BEWARE OF THE LEAVEN OF HEROD
We are all eyeball deep in and coming to the close of an important election year. Some of us may be having a tough time navigating the political waters this year, as they seem more turbulent than ever. I must confess that the last 2 Presidential election cycles wreaked havoc upon me. I was manifesting anger, judgment, self-righteousness… which culminated in me preaching my political views on social media and countless hours of arguing with my T.V.
Maybe you have had some of the same issues this year? Maybe you’ve sworn off politics or decided not to vote? Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping because of the harsh political climate.
I want to offer you some scriptural advice for the next 2 weeks. No, not who to vote for, but a proper biblical perspective as to how to move forward in the kingdom and in the Spirit for the sure to be even more turbulent run up to the first Tuesday in November and even after all the votes have been cast and the race is decided.
Jesus told us to beware of the Leaven of Herod (Mark 8:15). This is allowing ourselves to become political or be drawn into thinking that we can affect the kind of change that God is looking for, through political means.
Where the leaven of the Pharisees represented hypocrisy, the leaven of Herod represented “compromise.” Most American Christ followers usually don’t think of getting involved with politics as compromise, but it certainly can be.
Here is my disclaimer: We’ve been given a stewardship in this country in the form of our citizenship. We should vote. We should be involved politically. Some of us might be called to run for office and have an influence on that “mountain.” All good things. All things we should be doing as Americans.
Some people in Christian circles seeing being involved with politics at all as compromise. It is not. As I said above, it is a stewardship that we will be held accountable for. One of two people (most likely) is going to be elected to President this year and we have a voice in deciding that based on our system of government and representation. Ultimately you must follow your conscience (Romans 14:22), but I implore you to use your right as a citizen of this Nation to let your voice be heard in the ballot box. There is too much at stake to stay home. As has been said many times, “All that is necessary for evil to prevail, is that good men do nothing.”
BUT the hope of God for this Nation is NOT its elected officials, nor its government… it is His church. The hope of God for this Nation is not the changing of laws, it is the changing of the human heart and thus by it many times over, the changing of a culture.
Wellington Boone, pastor in Richmond, VA and Promise Keeper speaker said it this way: “This Civil Rights movement of the 60’s ultimately failed because we succeeded in changing the laws, but did not succeed in changing hearts.”
Most Christians who lean to the left politically espouse the most important thing that we can do politically is to help people who are poor and struggling, through political means, through government assistance. They see this as compassion.
Most Christians who lean to the right politically espouse the most important thing we can do politically is to be concerned about the social ills of our culture and think one of the ways they are best addressed is through political means, by the laws of our government.
Can we be honest? Most Christians who lean left politically struggle with the compromise that comes with the leaven of Herod. They are willing to compromise with these important social issues (abortion, etc.) in order to cling to what they feel is more important. Herod compromised his Divine birthright as a believing Jew. His political alliances were more important than his faith.
Those Christians who lean to the right politically struggle with the compromise that comes by partnering with a religious spirit. They can quite often be holier-than-thou and absent of any compassion towards the poor and needy. Those in this camp become more like the Pharisees who were not concerned with justice or compassion, but only with their dogmatic view of their faith and imposing it on others (Matthew 23:4).
Neither of these positions are helping the “Cause of Christ.” We cannot cherry pick who we are called to be as the Church, nor what we are called to do. We must be justice oriented towards the poor, the needy, the orphan, the widow AND we must be socially conscious of the unborn and the other sins of our Nation and culture; AND we must do both IN LOVE.
Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was that they didn’t take care of the poor and the needy (Ezekiel 16:49). That sin led to their decent into a selfish culture of depravity and immorality. The Roman Culture of depravity, with no thought of consequence, also began its own downfall. We ignore both sets of issues to our own peril.
The state of our Union is more of a reflection of the state of the Church than it is a reflection of the ills of our society. We cannot look to the Government to do what God has called the church to do. It is a violation of Divine Design.
