Visit to the National Quartet Convention
After writing a report on Southern Gospel Music last year (1998), I was contacted by the executive director of the National Quartet Convention. He commended me for getting my facts right in the article, but he said that he disagrees with my position on Christian music. He said he believes music is neutral and that any type of music can be used to glorify God. He challenged me to attend the convention to re-examine Southern Gospel.
The popularity of Southern Gospel music is evident by the large crowd that gathered for the NQC. There were 21,000 people attending the Thursday night I was there. Unlike many ecumenical meetings I have attended, the atmosphere was quite conservative. (Of course, the majority of the people were middle-age or older.) It was refreshing to see that a large percentage of the women were clothed modestly in nice dresses. Most of the men also were clothed conservatively. Very few wore long hair or earrings or tattoos or that type of thing. This definitely was not the “Christian rock” crowd!
Sadly, the music itself was not conservative. If you stripped away the words, the music is that of the world. Every group that was featured used a strong back beat, bass guitar, drums, and heavy dance syncopation. It is the “Nashville sound.” Many of the lyrics were Christ-honoring, but the worldly music distracted from the message.
During the presentation of Singing News awards on Thursday evening, one of the speakers thanked the leaders of the National Quartet Convention for “THEIR ABILITY TO BRING TOGETHER CHRISTIANS OF ALL DENOMINATIONAL LABELS BY THE MEANS OF MUSIC.” This is the unscriptural ecumenical philosophy, and it was evident on every hand. There were Baptists of all stripes, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Church of God, Nazarene, Jesus Only (who deny the Trinity), Church of Christ, and many others.
JERRY FALWELL was there with Robbie Hiner. I documented Falwell’s extreme ecumenism in a recent article entitled “Jerry Falwell: The Billy Graham of Independent Baptists.” At the Liberty University booth I picked up a brochure advertising the Liberty University Worship Institute. This program is conducted in cooperation with Integrity Worship Ministries, a strongly charismatic-oriented organization. An article in the October 1997 issue of Charisma magazine was titled “Jerry Falwell Now Open to Charismatics.” The article reported that “Integrity Music--a company that rose out of the charismatic movement--was planning to record a live praise and worship album at Liberty University” and that Liberty is “working with Integrity to establish an institute that will train a generation of worship leaders in Lynchburg.” This institute is now a reality. (Charisma is the same magazine that promotes such unscriptural and dangerous practices as “holy laughter,” “drunkenness in the spirit,” and “spirit slaying.”)
Dr. Falwell claims to be a fundamental Baptist but he is following the New Evangelical philosophy, dialoguing and fellowshipping with error instead of separating from it. God commands us to mark and avoid those who teach contrary to the doctrine we have received in the Scriptures (Romans 16:17). The Bible warns that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Dr. Falwell thinks he can ignore those exhortations without spiritual injury. It is impossible. He has steadily deteriorated in spiritual discernment. By his own admission, he did not support Christian rock and charismatic "praise" music a few years ago. Now he promotes it without reservation. Years ago he preached boldly against charismatic error. Now he fellowships closely with those who promote this error. Years ago he preached against Billy Graham style inclusive evangelism. Now he has Graham speak at his school and praises him as the greatest evangelist and Christian of this generation, and he completely ignores Graham's fearful sin of sending hundreds of thousands of his "converts" back to Roman Catholic and modernistic churches to be devoured by wolves. This is the frightful fruit of disobeying biblical separation.
The unscriptural ecumenism of Southern Gospel today is illustrated by the schedule of well-known performers. One of these is SQUIRE PARSONS. His schedule through the rest of 1999 includes performances at United Methodist, Nazarene, Church of God, Free Methodist, Quaker, Wesleyan, and Pentecostal Holiness churches.
One of the speakers at the National Quartet Convention was JOHN HAGEE. In 1975, he resigned as pastor of a charismatic church because of his immorality. He then became pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. After his wife divorced him, Hagee married a young woman from the former church (Calvary Contender, June 15, 1994). Hagee is frequently featured on such radically unscriptural charismatic forums as Trinity Broadcasting Network and the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International. His honorary degree is from Oral Roberts University. Hagee teaches a “Two Covenant” theology that claims Jews are saved by keeping the Mosaic law while Gentiles are saved by faith in Christ.
