The pastors of Solid Rock are Charles Clark, Jr. and Charles Clark III. The Clarks have a singing ministry called the Clark Family and have published several albums. Mike Clark has a major role in the singing ministry. They influence many individuals, families, and churches outside of their own congregation by their albums, web sites, YouTube channel, and conferences.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).
I am thankful for your profession of faith in Jesus Christ, your modest dress and conservative Christian values, your commitment to the King James Bible, your close family ties, your zeal to win lost souls to Christ, your concern for our wayward nation, and other wholesome things.
I wish I could leave the matter there, but that is not possible with a clear biblical conscience.
I want to plead with the Clark Family about the leaven in your ministry in regard to music. We are twice warned that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. And we are told that little foxes can spoil wholesome vines.
The leaven is your use of and incremental drift toward contemporary Southern Gospel music.
I have many grandkids and I don’t want them to be influenced by contemporary Southern Gospel. We plant churches, and I don’t want our churches to be influenced by this music and its underlying philosophy.
Having played and studied music for more than 50 years, I know the character of music. I was the first chair clarinetist in an 80-member award-winning band in high school. I lived rock & roll before I was saved. After returning from Vietnam, I hitchhiked across America, selling drugs, going to jail, joining a Hindu society. God saved me in a motel room in 1973 in Daytona Beach, Florida, and gave me a great love for His Word. I have been a passionate student of God's Word and a preacher of God’s Word ever since.
One of the first things God dealt with me about was my music. I wrote my first book on music more than 40 years ago, and I have been studying about, writing about, teaching about, and warning about that issue ever since. I know rock & roll. I know how to discern rock & roll when it is played on a piano without any drums or electric bass.
I know Southern Gospel. I grew up in the South in a Southern Gospel-oriented Baptist church. I have read most of the books that have been written on Southern Gospel, including biographies of many of its key players. I have attended the National Quartet Convention with press credentials.
And I know contemporary music. I have studied Contemporary Christian Music and Contemporary Worship Music and contemporary Southern Gospel extensively and prayerfully over the decades, because one of my life verses in Christ is “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” and because I want to help God’s people.
The Clark Family music used to be a simple bluegrass-tinged style, but is moving beyond that. A drift like this has no bottom. We have seen it time and time again.
I see this progression everywhere among those who love Southern Gospel. Important lines are being erased. One reason is that even a little Southern Gospel creates an addiction to and an appetite for jazzed-up rhythms and sensual vocal styles (e.g., scooping, sliding, breathiness, improvisation, vocal rasping). Another reason is that the vast majority of Southern Gospel singers have moved into the “progressive/contemporary” sphere, probably because that is where the real money and prestige is, and even the most conservative people are being gradually influenced by the contemporary Southern Gospel crowd because they are letting the guard down and aren’t being careful enough about biblical separation.
STYLE VS. BIBLICAL STANDARDS
I recognize that there are different legitimate styles of Christian music. A country-tinged (some would call it folk-tinged), blue-grassy style such as that of the Marshall Family, might not be everyone’s favorite style, but I recognize it as a legitimate style. (I am not talking about modern country music, which is simply rock & roll; I am talking about a country-ish style.) Some might not like an operatic style like Hale and Wilder, but a style of music in itself is not necessarily right or wrong. We have lived for decades in South Asia, and I have traveled to about 40 countries, and I recognize that there are legitimate cultural differences in Christian music. The style of hymns written indigenously by our churches in South Asia is somewhat different from a Western style.
But I’m sure that you will agree with me that not everything in music is a matter of style. I don’t believe you have yet accepted the contemporary principle that “music is neutral” (though you are on the path to doing so if you don’t turn around). There are biblical principles that must be applied to music to determine whether it is worldly or sacred.
We deal with issue extensively in the brand new book A Plea to Southern Gospel Music Lovers, which is a multi-media presentation with links to audio and video clips illustrating the musical lessons.
