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The Pentecostalization of Christian Worship Part 2

The Christian Worldview / David Wheaton
The Truth Network Radio
May 6, 2023 8:00 am

The Pentecostalization of Christian Worship Part 2

The Christian Worldview / David Wheaton

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May 6, 2023 8:00 am

GUEST: DAVID de BRUYN, pastor, New Covenant Baptist Church (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Think back 50 years or more to how a Bible-preaching church service was depicted. There would be a father and mother standing with children at their side in a well-lit sanctuary, wearing their “Sunday best”, holding hymnbooks and singing hymns of the faith.

Now think about how professing Bible-preaching Evangelical churches depict themselves today. The ubiquitous photo you’ll see is silhouetted individuals, arms raised high in the air inside a dark room accented by stage lighting with a band performing in the background. The unspoken caption to the photo might as well read: “Peak worship”.

Setting aside for a moment which one is better, let’s ask a more basic question: “Why has there been such a major change in the first place?”

Last week in part 1 on The Pentecostalization of Christian Worship, David de Bruyn, pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, explained how the Pentecostal or Charismatic movement—the largest and fastest-growing branch of Christianity in the world—has taken over Evangelical church services, not just with contemporary music styles but also with the objective of worship itself.

He writes, “Pentecostal authors have written that praise is a kind of ‘path’ into the presence of God. That is, worship is not a series of gracious revelations from God’s Word with faith-responses from His people. Worship becomes a series of steps or stages, growing in intimacy and intensity. Charismatic worship writers speak of the importance of “flow”: a technique of uninterrupted, continual music, designed to emotionally transport the worshippers into the climactic experience of “worship”, which they deem to be more intense and focused than “praise”.

This week in part 2, David de Bruyn will join us again to explain how music has been the primary entry point for Pentecostalism’s influence on Evangelicalism and what effect this is having not just in music but in Evangelical beliefs and practices as well.



The Pentecostalization of Christian Worship. Today is part two of that topic, right here on the Christian Worldview Radio Program, where the mission is to sharpen the biblical worldview of Christians and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm David Wheaton, the host. Today, we are able to pursue that mission on the radio station, website, or app in which you are listening today because of the support of listeners like you.

So thank you for your prayer, your encouragement, and support. You can connect with us by visiting our website,, calling our toll-free number, 1-888-646-2233, or by writing to Box 401, Excelsior, Minnesota, 55331. A reminder before we get to the preview for today's topic that a Christian Worldview Speaker Series event featuring Christian journalist Alex Newman is coming up shortly on Saturday, May 20th, at 4th Baptist Church in Plymouth, Minnesota. That topic on May 20th is going to be Being Informed and Prepared for the Global Great Reset. The event runs from 9 to 1030 a.m., with a pre-event breakfast starting at 8 a.m., if you'd like to come for that.

The breakfast is going to be coffee, donuts, muffins, fruit, and yogurt. There's no registration if you want to come to the event. There's no admission fee. You can come for a donation of any amount to the Christian Worldview. The sanctuary holds about 800 people, so there should be plenty of room.

We only ask you to register if you want to come for the pre-event breakfast at 8 a.m. You can register at, or just call our toll-free number, 1-888-646-2233. Okay, as we consider our topic today, the Pentecostalization of Christian worship, think back 50 years or more to how a Bible-preaching evangelical church service would have been depicted. There would be a father and mother standing with children at their side in a well-lit sanctuary, wearing their quote, Sunday best clothes, holding hymn books, and singing hymns of the faith before the pastor got up to preach. Let's fast-forward to today and think about how professing Bible-preaching evangelical churches depict themselves today. The ubiquitous photo you'll see is one of silhouetted individuals, arms raised high in the air inside a dark room, accented by stage lighting with a worship band performing in the background.

An exception to the photo might as well read, Peak Worship Experience. Now, setting aside for a moment which church service you prefer, let's ask a more basic question. Why has there been such a major change in the past 50 years, when church services in the West at least have been relatively similar for hundreds of years? Last week in Part 1 on the Pentecostalization of Christian worship, David DeBrain, pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, explained how the Pentecostal or Charismatic movement, the largest and fastest growing branch of Christianity worldwide, by the way, has greatly influenced evangelical church services, not just with contemporary music styles, but also with the objective of the worship service itself. DeBrain writes in one of his articles in the seven-part series we have linked at our website,, he says, Charismatic worship writers speak of the importance of so-called flow, a technique of uninterrupted continual music designed to emotionally transport the worshippers into the climactic experience of so-called worship. So this week in Part 2, David DeBrain will be with us again to explain how music has been the primary entry point for Pentecostalism's influence on evangelicalism, and what effect that has made upon evangelical beliefs and practices as well.

