator God, and how this God revealed Himself to us by taking the form of a man named Jesus and dying on the cross for us. After that, though, he started to peter off, going into how having a relationship with Jesus will make you happy and give you a great life. Sin was mentioned at most two or three times, and hell was completely absent. I don't recall any mention of repentance either. The peak of watered-down theology came when this pastor said something to the effect of "not only do you get to live with Christ forever, you get a great life, you get hope, you get satisfaction, you get joy." It was almost as if eternal life was an afterthought. Sure, you get to live forever and escape the burning wrath of God, but now, here, today, you'll be complete and you'll be satisfied and you'll be happy! Just come up and make a decision to follow Christ today, and you're good to go.
Being a semi-frequent reader of blogs like TeamPyro, Oldtruth.com, and Pros Apologian, and frequently listening to podcasts like Way of the Master and Grace to You, I hear things all the time about the gospel getting watered down or perverted. I read about critiques of the seeker sensitive movement, decisional regeneration, and all that jazz. Hearing this stuff, though, live and in person at an event that I looked forward to attending was really tough and shocking for some reason. It was like I saw right through all the emotions and Christian lingo to the core of the issue: a weak gospel. Evangelicalism and Contemporary Christian Music, especially in churches like this, really is in a sad state these days.
Again, I really don't want to come across as being judgmental or legalistic, but as zealous for clear teaching of the Word of God. I think it's fine to listen to CCM as long as you listen with a discerning ear and avoid being swept away with the clever lyrics and emotional message. No question, we can enjoy bands like Kutless as long as the word of God is consistently being applied in our hearts and lives and we are able to avoid being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14).