Category Archives: Christian music


By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD

A harmful thing has become the guiding principle of many Bible-believing churches, and it needs to be understood and repudiated. It is pragmatism.

But, first, let me say that pragmatism is not always bad.  For example, a pragmatic person is one who figures out how to get along with others, or how to get something done, or how to reach a goal. So, a pragmatic person knows that, to get along with others, one must not unnecessarily say things in an abrasive manner. And,  a pragmatic person will use a wheelbarrow to move a pile of rocks from one place to another, instead of carrying a few at a time. Therefore,  as stated above, pragmatism is not always bad.

But it has its downside. And we see its downside at work in Bible-believing churches and Bible-believing ministries in a variety of ways. The goal of these churches and ministries is good: they want to reach as many persons as possible with the Gospel message. But often their mistake is to use pragmatism in ways that contradict Biblical teaching and Biblical principles.

A clear example of this mistake regarding pragmatism is the fact that many Christians have accepted the false and unbiblical idea that to reach the world with the Gospel, we must use music that conforms to the world’s music. Therefore,  many Christian musicians dress like non-Christian musicians. This is most notable in what are called Christian rock bands. Not only do they deliberately dress like secular rock musicians. Their appearance in other ways also conforms to the world. And although the words to their songs might be good, they use the same techniques as secular rock bands in the presentation of their music, which includes very loud music, unnecessary light shows, and excessive movement on the stage or platform. These techniques are used by Christian bands to give their audiences what they assume is a Biblical worship experience. But, intentionally or not, these bands are manipulating their audiences, just like secular bands intentionally do. This provokes some similar physical responses seen at secular rock concerts.

While these persons intentions might be good, their method is wrong because it is based on conformity to the secular world. The apostle Paul, in chapter 12, verse 2, of his letter to the Roman Christians, said Christians are not to be conformed to this world, but are to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. And in chapter 6, verses 14 – 17, of his second letter to the Corinthian Christians,  he made some powerful statements about the fact that Christians are to come out from the world and be separate from it. This applies in many ways to daily Christian living. And it certainly applies to Christian music and Christian musicians. Read, also, verses 13 – 16 of the first chapter of the first letter  by the apostle Peter, and note what he said to Christians about not being conformed to the world, and what he said about our need and duty to be holy. Christian music is supposed to draw us closer to God, which results in our holiness. And this requires it to be unlike the world, which, when given the opportunity, draw us away from him. But the principle of pragmatism, if not under control, makes us think, “If it works, don’t object to it.” But Biblical teaching and principles lead us to sometimes reject what “works.” Such is the case with the kind of music I’ve just brought to your attention.


Numerical Church Growth And The Biblical Purposes Of Church Services

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

NUMERICAL CHURCH GROWTH IS IMPORTANT TO CHURCHES. There are practical reasons for this. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually die out as the aging attendees can no longer attend, or they pass away. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually have no substantial reason to exist. If they don’t grow numerically, they will eventually run out of money and will, then, be unable to pay their expenses and will be forced to shut down. Most importantly, if churches don’t grow numerically, it means they have ceased to reach new persons in their communities with the Gospel message, and have failed to get them to attend their services.