Now before we get to the interview, just a couple summary points from last week. We mentioned a study that nearly all of music sung and played in evangelical churches today comes from four megachurches, and all of them are Charismatic-leaning. Number one, Bethel in Redding, California with Bill Johnson, who considers himself to be part of the New Apostolic Reformation. Hillsong Church with Brian and Bobby Houston, the former pastors there. Elevation Church at Steven Furtick in North Carolina, and Passion City Church led by Louie Giglio in Atlanta. All of these churches hold to varying degrees of the following, claiming direct revelation from God.

God spoke to me, or God told me this. Some of them believe that they are modern-day apostles, as if they were in the first century apostolic period, or they believe in a subsequent feeling of the Holy Spirit. You're saved at one point, then some point down the road you actually receive the Holy Spirit, which is not biblical. You receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. They believe in the word of faith. In other words, you speak words in faith, and that means they're going to happen if you have the faith, or the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, that when you're saved and you're a believer that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy and prosperous and so forth. They believe in the, quote, little God's belief that we have the divine or heaven within inside of us. They're continuationists. They believe in the continuation of the miraculous sign gifts that the first century, some of the first century apostles had.

The sign gifts being the gifts of doing miracles, supernatural events, healings, speaking in foreign languages that they didn't know, or prophecy, not just teaching the word prophecy, but actually foretelling what is going to happen in the future. Charismatic music is the entry point, but the format or methodology of the service itself, and even some of those beliefs that Charismatics have can find their way into evangelical churches as well. Why this is significant is that Pentecostals have a much different purpose and expectation of what worship should be than historic biblical Christianity. In one of the columns he writes about Pentecostals, he says, quote, The pursuit of a Pentecostal worship service is the experience of intense intimacy. By contrast, Hebrew and Christian worship has always required the frequent conscious response of the mind and will, the restraining of what could become sensual, modesty in bodily expression, and a rational, active response to God, not a sensual, passive one.

Now, there are a few topics that always generate a lot of feedback, and one of them is God's sovereignty and salvation versus man's responsibility, the doctrine of election. But this one is another one, the issue of spiritual gifts, the difference between what cessationists believe versus continuationists. In most all Charismatics, just by definition, are continuationists. And the most misunderstood response for a sensationist as we are at the Christian worldview is, well, so you don't believe God does miracles or heals people anymore today? And the answer to that is absolutely God still does miracles. Salvation itself is a supernatural act of God to make someone who is spiritually dead to make them spiritually alive, or someone who has stage four cancer with given no chance to survive.

All of a sudden the cancer is not even seen anymore. These are miracles of God. But the distinction here is this, cessationists believe that men today do not possess the same miraculous sign gifts that God gave men, the apostles, in the first century.

But after the church age, those gifts, some of those gifts, will return. Think about the two witnesses in Revelation who can do signs and wonders. So those miraculous sign gifts in the apostolic era of the first century were used as signs that what the apostles were saying about Christ and about God was true. It substantiated their preaching before the New Testament was compiled.

So the signs showed that they were from God and speaking for God, just as the signs and wonders that Moses did before Pharaoh communicated to Pharaoh that Moses was speaking from God. The belief that the miraculous sign gifts have ceased, or cessationism, that has been a position held in history for centuries. God questions wrote that tongues are not mentioned at all by the post-apostolic fathers after the apostolic age. Other writers, such as Justin Martyr, Origen, and Augustine, considered tongues something that happened only in the earliest days of the church. Fast forward to the Reformers, the Puritans, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Lloyd-Jones, they were all cessationists, not believing that the miraculous sign gifts of the first century continue to today.

And that has been the orthodox position over the centuries, and continuationism really started with the charismatic movement about 100 years ago. I looked at a website called Grasping God, and I don't know anything about the ministry, they just had a list of the miracles that Paul and Peter did who had these sign gifts of the Holy Spirit. For instance, the apostles spoke in foreign languages they hadn't learned. Acts chapter 2, Peter and John healed a lame man. Peter's shadow healed sick people. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead, Acts 9.

Paul cursed and blinded Elamis, the sorcerer. Paul and Barnabas healed the crippled man who had faith. People touched Paul with aprons and handkerchiefs and laid those claws on the sick and demon-possessed who were then healed, Acts chapter 19. Paul raised Eutychus from the dead after he had fallen out of the window. Paul healed Publius' father of fever and dysentery, Acts 28. Paul healed all sick people on the island of Malta. Do you see what they're saying here? It's not God healing these people, as God can do at any time, any place, it's that God had given gifts to these apostles at that time to do miraculous things that I have not seen any man be able to do today.

