Music for Evangelistic Purposes

What do you think about using music to help reach the lost? I have heard a lot of discussion that says that Christian music should be used to glorify God and to edify believers and is not for the purpose of evangelism. While unbelievers can hear our songs and be convicted, curious, or what have you, as a side benefit, we shouldn't be writing music with the lost in mind, but with believers in mind. I've heard much criticism of CCM in this regard in that many songs are invitational to the lost to come to Jesus and are somewhat designed as "seeker friendly."

I can see the point that is trying to be made, but I do not see the consistency. I was wondering this recently and started thinking of our own hymnbook, so I went through our church's Majesty Hymnbook I found all these songs directly written to the lost:

Almost Persuaded
Are you Washed in the Blood
Come to the Cross
Come unto Me (Ron Hamilton)
Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
God’s Final Call
Have You Any Room for Jesus
Jesus is Calling
Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart
Look and Live
Only Trust Him
Softly and Tenderly
The Savior is Waiting
There’s Room at the Cross
What Will You Do with Jesus (Ron Hamilton)
Whosoever Will

There are also many songs that are testimonial about the salvation experience like, "Just as I Am" "Pass me Not" "A New Name in Glory", "Whiter than Snow" etc.

Was it ok to use music for the lost in tent revivals but not now? What has changed to make it ok to sing these songs in our hymnbook that are directly sung to the lost written a hundred years ago or more, but now churches that are reaching out to the lost in their music are seen as corrupting the purpose of Christian music.

Just doing some pondering here and wondering what your thoughts are on what I am viewing as an inconsistency.

Joe

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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think your point is valid. If one evaluates the purpose of music from Scripture, there is a preponderance of verses that direct us to "sing unto the Lord", sing about His mercy, His righteousness... but I can't recall offhand any verse that implies we should sing specifically to 'call to the lost'. That isn't to say that singing of God's mercy and love isn't a testimony to the lost, or that we should not have that influence in mind when we praise God, but 'invitation' songs are definitely a new practice from what I understand of Scripture.

Like many things we do today- invitations, Sunday School, church bulletins, choirs... singing/songs for purposes of evangelism isn't prohibited, but I think it is legitimate to ask ourselves if our use of music is consistent with God's intentions.

ChrisC's picture

Susan R wrote:
…I can't recall offhand any verse that implies we should sing specifically to 'call to the lost'. That isn't to say that singing of God's mercy and love isn't a testimony to the lost, or that we should not have that influence in mind when we praise God, but 'invitation' songs are definitely a new practice from what I understand of Scripture.
psalm 47 and 117 include a call for conversion from pagan nations. granted these are different than the usual revivalist invitation song, but the idea is there.

Paul Matzko's picture

Every Christian community, dependent on its context, is going to chose certain aspects of their faith to emphasize in how they worship in song. During the Reformation, hymnwriters used their songs to propagate Protestant doctrine at the expense of Catholic doctrine. For 19th century evangelists, in the middle of the revivalist movement, they emphasized reviving apathetic believers and reaching out to the lost.

I don't think that we should be surprised that today we prefer a different emphasis. I frequently listen to Sovereign Grace music which is often described as "cross-centered." SGM also has a noticeable trinitarian subcurrent, perhaps because Sovereign Grace is continuationist and so emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit more than other groups.

rogercarlson's picture

Joseph,

You raise a good point. I don't use much music to persuade. Some of the songs on the list you gave, we don't sing anymore. I do give invitations but they are very soft sell. I have no problems with invitations, but i ABHORE manipulative ones

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Is the underlying question "Are we free to use music for whatever purpose we deem profitable?" IOW- did God create music for general uses, or did He have some specific purposes for it, and should examples of music/singing in Scripture provide regulatory principles? Do we have God's permission, so to speak, to use music to relax, play, praise, express emotion, tell stories, evangelize...

Joseph Leavell's picture

ChrisC wrote:
psalm 47 and 117 include a call for conversion from pagan nations. granted these are different than the usual revivalist invitation song, but the idea is there.