The music of God’s people is to be spiritual (Colossians 3:16). Spiritual means holy. It refers to that which is separated unto a holy God from the unholiness of this world. Based on these biblical principles, it is always forbidden by God’s Word to use the world’s sensual party music in the service of Jesus Christ.
We follow the same principle in South Asia. In the service of God, we refuse to use the sound of Asian pop music or music used by Hindus and Buddhists in their idolatrous practices. It is a matter of identification. We want our songs to be “spiritual” or “sacred” (Col. 3:16), set apart, different, distinct in character from worldly music as defined by 1 John 2:16.
The Clark Family is gradually, incrementally moving into the realm of the world’s music, and I believe that this reflects the influence of contemporary Southern Gospel on your music ministry.
Some of the more conservative contemporary Southern Gospel people profess that they don’t like “Contemporary Christian Music” or “rock music” or “honky tonk music,” and they might even claim that they “don’t listen to CCM.” But if you listen to contemporary Southern Gospel you are listening to CCM. Contemporary Southern Gospel is merely a branch of the larger world of Contemporary Christian Music or Christian rock.
THE CLARK FAMILY AND CONTEMPORARY SOUTHERN GOSPEL
After listening to many examples of the Clark Family music, it is obvious that you are performing a lot of music from the world of contemporary Southern Gospel, which is as wrong and dangerous as CCM. Which, in fact, is CCM. Though you change the style of the music somewhat, you are still building bridges.
And building bridges to contemporary people the likes of Brian Free, Ricky Free, Jeremy Johnson, Joel Lindsay, Tony Wood, Mike Schultz, Jody McBrayer, or Billy and Cynthia Foote is unscriptural and dangerous. This is no small matter.
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
I was told by one of the Clark family members that you “do not support progressive/contemporary southern gospel,” but that is exactly what you are supporting by using their music, even if you tone down the rhythm and use less electric bass guitar, drums, etc.
The association with contemporary Southern Gospel is going to have a very negative effect on the churches you influence and very possibly on your own grandchildren. I suspect it has already had a negative effect on at least some of the family’s grown and nearly-grown children, at least in their taste for music.
The influence of contemporary Southern Gospel is very evident in the Clark Family’s recent albums. If you are really opposed to “progressive/contemporary Southern Gospel,” I would ask you to prove it by separating from it in a scriptural manner, which means completely, and to stop building bridges to it by borrowing from it.
Following are some of the songs the Clark Family has borrowed from CCM and contemporary Southern Gospel in their recent albums. This extensive borrowing from the contemporary world is a relatively new thing in their ministry, compared to their earlier albums. There is a clear progression in their use of contemporary Southern Gospel.
I include links to the contemporary renditions of these songs. One of the members of the Clark Family told me that since “we sing our own vocal style and record our own tracks using instruments we feel appropriate” that they are not building associations with the authors. But that is an impossibility in this day and age. That Clark Family member said, “I’ve never even heard of many of the people you mention,” referring to the groups that have popularized the music they sing, but this isn’t true for most young people who do a lot of Googling and Facebooking.