A political spirit will cause us to think “Us vs. Them.” It comes right alongside of a religious spirit. It causes us to fight a war in the flesh that cannot be won, nor can it produce spiritual results. “The weapons of our warfare are NOT carnal… (2nd Corinthians 10)”
Pray for our Nation, for our officials, for them to enact righteous and just laws. BUT, we need a Great Awakening! We need Revival!
Our citizenship is in Heaven. We need to be the Church that God has called us to be. We need to be the Christians that God calls us to be. We need to get outside of the four walls and affect change in our communities: One life at a time; one home at a time; one neighborhood at a time; one city at a time.
Can we all take a deep breath for a second? I want to assure you: we are still a blessed people here in this Country. For everything that is changing, we are still in a relatively good place. We ARE NOT really being persecuted, yet… We are getting some increase in mocking and scoffing. Are we beginning to have some of our “rights” taken away? Yes. Will it get worse? Yes.
But we are not being asked to renounce our faith yet. We are not being beheaded or tortured for our faith. Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are facing real persecution. Let’s have a little perspective. If we can’t operate in compassion now for those who are mildly annoying, how are we going to do when the REAL persecution starts to come down?
“If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out,
Then how can you compete with horses?
If you fall down in a land of peace,
How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” –Jeremiah 12:5
We have to start responding in the opposite spirit if we want to see victories in the Spirit. Again, “bless those who curse you…” “Good overcomes evil…” “Light overcomes darkness…”
“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.” –Hebrews 10:32-34
Look the bottom line is that the horse left the barn a long time ago culturally speaking. Everybody is up in arms about the redefinition of marriage (and rightfully so), but we lost that battle YEARS ago when we allowed the culture to redefine LOVE. “Love is love” “Love wins” etc.
Because the church and Christians in general were not DEFINING LOVE (i.e. demonstrating “agape” love) in the marketplace, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in relationship to those in the world and even in the church… it has led to this.
It is also a progression that will continue. The darkness is going to get darker. Rick Joyner points this out when he said we are experiencing the reaping of everything that has been sown into the earth both good and bad. In the end times we are going to see an increase in sin, depravity, persecution… and the end result will be an Anti-Christ.
But we also are going to see a harvest, an end times revival and a move of God to eclipse all other moves. We should be resisting the former, without being shocked or dismayed that this is happening and we should be praying into the other with expectation that God is still bigger than the devil.
How are you viewing this election and all that is being stirred up? How is it affecting you? Are we looking with religious or political eyes or are we seeing with eyes of compassion and eyes of faith?
We cannot let this election process or this culture steal our joy, our peace, our love, our faith, or our focus!
With all that said, I believe the biggest issue in this election season is not the choice of candidates, but rather what the enemy is trying to do within the Body of Christ: and that is to bring division, disunity, disharmony and unleash a spirit of accusation. Christians lining up on both sides of the political isle hurling insults and Bible thumping each other in the name of partisan politics! And with the world and the lost as our audience.
I will admit that it used to be me! Like I said, the last 2 election cycles left me raw, hurting, angry, and even bitter. I think many Christians go through the “righteously indignant” phase of their walk, where they don’t like the “world’s system” or the injustice that happens to people of faith or the hypocrisy of those that are opposed or all the evil that is going on around them.
But we must understand that we wrestle not against “flesh and blood” and that the weapons of our warfare are “not carnal.” (Ephesians 6:12/ 2nd Corinthians 10:4). As Christians we have one enemy and it is not either of the candidates, nor the person who has the opposite political beliefs! Even if you were inclined to think that the person on the other side of the isle is “your enemy”, what does the Scripture tell you to do to your enemies?
Here is a true test of your current status:
How many of you could come together and pray with people who held a different political opinion than your own and be sincere in your love towards them? How many of you could wash the feet of those with whom you disagree or serve them with humility and love? How many of you could lay your life down for those people? Are you an intercessor or an accuser in this season?