Yes, lots of people claim to be able to do these things, but it's never verifiable with evidence and eyewitnesses like someone being raised from the dead as these apostles were able to do in the first century. So the question is, why do this topic if it's so divisive? Well, the answer is simple. The purity of the church and sound doctrine representing God accurately and not giving people expectations they shouldn't have so they don't become disillusioned when they're not healed or granted some miracle that a man or ministry promises that he can provide for them. And so a truthful representation of God and his church and what we can expect as believers needs to be sought for and fought for by every true believer.

Otherwise, heresy goes so many different directions. Listen to what Jesus said about how God is to be worshipped when he spoke to the woman at the well in Samaria. This is from John chapter 4. But an hour is coming, he told her, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit, that's a little s, not the Holy Spirit, in spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be his worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit, again, small s, and truth.

So spirit here is not the Holy Spirit, but our own spirit, which is the immaterial part of us that goes from being dead in sin to alive when God saves a person. Spirit doesn't mean emotion, but it means a Holy Spirit enlivened person who can then know and worship God, who has a redeemed mind, will, and emotion. Let me be clear, it is beautiful to have proper emotion in worship, joy and tears and vocalizing praise and amen and lifting arms up in praise. But emotion should not be the primary goal of worship. Worshipping God accurately and obediently, according to how God reveals himself, is the goal of worship, and the result of that should be awe or emotion. So we spend all kinds of time and energy evaluating the preached word. Is the doctrine sound? Is it communicated with grace and truth? Is it honoring to God? But somehow questioning music forms and service methodologies is beyond the pale?

I don't think it should be. Knowing what those four churches teach that are influencing most of evangelical music today, we should be concerned about the beliefs and practices of the Pentecostal churches who are influencing evangelical churches. So after this first break of the day for some ministry announcements, we'll get to part two of our interview with Pastor David DeBrain on this topic of the Pentecostalization of Christian worship.

I'm David Wheaton, and you are listening to the Christian Worldview radio program. Have faith in God. Don't be intimidated by lies. The world says, back down. Don't do this. Fling open your windows. Pray openly, so to speak. That's what Daniel did. Don't be ashamed.

Don't be intimidated. A blind, anemic, weak-kneeded flea on crutches has more chance of defeating a herd of a thousand wild, stampeding elephants than this world has of stopping the will of God. There's nothing they can do to stop God's will, and if you're a Christian, you've aligned yourself with God's will. That was evangelist Ray Comfort exhorting believers to stand firm and speak boldly, just like Daniel. Ray's new book, So Many Lions, So Few Daniels, is 192 pages, softcover, and retails for $16.99. You can order the book for a donation of any amount to the Christian Worldview. Go to, or call 1-888-646-2233, or write to Box 401, Excelsior, Minnesota, 55331. What is the Christian Worldview radio program really about? Fundamentally, it's about impacting people, families, churches, with the life and eternity-changing truth of God's Word. We know the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only message that saves us from God's wrath, by God's grace, for God's glory.

And we know the Bible is the inspired Word of God, providing the only way to think and live to the glory of God. We are a non-profit, listener-supported ministry. If you would like to help us impact listeners with the biblical worldview and the gospel, consider becoming a Christian Worldview partner who regularly give a specified amount to the ministry. As a thank you, Christian Worldview partners automatically receive many of the resources featured on the program throughout the year. To become a Christian Worldview partner, call us toll-free 1-888-646-2233, or visit Welcome back to the Christian Worldview, I'm David Wheaton.

Be sure to visit our website,, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email and annual print letter, order resources for adults and children, and support the ministry. Our topic today is the Pentecostalization of Christian worship services, and our guest is David DeBrain, the pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. Let's get more specific into the music, David. We've talked about the overall different approach to worship that Pentecostals have, how that's influenced the evangelical church. In your articles, you go into specifically, I think you emphasize mostly how this is transmitted in through the musical style.

You say when Christian worship is Pentecostalized, it is not merely a, quote, style or, quote, preference that has changed. You'll hear that so much when it comes to music. Music is just a preference. It's amoral. The rhythm, the form of music means nothing. It's all about the lyrics. You say the point and goal of Christian worship has been altered, and the very shape of active call and response has been substituted with a passive, stimulatory, ecstatic model.

