When I was a little guy, one of the biggest hits was released; The Devil Went Down to Georgia, by The Charlie Daniels Band. It was a showdown of epic proportions, man versus evil, donned with the same instruments, dueling it out to see who is the best!
While I grinded the grooves off of that record, the truth is—there is something more to music—something powerful and something spiritual.
Within the Christian culture, the one common denominator that brought more strife to modern evangelical congregations is music: variations in styles, organs or pianos, hymns or songs, stringed instruments, and drums, is it godly, does it degrade the liturgy, and/or is it secular? We could list myriads of reasons; suffice it to say, people have strong views about music.
Not too long ago, an article was posted by Christianity Today entitled, “Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian?” The article provided an argument about the validity of whether or not it is theologically correct to “feel the presence of God,” through music.
The article’s great thesis came with this statement, “There is simply no evidence whatsoever in Scripture that music mediates direct encounters or experiences with God.”
I completely disagree with the writer’s summation, but also understand what the article is presuming.
While I understand what the writer is attempting to say, theologically speaking, I think he has missed the spiritual power of music and the Scripture provision that proves this theses wrong.
I’d like to provide a passage of Scripture that is missed everytime I hear or read about this argument. And, for the purpose of building up the body of Christ and your spiritual strength, I will confess that I believe music has the ability to bring us closer to God and feel His presence.
Let’s read this passage:
“And Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.” But the king of Israel said to him, “No; it is the LORD who has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you. But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.” — (2 Kings 3:13-15)
The surrounding context from the above-mentioned Scripture (2 Kings 3) is an amazing testimony of events. They illustrate a direct encounter with the Spirit of God and the connection to music.
The prophet Elisha is summoned prior to the battle—to inquire of God as to whether the three kings (Judah, Israel, Edom) should fight a battle against Moab. Elisha’s response is unique, he orders a musician to be brought forward to play, so that “the hand of the LORD” would come upon him. Why a musician?
For a prophet who parted water, made an axe head float, and raised the dead—why—when asked about a battle against Moab—would he request a musician? Seriously? Stick with me…
For those familiar with the Bible, you may have linked Saul’s demonic oppression and David being ordered to play the lyre (guitar); several times this occurs, and the demonic spirits flee (1 Sam. 16:23).
In both cases (Elisha and David), music “plays” a significant role in spiritual warfare and the presence of holiness. To validate, when David set up his administration, he instituted the service of the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, to “prophesy with lyres, harps, and cymbals” (1 Chron. 25:2); thereby, attaching prophetic gifting, presence, and music. As well, the OT book of Habakkuk is written by the musical prophet, who supplies a song.
Music has a functionality to ease the soul, a divine, “coming into the presence of God,” and receiving divine illumination—the biblical precedent is evident.
So, why would a prophet of God, like Elisha, need to have music playing? As the Scriptures state, “to feel the hand of God.” I believe in this case, the prophet knew that he was in need of “divine revelation” from God and was seeking the proper environment.
In my opinion, godly music can hold back demonic forces, as well as bring us into a holy and worshipful atmosphere of praise to our Creator. I know that worship music can change my heart, attitude, and emotions—almost instantaneously.
I have not only witnessed the power of music firsthand, but believe it’s a truthful saying. I inserted the importance of music within the attack of Moab because it was part of the context and, it seems, a viable weapon in spiritual warfare, giving presence and illumination.
Therefore, music is more than mere words and should be utilized as a form of “entering” into the greater worshipful presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Scripture is clear that God does indeed employ music for intercession.
One of my favorite verses, which I pronounce every time after the Lord’s Supper, is from Matthew 26:30. The setting is the night in which Christ will be betrayed; He knows that His soul will be in anguish as He bears the sin of the world upon Himself. I have to think their singinig brought Him some peace. The verse states, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mt 26:30). Andreas Kostenberger believes that the hymn was Psalm 118:22-23, a Jewish traditional usage from the Passover celebration:
I can imagine Christ singing with the disciples and what God’s voice must have sounded like—I bet it sounds like the church in glorious praise? When Jesus sang, did the angelic host join in, as they did when He was birthed?
Only the disciples and Christ know, but my point is this…those that believe music is not powerful, spiritual, or can bring the presence of God, have it very wrong. While the presence of God is always with believers—we do submit to the presence of holiness and God’s Spirit when we worship Him with humble and grateful hearts.
So, sing with all of your might, as King David danced (2 Sam 6:14).
Kostenberger, Andreas, & Taylor, Justin. 2014. The Final Days of Jesus. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.72.
As someone who assesses cultural trends, demographics, and global movements, it is not easy in today’s shifting world as a visionary and trainer.
One of the hardest aspects for “early adopters” is translating what you see coming and then getting others to invest in that vision. For the most part, only a small percentage of people are early adopters of vision and even a smaller part are vision casters.