Isn’t that the example that Jesus set for us?
THIS is what matters the most! When all the dust settles in 2 weeks and no matter who is in the White House, what will “The Church” in America look like? A house divided? (Mark 3:25) Or a family that loves one another despite our difference of opinion and is seeking together the Kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33)?
One of the keys for the revival that God wants to send to “our land” is unity. We must pursue this in our families, in our churches, in our cities. We must humble ourselves, put the interest of others above ourselves and love one another. If we can’t do it in the church, then there is no hope of us demonstrating the love of God to the world who needs it desperately!
Don’t get drawn into the political circus, political debates, etc. Be instead drawn into prayer, acts of kindness, loving your “enemies” … doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with your God. Vote, pray… but BE the change that you were hoping for after the election.
A MESSAGE FROM THE HEART
PUBLISHED IN "HEAVEN'S METAL" MAGAZINE JULY OF 2016
It seems like we may be on the threshold of seeing a full on Metal Revival in the Christian music world! Many of the old school bands are touring and writing again (or still, as the case may be). Lots of new metal bands continue to dot the landscape of the current music scene.
In the last few years I been privileged to see both Stryper and Bloodgood live and they sounded just as good as they did when I saw them live in the late 80’s. Both had profound impacts on my life as a teen Christian metal head and as a future lead singer for a Christian metal band.
Since the time my band broke up in 1993, I have been in fulltime ministry within the church as both a pastor and worship leader. I still have a collection of Christian metal CDs (I took all my cassette tapes… yes, I’m that old… and made digital copies on my computer) that I listen to with regularity in addition to my current worship music preferences.
I must admit to a bias towards the old school metal sound of the 80’s. There is nothing like the sound of a guitar solo in the morning (If you are old enough, you’ll get the reference). There must be something about the music of the era you grow up in and on that creates a deeper “bond” in you, if you will.
I’ve also been able to reconnect with many of my old metal friends via the (sometimes) wonderful world of social media. Friends from bands we played with; friends from the Cornerstone Music festivals; friends from Sanctuary International (including Pastor Bob); friends from the underground “zines” that reviewed our live shows and music; friends from all over the world who ordered our demos.
For the most part it has been a great experience of reminiscing about good times, good shows, and great fellowship at Denny’s or Friendly’s at 4 o’clock in the morning and finding out what they are up to these days. But then there are the current heartaches… realizing that probably half of your old friends never made it out of the 80’s and early 90’s Christian metal scene alive, spiritually speaking.
That has had me reflecting quite a bit about the spiritual atmosphere of our scene and about the atmosphere of today’s scene. Sure, we had it rough in some respects. Anyone involved in any pioneering movement is going to have some hard experiences. The “Church” wasn’t exactly nice in a lot of respects to the early Christian metal pioneers, especially those of us in the Bible Belt.
Things have certainly changed. The “Church” has certainly become much more accepting of Christian Rock and Christian Metal. But it seems that the more some things change, the more they stay the same.
Exhibit A: Tim Lambesis of the now defunct band “As I lay dying.”
Here is a quote from Tim shortly after he was convicted of trying to have his estranged wife killed by a hitman, in regards to his faith and that of his bandmates:
“We toured with more “Christian bands” who actually aren’t Christians than bands that are. In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands. I actually wasn’t the first guy in As I Lay Dying to stop being a Christian. In fact, I think I was the third. The two who remained kind of stopped talking about it, and then I’m pretty sure they dropped it, too. We talked about whether to keep taking money from the “Christian market.” We had this bizarrely “noble” thing, like, “Well, we’re not passing along any bad ideas. We’re just singing about real life stuff. Those kids need to hear about real life, because they live in a bubble.”
