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Mistitled and Misfocused
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Dan Lucarini
Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement (Darlington, England:  Evangelical Press, 2003, 144p.)

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Lucarini details the problems he began to see in the Christian music group with which he sang and others he observed.  These were matters of moral failures, personal pride, often connected with an immature and unprofessional attitude, negative attitudes within the music team, a drift into drugs on road tours and moral problems between members of the band.

The author notes that unchristian attitudes sometimes created tension between band members.  Some of these relationship problems were due to immaturity, and some Christian music teams even had non-christian members.  Dynamics were strained when some members of the worship band would speak in divisive or dismissive manners to other band members.

Sins and Temptations
He was concerned that female members of worship teams in concert and in churches wore inappropriate clothing.  He complained that they wore skimpy and revealing clothing and the way some moved to the music was sexually stimulating.  This can be a valid concern for anyone before an audience.  We might think church congregations would be more sensitive to this kind of behavior than the general public.

Lucarini speaks with some agony about the sexual temptations he himself experienced.  We can sympathize with this and support him. At the same time we realize that this personal emotional distress seems to be a major factor in his perspective, not an objective evaluation of the overall "contemporary" gospel music enrgymusic industry.

Personal Struggles
As he continues in this vein, it becomes apparent that he is not so much discussing the music as the personalities, or the procedures or presentation by particular individuals or groups.  His valid portrayals of the people he has worked with and his own struggles with personal sins of thought or body.

Lucarini saw that for many of the leaders and musicians he observed or worked with, it was all about the music and not about the Lord or the spiritual effect on the audience or congregation.  They got caught up in their own fame and the thrill of performance before an audience.

The concerns he details are problems because there are human beings involved!  Problems of immaturity or unspiritual behavior by band members likely indicate lack of care or consistency in choosing members of a music group whose stated goal and purpose is worship.

Confusing the Issue
It became a concern for me that Lucarini was blurring issues here, caught up in his own experience and dealing with his own moral struggles.  He blames the music rather than the people, losing rational perspective on the human element in this or any other endeavour.  His conclusinon is that it is the type of music that causes this.

Lucarini chose to change the type of music he was involved in.  He proposes that churches not use drums, for instance, in their worship, as though the thythm itself was the problem, rather than the particular use of it or the personal spiritual attitude of the drummer as a member of a cohesive worshipping group.

Invalid Conclusion
He oversteps the logic of his own decisions in dealing with his situation.  He determined the only way he could deal with it was to withdraw from the music context he was in.  He felt a need to reorient himself and his congregation to a different approach to music.

He then takes the invalid step of turning this into an authoritarian rule against a certain form of music (what is "contemporary" anyway?!).  He projects this into a campaign to convince others that they are in error and on the wrong moral path if they persist in using music of our era in their worship of God.

We can sympathize with Lucarini over the things he experienced and the personal sins he confessed here that he had to deal with while involved in a music team.  Lucarini's story evokes a sensitive empathy and sens of identification from any Christian musician honest with themselves abotu their human identity!

We can support Lucarini in informed prayer, and identify worship team members and fellow worship band members like those he identifies who were instrumental his crisis of conscience about his msucial situation.

The book, however, is mistitled.  It is not about Contemporary Christian Music.  It is about one person's temptation and sensitive observation of the situation he was in.

Not about CCM
What Lucarini has written here is not an evaluation or even an exposé of a particular form of music.  This is a personal testimony of the very bad experience he had, and a confession of the moral problem HE experienced in the particular group and setting in which he worked.

The problem with the book is that Lucarini violates a basic principle of logic to apply his personal experience to everybody else.  Amazing.  There is no logical conclusion to be drawn about all other churches or teams based simply on what Lucarini may have observed and experienced.  The only way to condemn them is to evaluate a representative sampling of similar churches and see if they indeed do all fit this pattern.

This blanket condemnation simply based on what style of music a church wants to use is the opposite of how Jesus says we are to evaluate our own struggle with sin.  Lucarini applies his own experience as a judgement against EVERY other person and worship team that uses contemporary music.  He makes another serious logical error in the way he uses the term "Contemporary Christian Music."

Commercial and Congregational
Lucarini fails further to distinguish between the Contemporary Christian Music commercial MOVEMENT, and the use of this particular style of music in worship in thousands of churches worldwide.  These are not the same phenomenon.

