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.



  1. Dale Philip
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your review of the book which I have also read. I have been involved with church music in Australia for 50 years. 50 years ago we wouldn’t have been having this discussion, because church music in general followed the doctrinal teaching, mood, and focus(e.g. Gospel outreach) of each denomination. With the advent of “Praise & Worship” music many churches not only changed their focus but also introduced different instruments, noise and a greater emphasis on music at the expense of prayer and bible reading. People became alienated with even young mothers saying “I am not going to have my baby’s ears damaged by the high level of sound”. There is no doubt that churches are being divided for all of these reasons and many people are leaving church altogether. This is sad because we should be the family of God, with each caring for the other.
    Dale Philip (Worship Leader)

  2. Larry Robbins
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    A MUST READ! Here’s why: (1) the author’s clearly establish and document from both points of view that there is essentially no difference, as a musical genre, between the popular music of the last 50 years and what is being used in the bulk of Christian churches today. (2) It is also very obvious to the reader that from the secular performers perspective, they have no desire whatsoever to be associated with the religious crowd who claims to be Christian. What clearly struck me was, “Why in the world would I, as a Christian, have any desire to be associated with those who hate Christ?” (3) The last half of the book (beginning at chapter 7 – Red Flags) is where the real “meat” of the text begins. The “five concerns” of chapter 7 bring the reader to where the “rubber meets the road.” My thoughts were “Why was Egyptian idol worship rejected when it was directed toward God in Exodus 32, and yet we think God is thrilled with American Idol worship today? – What’s the difference?”

    Reading others criticism’s of this volume in review as well as other various blogs simply give credence to the conclusions the authors make in their book. There is a stark difference between those who promote Christianity attempting to reform culture and welcome in the kingdom, and those who attempt to follow the philosophy of distinctively different Christianity as they prepare for the eminent rapture of the church. Frankly, I must agree with Blanchard and Lucarini that it is imperative that I follow scriptural principles (not selectively) and be actively engaged IN the world without being OF this world. The danger of following our hearts when we try to interpret the Bible, is that our heart is “desperately wicked, who can know it?” I believe that is the greatest danger in following a path away from our human nature, and embracing a position of separation and holiness—a wonderful challenge brought to the reader in the final chapter!

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