How true this actually is, we may never know. I haven’t had the chance to meet or communicate with many of the current Christian metal bands (whether they call themselves that or not). Whatever the percentages may actually be, it presents issues that need to be addressed in the Christian Metal community, in the Industry and in the Church.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been reflecting about my time in the scene and wondering why half of my friends (and many of them were IN Christian metal bands) aren’t currently “walking with the Lord.” As someone who has been in fulltime ministry since 1987, the first 6 years with my band, the last 25 within the church, I know that these issues aren’t confined only to the Christian Metal scene. I’ve seen it happen to other friends who drift or walk away from the Church and even their faith.
I think it shows us that there are some major issues that need to be addressed. I’d like to present five areas that I think need shoring up, for your consideration. These five definitely were issues in my day and I think are probably still issues today within the music community and within the Christian community in general:
Accountability. This problem is probably one that encompasses the whole Christian music scene as we have seen the scattered bodies of Christian music artists along the roadside for decades who seemed to have no accountability in their lives and ended up in some type of scandalous (sinful) behavior. Sure, it happens in church all the time, most notably with those in church leadership.
The problem is that it shouldn’t be happening in the church, nor the Christian Metal community and although there is not a perfect solution, accountability would go a long ways to preventing some, if not most of these train wrecks.
When bands have to spend a large chunk of their calendar years touring to put food on the table, support their latest release or selling more product, then that means they are away from family, close friendships, hopefully healthy church relationships, etc.
Who is keeping them accountable on the road? There is definitely someone taking care of the merchandise, but who is watching over the souls?
Bands and the individual members of them must make this a priority. I wish that the “powers that be” in the music industry would make it one, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. The music industry has pretty much always been about the bottom line, even if many labels started with more noble intentions.
Selling your music shouldn’t mean having to sell your soul. God gave us shepherds (pastors, leaders) for that very reason.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” –Hebrews 13:17
Pastors are not confined to the local church and pulpit. When we were starting out in the Christian Metal scene as teenagers, we had 2 men that God had placed in our lives to keep us grounded and many more surrounding us with love, encouragement and Godly counsel.
Our band had multiple avenues of accountability. Many in the Christian Metal scene I was a part of had none. Many now probably have none, including between the band members themselves. Gone should be the days of the image of the lonely metalhead in his room by himself with his headphones on (thank you Glenn Kaiser for the lasting image).
Bill Goode was a 62 year old fireball at our local Methodist church. While the official youth group was content with games and a five minute “moral” message, Bill burned with a passion to make disciples of teenagers that he knew. Bill started an alternative youth group that focused on worship and discipleship. It started a spiritual hunger in the members of our band. Bill became a spiritual father to us and many others. By the way, Bill is now a 92 year old fireball who takes his mandolin and a few bluegrass musicians to go play for the “old folks” (most of them younger than him) at the local nursing home.
Jim Morris was an older brother (32 at the time) and worship leader at a church we began attending who had a heart for the music industry and those involved. He became our band manager (along with another local Christian alternative band) and so much more. With his wisdom and oversight, we avoided many pitfalls and snares. Jim was at every show. We had weekly meetings apart from our rehearsals that included Bible study. Jim kept us grounded and made sure we weren’t falling into in presumptuous sins.
Fathers/Mentors: As I said, Pastors don’t have to be confined to the church and pulpit. I’ll go a step further: What may be just as important are “Spiritual Fathers” and “Mentors” (Lay Shepherds) who can step in and help to guide, encourage, impart wisdom and give an avenue of accountability to musicians and bands.
I met Glenn Kaiser of Rez Band at C’Stone and after some lengthy conversations about faith and personal struggles, he gave me his phone number to keep in touch. Every so often I called the 3rd Floor (I think) payphone where Glenn lived in Community and he’d walk down the hall to talk me off the ledge.
What would the Christian Rock and Metal scene look like if those of us who have been through the fire, the trials, the temptations, the betrayals, the failures and lived to tell about it took some of the new bands under our wings? What if each band had multiple people interceding for them in prayer, intentionally. What if there were such things as a “Christian Musicians Guilds” that met regularly in different areas for prayer, Bible study, encouragement and ministry to one another?