ASTRAY FROM THE BIBLICAL PURPOSES OF CHURCH SERVICES. The fact that many churches are in serious numerical decline has caused a lot of them to stray from the Biblical purposes of church services. But what are the Biblical purposes for having church services? According to the New Testament, church services are to be held so that Christians can worship God together, pray together, be taught from the Word of God together, and to have fellowship with one another. But how have Bible-believing churches strayed from these God-ordained purposes? By making their services primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel of Christ. This focus, they hope, will not only win many persons to believe in Jesus Christ, but also become  a means of increasing the number of attendees at their services, and thereby keep the church from going out of existence.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EVANGELISM BECOMES THE PRIMARY PURPOSE FOR CHURCH SERVICES? It is certainly true that churches can and should be evangelistic. The Gospel can be made known during church services through music, through personal testimonies, through literature,  and through preaching and teaching the Word of God. But when reaching non-Christians with the Gospel displaces the God-ordained purposes for church services, it has serious negative consequences. Even though a church which has made this shift in its purpose for its services might still have a strong emphasis on worshiping God,  it is certain to spend less time teaching and preaching the Word of God to the Christians in attendance. The non-Christians are fed what they need to learn, and the Christians get little of the meat of God’s Word. This is comparable to what would happen if a family is made up of a wide variety of ages, but at meal time everyone is expected to eat what the youngest family members are able to eat. The youngest family members might thrive on such a diet, but not the older ones. But this is not the only negative consequence of church services becoming primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel. Another almost-inevitable negative consequence is that in such church services many truths of the Word of God will be skipped over because of their potential to offend and thus alienate the very ones the church is trying to reach with the Gospel. Preachers in such  churches will very likely not warn about specific false teachers and their falsehoods. Preachers in such churches will not likely specifically identify religious groups that claim to be Christian, but in fact are not. Preachers in such churches will not be likely to forthrightly say certain kinds of behavior are to be avoided because the ones they are trying to win to Christ are involved in those behaviors, and they don’t want to drive them away from the services. Such preachers might forthrightly condemn things that the Bible specifically condemns, and which most persons agree are wrong. But they will be hesitant to speak against things that might be only what could be called questionable, borderline, and known to lead to worse behavior. The moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages and moderate gambling are examples of what I mean. Preachers in such churches will most likely say, “Don’t get drunk.” But they won’t say, “Don’t drink alcoholic beverages at all.” Preachers in such churches will say, “Watch out so you don’t become problem gamblers.” But they won’t say, “Don’t gamble at all.” Another almost-inevitable consequence of making evangelism the focus of church services is that the  music used will be the kind that is more acceptable to non-Christians. This means, it will be more entertaining than is appropriate in church services. And it means it will be more worldly or secular in style than it should be. Another way to put it is, the music will not be appropriate for worshiping  the Holy God revealed in the Bible. Here is an example of that very thing: One preacher told me and a couple other preachers of an experience he had as a guest speaker at church in serious numerical decline, and which was made up of mostly elderly Christians. He said that as he visited with the church folks before a service, someone began to play taped Christian rock music over the loudspeaker. He asked them why they were playing THAT kind of music. He was told it was done to appeal to the younger people. In our day it is common for older Christians to be criticized for objecting to much of the music used in contemporary churches.But those older Christians are justified in saying such music has no place in Bible-believing churches. To summarize the point of this paragraph, let me say that what happens when a church makes evangelism the primary purpose of it services is that it often gives itself over to accommodating the persons it is trying to reach with the Gospel of Christ. This always weakens a church, even if it results in many more attendees. It weakens a church because this kind of accommodation is contrary Biblical teaching, and it, therefore does not develop strong Christians.

BIBLICAL STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE GOD-ORDAINED PURPOSES FOR CHURCH SERVICES. Above, I said the New Testament tells that God has specific purposes for church services. But where we can these be read in the New Testament? I will give some of the chapters and verses to read, and you can look them up yourselves. As you read them, look for the statements indicating that the teaching and preaching of God’s Word to Christians was central to the meetings of the Christians. (We now would call the meetings church services.) Acts 2:41 – 47; Acts 14:21 – 28;  Acts 15:22 – 41; Acts 16:1 – 5; Acts 18:8 – 11 & verse 18, first sentence; Acts 18:24 – 28; Acts 19:7 – 11;  Acts 20:17 – 38; Ephesians 4:11 – 16; Ephesians 5:17 – 20; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:16 & 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:5 & 16; 1 Timothy 4:6 & 13; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17; 2 Timothy 4:1 – 5; 1 Peter 5:1 – 4.

The Day Dad Made Me Mad

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

In a recent post, I told about the time when I was a teenager in Minneapolis, MN and my dad found my marijuana. That was in the late 1960’s. This post is about another day, the day when Dad made me mad. It took place in the same time period, and in the same location on Lyndale Ave. South.

To understand what happened, you have to keep in mind that at that time I was a frequent drug user, and I lived the lifestyle that went with it. This means I loved rock music. Some of my favorite rock musicians and groups were Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Cream.

So how did Dad make me mad? Well, one day I went home from somewhere, maybe from hanging out with friends, and was not expecting Dad to be home. I went in the front door, and there he was in the living room listening to music. He was hard of hearing, so the record player was turned up LOUD. But Dad was not listening to my favorite rock music. He was listening to a woman sing the hymn called “How Great Thou Art.” It was so contrary to the music I liked, and to the way I was living that it immediately made me mad. So mad, in fact, that I quickly walked to another room, slammed the door shut and yelled out, “Can’t you listen to some happy music?!”

Here’s a point I want to make from this event: Christian music has the power to confront a sinful lifestyle. It has the power to shine the light of Biblical truth into hearts and minds darkened by sin. It has the power to help people see their need of God’s forgiveness, which he gives to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Bible is God’s Word, and it says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) The Bible says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) The Bible says, “In him (Jesus Christ)  we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Ephesians 1:7) The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” (Acts 16:31) All of these Biblical truths, and many others, can be, and have been, expressed through Christian music.

