In 1997, Steve Camp published…

A Call for Reformation in the Contemporary Christian Music Industry

Steven John Camp        

"For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake." 2 Corinthians 4:5

Steve Camp

NOTE:  In 1997/98, well-known Christian musician Steve Camp wrote the following hard-hitting commentary on today's Christian music industry.

Out of love and zeal for Biblical truth and the desire to bring it to light, I come to you, brethren, burdened and broken over the current state of Christian music.  I come--not out of a heart of condemnation, but out of convictions immersed in tears as one in desperate need daily of our Lord's grace to be conformed to His image.  I come aware of the depravity from which I have been saved and that my heart, apart from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, is desperately wicked and eternally sick. 

Early in my own musical journey I wrote songs that neither represented good music or precise theology.  My motives were vitiated; my actions were not godly; and my lips were unclean.  The thirst for prominence and position made my heart prideful, judgmental and callused.  But the Lord, out of His infinite grace and otherworldly love, broke me with His chastening hand to bring true repentance in my own life -- and it's that life of repentance, which is my greatest desire and my greatest failing.  It is out of the crucible of those experiences that I am driven to speak with conviction on these issues.

This document is a call to Reformation — a clarion call to recover Biblical Christianity in the arts.  Music is a powerful tool from the Lord Jesus to His church intended for worship, praise, encouragement, edification, evangelism, teaching, admonishing.  And exhorting God's people to holiness--with always our chief aim "to glorify God and worship Him forever."  But beloved, the serpentine foe of compromise has invaded the camp through years of specious living, skewed doctrine and most recently secular ownership of Christian music ministries.  While I assert this, I recognize that there are godly men and women who love the Lord that work for these companies and record for these companies, but that's not the issue here. 

The crux of the matter is that the overall nature of our industry has dramatically shifted.  The Apostle Paul warns... "It takes only a little leaven to leaven the whole lump." (1 Corinthians 5:6)  When sin is tolerated it ultimately permeates and corrupts the entire church.  What is pure today will inevitably be polluted tomorrow if we do not "purge out the old leaven..." (Ibid. 5:7)  In the past several years there has been a non-so-subtle drifting away from Christocentric music to an anthropocentric music.  Sadly this has resulted in various visible manifestations of spiritual sedition -- where currently, the CCMI finds itself on a slippery slope sliding away at accelerated speeds from the Savior, the Scriptures and the church.

Contemporary Christian music originally began unashamedly declaring Jesus Christ as Lord.  Within a few years His name was replaced by several generic titles filtering out the name of God ultimately to the non-specific cognomen, "Love."  This led to a multitude of synonyms:  "The Man Upstairs"; "My Higher Power"; "Our Family Values Expert"; ad nauseam...ad infinitum.  This Biblical illiteracy I've coined as theological ebonics — Biblical language diminished to cultural unintelligible chatter affirmed as profound, acceptable spiritual truth.  Os Guinness is "spot on" when saying "[we have seen a change] from the emphasis on 'serving God', to an emphasis on 'serving the self' in serving God."  The object of faith is no longer Christ, but our self-esteem; the goal of faith is no longer holiness, but our happiness; and the source of our faith is no longer the Scriptures, but our experience.  Christian music currently reflects this.  We are producing a generation of people that "feel" their God, but do not know their God.

When Martin Luther stood at Wittenberg's Door in the year 1517, he called for reformation from the recalcitrant Roman Church.  Now is our turn, almost five centuries later, to sound the alarm in our generation.  This time, to call the Christian Music Industry to reformation -- back to the supremacy, sufficiency and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Genuine revival -- a fresh return to obedience in Christ -- is surely needed today, but that would be almost impossible given the current environment of our industry. 

Why?  True revival is marked by repentance; true repentance brings restitution; true restitution demands that Christian music be owned and operated only by believers whose aim is the glory of God consistent with Biblical truth.  This means that the current CCMI labels music return all the money they have received to their respective secular counterparts that purchased them and divorce alliances with them.  The CCMI has gone too far down the wide road of worldliness and there is not the tenacity of character and the Biblical courage of heart and mind to do the right thing no matter what the cost.

These are serious times, brethren, that call for real answers.  This is not a time for duplicitous people, proclaiming a diluted message, from disingenuous ministries.  It is a time for those whose lives are tempered with the steel of righteousness, girded with the belt of truth, standing firm in the gospel of peace, raising high their shield of faith, guarded with the helmet of salvation, to wield the sword of the Spirit with a surgeon's exactitude, praying always with all prayer and supplication, with all perseverance for all the saints in the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Will we champion again the manifesto of the Reformers: Sola Fide (by faith alone); Sola Gratia (by grace alone); Sola Scriptura (on the Word alone); Solus Christus (because of Christ alone); and Soli Deo Gloria (to the Glory of God alone)?  Do we have the conviction of heart and courage of mind to do what's just?  Do we have the boldness to shout above the roar of the marketplace that the Emperor has no clothes?  Will we leave our careers, our contracts, our carefully cultivated plans and press releases, our unequally yoked record companies to serve the Lord again with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? There is no gray in this -- it's a matter of obedience.

Oh brethren, "we have a name to be alive, but we are dead." (Revelation 3:1)  There is no greater love song to proclaim than the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord at Calvary, but yet others feel content to sing about the chaff of this world.  What the New Testament church wrestled with the least is what our industry craves the most -- money.  How dare we think we can play politics with God, with His truth and with His church.  We can't negotiate with sin no matter what kind of capital is at stake -- and that really is the issue here.

  • Let us "press on, that [we] which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of [us]." (Philippians 3:12)
  • Let us "lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1)
  • Let us fall on our faces before our Holy Lord, repent of our sin and return to our First Love.
  • With lives bathed in His grace, let us provoke one another to love and good works.  With undivided hearts may we leave the prodigal's pigpen and come back to the Father's house.
  • Let us commit to prayer and fasting, seeking the Lord's will with a broken, contrite and obedient heart.
  • Let us return to our churches and to the faithful pastors/elders that shepherd us-submitting ourselves to their godly leadership.  May we be students of His Word being filled daily with His Spirit.
  • Let us come away from an industry that has all but abandoned Christ and forge, by God's grace, what it was always meant to be… a ministry.  Doing His work, His way, according to His Word, by His Holy Spirit.

Pray on this, Pounding on "Wittenberg's Door", let us come together to make history — to make Contemporary Christian Music… Christian again.

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