The Reality of Inner City Churches
It’s amazing how we view the works of Schaeffer, Wagner, or McGavran with deep regard (at least some, do), yet when they were writing, the church didn’t seem to pay attention to them. But, their words have become somewhat prophetic as the church leads into the 21st century. We see before our eyes the proofs of global movements, urban areas, and immigration.
If you’re a church planter or pastor and haven’t heard the term diaspora, you will. If you want to know what is coming to urban churches then you need to become a student of diaspora movements (and immigration).
One of the major shifts in global population is the flowing dispersion of immigrant people groups. God is sovereignly moving people around the globe like never before. As a church planter to the military, I purposefully see the reaching, equipping, and sending as an identifiable diaspora-like movement.
If we couple the influx of hipster urbanites, gentrification, and urban renewal, it’s a massive powder keg awaiting implosion within inner-city churches.
Because most of our inner city and suburban older churches are not prepared for what is coming. The reality—these churches will die out. With the movement of refugees—either fleeing persecution or temporary visa status for work—they’re coming to cities all over the world.
What Immigration Tells Us
Western churches in urban areas will be forced to reach people of ethnicity. It’s not that urban churches haven’t always tried to reach ethnicities—but cities will be more ethnically and culturally diverse than ever. We should know that immigration to the United States is the only cause for population growth.
And, where do most immigrant groups go? Cities.
Without immigrants (legal), the United States would not be growing in population—but plateauing or even declining. Just to clarify, if you’re linking immigration with the Hispanic culture, let me help you. Currently, Germany and Ireland are the top two countries with diaspora peoples coming to the U.S.—Mexico is third, but only by a small portion of one percent, compared to the United Kingdom (4th).
How Does This Change Urban Evangelicalism?
Immigration and diaspora models play a major role in engaging urban areas with the Great Commission (Matt 28:18–20). As well, the combined hipster, gentrification, and urban renewal (for taxation) models will come into effect.
I’ve heard it said, “We need to stop mega-churches from “gobbling” up old city churches for satellite campuses because they know nothing about the people in the city” or “we already have ‘churches,’ they just need more people in them.”
Supposedly, as the theory goes, mega-churches and Anglo church planting in urban areas won’t work because both are viewed as outsiders looking in. The theory suggests that anglo planters and megachurch models do not understand an inner-city culture, and will not be able to engage the people.
This erroneous theory is caused by thinking Anglo church planters cannot reach African Americans, which are the prominent majority of the urban population.
This argument suggests that Anglo planters and mega-churches should solely invest in small “indigenous” churches, working with and alongside already existing minority inner churches—but not create new spaces of worship. While I may have agreed with this model ten years ago (for outreach purposes)—it’s as archaic as the tape cassette—well, maybe the CD.
Within the next five to ten years, domestic churches and church planters will be forced to reach across the cultural lines of socio-economic barriers, engage ethnic diversity evangelistically with E–2 to E–3 evangelism, and evaluate demographic and ethnic data. If a church doesn’t know who is in its neighborhood, it cannot reach it.
Research any recent urban demographic data and compare it to fifteen years ago. However, census.gov reports won’t provide a true picture—as many people groups within a city, either fail to report their true identity or will not report at all (mainly because of privacy, legal issues, or fear). Think about the major influx of Islam—in just fifteen years this people group has surpassed caucasian and evangelical reproduction.
Do you know how many mosques are now within your city?
While I devoutly pray that brothers and sisters in Christ would no longer view skin color, race, or religion as barriers—the fact is—immigration is a game-changer!
Even the inner-city African American culture will be melded into the many ethnic cultures already here and those arriving in the future. To reach an entire city the church must yield to a concerted effort.
Most cities are becoming more and more ethnically diverse: Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, and European. To think that things are going to stay the same, especially in light of gentrification (even though I disagree with it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening), are antiquated and ignorant. Urban churches wishing to survive must engage foreign people groups.
The Good News
First, we have the ability to know, study, engage, meet, and communicate with every people group within our cities. Major mission organizations are working side-by-side in mapping the nations within cities. This information is available and can assist churches and church planters in engaging urban areas with the gospel.
Second, nationalities within city-limits sometimes have unreached people groups (UPGs) among them. Many of the refugees will one day desire to go back home—so, what better way to engage missions than to have UPGs return to “go and make disciples” in their own homeland.
Lastly, churches should be working together, collaboratively, as kingdom workers to reach every city with the gospel. However, this is going to take a multi-pronged approach. Existing mega-churches should find ways to purchase dying empty church sarcophaguses—keeping these “kingdom properties.”
Targeting areas of resurgent growth and ethnically diversified areas with house churches works well, too. Strengthening and revitalizing churches, which can be saved, and churches within lower socio-economic areas are a must.
As well, traditional style church planting (having a sending church) and more innovative church planting techniques (parachuting) must be implemented.
We’re all on the same team—let’s reach our cities and the peoples of the world.