You say this is no small change. And I will say you're absolutely correct, because what you write in these columns, if taken at face value, basically undermines the complete direction of evangelical Christianity. I can't speak for everyone in the world, but let's say in America that I've observed that has given over to this particular style of music, this Christian contemporary music that had its roots in charismaticism and Pentecostalism has been completely accepted and welcomed and become a prominent part of the church here, at least in this country.

I know it's around the world as well. So many conservative evangelicals, David, will talk about, it's really just about the importance of lyrics in music. How do you draw a line, though, between what is reverent in music, what you would describe as being honoring to God, and what crosses the line into what is, let's say, worldly or fleshly?

This is one of those questions which is both simple and very complex. The complexity lies in understanding the language of music, the melody, harmony, rhythm, tone, color, and how their combinations communicate, and also how those combinations take on meaning in culture, that meaning is both associative, it's conventional, it's how we use the music, it's the situations in which we use the music, it's the groups, the genres that contribute to our overall sense of meaning. There's also an intrinsic level of meaning that just has to do with how our bodies respond to tones and to rhythms.

And that's the complex side of it that deserves a full treatment. It deserves pastors particularly and leaders becoming learned, at least competent, in the area of understanding what and how music communicates. The simple side of the question is something that in many ways we skip past, and that is that music is really in many ways a kind of tone of voice. It's a tone of voice to accompany the very lyrics that we're singing.

And when it comes to something like that, we don't seem to have as much trouble. We understand when little Timmy at the table spoke to his father in an irreverent tone of voice. We understand when so-and-so spoke to their leader in an angry tone of voice. These forms of tonal communication are quite well recognizable to us. It just seems that when it comes to music, Christians, and particularly evangelical Christians, suddenly take on a kind of aesthetic agnosticism, as if we have no idea that this music sounds irreverent, or this music sounds flippant, or it sounds casual, or it even sounds sensual. We know very well that the places in which this would be played, we know the contexts, we know the occasions, we know what the world uses that sound to sell, and we know what they would not use to sell. So we understand this, but then again, when it comes to Christian debates about music, suddenly everyone becomes an agnostic. Suddenly everything's preference, everything's morally neutral. So in answer to your question, where do we draw the line, well, that's a critical question, a question which requires critical thought. Using a number of criteria, how we detect meaning, how we understand musical meaning, our contexts, cultural meaning, and musical meaning in the end is a compound form of meaning. Multiple strands contribute towards it. So it's a question that is subjective in the sense that we as subjects must make the judgment, not in the sense that it is impossible to make.

So drawing the line is a difficult but not impossible task for those who are determined to do it. David DeBrain with us here on the Christian Real View. Let me just read a little more from your column where you bring up these terms, Dionysian versus Apollonian. And let me just read where you bring these up, and I want you to describe what those mean. The fact that the intensity that is sought is felt so acutely in the body, this is with charismatic worship music, hence the intensity, the fact that it is often evoked without much understanding or meditation on revealed truth, the fact that the participant often feels passive and overwhelmed would lead many observers, ancient and modern, to classify Pentecostal intensity as a passion, as Dionysian, or even as sensual. Furthermore, the addiction that many have to it, the addiction, strong word, has all the signs of people who have found an emotional stimulant, really describing what Christian contemporary music has become. By contrast, Christian worship has to first pass through the filter of a spirit-filled understanding. It must respond submissively, which means humbly, soberly, and reverently.

Next paragraph. Worship like that, I just read, is Apollonian. It creates some distance between mind and body, because the mind is reflecting on truth, not being manipulated by what the body or the ear is finding sensuous pleasure in. Certainly, you say, the response may be robust, triumphant, and filled to the brim with zeal. To Apollonian music, where there is not just primarily sensually stimulating, but it is always a response that the spirit is making to the Holy Spirit's illumination. It is never an irrational feeling of pleasure that sweeps upon one because of a combination of chords, rhythms, nostalgia, lighting, breathy and crooning vocals, or some other sensual trick. Those are marionette strings, like a puppet, attempting to pull on the appetites directly.

Very powerful thoughts you're writing down there. Tell us more about this Dionysian and Apollonian division, and how you see it used, not in the charismatic churches, because we know that. We see groups like Jesus Culture, Hillsong, they use this all the time. But how do you see that as being dominant, not just entering the door, but being very dominant in the evangelical church today?

The history of that terminology goes back a little bit. It's primarily associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, who meant it to describe two different approaches to art in particular. And of course, as Christians, we're commanded to use art. We're commanded to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, which is both music and poetry, so this affects us. Nietzsche's idea was to connect them symbolically with two different Greek gods. So Dionysus is the god of wine, Apollo, god of music, god of reason, several other things.

