Monday, October 31, 2005

...a time for prayer, repentance, revival and reform

Happy Reformation Day!

The need for reformation and revival is great in evangelicalism today. Money has become the number one plumbline and prerequisite for ministry; secular ownership of Christian publishing houses, music companies, bookstore chains and radio stations abounds; unsound doctrine is spoken against, but not stood against; and politics continues to be touted as the great savior for a nation in moral and spiritual decline.

But the great hope for any generation, including ours, is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! He alone is the answer.

May we pray today beloved that the Lord would revisit His people as He did in the Great Awakening through Jonathan Edwards and renew our hearts toward Him. May He bring revival to His church in every nation; repentance from sin; and reformation in the recovery of His gospel of justification by faith alone.

May the Lord open His heavens, wake us up from the lukewarm Laodicean sleep that plagues so much of evangelicalism and revive us again.

To that end, I humbly offer the following to you.

Still Pounding on Wittenberg's Door,
Steve Camp
2 Cor. 4:5-7

The Preamble to THE 107 THESES

Those of us who represent our Lord Jesus Christ in ministry should be galvanized by mission, not by ambition; by mandate, not by accolades; by love for the Master, not by the allurements of this world. Is there justified concern that Contemporary Christian Music and ministry in general today has abandoned its original calling and purpose and left the biblical standard of ministry and has failed to remain accountable to the local church? I believe so. Beloved, it's time to "sound the alarm on the holy hill" for we are calamitously on "the downgrade" in evangelicalism today.

The Preamble

Out of love and zeal for Biblical truth and the desire to bring it to light, I come to you, brethren, burdened and broken over the current state of Christian music. I come not out of a heart of condemnation, but out of convictions immersed in tears as one in desperate need daily of our Lord's grace to be conformed to His image. I come being aware of the depravity from which I have been saved and that my heart, apart from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, is desperately wicked and eternally sick. Early in my own musical journey I wrote songs that neither represented good music or precise theology. My motives were vitiated; my actions were not godly; and my lips were unclean. The thirst for prominence and position made my heart prideful, judgmental and calloused. But the Lord, out of His infinite grace and otherworldly love, broke me with His chastening hand to bring true repentance in my own life-and it's that life of repentance, which is my greatest desire and my greatest failing. It is out of the crucible of those experiences that I am driven to speak with conviction to these issues.

This document is a call to Reformation-a clarion call to recover Biblical Christianity in the arts. Music is a powerful tool from the Lord Jesus to His church intended for worship, praise, encouragement, edification, evangelism, teaching, admonishing, and exhorting God's people to holiness-with always our chief aim "to glorify God and worship Him forever." But beloved, the serpentine foe of compromise has invaded the camp through years of specious living, skewed doctrine and most recently secular ownership of Christian music ministries. While I assert this, I recognize that there are godly men and women who love the Lord that work for these companies and record for these companies, but that's not the issue here. The crux of the matter is that the overall nature of our industry has dramatically shifted. The Apostle Paul warns, "it takes only a little leaven to leaven the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6). When sin is tolerated it ultimately permeates and corrupts the entire church. What is pure today will inevitably be polluted tomorrow if we do not "purge out the old leaven… (Ibid. 5:7). In the past several years, there has been a not-so-subtle drifting away from Christocentric music to an anthropocentric music. Sadly, this has resulted in various visible manifestations of spiritual sedition-where currently, the CCMI finds itself on a slippery slope sliding away at accelerated speeds from the Savior, the Scriptures and the church.

History is a lucid teacher and we can learn from her. Give ear to the account of one man's battle against the roaring lion of modernity in his time:

Charles Hadden Spurgeon spent the final four years of his life at war against the trends of early modernism, which he rightly saw as a threat to Biblical Christianity. Spurgeon wanted to warn his flock about the dangers from moving away from the historic positions [of the truth]. 'Biblical truth is like the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain,' Spurgeon suggested. 'One step away, and you find yourself on the down-grade. Once a church or individual Christian get on the downgrade,' Spurgeon said, 'momentum takes over. Recovery is unusual and only happens when Christians get on the 'up-line' through spiritual revival.' History has vindicated Spurgeon's warnings about the down-grade. In the early part of the twentieth century the spreading of 'false doctrine and worldliness'-theological liberalism and modernism-ravaged denominational Christianity throughout the world. Most of the mainline denominations were violently if not fatally altered by these influences. A hundred years later, we are seeing history repeating itself again… 'False doctrine and worldliness'-the same two influences Spurgeon attacked-always go hand in hand, with worldliness leading the way. Christians today tend to forget that modernism was not first of all a theological agenda but a methodological one. (John F. MacArthur, Jr. Ashamed of the Gospel (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1993), 21-23, emphasis added.)

We are seriously close, beloved, to being on the down-grade in Christian music, if, in fact, we have not already begun the slide. Though we are seeing an unprecedented interest by the secular arena with more press and publicity, I believe there are some danger signs we can't ignore. Gospel music today has become music for the moment, but not for eternity. Transitory, temporal, trivial messages that devalue Deity and raise "felt need" affairs above eternal "real need" concerns produce disposable, consumer-driven, cotton-candy music. This is playing marbles with diamonds. We are unequally yoked with an unbelieving world, sin goes undisciplined-is even tolerated for some artists because of their visibility and sales power-and the truth and authority of Scripture is all but abrogated. Biblical illiteracy is pandemic. Accountability to the local church has all but been abandoned. Moral pluralism and erroneous forms of ecumenism are the dyslexic doctrines of today. A politically correct, reductionist gospel that appeals only to the flesh and a syncretistic methodology in communication through the arts have sought to replace the true "Gospel According To Jesus" evidenced in the fruit of an obedient life fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit and His truth.

Contemporary Christian Music originally began unashamedly declaring Jesus Christ as Lord. Within a few years His name was replaced by several generic titles filtering out the name of God ultimately to the non-specific cognomen, "Love." This led to a multitude of pseudonyms: "The Man Upstairs"; "My Higher Power"; "Our Family Values Expert" ad nauseam…ad infinitum. This Biblical illiteracy I've coined as theological ebonics-Biblical language diminished to cultural unintelligible chatter affirmed as profound, acceptable spiritual truth. Spurgeon again reminds us of our duty of rightly representing the preeminent Christ by saying, "Jesus is the Truth. We believe in Him-not merely in His words. He Himself is Doctor and Doctrine, Revealer and Revelation, the Illuminator and the Light of Men. He is exalted in every word of truth, because He is its sum and substance. He sits above the gospel, like a prince on His own throne. Doctrine is most precious when we see it distilling from His lips and embodied in His person. Sermons [and songs] are valuable in proportion as they speak of Him and point to Him. A Christless gospel is no gospel and a Christless discourse is the cause of merriment to devils."

Os Guinness is "spot on" when saying, "[we have seen a change] from an emphasis on 'serving God', to an emphasis on 'serving the self' in serving God." The object of faith is no longer Christ, but our self-esteem; the goal of faith is no longer holiness, but our happiness; and the source of faith is no longer the Scriptures, but our experience. Christian music currently reflects this. We are producing a generation of people that "feel" their God, but do not know their God.

We have been given a solemn and sacred duty to communicate through music the fathomless riches of God's eternal Word. The Word of God is the most holy thing we will ever hold in our hands in this lifetime. As Dr. John MacArthur says, "This book contains: the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Read it to be wise, believe it to be saved and practice it to be holy…

Lamentably, the music of heaven has been sold to the world-to the ones who had the deepest pockets and made the sweetest promises. In a very real sense, "Simon the Sorcerer" has succeeded in purchasing the work of God from the "apostles" of our industry (Acts 8:14-25). Could it be that the love of money is at the root of it all? Or could it be that ignorance has revealed the unschooled in matters of faith and doctrine? Unquestionably both. For many, money has been and continues to be the prerequisite for "ministry" and Biblical truth is no longer vital but vicarious! Departure from the Word of God is now clearly evidenced in our music, lyrics, business practices and alliances. Beloved, if we do not repent of our sins, God's judgement will surely be upon us.

