Monday, March 11, 2013

Rock and Roll.....and Jesus?

Some followers of Christ would frown upon those words being spoken in the same breath.  Listening to rock music is not something a Christian should be doing according to some fundamental groups.  As a musician and a Christian I want to discuss why the two can go together.  There are many Christian artists out there who have been given the gift of music and use it to glorify God through rock music. 
I grew up in a musical family and a Christian family.  Both my parents sang opera in local productions and served God in church choirs.  I loved singing all the hymns and songs of praise at church.  I enjoyed being a bell-ringer in the children’s choir.  My sister and I took piano lessons briefly.  I started playing the violin the summer after fourth grade.  I found it more expressive than other instruments.  My grandfather Munzer had played violin in the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra.  He wanted me to become a concert violinist.   I had other plans.

As a music education major in college, I listened to and studied a lot of classical music and composers.  I loved playing pieces by Bach, Beethoven and Mozart.  Many classical pieces were written for the church.  Our college orchestra participated in a performance of The Messiah.   Some classical pieces were more secular in nature.  Swan Lake is my favorite ballet.  I got to see it a couple of times when I lived near Boston.  Tchaikovsky was a brilliant composer.  He was probably not a Christian, but given a musical gift.  According to some Christian groups, the sorcery in the story of Swan Lake makes it something we should avoid.  That could also exclude the Nutcracker and numerous other ballets and operas.  But that’s another discussion for another day.

I have had a deep love for rock music since junior high.  I’m a rocker chick.  There’s just something about electric guitars, bass guitars and drums playing loudly that really get into the soul.   I’m sure I confused people in my college dorm.  One minute there was the sound of a lone violin practicing a Bach concerto coming from my room.  The next minute, Led Zeppelin or Van Halen would be blasting through the walls.  (I married a guy who also plays violin and loves rock music.)
After attending Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusade a few years back, I began listening to rock bands that also professed belief in Jesus Christ.  This was where I first heard Jeremy Camp.  Seventh Day Slumber was also there.  That fall had been a difficult one.  My friend Leslie was dying from pancreatic cancer and a very young family member had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.  The music that I heard at that event gave me comfort and hope.  I learned of other Christian artists on K-Love radio and Air 1 radio.

The other night, my husband and I went to the “Rock and Worship Road Show”, a concert of nine Christian rock artists.  It was amazing.  Thousands of people young and old filled the HP Pavillion in San Jose to see Jeremy Camp, Luminate, Mercy Me, Kutless and others.  The cost was only ten bucks to see over three hours of live music.  In between songs, the lead singer for each band professed his faith in Christ and gave the gospel message.  Throughout the evening, the gospel was spoken many times, not just once.  Scripture was quoted, and the Bible was opened up and read from. 
These bands may look like typical rockers with long hair, tattoos and even blond dreads.  Their music may initially sound like generic rock/heavy metal music.  But they aren’t singing about girls or cars.  They are singing about Christ, and His love for us.  They are singing about how Christ rescued them from sin, despair, addiction and from themselves.  What powerful testimony that is.  We give our personal testimonies in church in the spoken form all the time.  It’s hard to get up in front of people and tell them what you used to be and the things that you did before Christ got a hold of you.  Other believers listen to your testimony and are inspired.  It’s awesome to learn how Christ has worked in someone’s broken life.

If you think about it, we already present the gospel message in different ways.  We translate the Bible into different languages so that even someone in the far reaches of China can hear it and understand it.  So why not use different types of music to proclaim the gospel and to give testimony.  Look, we’re not talking holding church at a bar over beers.  We’re talking music. There are a lot of hurting people out there.  They can be reached by meeting them where they’re at, by relating to their pain and sharing how Jesus saves and has the power to change lives.  This is what Christian rock does.