And the distinction between them is the idea that Apollonian art first appeals to the understanding. The mind has to contemplate meaning. There is almost, if you could imagine, a kind of a speed bump in the soul. As you slow down, you consider the components, the arrangement, the artist has used his material, what's being communicated and why, and you almost get a moment to consider the truth of it. Dionysian, as the name suggests, acts upon you the way alcohol acts upon you.

To be controlled by wine is to be intoxicated and to no longer be in control of your faculties. So this kind of art makes a direct hit upon your appetites through its manipulative use of its materials, whether it be music or movies or materials or poetry and so forth. What it is doing is going straight to the gut and pulling on the heartstrings and bypassing the filter of the mind. Now we could discuss how it does that at length, but for the purposes of our discussion, what we want to focus on is there a kind of music that just goes straight to my feelings and gets my body and gets my nostalgia and gets my sentiment and gets my tears flowing? Is there a kind of music that works like that?

And we all know the answer is yes. Is there a kind, on the other hand, that works through the mind that works on me more slowly that doesn't always necessarily appeal to me in the same way? Yes, there is. And we usually recognize that that music has a more profound effect upon us. So to perhaps change the metaphor, you could view it almost like the difference between the kind of food that is nourishing but requires chewing versus the kind of lollipop that gives you this overpowering tongue experience, this taste overwhelming moment but doesn't really have much effect on you in a nourishing way. So that's the difference between them. One is going through reason and the understanding. The other is going directly towards the body, towards feelings, towards manipulating passions.

One is treating you as an active thinker, the other is treating you as a passive creature to be manipulated. How is that coming into modern evangelicalism? Whenever leaders are working towards effect, in other words, whenever they are trying to produce an emotion in their people that they justify as connection or authenticity or realness, if they use manipulative techniques, certain kinds of mood music, certain kinds of lighting, certain kinds of movie clips, there are things that public speakers, that pastors can do where we tell the hilarious joke and then we hit them with a hard statement right after that or we do the continual tear-jerking story. In its worst forms, it's when pastors become actors, dramatists who become professional tear-jerkers in the way they communicate, knowing full well what they're doing, that they are pulling upon the heartstrings and going for the gut rather than an Apollonian approach to preaching which appeals to the understanding through a careful exegesis of scripture. So we could probably enumerate many more examples but the basic distinction is this, whether we're talking about preaching, music, technology, architecture, is it first going through the mind and heart so as to understand and respond actively or is it appealing directly to my passions, my appetites, my feelings, my body, my whims so as to almost act directly on me and I'm just being passively moved by it.

That's the distinction. It seems to me that if you're really aiming at the emotions and the experience primarily, once you're out of that experience, once that experience is over, you're not going to have the same kind of hold of the truth that you would be if you're appealing to someone's mind and then your will and then with the emotions to follow. But just as you were giving that example about how alcohol takes over a person, I'm just wondering if the Apostle Paul, when he wrote in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5, he says in Ephesians 5 verse 18, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. In other words, you can either be filled with alcoholic spirits, small s, or you can be filled with the Holy Spirit, big S. And it's a comma there. Continuing the thought gets right into music in verse 19. Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. So I just wonder if there's something purposeful about the way the Apostle Paul writes that, that music shouldn't be this like a drug, like an addictive pursuit that we're looking to transport ourselves into some sort of ecstatic state, and that the triad he puts there, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, should be under the umbrella of worshipping God in spirit and in truth, and that should be the primary purpose of it. I agree wholeheartedly, and it is a supreme irony then that in charismatic theology, they've actually used the metaphor of getting drunk with the Spirit, that there's now been this almost a complete missing of what Paul meant. Paul meant to set up a contrast between being filled with the Spirit, which is exactly parallel to Colossians 3.16, which says, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, or teaching one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. So being filled with the Spirit is exactly parallel to taking in the word of God rationally, thoughtfully, with the understanding. There isn't some contrast here that when the Holy Spirit fills you, you're in a passive experience of being numb to your intellect, and you're just being swayed and moved passively by the work of the Spirit. That is to misconstrue the work of the Spirit altogether. So I agree Paul is actually encouraging us along this idea of a rational, full, thoughtful contemplation of God in his word, and that is the filling of the Spirit. One of the ways we know that is that all the effects of being filled with the Spirit further on in Ephesians 5 are not only the speaking in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, but they include husbands and wives loving each other, serving each other, in clearly rational, thoughtful, sacrificial, submissive ways.