Also present at the NQC was LAVERNE TRIPP. He had a booth advertising his ministry. Tripp is the singer with the shoulder-length white hair on Trinity Broadcasting Network. He is a radical charismatic who promotes false teachers such as Benny Hinn and Oral Roberts, as well as Catholic priests and nuns.
Also featured at the National Quartet Convention was the GAITHER VOCAL BAND. Bill Gaither is one of the very biggest names in Southern Gospel, and he is extremely ecumenical. He provided the music one evening at Indianapolis ‘90, a large ecumenical charismatic gathering I attended with press credentials. One-half of the 25,000 participants were Roman Catholics. A Catholic mass was held each morning of the conference, and Catholic priest Tom Forrest from Rome brought the closing message. Roughly 40 denominations were present. The Gaithers were at home in this unscriptural gathering and entertained the mixed multitude with their rocking music.
During a concert tour in New England in 1986, Bill Gaither admitted that he had changed his musical style due to the influence of the “world’s culture.” He said he believed there was a place for Christian rock, and he expressed his philosophy of music in these words: “God speaks through all different kinds of art forms and musical styles and musical forms” and the “format itself is not necessarily spiritual or non-spiritual” (FBF News Bulletin, March-April 1986, p. 3). Gaither is promoting the devil’s lie that music is neutral and that any type of music can be used to glorify God.
The Gaithers have increasingly used rock styles. During the disco craze in the late 1980s, the Gaither Trio recorded a disco album (Calvary Contender, August 15, 1989). The Gaithers have a song titled “Singin’ with the Saints” which is a boogie-woogie version of “He Keeps Me Singing.” This is confusion.
Bill Gaither has mentored many of the popular CCM artists, including Sandi Patty, Russ Taff, Michael English, Carman, and the members of the “Christian rock” band Whiteheart (CCM Magazine, July 1998, p. 20).
In 1999, Bill Gaither joined forces with dc Talk founder Toby McKeehan to “create a new modern worship music label, 40 Records” (CCM magazine, July 1999, p. 11). The goal is “to stretch the boundary of worship music” and to “give a youthful spirit to worship music for ANY DENOMINATION…” Speaking of the new music company, Gaither said: “I view building bridges of understanding of different cultures and PHILOSOPHICAL POINTS OF VIEW as part of my calling. UNITY DOES NOT DEPEND ON OUR CONSENSUS OF OPINION, but on our unity in Christ.” This is a false and dangerous statement. Biblical unity does depend on a consensus of opinion about doctrine. Ephesians 4:1-6, which speaks of Christian unity, says there is only “one faith” (verse 5). This refers to the body of truth delivered by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and recorded in the New Testament Scriptures. Philippians 1:27 also speaks of Christian unity, and it demands “one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” That is not a description of modern ecumenism. Timothy was instructed to allow “no other doctrine” in the churches he was overseeing (1 Timothy 3:16). Paul taught the church at Rome that false doctrine is the basis for separation (Romans 16:17). Like Gaither, McKeehan and dc Talk are unscripturally ecumenical and even accept Roman Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of Rome’s false gospel. When Pope John Paul II visited the States in January 1999, dc Talk and other CCM groups joined hands with hundreds of thousands of Catholics to welcome him. Featured at a Catholic youth rally connected with the Pope’s visit, were dc Talk, Audio Adrenaline, Rebecca St. James, Jennifer Knapp, The W’s, and the Supertones (CCM Magazine, April 1999, p. 12). dc Talk’s Kevin Max praised the Catholic youth for coming out to hear the Pope, describing John Paul II as “someone with something of substance to say” (Ibid.). Each attendee received a rosary with instructions about how to pray to Mary.
