October 17, 2017

An Examination of Sovereign Grace Ministries and Getty-Townend For Use in Fundamental Christian Churches (1)

Part 1

Douglas Bachorik and Ryan Weberg

Introduction

“The songs we write will shape people’s understanding of who God is, who we are, how we’re to think about our relationship with him, and what we’re to feel. Writing songs is no insignificant task.” **

With these words Bob Kauflin gives a succinct and accurate picture of the role of music in the life of individual believers and local churches. The seriousness with which he and his colleagues pursue the task of song writing is admirable and should be emulated by all Christians involved in music ministry. Perhaps it is because of such thoughtfulness that both Sovereign Grace Music (SGM), which Kauflin leads, and the compositions of Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (GTM) have become increasingly popular in fundamental Christian churches, schools, recordings, and publishing ministries.

** Reference for Kauflin quote beginning this article:[1]

By all accounts, the people involved in SGM and GTM appear to be committed Christians, and dedicated musical servants of the Lord and His people, as seen in the quote above, as well as the following quotes:[2]

“It is so important that our lives are built not on our feelings or circumstances, but on the word of God, and songs can really help us to meditate on and retain truth. I know from the correspondence I regularly receive that if you can express in songs the profound truth of the gospel in a poetic yet accessible way, they really can have an impact in people’s lives.”[3]

“Most of my life is spent making melodies to make truths less forgettable, more memorable to people and ultimately make Christ more attractive to people.” ((Getty, Keith. “Words and Music – Interview by Rebecca McConnell.” Published in the Presbyterian Herald and posted on the Gettys’ website. Accessed on 5 July 2012, on the World Wide Web at http://www.gettymusic.com/news.aspx, at 5:17 PM EDT.))

While the authors of this paper largely agree with the sentiments expressed in these quotes, we believe that fundamental ministries are adopting a new repertoire of congregational music without a proper vetting of the texts and musical sounds, or an exploration of scriptural principles regarding the spiritual health of a local assembly. At the same time, the authors believe that we should not simply reject new songs or types of songs merely because they are contemporary or different. There must be a careful balance of the proven and familiar [old] with variety and freshness [new – both recently composed and older songs that are unfamiliar to a congregation]; however, in our search for new, we need to be careful that we are not unwittingly bringing in musical language, texts, or associations that mitigate our theology or the edification of all the members of a local body of Christ. We hope that our brief exploration will help, by God’s grace, in the vital process of spiritual discernment and practice.

We undertake this examination with the following assumptions in place:

  • new music and lyrics are something to be desired and sought after
  • musical sound is a mode of communication, not a neutral aural backdrop
  • Christians must test all forms of communication created for worship and edification, accepting that which is true and beneficial, while rejecting that which is not[4]
  • Christians are capable of propagating untruth (both propositional teaching and engendering of inappropriate emotions), as well as truth, through art
  • congregational music is the most important musical activity in a local church
  • decisions about music are to be governed by both music-specific passages and other ‘universal principles’ of the Scriptures, and
  • such decisions should be made by local churches, as well as individuals

Making significant musical changes or additions to the worship/edification practices of a local church must be based on theology, then effectiveness, and finally, influenced by personal or group preferences. Consideration of congregational tastes is important, but cannot be the primary reason for the adoption of a new music style or genre until we have examined the style, or elements in the style, for its compatibility with our theology, since the music of our worship both reflects and influences what we believe. In I Thess. 5:21-22 we are commanded to test everything:

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Both SGM and GTM need to be tested and, if found to be good in terms of musical communication, lyrical content, and edification of the whole local body, should be accepted. If found lacking, such should not be adopted. We will try to examine all three areas below.

To be continued…


Doug Bachorik is the director of music studies, Bob Jones Memorial Bible College, Quezon City, Philippines.

Doug Bachorik is the author of a new book on music, see New Heart, New Spirit, New Song for additional information.

Ryan Weberg is the pastor of Valley View Bible Church, Telford, PA

  1. Kauflin, Bob. “Where Do Sovereign Grace Songs Come From?” Blog post, dated 15 January 2010. Accessed on the World Wide Web at http://www.worshipmatters.com/2010/01/15/where-do-sovereign-grace-songs-come-from/ on 5 July 2012, at 4:50 EDT. []
  2. But with some significantly different theological positions compared with ‘mainstream’ Christian fundamentalism, especially with regard to worship, and the operation of the Holy Spirit. []
  3. Townend, Stuart. “About Stuart Townend”. Accessed on 5 July 2012, on the World Wide Web at http://www.stuarttownend.co.uk/bio at 5:04 PM EDT. []
  4. See Douglas Bachorik’s article “An Exploration of Cross-culturally Perceived Emotion in Music” at www.biblicalmusicology.com. []


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.