Evangelistic Music


Glenn Kaiser

The idea of using art to “do” something in a very practical sense isn’t new. Historically, music in particular has served man in a myriad of ways. Due to its capacity to carry philosophical images via lyrics, coupled with the emotive qualities of both the human voice and instrumentation, powerful
communication isn’t merely possible, it is quite probable.

However, the phrase “evangelistic music” is technically a misnomer. Music alone may indeed imply a mood, but without accompanying lyrics, what evangelistic message (or message of any sort) can ultimately be communicated? It’s a bit like “tongues” without “interpetation” (see 1 Corinthians, chapter 14).

Evangelism, simply put, is the communication of the Good News about Jesus Christ. Sharing the essentials about His life, atoning death, resurrection, and teachings. Though a case can be made that these things can be shared in non-verbal ways, Scripture itself speaks about the “foolishness of preaching” by which mankind will aquire saving faith.[1] Jesus told His disciples to “preach the gospel”[2], to “proclaim” it, and to “make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.”[3] The implication thoughout the Bible is that this sacred information will be most usually conveyed by human speech. Therefore, it is not music, but rather the lyrics and/or the speaking of the musician and his/her actions in life that actually “do” the evangelizing.

There is biblical evidence to support witness to faith toward God in the mentioning of songtexts actually pre-dating the Psalms of the Old Testament. Yet it is my opinion, based on careful study of the approximately 380 verses in the canon which clearly and contextually mention music, that nothing sung can replace the verbal preaching of the Word of God. We read that Jesus and His disciples sang hymns,[4] yet He preached the Gospel and commanded the apostles and larger body of disciples to do likewise.

Incidentally, Scripture COMMANDS us to sing, to make melody as part of our normal exercise of worship toward God, and as a way to teach and admonish one another. The making of music and specifically singing is not an option.[5]

Notice also that the two verses Paul has given to the Church which most clearly speak to the usage of music by Christians seem to direct us more toward ministering to one another than directly to God.

Consider: “… speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord …” (Eph. 5.19) “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you; with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3.16)

God is certainly in no need of teaching nor admonition from us! I conclude that believers are to sing ultimately to God Himself, while ministering practical biblical truth to human beings in the process.[6]

Harold Best, dean of Wheaton College’s Conservatory of Music, has stated that possibly the best sort of witness of our faith is “observed worship.” That is, as we sing and perform music in an attitude of worship, others may indeed discern our faith in God in the process.

Of course, the limitations of space require only a brief commentary on this topic. I encourage those who have strong beliefs (or interest) about the utilization of music by Christians to study to show themselves approved to God.[7] Too few Christian leaders have spent any real time searching the Scriptures that speak to art in general, music in particular. Unfortunately, the same can be said of most Christian musicians.

What about music styles? And the practicalities of Christian broadcasters who desire to bring evangelical witness and nurture to listeners and viewers?

First, I would have to encourage prayer and a great deal of questioning with regard to the demographics of your particular market, both actual and sought after! Some seek to reach Christian teens, others are out to reach middle-aged individuals. A different vernacular must be employed to reach a given generation. Obviously, if the “mission” is of importance, so is the cultural language of a given people group.

It is no understatement to list finances and stewardship as major factors in programming. What does ownership/management really seek to accomplish, particularly spiritually, in affecting the audience it reaches? All of these things have to be discussed, understood and agreed upon for any successful witness
to take place.

Frankly, if one considers media evangelism a form of missionary outreach, then music styles are important only inasmuch as a given strata of society communicates in that musical “tongue.”

Rap, rock, jazz, blues, southern gospel, older hymns, and contemporary praise tunes alike can be used to “evangelize” in the broad sense of that word. It really depends on God’s guidance to each broadcast outlet, and the willingness of that station, network or show to obey Him in the casting of bread upon
the water.[8]

As for what is called “contemporary Christian music,” I pose three questions:

Is it contemporary? That is, is it dated, stale, impotent stylistically or in its usage of lyrical terminology in the minds of those you wish to reach? Or is it modern and with integrity in regard to these things?

Is it Christian in the sense of presenting a biblical worldview, scriptural truths, honest lyrical statements that exude conviction, conscience before God, authority? No less than seven times, making music “skillfully” is either commanded [9] or implied in Scripture. What of this?

Whether or not it’s “music” has much to do with one’s own perspective! But the music you program must be MUSIC from the perspective of your chosen or defacto audience.

Various Christian artists that cover the gamut of styles and lyrical topics can be discovered by reading any of several publications I’ve listed at the end of this article. Many Christian bookshops have listening areas established where program directors can screen currently available products.

I have experienced some twenty years of service as a “musicianary” (musical missionary). Countless numbers of people from all walks of life have publicly and privately repented of sin, prayed and received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour as a result of any number of stimuli, which ultimately were the work
of the Holy Spirit. Church history records innumerable revivals where music played a major role in the conversion and consequent discipling of large groups of people. Does it work? Certainly. Is it scriptural? Yes.

“For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”[10]

1) 1 Cor. 1.21 2) Mk. 16.15 3) Mt. 28.19,20
4) Mt. 26.30 5) ex: Ps. 33.3 6) Jn. 17.17
7) 2 Tim. 2.15 8) Ecc. 11.1 9) ex: Ps. 33.3
10) Mt. 4.23

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION (Christian Music Publications):

“Pure Rock Report” — This is by far the most comprehensive industry resource for media people who want to know just who and what is going on in Christian music circles. Reporting from over 100 N. American radio outlets. A must. For subscription info., phone 800-627-ROCK

“Contemporary Christian Music” — The grandaddy of all Christian music publications. Great source for news, reviews and interviews. For subscription info, write CCM, PO Box 2070, Knoxville, IA 50197-2070.

“Heaven’s Metal” — Alongside other great “zines” like “Gospel Metal”, “White Throne” and “The Cutting Edge,” “H.M.” has an incredible sense for touching the pulse of newer Christian metal and hardrock bands. Other genres are also covered, especially in “The Cutting Edge.”

“Heaven’s Metal” — PO Box 17367, Austin, TX 78760-7367
“Gospel Metal” — 3331 E. Romelle, Orange CA 92669
“White Throne” — PO Box 20577, Castro Valley, CA 94546
“The Cutting Edge” — 8303 Hilton Way, Orlando, FL 32810

“Noteboard” — Another paper covering the diverse field of Christian artists, spanning rock to alternative.
“Noteboard” — Box 202, RD 1, Atglen PA 19310


About the author: Glenn Kaiser serves on the pastoral staff of Jesus People USA Evangelical Covenant Church in inner-city Chicago. He also leads REZ band, through which he demonstrates his call as an evangelist.

(This article was originally written for the National Religious Broadcasters Magazine.)