The Gaithers frequently perform and record songs that present an ecumenical philosophy. “Songs that Answer Questions” from their Back Home in Indiana album has the following lyrics:
“Don’t want to spend my life a preachin’ sermons/ that give answers to the questions no one’s asking anywhere/ When there’s so much pain and hurting/ there’s no time to be searching/ for the needles in the haystacks that aren’t there/ I wanna spend my time a wearin’ myself out for Jesus/ with the news a cure’s been found to heal our land/ Stead of making lists, inventing creeds/ that aren’t concerned with people’s needs/ I’ll show ‘em how to touch the nail scarred hand/ Don’t wanna spend my time prayin’ prayers/ Bombarding heaven with requests to rain down fire on saints who care [unclear]/ In our methods we may differ, but if Christ the Lord we live for/ May we not forget the enemy is OUT THERE.”
This song contains half-truths and subtle errors, which are more dangerous than plain and obvious errors. While it is true that God’s people are to be concerned about suffering and are to be showing people how to “touch the nail scarred hand,” it is not true that preaching is to be limited merely to answering questions people have. The preacher is instructed to preach the whole counsel of God and the whole Word of God (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 4:1-2). The Bible warns that it is apostate people who will desire teachers who teach merely what they want to hear, what they feel a need for (2 Timothy 4:3-4). This sounds very much like what the Gaithers are singing about. It is also not true that “a cure’s been found to heal our land.” The cure provided by the Gospel is the cure for personal salvation, not national salvation. The Apostles did not try to “heal the land,” they preached the Gospel and discipled believers. It is also not true that it is wrong to “make lists” or “invent creeds” that aren’t concerned with people’s needs. The lists and creeds mentioned in this song refer to doctrinal studies and statements of faith. Doctrinal studies must, first of all, faithfully represent Bible truth, regardless of whether or not it meets “people’s needs.” Sound Bible doctrine does meet man’s deepest needs, of course, but that does not mean that Bible doctrine meets the felt needs of unsaved or carnal people. The unsaved or carnal man does not feel he has a need to be told he is a sinner or that he is has no righteousness before God or that he is to repent or that he is to die to self or that he is to separate from the world or that there is an eternal hell, etc., but sound Bible doctrine tells him all of these things. The unsaved crowd does not believe it needs any of the Bible, really! This song encourages the hearers to despise doctrinal studies and research and teaching and statements of faith, which is the attitude typically found in the ecumenical movement. It is also not true that the divisions among Christians are merely about differing methods or that differing methods are not important. Take baptism, for example. Some denominations “baptize” infants. That is their “method.” Some baptize only those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Some sprinkle; others immerse. These are differing methods, but they are not insignificant and cannot be ignored. It is also not true that the “enemy” is limited to things outside of the churches. The Bible warns of false teachers, false christs, false spirits, false gospels, deluding spirits, doctrines of devils--all of which will be found within churches and among professing Christians. It is also not true that fundamentalists are praying for fire to fall on those with whom they disagree doctrinally. That is a nonsensical, actually a vicious, slander. The unscriptural and very dangerous message of this song is put across by the effective means of pleasant country-rock music and by the use of repetition.
Another ecumenical Gaither song is “Jesus Built This Church on Love” from their Back Home in Indiana album. The lead on the song is performed by Candy “Hemphill” Christmas, who sometimes travels with the Gaithers. The song is sung at many of the Gaither concerts. It is done in the style of a mid-tempo jazzy black spiritual with heavy drums and bass guitar.
“Do you ever just get to wonderin’/ ‘bout the way things are today?/ So many on board this gospel ship/ Trying to row in a different way/ If we’d all pull together/ Like a family me and you/ We’d come a lot closer to doin’/ what the Lord called us to do.
Chorus: “Jesus built this church on love/ and that’s what it’s all about/ Trying to get everybody saved/ not to keep anybody out...”