All of this is going to come about because of a people that are word-centered and word-saturated. Pastor David DeBrain is our guest today here on the Christian Real View coming to you from South Africa. We are talking about the Pentecostalization of Christian worship. Today is part two of that topic. We'll take a brief break for some ministry announcements, but there's much more coming up, so stay tuned. You are listening to the Christian Real View radio program.

I'm David Wheaton. Here's Christian journalist Alex Newman on why some of our fellow citizens are destroying our historic values to enact a great reset to globalism. They have no loyalty to the United States. In fact, I think many of these people at the highest levels absolutely despise the United States, partly because it has been a historically Christian nation. It has taken the gospel to every corner of this planet, like no other nation in all of human history. As I mentioned earlier, it's founded on these biblical principles.

Really, a lot of the principles that are at the core of our republic, these came directly out of Scripture, and our Founding Fathers made that crystal clear in their writings. You can order Alex Newman's 80-minute DVD presentation on how globalists are attempting a great reset for a donation of any amount to the Christian Real View. Go to, or call 1-888-646-2233, or write to Box 401, Excelsior, Minnesota, 55331. Have faith in God. Don't be intimidated by lies. If the world says, back down, don't do this, fling open your windows. Pray openly, so to speak. That's what Daniel did. Don't be ashamed.

Don't be intimidated. A blind anemic we need flee on crutches has more chance of defeating a herd of a thousand wild, stampeding elephants than this world has of stopping the will of God. There's nothing they can do to stop God's will, and if you're a Christian, you've aligned yourself with God's will. That was evangelist Ray Comfort exhorting believers to stand firm and speak boldly, just like Daniel. Ray's new book, So Many Lions, So Few Daniels, is 192 pages, softcover, and retails for $16.99. You can order the book for a donation of any amount to the Christian Real View. Go to or call 1-888-646-2233 or write to Box 401, Excelsior, Minnesota, 55331. Welcome back to the Christian Real View.

I'm David Wheaton. Be sure to visit our website,, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email and annual print letter, order resources for adults and children, and support the ministry. Our topic today is the Pentecostalization of Christian worship services, and our guest is David DeBrain, the pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. In one of your later columns of the seven-part series that we have linked at our website,— you can also find it elsewhere, I think it's on the G3 ministry website as well— you say the problem is not the contemporary nature of the songs that are sung in the church today as long as they're biblically sound. It does not matter if a song was written in the year 221 or 1021 or 2021.

As long as it is true, good, and beautiful. The problem is not even the charismatic commitments or association of the songwriters. So you could have a charismatic person writing a biblically sound song.

That's not a problem. The problem is far more that on the spectrum of the Apollonian and Dionysian sentiment, they probably lean closer to the Dionysian side, at least musically. In a non-charismatic church, skillful musicians can interpret some of these songs, let's say, written by charismatic writers or presented with a charismatic form of music. So skilled musicians can interpret some of these songs and hymns in a fashion that communicates sobriety and modesty, and so can make these works practical and helpful for a church seeking reverent music. This is something that Luther did with the secular tunes that he employed as hymns. Thoughtful pastors can thus use these alongside a healthy diet of excellent classical hymns that balance out the passionate Dionysian element both musically and lyrically. My own church, you write, has attempted to attain this balance.

But in practice, you say, this is not often what happens. I want to be specific here with a couple of very well-known, very influential musicians that I would say on the more conservative end of the evangelical spectrum. I'm talking churches that for pastors we would know who are sound preachers on Christian radio programs. You have Keith and Kristin Getty, the Geddes, or Bob Coughlin of Sovereign Grace Music, and there are a few others, but I'd say maybe those two are the most influential and popular amongst more conservative, and I say conservative, not politically, theologically evangelicals. Yet, when you listen to quite a bit of the Geddes music, or the Coughlin music, the way it is musically accompanied, I think you have to conclude that that music would be in the form of contemporary Christian music, of more of a Pentecostal sound to that music. What are your thoughts on maybe those two sources of music that are so popular within conservative evangelicals? I mean, it sounds like that their music, though very doctrinally sound, I think you might agree with that, can be presented in a way that's not primarily appealing to the passions or the senses. I think most of us are familiar with the music of the Geddes and Bob Coughlin, and these are very, very talented musicians. I've sat in a class that Coughlin taught at a pastors conference, and they're also not people who are thoughtless about the theology of music, so we're dealing here with people who are theologically astute and have reasons behind what they do.