Now that Churches have for the most part readily accepted those within the Christian Rock and Metal communities, it’s time for the older ones to step in and impart wisdom and for the younger ones to open their ears and listen.
Discipleship is not a suggestion, it is a command from Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:19, 20). This is not just about having a Bible Study, it is about letting someone in your life who has your permission to say hard things to you about who you are and how you live. Things that you may be tempted to get defensive about, but you know the person saying it loves you too much to leave you to your own devices (in the same way God does).
How many of you have those types of people in your life? Only bad things grow in the dark. A wise man once said, “If you have something in your life that you think you can’t tell anyone, that is a sure sign that you need to tell someone!”
“…but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” -1st John 1:7
Church. The best place for you to find accountability, to find spiritual fathers or mentors is “the Church.”
The church in general has gotten a bad rap. It was definitely true back the days when Christian Metal was birthed and it was earned to a large degree. Many churches were pious, pompous and even were at the point where many in the church accused the Christian Metal community of being “of the devil.”
Many churches targeted and criticized Christian Metal heads for the way they looked (tats, piercings, hair styles and color) and the way they dressed and we definitely got flack for the style of music we listened to!
People in the Metal communities were so disillusioned with “the church,” that they were forced to start their own (thank you Pastor Bob, Pastor Dave & Sanctuary International!) or they left the institution of the church in droves.
For a whole host of other reasons today, people have issues with “the church.” Some of the issues are certainly worthy of scrutiny and need to be addressed, but there is one BIG problem:
God designed the Church and He designed us, as individual Christians, to be a part of it.
Now, we need to differentiate between individual institutions of organized religion and THE Church as described in Scripture. Many local institutions that claim to represent Jesus do a poor job of it. And the Church can look different from block to block and City to City.
There are big churches, small churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, house churches…
We are not simply called to “go to church,” rather we are called to BE the Church. I understand that many people have been hurt by other people IN a church that they were involved in; hurt by leadership, other people within the congregation, etc.
Some people are also tired of the competitions between churches to see who has the best ‘dog and pony’ show. There are all kinds of excuses, if you want to find one, of why you shouldn’t be a part of a church.
I want to give you one good Biblical reason why I think you should reconsider: It’s God’s design.
Again, the Biblical model of “church”: Saints gathering together, in intimate relationship, encouraging one another, blessing one another, praying for one another, giving to one another, loving one another…
You might find that in a more traditional place, or a more contemporary one… you might feel a house church is more to your liking…
But you cannot grow and mature spiritually to the degree that God has designed without it!
Sure, you can mature some with personal prayer, Bible study, worship, etc. But God has placed you within His Body (1st Corinthians 12:12, 13; Ephesians 4:4) and you were meant to function in it and it was meant to help you grow and mature, as well as for you to help others grow and mature through the use of your gifts and mutual encouragement (“…iron sharpens iron… a chord of 3 strands is not easily broken…”).
Whatever part of the body you are (hand, foot, eye, other) you cannot say “I have no need of you.”
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…” –Romans 12:4-6
“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” –Ephesians 4:15, 16
“…and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.” –Colossians 2:19
God has designed us to be interdependent of one another. You need the Body and the Body needs you!
Ministry/Gifts. One of the biggest issues that I think musicians and singers struggle with is getting laser focused on their musical gift/talent (btw it is NOT a spiritual gift).
Worship leaders and musicians still struggle with it in the confines of the church today and I definitely saw it the Christian Metal scene of the 80’s and 90’s, so I’m sure it is still an issue in today’s scene.
Yes, the Bible tells us that everything we do should be done with excellence. The Bible tells us that David was a skilled musician and that he appointed skilled musicians to play and sing in the Tabernacle unto the Lord.
However, this focus on becoming a great musician or singer can become a distraction and even idolatry. If the Lord asked you to put down your instrument for a season (or stop singing), could you? It’s an honest question that deserves an honest answer.