But what if the musical style that is used to accompany the Bible’s truths is the same as the style used by rock musicians? The result is the joining together of music and words that contradict one another. Do rock musicians use sacred music to express their words? Of course not! The fact is, Christian words and rock music do not belong together. And when they are joined together, the message in the words gets diluted by the music. We cannot join words about sacred subjects to music that is secular and anti-sacred by its very nature.  But, unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened in recent decades. Well-meaning Christians musicians have been the driving force behind this blending of the sacred and the secular and anti-sacred. Their goal has been to reach more people with the Gospel. But the results have not justified this blending of opposites, for by it Christians have become more like the world than different from it. Therefore, we need a reminder that this is not how it should be. Such a reminder is found in the Bible, in the first two verses of the twelfth chapter of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. The whole chapter is given below, and is taken from the Modern English Version (MEV). The Modern English Version was published in 2014, and is a new translation of the same Old Testament text and the same  New Testament text from which the King James Version was translated. The MEV of Romans 12 was taken from this website: This website has important information about the Modern English Version.

Romans 12 Modern English Version (MEV)

The New Life in Christ

12 I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sound judgment, according to the measure of faith God has distributed to every man. For just as we have many parts in one body, and not all parts have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and all are parts of one another. We have diverse gifts according to the grace that is given to us: if prophecy, according to the proportion of faith; if service, in serving; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with generosity; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Rules of the Christian Life

Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cleave to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another with brotherly love; prefer one another in honor, 11 do not be lazy in diligence, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord, 12 rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, 13 contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Do not pretend to be wiser than you are.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Commend what is honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to God’s wrath, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him a drink;
for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Modern English Version (MEV)The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.

Should We Listen To Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)?

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Why I Don't Listen to Contemporary Christian Music - book

One of the most controversial subjects among Christians in more-recent years is what is known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). It is controversial because, in contrast to traditional Christian music, CCM puts Christian words to music styles that most Christians had previously considered to be objectionable due to the fact that they were used by musicians and singers whose lives did not express Bible-based Christian morals and beliefs, and often contradicted those morals and beliefs. For example, rock and roll and country western musicians often were known/are know for profanity, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and rejection of moral absolutes. Therefore, to put Christian words to their kinds of  music seemed to be a joining of things that are contradictory to one another. It might be comparable to having a man well-known for wickedness read the Bible during a church service. Even Gene Simmons, a  member of the rock group called “KISS” told a Christian contestant on “American Idol” that he should not go into rock music because it and the Christian faith don’t go together. I saw this on the internet, and you can do so yourselves. Here’s a link to it:

But now,  rock and other kinds of CCM are commonly accepted by Christians. But should we accept them? That is the question considered in the book by Shelly Hamilton, who is herself an accomplished musician. I have carefully read the book, and highly recommend that it be read open-mindedly by those who see nothing wrong with CCM because, though the style of the music is radically different than previously was used to express the Christian faith, the Christian words justify the change. Not only should those who accept CCM read the book, so should those who don’t accept it, or who have questions about why it should not be accepted. Sadly, many who accept CCM are not willing to consider why Shelly Hamilton and many others object to CCM. The book is available from Majesty Music, and is only 103 pages long. Here are the chapter titles:


  1. My Musical Background.
  2. What Exactly Is Contemporary Christian Music?
  3. CCM Is Born
  4. Is Music Neutral?
  5. The Rock Beat
  6. The Pop Singing Style
  7. Intent And Motive
  8. Biblical Teaching About Music
  9. Rock By Its Fruit And Association
  10. A Musical Line
  11. The Power Of Music In The Church
  12. What Are A Christian’s Musical Options?



Repetitious Contemporary Christian Music

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

I was listening to a Christian radio station recently when it was playing a song. Here’s what came to mind by time it got to the end:

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat………..That is what a lot of contemporary Christian music does. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. It doesn’t take much talent to say the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. I’m tired of it. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat…………

Old-fashioned sounding Christian might be, well, old-fashioned sounding, but at least it took some talent, or takes some talent, to write the words and music.

A Candid Re-Evaluation Of Contemporary Christian Music

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD

CCM (contemporary Christian music) is the most popular kind of music in churches these days. It seems to have been accepted by most Christians without much serious evaluation. This is an unfortunate thing, for it is not as good as many would have us believe. Dan Lucarini was a CCM worship leader who was willing to give it a candid re-evaluation. This led to his leaving the CCM movement behind and returning to more traditional forms of worship music. His re-evaluation of the subject also led to his writing a book about it. His book is called “Why I Left The Contemporary Christian Music Movement.” It has had a wide reading, and deserves reading by many others. Those who think CCM is “the only way to go,” especially if we want to appeal to younger persons, need to read his book with open minds and hearts. I encourage you to get a copy. Here is a link to one source for it:

“Fences Make Good Neighbors”

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD

      Back in 2010, my wife and I were considering buying a house, and a realtor helped us with the process.  When I told him that we prefer yards without fences, he said “Fences make good neighbors.” I knew what he meant: a fenced yard makes for less potential conflicts with neighbors because the fence helps keeps everyone in their proper place by preventing neighbors from encroaching on one another’s property.