Coughlin's book Worship Matters explores his own theology of music in detail. Now having said that, both the Geddes and Coughlin are quite clear on record that what they would call style, or what they would call genre, is a fairly neutral, malleable thing. And that so long as one has the lyrical content being orthodox, that in turn, as it were, redeems the song or changes the direction or the meaning of the song, because now it's being employed for theologically correct purposes.

And it's on that point that I differ with them. I believe that musical genre is not simply a kind of decoration, or even just a musical form of preference, that the particular combinations of musical form communicate different affections, and they communicate affections differently. So to be more specific, for example, when the Geddes produce a song that is based on a ballad form, can there be songs we employ in the church that use a ballad? Well certainly, and we have done that historically, there's hymns that are based on that form. And so if you find a contemporary hymn that is now written in that ballad form, and it suits the mood of the music and the truth that we are looking at and contemplating, that can be entirely appropriate. The problem is when, as very often Christians do, they kind of take their theology and even their music in packages, and they just want all of it in a one-stop shop. And then if you find for the sake of argument that the Geddes are using a ballad repeatedly for a whole bunch of songs, you might find that a whole group of those songs simply aren't appropriate for the ballad form. Now instead of being discerning one song at a time, we can then make the mistake of just saying, well, we really enjoyed that one hymn that the Geddes wrote. It must mean that everything they do is of equal quality, and therefore we should just accept it because they are now becoming a name that we trust. And my response to that would be to say, why don't we just go one song at a time? Why don't we just go one hymn at a time and consider what are they communicating? What are the associations?

How is this put together? And is this appropriate? Because yes, some of those leanings are going to have the gravitational pull of the charismatic movement. In Coughlin's case, probably stronger.

The Geddes also have it. It's not the most pernicious form of charismaticism and Pentecostalism that you have, at least that I'm aware of in Coughlin's case. But you're still going to have that magnetism, that kind of gravitational pull towards that Dionysian, passionate, sentimental approach, which is kind of a little bit of an idolization of the feelings, a direct attack upon the gut, upon the appetites. And with that being present, one would say, again, let's go one song at a time, one hymn at a time.

Let's look at the form, let's look at the shape, and then let's look at the lyrics. Let's not simply say because they are orthodox in the propositional content of their lyrics, that this must necessarily mean that everything they do is appropriate for Christian worship. What we need to do then is, as I've written in that column, if we find something where we think the form and the content is appropriate, we may still need to rework it in our own churches so that the final product is sober and reverent and godly and essentially appropriate for corporate worship. And that also requires skilled musicians in our churches. That's very well answered. David DeBrain with us today on the Christian Real View.

Just a couple more questions for you. You know, the common thread that you hear within the contemporary Christian music, the pop Christian music today is the beat. I mean, there's just a strong correlation between it and regular secular rock and roll music or secular pop rock. What are we to think about that element, just the use of drums, the way the drums are used, the beat of music in Christian music today?

Is that kind of the crux of the matter where there's the sensual appeal? There's a lot of talk about the beat, and I think that that can almost be a distraction from the bigger issues because percussion is a normal part of music. Percussion has been used by almost all folk cultures. We see percussion referenced in Psalm 150. So by itself, percussion is not the problem.

A beat is not the problem, nor is an instrument that provides the beat. The real question is, once again, in the whole compound meaning of the song, are we producing a mood, a tone, an affection that is either irreverent or perhaps even simply casual, sloppy? Are we producing a sound that tends to send us back into ourselves, into a kind of a narcissistic contemplation of myself and my own enjoyment rather than an outward focus onto the glories of God and enjoying him? So the question of the beat can distract us and make us think that by itself, this is the problem, the demon drum type of approach. And I want to say I think our bigger problems are sentimentalism in music, narcissism in music, commercialism in music, consumerism in music, and all of those problems are antithetical to a true experience of reverential worship of God. Yes, there's certainly those elements of when percussion is overdone, it leads in the direction of sensuality.

There's no question that when there's an overpowering rhythm, this certainly raises associations of worldliness for most people. But I would say let's keep those alongside questions of, does this music simply produce an irreverent, flippant, casual, self-centered consumerist mood that frankly is not capable of carrying the weight of God's glory upon itself? Very interesting, David, to bring with us today here on the Christian Real View. These columns, we just highly recommend everyone listening today read. Whether you agree or disagree with the conclusions David is making, it will deepen your understanding of what is taking place in evangelicalism, how our worship services have been altered because of the influence of Pentecostalism, what the influence of music is, and so forth. You've written these, and I'm sure you know full well, David, that the water is over the dam in evangelicalism on this whole takeover, this colonization of Pentecostalism, specifically with regards to worship and music and so forth.