I LOVE to sing. I’ve been singing my whole life. I went from my band years into leading worship at churches that I’ve been on staff with for the last 25 years, except for the last 3 years. The Lord had me take a sabbatical from leading (singing) from the stage. I needed to focus on God and some other areas of my life during that season and it required me to be “hidden” in Him and not be in the proverbial “spotlight.”
It’s a very big temptation for musicians and singers (and even among preachers and teachers) to begin to seek the approval and glory of man, rather than getting it from God. Jesus warns us of this in the Scriptures:
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”
What I saw in the Christian Metal scene of my day in many of the bands, was an inability to connect with God or relate or minister to anyone apart from their music. Not much Bible knowledge, nor wisdom. There were always the exceptions to the rule, but I was constantly running into Christian musicians who had a great testimony of how they came to the Lord, but not much more from a substance standpoint beyond that.
With the endless cycle of debate about whether or not bands are “Christian,” there should be no debate about whether the members are. The problem with this debate has been that some are making the argument “We are musicians who happen to be Christian.” No, you should be a Christian who happens to be a musician. Your identity should be grounded as a son or daughter of the King, not merely as a musician or singer who ascribes to Christian beliefs. The importance of Identity is a whole other teaching in and of itself, but you must make sure that your identity comes from who you are in the eyes of God and not “what you do.”
It brings us full circle to discipleship. Let’s revisit that Ephesians 4:15 passage:
“…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head [Jesus]…”
In ALL areas we are to mature into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). What I so appreciate about the stalwarts of the Christian Metal Scene of my day, like Pastor Bob, Pastor Dave, Glen Kaiser, and others is that they were committed to seeing those around them mature, to grow up, to be complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
Your instrument or song cannot be your only contribution to the Kingdom of God. The church needs more than that; the world needs more than that; and God has created you for more than that (Ephesians 2:10).
If you can’t lay down your instrument, crack open a Bible and minister to someone, there is a problem. If you can’t listen to other church music or worship music besides Rock or Metal, there is a problem. We should be practicing His presence just as much as we are practicing our music. We should be memorizing His word (Psalm 119:11) as much as we are our lyrics.
My good friend Leonard Jones, who has been a pioneering worship leader for decades is also one of the most talented musicians I know, across the board. He can play just about anything and most things that he can play, he can play with excellence. He is also an incredible song writer. He spends a good chunk of his day practicing, improving his skill level and/or writing songs. When I asked him about it, here is what he said:
“1 Corinthians 10:31 says; ‘So then, whether you eat or drink or (whatever you do), do all to the glory of [our great] God.’ It doesn't matter if I'm playing in a bar, in the church, or in my bedroom whenever I pick up an instrument whether it's to practice, to entertain or, lead in worship, I consider it all worship. It never fails that as soon as I play one note, I feel the Lords pleasure. I realized one day that God was actually listening to the way I played and that He liked for me to play in tune on the violin and to play all of my instruments including my voice with excellence. To play skillfully and with a shout was not a suggestion it was a command; Psalm 33:3. He even shows up in my practice room he's all into music. I really have no temptation to think of my music as an idol, because it's all worship to me."
Worship. Yes, everything we do, including our playing, singing, songwriting, should be excellent. But the reason it should be excellent is that everything we do should be worship to and of our God. I’m not referring to a “type” of music, as say, ‘worship’ music on a Sunday at church, for instance. I’m referring to music that originates from God and ultimately brings God glory.
You don’t have to include the name of Jesus in every one of your songs. You don’t have to give an altar call at the end of every show. You don’t have to have a cross in your logo.