     Well, churches need spiritual fences, so to speak. They need fences made of commitment to Biblical doctrines and Biblical morality. Such fences will keep those who do not believe in the infallibility of the Bible’s doctrines and its morality from encroaching on a church’s spiritual property. By which I mean, when a church is committed to the Bible as the Word of God, and when it teaches what the Bible teaches on many subjects, those who oppose Biblical teaching will understand that they should not attend such a church. Such persons will understand that their views contradict what a Bible-believing church stands for, and so they need to attend one with which they agree.

     Furthermore, Bible-believing Christians need to be taught that Bible-believing churches need to have spiritual fences that will help protect them from those who do not accept Biblical truth, and  who would, therefore, encroach on their spiritual property in order to influence the Bible-believers to abandon their committment to Biblical truth. We need to understand that Satan sends his agents to Bible-believing churches for that very purpose. They might be very warm and friendly persons, but they are sent by Satan to attack churches from within. Such persons will look for those with whom they can share their unbiblical views concerning doctrines and morals. They might do this right on the church’s property, or by visiting with church-goers away from the church’s property. They will use different means of carrying out their agenda.

      Pastors can help protect their congregations from these Satanic attacks by preaching and teaching the great themes of the Bible. This requires emphasizing what the Bible says on fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, and what it says about Biblical morality. By this means, the people will become well-taught in sound doctrine and godly living. As pastors do this, they are keeping their church’s fences in good repair. Pastors can also help protect their congregations by being careful to look into what new attendees think on various Biblical subjects. Such persons need to prove themselves to be stable, and committed to Biblical truth, and to not have a hidden agenda. And pastors certainly should not allow new attendees to quickly join the church and to quickly have positions of influence in the church. By doing these things, pastors will help keep problems from developing in the church.

      But it is not only the attacks of Satan’s agents from which churches must be protected.  Even well-meaning, dedicated Christians can be problems to churches. Such persons, though of good character, sometimes have doctrinal views that contradict what a church stands for. And, perhaps without meaning to do so, they can become divisive by attempting to spread their views among the members of the church. Zeal for their views can cloud their good judgment.

       Therefore, unless a Bible-believing church is purposely interdenominational, so long as the fundamentals of the faith are believed, it must not allow diverse doctrines to take root in the church. In other words, the only way for a church to maintain its doctrinal distinctives is by emphasizing those distinctives. People must be taught to attend a church with which they agree on many points. For example, they must be taught to attend a church that supports their view on doctrines such as baptism, the Lord’s supper, Bible translations, eternal security, charismatic gifts, the role of women in the church, Bible prophecy, and church music. When Christians attend churches of like faith, it is much more conducive to church harmony, and their own personal happiness. But if they try to fit in where they don’t belong they can become sources of strife.

            Now, if a well-meaning and dedicated Christian begins to attend a Bible-believing church with which he or she strongly disagrees on some important points, and that man or woman attempts to bring their beliefs into the church, what should be done? The pastors of the church should tell such persons that their views are not compatible with the church’s official views, and that, therefore, they need to keep their views to themselves, or find a church of like faith. For example, I know a  man who adheres to what is called hyper-dispensationalism, which has been popularized by  C. R. Stam. This brother in Christ began attending our church services, and tried to influence one of our deacons and me to accept hyper-dispensationalism. I told him our church does not accept hyper-dispensationalism, and that we do not want it promoted in our church, and that he, therefore, needed to find a church with which he was doctrinally compatible. It took some time for him to accept what I told him, but he has moved on to another church. This is better for him and for us.

      Another important thing to keep in mind is the fact that all Bible study material used in the church, including Bible studies made up by members of a church, must be analyzed by the church’s pastor/pastors and anyone else designated for this job, before the material is allowed to be used at church-sponsored functions. In other words, the church’s leaders must oversee what is being taught. False doctrines and doctrines that contradict a church’s official positions have been brought into  churches by well-meaning members because this oversight has been neglected.

     If you need to get acquainted with the Bible’s emphasis on the importance of sound doctrine and morality, for starters, read through Acts chapter 20, verses 17 – 38, Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the pastoral letters,  1st Peter 5:1 – 4, 2nd Peter, and John’s three letters.

           That realtor was right: “Fences make good neighbors.”