What do you hope to achieve by writing these columns? What should someone listening today, maybe an individual listening today who's listening very closely to what you've been saying, is open to being persuaded as to what you're saying? Because some people will not be. You go to YouTube, you watch these popular Christian music videos, this song changed my life, I became a Christian because of this contemporary song, and a lot of people aren't going to be persuaded in this at all.

I want the music that I want to listen to. I like it. It makes me feel good. It makes me praise God.

And so that's the end of the story. But what are you hoping to achieve by writing these columns? What should someone listening today who's thought about this topic, what do you want them to take away? I think I'm trying to sound a warning that there is a kind of worship that is being offered to you that will cheat you. You are going to be drawn in and you will feel an intensity. And if you do not continue the pursuit of God in his word, you may stop there. And it will be a cheap substitute, because you will simply be worshipping your own feelings. And when the trials of life come, and when there is pain and tragedy, and great suffering, you will find that that form of Christianity will run aground, it will make shipwreck, it will fail you. What will sustain you through the great pains of life is a genuine worship of the truly glorious God. That kind of worship always takes you out of yourself towards him, as Augustine put it. It is the kind of worship that will make demands upon you. And having denied yourself and sought him, you will find fullness of joy, but you will not find a kind of intensity of experience that is simply your own feelings. So I'm trying to sound a warning to say that there's a kind of a candy stick kind of worship that's out there that's very sweet and very overpowering. And I don't blame you for liking it.

I don't fault you even for the fact that you find it compelling in the short term. But I'm lovingly issuing a challenge. Will you not pursue God at all costs? Will you not be willing to seek him as he is? No matter what that turns out to be, that if you desire to worship him in spirit and in truth, that you'll seek him and seek him as he is.

I can promise you, you won't be disappointed. Because the God that is is far more overwhelming and glorious than any substitute religion or worship of our own feelings that we can produce. So it is a loving call to my brothers and sisters to say, don't stop at a kind of substitute worship that has more in common with paganism, with orgiastic rights, with false religion than it does with the revealed religion of God shown to his people by grace in the person of Jesus Christ.

So well said. You give us so much to think about and pray about and really contemplate what direction the music in the church, the worship of the evangelical church has gone, but also for us personally as well to consider about what we listen to. Where is this music directing my heart to worship? Is it towards self and what makes me feel good?

Or is it upwards, purely trying to seek what most glorifies God? So David, we just appreciate the hard work that it took and the thought and the biblical study it took to think about and write these columns. And we just thank you for coming on the Christian Real View radio program today. And we wish all of God's best and grace to you and your family and New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thank you, David. It's been a pleasure to be with you.

All right, we are completely out of time. And if you missed any part of this two part series, you can go to our website, to hear all our archive programs. And whether you are for or against this Pentecostalization of Christian worship, this series should cause all of us to reflect on what is taking place in evangelical churches, at least in the West, and whether this shift is something that honors God, because that needs to be our objective, not what we want or what we prefer, but what honors and glorifies God, who is the object of our worship. Remember what Jesus said in John 4, true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Spirit with a small s. For such people, the Father seeks to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

So let us worship God with a surrendered spirit to the Holy Spirit and according to the truth that God has revealed in his word. And a final reminder today about our upcoming Christian worldview speaker series event on Saturday, May 20th at Fourth Baptist Church in Plymouth, Minnesota. Our speaker is going to be Christian journalist Alex Newman speaking on being informed and prepared for the great reset, the events from 9 to 10 30 a.m. with a pre-event breakfast at 8 a.m. You don't need to register for the event, but you do need to register if you'd like to come to breakfast. Just go to or call 1-888-646-2233. Thank you for joining us on the Christian worldview today.

In just a moment, there will be all kinds of information on this nonprofit radio ministry. Let's remember, Jesus Christ and his word are the same yesterday and today and forever. So until next time, think biblically, worship accordingly, and stand firm. The mission of the Christian worldview is to sharpen the biblical worldview of Christians and to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. We hope today's broadcast encouraged you toward that end. To hear a replay of today's program, order a transcript, or find out what must I do to be saved, go to or call toll-free 1-888-646-2233. The Christian worldview is a listener-supported nonprofit radio ministry furnished by the Overcomer Foundation. To make a donation, become a Christian worldview partner, order resources, subscribe to our free newsletter, or contact us, visit, call 1-888-646-2233, or write to Box 401, Excelsior, Minnesota, 55331. That's Box 401, Excelsior, Minnesota, 55331. Thanks for listening to the Christian worldview.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-06 10:14:55 / 2023-05-06 10:34:07 / 19

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