The song “You Are God Alone” on the Clark Family album “Blessed” is written by Billy and Cynthia Foote and popularized by William McDowel, Marvin Sapp, and Phillips Craig and Dean. Billy Foote is Director of Music Composition at Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo, Texas (along with Molly the Associate Pastor of Worship). Here is the Cynthia Foote rendition -
The song “Blessed Be Your Name” on the Clark Family album “Blessed” was written by Matt Redman and popularized by Chris Tomlin and Newsboys. Redman is one of the most influential contemporary worship musicians. He supports the Worship Central training school sponsored by Alpha International, the radically ecumenical charismatic organization that was birthed from the “laughing revival” at Holy Trinity Brompton, London. When asked in 2011, “Who are your musical influences?” Redman replied, “All sorts. But all time favorite must be the Beatles. I love it now that my five kids even get into their music” (www.louderthanthemusic.com/document.php?id=2526). Here is the Redman rendition of “Blessed Be Your Name” -
The song “With Each Borrowed Breath” on the Clark Family album “Blessed” is by Jody McBrayer. McBrayer, who is called a “CCM powerhouse vocalist,” is a former member of the Christian pop group Avalon and is an out-and-out CCM rocker who believes the heresy that “music is neutral.” He was also on Benny Hinn’s traveling staff. McBrayer released the song in mid-February 2016 and the Clark Family recorded it in April 2016 according to their Twitter feed. Here is the McBrayer rendition -
The song “He Knows My Name” on the Clark Family album “I Believe” is by Annie and Kelly McRae. The McRaes are in the mainstream of contemporary Southern Gospel, having appeared at the National Quartet Convention, performed in the Gaither Homecoming Series, and toured with the brashly anti-fundamentalist Mark Lowry. Here is the McRae’s rendition of “He Knows My Name”-
The song “Walking Her Home” on the Clark Family album “Blessed” is by Mark Schultz. He is a CCM artist who has “tasted success on the mainstream adult contemporary charts” (www.todayschristianmusic.com). He has “landed the top spot on Billboard’s Christian Adult Contemporary Songwriter list.” Here is Schultz’s rendition of “Walking Her Home” -
The song “Yes I Believe” on the Clark Family album “I Believe” is by Joel Lindsay and Tony Wood. Wood and Lindsay are Contemporary Christian musicians and writers whose songs are used widely within CCM. In his online biography, Wood calls Bono of U2 “quite possibly one of the coolest musicians on the planet.” The song was made popular by Point of Grace and is heavily identified with this CCM pop group. The Point of Grace rendition is at the following link -
The song “I Want to Be That Man” used on the Clark Family album “You Are God Alone” is by Lee Black and Ricky Free. It was popularized by Brian Free and Assurance, a mainstream rock & roll Southern Gospel quartet. Ricky Free is Brian’s son. He is a drummer who has toured with country rockers, pop artists, and CCM musicians. Ricky has recorded many records for country, CCM, and Southern Gospel stars. Here is the Brian Free rendition of “I Want to Be That Man” -
The song “Never Walk Alone” on the Clark Family album “I Believe” is by Jeremy Johnson and J.P. Williams. Johnson is a CCM musician/song writer whose songs are used widely within Contemporary Christian Music. He is the contemporary worship leader at the Church at Station Hill in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He has toured with Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis. “Never Walk Alone” was popularized by Southern Gospel rockers Brian Free and Assurance. The Brian Free rendition is at the following link -
The song “Big Enough” on the Clark Family album “My Mind Is Made Up” is by Joseph Habedank and Michael Farren. Farren is the contemporary worship leader at Gateway Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and former member of the CCM band Pocket Full of Rocks. He has written many CCM hits, including “Let It Rain,” popularized by Michael W. Smith. Farren says, “I love writing across all genres ... CCM, country, Southern Gospel, etc.” (weareworship.com/us/worship-leaders-2/michael-farren/). Habedank is a progressive contemporary Southern Gospel musician who traveled with the Perrys. Here is the Habedank rendition of “Big Enough” -
The song “Everything to Me” on the Clark Family album “My Mind Is Made Up” is by contemporary worship leader Chad Cates and popularized by Avalon. Cates is a Dove Award winner who has worked with Rebecca St. James, jazz CCM artist Mandisa, and others.
Here is the Avalon rendition -
This is the kind of blending that is taking place everywhere in Southern Gospel circles, including the most conservative.
Many conservatives argue that by using the music of these people they are not giving a recommendation of them, but when you Google these songs, you don’t find the Clark Family or any other very conservative gospel group at the top of the lists. Instead, you are immediately brought into contact with the CCM, progressive Southern Gospel, and Country song writers and artists that we have listed. Anyone who is curious about the source of these songs on recent Clark Family albums or other conservative Southern Gospel albums and decides to check it out is immediately brought into contact with these people.
In this Internet age, no conservative Southern Gospel group today can say they are guiltless of the influence of their musical choices.