This song implies that the divisions within Christianity are largely if not entirely man-made and unnecessary, that if professing Christians would merely “pull together” and exercise love the divisions would be healed. It is a feel-good sentiment, a nice fairy tale that has wide appeal, but it is unreasonable and unscriptural. The Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles warned repeatedly that false teachers would lead many astray, that there would be false christs, false spirits, false gospels, false churches, doctrines of devils (Matt. 7:15-23; 24:3-5,11,24; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Cor. 1:1-4; Galatians 1; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:13; 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 2; 1 John 4:1; Jude; etc.). The book of Revelation predicts a one-world end-time harlot Christian religion (Rev. 17). Those who preach an ecumenical unity rarely even mention these Bible warnings and never focus on them. They do not tell us where these false christs, false gospels, false spirits, false teachers, and false churches are in Christianity today. They imply, rather, that the denominational divisions are largely unnecessary and petty which could be overcome by a little ecumenical love. There are many problems among Christians that can be healed through love, but it simply is not true that love will heal the major divisions within Christianity. The differences between denominations involve serious doctrinal issues which cannot be ignored and which cannot be solved through sentimental songs. This Gaither song also says the churches are “not to keep anybody out.” That is openly contrary to the Bible’s command to separate from error and to exercise church discipline (Rom. 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:16-21; 3:5; 2 John 8-11; Rev. 18:4).
Another ecumenical Gaither song is “Loving God, Living Each Other” from the album by that name.
“They pushed back from the table/ To listen to his words/His secret plan before he had to go/ It’s not complicated/Don’t need a lot of rules/ This is all you need to know/ We tend to make it harder/ Build steeples out of stone/ Fill books with explanations of the way/ But if we’d stop and listen/ And break a little bread/ We would hear the Master say/ It’s Loving God, loving each other/ Making music with my friends/ Loving God, loving each other/ And the story never ends.”
The song contains more half truths and subtle errors. Love is a very important part of the Christian life, but true Christian love is to obey God’s Word (John 14:23; 1 John 5:3). To say that we “don’t need a lot of rules” ignores the fact that the New Testament is literally filled with commandments! To say that we don’t need to “fill books with explanations of the way” ignores the fact that the Bible exhorts the believer to “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). It ignores the fact that the Bible is given for “doctrine” (teaching) (2 Tim. 3:16) and that preachers are instructed to teach other men (2 Tim. 2:2), that older women are instructed to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5), etc. Bible teaching certainly involves “filling books with explanations of the way.” That is precisely what the Apostles did in their Epistles. The Bible itself contains 66 books with explanations of the way!
This Gaither song presents a sentimental, ecumenical approach to the Christian life and ministry which is simplistic and appealing to a modern crowd but which is patently contrary to the Scriptures. The unscriptural message of this song is put across by the very effective means of country-rock music and by the use of repetition.
The Gaithers represent the very heart and soul of Southern gospel music today. In recent years, they have held “Homecoming” specials that have brought together most of the well-known Southern gospel groups. These include members of the Statesmen, the Blackwood Brothers, the Cathedrals, the Goodman’s, the Speer Family, the Florida Boys, the Gatlin Brothers, and many others. Those who have attended these gatherings have put their stamp of approval upon the ecumenical-charismatic-rock music side of Southern gospel by not separating from those who are guilty of these things and by not lifting their voices to reprove them.
The Bible instructs us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
I realize this is a very hard line and one that is foreign to the thinking of this ecumenical-crazed age, but this is what the Word of God says. I also realize that the Gaithers have produced some lovely Christian music, but this is no excuse for disobedience to God’s Word. When the Gaithers greet 12,000 Roman Catholics, including priests and nuns, as brethren in Christ, as they did at Indianapolis ’90, they are partakers of the evil deeds of Rome, and God’s people should protest.
It is very dangerous to bring the jazzed up music and the ecumenical philosophy of these groups into our churches and homes.
For the National Quartet Convention to exalt men such as John Hagee, LaVerne Tripp, and Bill Gaither is unmistakable evidence that it is more in love with music than with the truth of God’s Word.
For more on this see the video “Southern Gospel Music,” available as a free download at http://www.wayoflife.org/zzfls92049fj19284hf0jfso24/mfgoe.html
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