They are quite a bit different, actually. These are universal calls to worship, which mention all people joining together to worship in the first verse and then the rest of the verses all describe why. So, I don't know if you could look at these as Scriptural precedence for singing to the lost, except maybe to say that they should get saved because God is worthy of their worship and then explain why. But both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 tell us "speaking to one another..." and "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs..." So I would take that to mean that our congregational singing is to both edify, teach, and admonish the believer, not specifically the lost.

Having said that, Susan, your questions are exactly what we should be pondering. My personal view is that singing to the lost is not wrong in that I understand many of the prophets would sometimes sing their prophesies, sometimes to unbelieving nations (Psalm 22; 2 Kings 3:15; Habakkuk 3:1), but in our singing I would make sure that the words are dominated by the complete truth of the Gospel rather than just "there's no such thing as perfect people so come as you are" (which is true) but then leaving it there so that the unbeliever is left wondering where they are "coming", who is this Jesus guy, and why do I need Him? Beyond that, I would also say that if our songs are dominated by evangelism rather than edifying and teaching one another as we praise and worship both for who God is and what He has done, then our focus has been moved off the person whom our eyes are continually to be focused on: Christ.

ChrisC's picture

Joseph Leavell wrote:
ChrisC wrote:
psalm 47 and 117 include a call for conversion from pagan nations. granted these are different than the usual revivalist invitation song, but the idea is there.
They are quite a bit different, actually. These are universal calls to worship, which mention all people joining together to worship in the first verse and then the rest of the verses all describe why.
well, they don't make much sense unless these non-jews have first converted from their paganism. they aren't calls to syncretistic, disingenuous or involuntary worship. so that's why i think they're talking about the whole conversion process — changing from worshiping pagan gods to worshiping the one true God.

Joseph Leavell's picture

That makes sence Chris, but in addition to that, there is some prophecy going on there too. Paul quotes Psalm 117 in Romans 15:10 speaking of salvation not just being for the Jews.

Scott Aniol's picture

Joseph, you make a very perceptive observation. I agree with you; there does seem to be some inconsistency here.

But it makes sense: historically, the Praise & Worship movement is a grandchild of Revivalism. Camp Meetings --> Revivalism --> Jesus Movement --> CCM.

So both groups use music to "reach the lost." And both groups use the pop music of the day to do that.

We can't have it one way or another, I don't believe. If, as has been already argued on this thread, music in worship is not for the lost, then let's keep it that way!

In reality, the difference between modern Praise & Worship and the kinds of songs you mention is a difference of degree, not a difference of kind.

Scott Aniol 
Executive Director Religious Affections Ministries
Instructor of Worship, Southwestern Baptist

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I wonder what ducks do if you try to boil them slowly in water...

JohnBrian's picture

Susan R wrote:
I wonder what ducks do if you try to boil them slowly in water...
Susan, you might have to ban yourself for false teaching. The Bible clearly teaches that it was a frog, not a duck, and as soon as I find that verse I will post it.

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Greg Long's picture

It seems to me that according to the following verses, one of the purposes of music is declaring God's greatness to unbelievers:

Quote:
Psalm 9:11
Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.

Quote:
Isa 12:4-6
4 In that day you will say:
"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you."

Also, how do we think this passage applies?

Quote:
Acts 16:25-30
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"


Now, none of the above examples, in my mind, equates to the "Just As I Am" style of invitation hymn. It would be more like singing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" or "How Great Is Our God" and having unbelievers listen.

On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with calling people to repent and believe in Christ, and I see nothing wrong with singing songs that call people to repent and believe in Christ. (Although as far as having an "altar call" style invitation...that's another story!)

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
Also, how do we think this passage applies?

I think it is accurate to say that there is a difference between singing a song about God or to God, than, say

"Oh jailer are you weary and troubled
No light in the darkness you see
But there's going to be a big earthquake
And in a moment we'll all be free"

Now- the question is whether or not songs whose message is aimed primarily to the lost are an acceptable use of music in God's eyes from what we know about music in Scripture.