Take a look at the lyrics to the song “Invisible” by a band called Disciple:  You’ve got my attention/there’s no need to hurt yourself this way/you think no one will notice you’re feeling/when you cry yourself to sleep/you feel stuck on the outside looking inside/wishing this life wasn’t your life/and you think you’re damaged way beyond repair/well you’re not so far that I can’t get to where you are/you wish you were someone else/every night you fall to pieces/knowing you can’t save yourself/I can see you, I can hear you/there’s a place where the broken go/there’s a room full of second chances/you’re not stranded on your own/you’re not invisible./I’m ready to listen/there’s no need to hold it all inside/the smallest whisper/I hear it when your strength has all but died/I need you to believe me/can you trust me/that what you see is not what I see/the reflection in the mirror’s telling lies/cause nothing you have done could change how much I love you/ you’re not invisible/I can see you as you’re falling on your knees/You’re not invisible to Me.
This is a song called “Breathe Into Me” by Red:  And this is how it feels when I/ignore the words you spoke to me/and this is where I lose myself/when I keep running away from you/and this is who I am when/when I don’t know myself anymore/and this is what I choose/when it’s all left up to me/breathe your life into me/I can feel you/I’m falling, falling faster/breathe your life into me/I still need you/I’m falling, falling/breathe into me breathe into me/and this is how it looks when I am standing on the edge/and this is how I break apart/when I finally hit the ground/and this is how it hurts/when I pretend I don’t feel any pain/and this is how I disappear/when I throw myself away.

Disciple explains how Jesus is the “Remedy”: I see the world in black and gray/broken dreams of a runaway/escape the world to medicate/symptoms gone but disease remains/if the vision dies will it ever breathe again?/oh, I’ve got to let go of the illusion/this is the end of me/You are my remedy/Oh it’s taking its toll-this pollution/this is the end of me/You are my remedy/where you stop is where you’ll start again.
Jeremy Camp delivers the gospel through his lyrics.  Here is “Lay Down My Pride”: Every single word I say/ You know it before I speak/You know every thought/ the deepest part of me/You draw me closer than I see/Your presence is everything I need to be/The child that You've created me to be/(I'm ready now to see it Your way)/Lay down my pride, my desires, my demise/I'm ready now to see it Your way/'Cause I'm done, I'm through/ignoring You now it's true/I'm kneeling at the cross of Your grace/Lay down my pride/I was faced with passing time/ but I knew the choice was mine/To finally come to You and give You all control/I've wandered miles to find my way/And then You revealed this simple faith/I know that You can see the secrets of my soul.

Camp’s “Jesus Saves” is a wonderful song of praise: Hope is here/ shout the news to everyone/It's a new day, peace has come/Jesus saves/Mercy triumphs at the cross/Love is come to rescue us/ Jesus saves/Hope is here what a joyful noise we'll make/As we join with heaven's song/To let all the world know that Jesus saves/Raise a shout to let all the world know that Jesus saves/Free at last, every debt has been repaid/Broken hearts can be remade/ Jesus saves/Sing above the storms of life/ sing through the darkest night/Jesus saves/Free at last, what a joyful noise we'll make/As we join with heaven's song/To let all the world know that Jesus saves/Raise a shout to let all the world know that Jesus saves.
Kutless’ song “Carry Me” says this:   I can see thru the laughter/I know you've cried your share of tears/But you don't have to do this by yourself/You tell me that you feel abandoned/Carrying the weight of all this pain inside/You trust in someone else/But you're crying out for help/I'm a believer/That He's strong enough to hold you now where you are/I'm a believer/In the One who's always reaching out to your heart/He understands you/There's not a greater love that you'll find in this life/I'm a believer in Christ/You're trying to escape the landslide/Running from the choices that you've made/When will you surrender to His grace/He promises He'll never leave you/Offering to free you from your past/Cause that's the sacrifice He's made/He can be your shelter and your strength/No matter what you've done/Or how far you've run/There is hope for you/For every broken heart/He'll meet you where you are/He will rescue you/Let Him rescue you.

There are so many more Christian pop/rock songs out there that praise God, and give testimony to His greatness and power to change lives.  I am providing some links to a few of my favorites for you to listen to if you wish.    Jeremy Camp “The Way”   Jeremy Camp “Overcome”   Disciple “Invisible”  Kutless  "What Faith Can Do"
Also check out Decyfer Down, Skillet, Third Day, MercyMe and Toby Mac.

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