God’s Word forbids association with the world of ecumenical, end-time apostasy as represented by Contemporary Christian Music and contemporary Southern Gospel.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
Worldliness and a non-judgmental, anti-separatist, ecumenical philosophy is most definitely contrary to the doctrine we have learned in God’s Word. The world of CCM and progressive Southern Gospel is the world of apostasy described in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
It is “living after your own lusts” Christianity. It is “I’m not going to let anyone tell me how to live” Christianity. It is the Christianity of rebels who are not strictly under the authority of God’s Word.
Clark Family, there isn’t any serious difference between the world of contemporary worship music represented by the Newsboys and Chris Tomlin and the world of contemporary Southern Gospel represented by Brian Free, Ricky Free, Jeremy Johnson, Joel Lindsay, Tony Wood, Mike Schultz, Jody McBrayer, or Billy and Cynthia Foote.
It is all fleshly music that gets people emotionally addicted to the world’s music. And like all addictions, it is never satisfied and there is a progression into more and more of the world’s sensuality.
Further, the world of contemporary Southern Gospel is as ecumenical as the world of CCM.
All of the people in the world of contemporary Southern Gospel hold a judge not, “loosen up and don’t be so strict,” ecumenical philosophy of Christianity.
Contemporary Southern Gospel yokes church people into association with the likes of the Gaithers and the National Quartet Convention crowd, and a more radically ecumenical crowd does not exist. They preach a “let’s not judge; let’s all get together” message.
When I attended the National Quartet Convention in 1999 with press credentials at the personal invitation of the president of the convention that year, one of the speakers thanked the leaders of the convention for “THEIR ABILITY TO BRING TOGETHER CHRISTIANS OF ALL DENOMINATIONAL LABELS BY THE MEANS OF MUSIC.”
There is zero separation between CCM and contemporary Southern Gospel. In 2015, the National Quartet Convention president Les Beasley was a board member of the Gospel Music Trust Fund that sponsored a “We Are United” concert that year. The theme was ecumenical unity, and many of the biggest names in CCM participated, including Michael W. Smith, the Newsboys, 4Him, and Amy Grant. Their unity encompasses the Roman Catholic Church.
I could multiply these examples almost endlessly.
Having been born and raised in the South, saved in the South, educated in the South, and begun preaching in the South, I have watched as Baptist churches there have grown ever weaker over the past 30 years, and I am convinced that one of the major reasons is the influence of contemporary Southern Gospel and the worldly, ecumenical, emotional, “judge not” baggage that it carries.
I refuse to have anything to do with it, and for the sake of those who have an ear to hear, I refuse to stop warning about it.
Clark Family, I plead with you to stop taking the dangers of contemporary music so lightly and treating the music issue as one of “personal style and taste.”
I plead with you to stop treating biblical reproof as carnal criticism.
I plead with you to consider the substance of the warnings that are given instead of trying to find some mistake by which you can discount the warning. That is the error of straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
I plead with you to get more educated about the music issue. Ignorance might be bliss, but it is not spiritually wise, and it won’t stand at the judgment seat of Christ. And there is no excuse for not knowing anything about song writers and musicians when it is so easy to Google them.
I plead with you to do this for the sake of your own ministry and family, for the sake of your grandchildren, and for the sake of those you are influencing.
You can’t undo the damage you have already done, regardless of how unwittingly and sincerely, in the lives of those who have been influenced by you to connect with contemporary Southern Gospel, but you can publicly repent and move in a different, wiser, more scriptural direction with your music.
I would plead with you to consider the following materials, asking only that you listen and read prayerfully and “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). I don’t expect you or anyone else to agree with me on all points, but at the very least, you will be much better educated about the dangers of contemporary Christian music and contemporary Southern Gospel.
A friend in Jesus Christ,
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).
“A Plea to Southern Gospel Music Lovers”
“The Transformational Power of Contemporary Praise Music” video
“The Foreign Spirit of Contemporary Worship Music” video
“Baptist Music Wars”
This book deals with every major point pertaining to the music issue in Baptist churches today, including the scooping/sliding singing style.
“The Directory of Contemporary Worship Musicians”
This nearly 600-page directory includes contemporary Southern Musicians.
“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23).
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