I came to a conclusion a long time ago that Christian Rock and Metal is not best suited for a church service. It can be used, but as a style of music it is best suited for the clubs and bars. Christian Rock and Metal is one of the best tools out there to reach the lost who enjoy the same musical genre. Most of the unsaved Rockers and Metal heads are not going to darken the doorstep of a church anytime soon. Most Christian Rock and Metal lyrically has evangelistic overtones. The style of music lends itself to this. The way Rockers dress and the fact that they bang their heads and are not afraid of a mosh pit allows them to have favor in the clubs. We are relatable to those in the world who have misconceptions about the church and the people that go to them.
But it is unrealistic to expect the Church world to conform to us. They at least accept us now and for this we should be grateful. We can listen to our music through our earbuds, in the car, at home, at the club. We shouldn’t make an issue of it at Church.
We should learn to appreciate the history and theology of the hymns. We need to be thankful for the Maranatha choruses that began to open the door for contemporary music in the church. Hosanna Integrity, Vineyard, Hillsongs all paved the way for all the great worship music we enjoy today; in the same way that Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Rez Band and Petra made it possible for us (and KISS!) to sing “God gave Rock-n-Roll to you!”
I remember when my ‘spiritual dad’ Rick Sizemore gave me a Hosanna Integrity worship cassette tape when I was 20. I asked him point blank, “Is it metal?” He said “No.” I replied, “Then why would I want to listen to it?” He said without skipping a beat, “Because it’s music that will help you get into the presence of God.” I gave it a chance and I am glad that I did. Was it my favorite style? No, but it helped me turn a corner in my walk with the Lord in relationship to appreciating the music I was exposed to and the worship music that I came to not only appreciate, but love.
When I first got saved and became a part of my band, I was attending at the time a very dry Methodist church. As I’ve heard it said, they would “start at eleven o’clock sharp and end at twelve o’clock dull.” Our band soon found a much more contemporary church the next town over that we began to attend. I enjoyed their service much more than the traditional one I was raised in.
After about 4 years there, one Sunday morning during worship, I heard the Lord speak to me, telling me “Go back to the Methodist church.” I immediately rebuked the voice, saying “Lord, You couldn’t be asking me to go back to ‘stand up, sit down, and sing a hymn’ could you?!” He then told me that He was sending a Spirit-filled Pastor to that church that was going to need all the support he could get!
It happened just as the Lord said and the next 4 years at the Methodist church were powerful. That Pastor, Joe Green, who we are still in touch with today, was one of the 2 that married my wife and me.
It took me a while to get used to the liturgy again, but I did… and guess what? God even showed up powerfully on more than a few occasions!
One Sunday as the choir was coming down the center aisle singing the hymn “To God be the glory,” the Spirit fell out. Our pianist and organist were so overcome by the presence of God, they both began weeping and could no longer play. It seemed like it was on purpose as the congregation did not skip a beat and finished the hymn acapella.
After the hymn ended, you could hear people noticeably overcome by the presence of God and our Pastor just stood there in the pulpit soaking it in. 10 minutes of silence led into people verbally expressing their thanksgiving and praises to God. It wasn’t in the scheduled liturgy, but it was the best deviation from the bulletin we had ever had!
The Church has changed; worship has changed; the question remains, “Will the Christian Metal community change?” We must take an honest look at the mistakes and shortcomings of the past and learn from them if we are going to create a different and better future!
Grunge tried to kill the Metal, but if failed and was smote down to the ground. The only thing that can kill the Christian Metal resurgence that we are on the threshold of is not addressing these areas. I hope and pray that our ceiling becomes today’s scene’s floor!
I’m praying that many who have walked away, either from hurts, disillusionment, or whatever reason will come back to the Lord and into sweet fellowship with their brothers and sisters. May we who have walked through the fire take the lead in setting the example, taking mentoring roles, reaching out to the disenfranchised and making the needed changes within our community
-Doug Levy is the former lead singer for the Christian Power Metal band Overdrive. He has been on staff at several churches in his home State of Virginia and in Southern California. He is currently the Senior Leader of Our Refuge L.A. He has hopes of one day soon re-recording and releasing some of his bands early material.
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