Can We Rock the Gospel?
John Blanchard & Dan Lucarini
John Blanchard (author of Pop Goes the Gospel) and Dan Lucarini (Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement) have combined their years of experience in music and Christian ministry to write Can We Rock the Gospel? (2006). The book expands Lucarini’s work and updates Blanchard’s work from twenty-four years ago as they try to combat the entrenched phenomenon of using rock music and its children for worship in church.
While I wholeheartedly agree with the premise—you can’t rock the gospel—I have mixed emotions about the book. Blanchard and Lucarini make a valiant effort at being fair and balanced with their statements and arguments. They legitimately attempt to be honest with the biblical basis and foundation for music in our lives. They adequately and clearly quote from sources both within and without pop music culture. They carefully and thoroughly trace the history of music in the church. So why am I ambivalent towards this book?
Somehow it seems to miss the mark and would fail to convince those who are entrenched in pop worship, and therein lies the problem: pop worship music is not about the music per se, but the whole package of worship, church, evangelism, and holiness. When one deviates from the traditional Christian interpretation on any of these points, music changes will be a byproduct.
I am more and more convinced that we fail to understand the nature of church and its relationship to evangelism, the focus and parameters of congregational worship, and the mandate for personal and corporate holiness with its attendant separation from the world’s system of living.
Church is not an extension of our culture, but the immersion of ourselves into a new and different culture. One goes to church to come away from the cares, concerns, values, tensions, and sin of the culture. From its beginnings in the Roman world, church was different from the culture around it. Consequently, church was not designed to evangelize the lost, but to edify believers (Eph. 4:11-16; Acts 2:42-47). We have lost the sense that the culture of the church is different from the culture of the world—one that is to be learned, treasured, and passed on to subsequent generations.
Congregational worship is about God. It is not about me, my needs, my wants, my likes, and my desires. A congregation comes together and lays aside all individuality to worship the Lord corporately. The worship should include the whole congregation and not alienate anyone. I don’t mean that someone is alienated because they don’t think the music is “hip” or “cool”, but because the music is offensive to the spirit. Once the current fads and moods of culture, the comfort zones of the unregenerate, and the personal likes of the newest class of baby saints becomes the standard, all unity with the whole and continuity with the past gets put aside. Worship is not about pleasing self, but pleasing God through the unity of the whole church as it offers its sacrifice of praise to Him.
Holiness is the long lost Holy Grail of American Christian living. We have almost no sense of separation from the world’s system of living. We cannot even see how far down the paths of compromise we have come because we are so immersed in the world ourselves. Our worship and music ought to be very distant from the entertainment of the world. The church has always been holy and separated in this area. While certain tunes and instruments have been added through the years, there has never been the wholesale embracing of secular culture in the worship setting until now. We don’t even have a concept personally or corporately for holy and separated living and worship.
Has then been disagreement in worship? Certainly, but throughout the history of the church there have still been parameters. Whether one chose the modesty and simplicity of NT worship like the Anabaptists or the dignity and majesty of OT worship like the Presbyterians, there has been a commitment to God’s Word and principles in the congregational service. This is almost completely denied by contemporaries, and it is reflected in their worship and particularly their music.
So, how is the book? It is a good book, but it adds very little to the argument. Many of the statements are out of date and others simply don’t prove much but man’s opinion. It is a good introduction to the topic, but still leaves somewhat to be desired. May men like Blanchard and Lucarini continue to delve into this much needed topic, and may we see a large scale return to biblical worship in our churches.