I think it is very important to be clear exactly what we are discussing, when we use the term "contemporary music."  It may refer to current musical styles and forms, or it may refer to a commercial genre.  Commercial attitudes seem to tend towards conflict with gospel attitudes.

At times it sounds like he is indeed talking of the commercial movement.  But at others he is vague and especially in his accusatory clauses, it sounds like he is simply lashing out at anyone that might be associated with the kind of painful and sinful situation(s) he has observed or been invovled in.  This is not a valid conclusion.

It is often not clear if he is talking about the commercial aspect, recording songs to sell, or performance in worship services and concerts on road tours or simply a church using some of these songs or this style of music in their local worship.  The book could use a good edit to clarify the focus.

I am wondering why he does not condemn churches and worship teams/leaders that use country music or southern gospel music (Gaither, Oak Ridge Boys, other popular gospel quartets and similar groups) or black gospel music forms?  What does he mean by "contemporary"?

Why is the style of music faulty just because he has experienced a common human failure in bands that use a particular form of music.  On what basis does he determine which musical styles from which cultures are holy enough to qualify for local church worship?

Common Problems
Is he unaware that some Southern Gospel quartets have also gotten hooked on drugs trying to keep up with the demanding road show schedules?  That there is such a common expression of pride and superiority among singers and bands of virtually all types of music!?

Often it sounded like Lucarini was really complaining about conditions on the road common to any touring group with any style of music.  Time away from families and close quarters while traveling also introduce the opportunity for personal moral lapses, unrelated to the style of music a group sings.

Pain with Presumption
How can he be unaware of this?  I can only figure he is writing out of his own pain.  And no doubt it was painful even to write about this and make this confession public.  As this pain came through, I prayed for him, commiserated with him, identified with him.  We all must support each other this way – we are all in this life together!

But this does not change the fact that it is morally improper and logically erroneous to apply this personal experience to one particular type of music, simply because this was the type of music he was involved in.

We are all subject to these same temptations, and at times we have all had to work with this same kind of insensitive, prideful, immature and mis-focused team members who have lost focus on the Lord.  The type of music is not what did that!

Counter Examples
In the church where until recently I had played in the worship teams for three years, most of the people in our contemporary services, were not teenagers, but over 50!  We grew up with "contemporary" music, and it seems natural to use the style of music of our generation(s) to worship God.  What is "contemporary" changes and there is often a disconnect between commercial CCM and "contemporary style" music used in worship.

In our Johannesburg church, we used many current releases in our weekly worship, as well as older "contemporary" songs.  But to pass muster, a song had to have content and focus.  Worship was always in focus, and the primary audience was the Lord, not the congregation.  The worship team's duty was to worship God authentically and to invite and lead the congregation to worship God.  This same spirit pervades in the new small church in the Dallas, Texas, area where I have just moved.

Quality is always entailed, but quality without integrity is not much use in worship leadership.  In previous years I was in a church in Nicosia, Cyprus, and in general the same attitude prevailed there, though we dealt with the problem of high turnover in personnel.  It was similar in another small church in Richmond, Virginia, where I was on the worship team for 3.5 years.

Not About Style
I don't see how the style of music is the point.  Every style of music used in any church anywhere in the world is or was a style of some era of culture and popular or art expression in that culture.  I can't see in the Bible that God is a music critic or has any preference of style, but the point of any activity seems to be the focus and intent of the heart.  Where does Jesus, Paul or any other apostle even mention music styles?!

It is not the style of music that should trouble us, but the personal motivations and attitudes that affect the dynamic within worship teams and congregations.  The mere term "Contemporary Christian Music" does not tell us anything in itself, any more than "opera," "country" music, "gospel," or any other musical style term tells us about the people and situations that might be involved in the use of any of these styles.

Read the book to identify with a fellow human in a great pain he has experienced.  Do not read the book for a proper and objective analysis of a particular type of music!

See related reviews and articles on this site:
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[text] Cool Blues Wailer
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[review] Musical Meditation for Christmas
[text] Music – A Life Summary
[reviews] Music, Race and Society
[review] The New Light - Christian Folk-Rock in the 60s
[review] The Psalms as Music and Prophecy
[Review] Texas Roots in American Music
[review] What Did You Say This Book is About?

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Review written and posted on Amazon and Thoughts and Resources 30 April 2009
Last revised 1 December 2011
Last edited 8 August 2013

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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