When Martin Luther stood at Wittenberg's Door in the year 1517, he called for reformation from the recalcitrant Roman Church. Now it is our turn, almost five centuries later, to sound the alarm in our generation. This time, to call the Christian Music Industry to reformation-back to the supremacy, sufficiency and Lordship of Jesus Christ. Genuine revival-a fresh return to obedience in Christ-is surely needed today, but that would be almost impossible given the current environment of our industry. Why? True revival is marked by repentance; true repentance brings restitution; true restitution demands that Christian music be owned and operated only by believers whose aim is the glory of God consistent with Biblical truth. This means that the current CCMI labels must return all the money they have received to their respective secular counterparts that purchased them and divorce alliances with them. The CCMI has gone too far down the wide road of worldliness and there is not the tenacity of character and the Biblical courage of heart and mind to do the right thing no matter what the cost. These are serious times, beloved, that call for real answers. This is not a time for duplicitous people, proclaiming a diluted message, from disingenuous ministries. It is a time for those whose lives are tempered with the steel of righteousness, girded with the belt of truth, standing firm in the gospel of peace, raising high their shield of faith, guarded with the helmet of salvation, to wield the sword of the Spirit with a surgeon's exactitude, praying always with all prayer and supplication, with all perseverance for all the saints in the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Will we champion again the manifesto of the Reformers: Sola Fide (by faith alone); Sola Gratia (by grace alone); Sola Scriptura (on the Word alone); Solus Christus (because of Christ alone); and Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)? Do we have the conviction of heart and courage of mind to do what's just? Do we have the boldness to shout above the roar of the marketplace that the Emperor has no clothes? Will we leave our careers, our contracts, our carefully cultivated plans and press releases, our unequally yoked record companies to serve the Lord again with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? There is no gray in this-it's a matter of obedience.

Oh brethren, "we have a name to be alive, but we are dead" (Revelation 3:1). There is no greater love song to proclaim than the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord at Calvary, but yet others feel content to sing about the chaff of this world. What the New Testament church wrestled with the least is what our industry craves the most-money. How dare we think we can play politics with God, with His truth and with His church. We can't negotiate with sin no matter what kind of capital is at stake-and that really is the issue here.

Let us "press on, that [we] may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of [us]" (Philippians 3:12). Let us "lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). Let us fall on our faces before our Holy Lord, repent of our sin and return to our First Love. With lives bathed in His grace, let us provoke one another to love and good works. With undivided hearts may we leave the prodigal's pigpen and come back to the Father's house. Let us commit to prayer and fasting, seeking the Lord's will with a broken, contrite and obedient heart. Let us return to our churches and to the faithful pastors/elders that shepherd us-submitting ourselves to their godly leadership. May we be students of His Word being filled daily with His Spirit. Let us come away from an industry that has all but abandoned Christ and forge, by God's grace, what it was always meant to be…a ministry. Doing His work, His way, according to His Word, by His Holy Spirit.

Pray on this: let us seek the Lord Jesus Christ that He would sovereignly move among His people to bring revival, renewal, repentance and reformation in Christian ministry and music again.


Bhedr said...

>It is no secret, the current state of evangelicalism moving away from biblical truth is eroding dramatically almost monthly with no corrective in sight. There needs to be a theological line drawn in the sand that calls for repentance among evangelicals that I am now offering The 107 THESES as one such voice. <

Oh how desperately we need this call. thank you for putting power behind your punch. I pray it resonates as this is the only answer right now. You said it! No one is listening and the love of money is at the root of all sorts of evil. What grieves me is that you are the only one that sees this. Keep on Elijah. Keep on! You inspire me.

pilgrim said...

I remember hearing a tape from a conference where you spoke on CCM.
You voiced many things I had been recently thinking, and it was encouraging to know I wasn't alone.

I also had a term for a disturbing trend that was highly annoying at best. You spoke of the "God is My Girlfriend" type song. (Or did you say "Jesus" (It's been awhile and the tapes belonged to a friend who now lives far away.

"when the "God is my girlfriend" song is touted as a great thing I cringe, feel ill, and want to spew.
It's not an honourable thing, it's irreverent, and possibly idolatrous.

Denise said...

I couldn't agree with you more Steve. The hypocrisy stinks, quite frankly. I'm sure there will be some who justify what they do with "well here we're able to reach otherwise those who we couldn't reach with the gospel...." Interestingly, though, some of the folks who would NEVER grace the doors of TBN's studios WILL grace the office doors of Zondervan, et al without qualm. But really what's the difference between them?

I have a feeling that accountability won't occur unless such "leaders" are named publically called to account for their duplicity. Otherwise there's no reason to change. =( I wish I was wrong...and maybe I am.

Jeremy Weaver said...

This is a clarion call to the modern church. Thanks for taking the lead here, Steve.
May God give you grace to carry on this work of reformation. And me the grace to follow.

littlegal_66 said...

Keep overthrowing those money-changers' tables!

Hold fast,and keep pounding on that door with all your might, Campi!
After 8 years of hammering, I know your hands must be blistered, your knuckles bleeding, and your arms aching, but I'm afraid that no one else with any "clout" (for lack of a better term) is going to speak up but you. (Although, if your friend Keith were still with us, I believe he'd be right in there with you).

Let us know what we can do to help, and we'll pound with you, brother.


Shawn said...

AMEN AMEN, I have read the 107 as I call them at least 10 times all of the way (many of times bits and peaces) through and each time it is quite a convicting time.

I have on many occasions used the 107 Theses to send to pastors and friends and many many people usually prefacing my comments to them with the fact that this reformation document can be used in all things in Christian ministry not just "music".

Blessings Steve for the time you put into this.

Wyman Richardson said...

I really like the theses. Great stuff. (Steve, PLEASE don't see this as nitpicking, but you need to drop the apostrophe in "it's" in the phrase: "Celebrating It's Sixth Anniversary." It should be "Celebrating Its Sixth Anniversary." I know. I have too much time on my hands. Just a suggestion. The only reason I mention it is that you have the phrase in that nice graphic.)

Joel said...

I'm not sure I agree with you across the board, Steve, but I certainly have to take off my hat to your sheer guts in saying this. CCM isn't what it used to be; Christ's musical counterculture aspect has been replaced by bland imitation of the world's culture.

Sparks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sparks said...

Your 107 Theses is what attracted my attention to

My question for you is this, are there any other CCM artists who have affirmed your theses? Are there any others who would publically make a stand? Do they serve God or mammon?

Mike Perrigoue said...

I myself am curious about sparks question.

Steve, do you listen to any CCM artists? How 'bout secular stuff?

Great stuff, man. Convicting. Makes me wonder about alot of stuff I buy...and from whom...

SamWhick said...

Hi Steve, it's Sam from Millersville PA. I've appreciated reading your stuff on here as well as, keep up the good work. I appreciate the 107 Thesis and agree with the call for a reformation in Christian music and ministry. I do have a question about number 46 (using secular tunes while changing the words to give a Christian meaning). Based on this line of reasoning are you opposed to using some of the old hymns which supposedly used popular tunes of their day? I am not an expert on this type of thing by any stretch of the imagination so I'm seeking your input. Thanks

David said...

This call does not only apply to CCM but to the whole of the Church. The pragmatism and relativism we see today, in the name of identifying with the postmoderns or others, is frightening. The only true source of truth is the gospel. If our ministries, whether CCM or pastoral, are not based on the truth of the gospel how can we call them ministries? I, for one, am no longer content to be part of the crowd, just to be liked or accepted. I am with you Steve on this one, whole heartedly!

dogpreacher said...

Sparks hit the nail on the head:

God or mammon...who will they serve? Oh, it couldn't be that simple, could it? YES!

Soli Deo Gloria,
The DOGpreacher

Eric S. said...

The same ones who championed my effort through THE 107 THESES back then are now some of the same ones today saying to me, "who made you the watchdog for Christianity?"

I'm curious who "the same ones" are. Can you tell us?

Thanks for the Theses and the call to reformation. Much needed.

Unknown said...

I long for Christian musicians to once again challenge a fallen world and backsliding Church to return to the only One who ever loved everyone by allowing Himself to be slaughtered for our sins.