Contemporary Song Books Examined
by Michael J. Penfold
A hymn book and a Bible. For hundreds of years ‘the saints’ all carried them to church; but the 21st century finds most worshippers showing up on Sunday morning empty-handed. Only the preacher carries a Bible and the songs are on the big screen. In fact, in many places hymns have practically disappeared altogether. Their contemporary replacements are shorter, lighter on doctrine, easier to memorise and the rhythm and harmony have a less ‘religious’ feel to them. They are sung over and over again – accompanied by a ‘worship band’ – and take up half of the service time. Clearly, a ‘worship’ revolution has occurred, central to which has been the advent of these new song compilations, the best known in the UK being Mission Praise and Songs of Fellowship.
In 1874, as a result of Ira Sankey’s much loved choice of hymns at D.L. Moody’s evangelistic crusades in the UK, the Sacred Songs and Solos hymnbook was born. 110 years later, in preparation for the 1984 visit to England of Billy Graham, Mission Praise was compiled. It was strikingly different to ‘Sankeys’ (no surprise there). However, the more discerning observer noted a sharp contrast even between Mission Praise and the hymn book used during Billy Graham’s first visit to England, only 31 years earlier. Between 1953 and 1984 the charismatic movement had exploded worldwide, and with it, a new genre of ‘worship song’ had been born. Under the guidance of Peter Horrobin1 and others, Mission Praise included along with some ‘good old hymns’, a large selection of openly tendentious charismatic songs such as Majesty, For I’m Building a People of Power and Be Still for the Presence of the Lord. The names of Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley and John Newton appeared alongside charismatic artists such as Graham Kendrick, Dave Bilbrough and Andrae Crouch. To those ‘in the know’, this development did not go unnoticed. At the 1983 Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam, Pentecostal speaker Dennis Peterson noted Billy Graham’s “shift in the music with a tremendous number of renewal songs being sung in each service.”
The effect was dramatic. Tens of thousands of mainline evangelicals were introduced to songs written by charismatic authors, containing charismatic ideas and set to contemporary styles (pop, rock, jazz etc.). The retention of some of the older, more reliable hymns, proved a winner with many cautious traditionalists who were resistant to the lighter material. Thousands who knew nothing, for example, of Graham Kendrick’s strong beliefs in the gift of ‘tongues’, prophecy, spiritual warfare and Kingdom Now theology, accepted his catchy new songs without reservation. These songs were popularised as never before and gained entrance, through Mission Praise (MP), into hundreds of hitherto non-charismatic churches, which would previously not have dreamt of using the more overtly charismatic Songs of Fellowship (SF).
Ecumenism received a powerful boost through the wide acceptance of MP. How so? It is worth noting that the worldwide growth of the tongues experience in the 1960’s and 1970’s accomplished a degree of unity between Roman Catholics, evangelicals and charismatics where all else had failed. Anglican Canon Michael Harper spoke for many when he said, “The reason why I, in the first instance, related to Roman Catholics, was because I saw they had the same experience that I’d had – of the baptism in the Spirit [evidenced by tongues]…If God accepts them, so do I.”2 What tongues did for ecumenical unity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, MP consolidated and expanded in 1980’s and 1990’s.
The false, doctrine-vacant ‘unity’ brought about by MP was no accident. Peter Horrobin wrote in the introduction to the original edition, “This book has been compiled for a purpose; to unite Christians of all denominations in praise and worship as they work together in evangelism” (emphasis added). Tom Houston stated in the foreword, “This book has been compiled to enable the uniting power of music to operate during and after Mission England.” History shows that the shared experience of ‘speaking in tongues’, combined with the power of commonly sung charismatic choruses, became two of the most powerful factors in breaking down the doctrinal barriers between the Church of Rome and all the mainline Protestant denominations.
Darlene Zschech, author of the famous song ‘Shout to the Lord’ says, “I’ve been in the Catholic Church, in the United Church, the Anglican Church, and in many other churches, and when worship is offered in truth, this sound emerges—regardless of the style. It’s the sound of the human heart connecting with its maker.”3 Since all sing the same songs, all speak in the same tongues and all enjoy wonderful worship together in the ‘felt presence of God’, why quibble any more about transubstantiation, Mariolatry, Papal infallibility, purgatory and the immaculate conception? Dave Fellingham, author of dozens of songs in MP and SF writes approvingly, “When we’re all praising God together, we tend to forget our theological differences.”4
Acceptance of the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church as a true Christian denomination is a given within the contemporary song book movement (as in the Alpha Course). Roman Catholic hymns are liberally sprinkled thoughout MP and SF. Several include lines in Latin and bear a Taizé copyright. Taizé is an ecumenical community in France started by the late ‘Brother Roger’, who attended Vatican II and was a friend of Pope John Paul II (who visited Taizé twice). Chanting, praying before Marian icons and singing the Magnificat are commonplace events at Taizé.5 Some understanding of the high level of integration now in evidence between Romanism and charismaticism can be grasped when one considers that “good old charismatic songs” accompany the Mass, the saying of the rosary and prayers for healing at Marian shrines like that in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia.6
Does this make it wrong to sing Abide With Me because it’s a favourite at Wembley Stadium? Must churches now throw out their trusted hymnal because it contains the occasional rogue entry from John Henry Newman or some distant Dark Age monk? Far from it. There is a vast difference between those scenarios and what is involved when a church takes the unwise and unnecessary step of introducing either MP or SF. Alan Morrison explains: “the modern songs…come with a whole pile of baggage…these new songs are not the product of unconnected individuals spontaneously inspired to write hymns for worship; they are the product of a movement in history which has a powerful agenda for change – and their songs are the main agent in that agenda.”7
Some quotes from charismatic song authors should clarify this point. Dave Fellingham is a ‘worship leader’ and has authored dozens of songs in MP and SF. He advocates the use of singing in tongues as a form of spiritual warfare, thus chasing away demons and “bringing in the Kingdom.”8 As to the agenda behind his entries in MP and SF, Fellingham could not be more clear: “The phenomenon of the modern worship song is an integral part of what God is doing worldwide [in the charismatic and ecumenical movements]…The ministry of leading in praise and worship and music is a vital one in helping to see the purpose of God fulfilled and the kingdom of God coming on earth”9. Fellingham, who admits that his song-writing and worship leading ministry evolved from his charismatic pilgrimage, is very open about his musical activities. Having accepted the ‘baptism in the spirit’, ‘speaking in tongues’ and Restorationist ‘Kingdom Now’ theology10 he writes songs to accompany that paradigm. For example:
And we will awaken the nations,
To bring their worship to Jesus,
And the kingdom shall be revealed in power,
With signs, wonders and miracles11
Jack Hayford, a charismatic pastor who wrote an entire book on speaking in tongues12 and authored the song Majesty, believes “a new reformation in worship will accomplish the same thing [as the Protestant Reformation].”13 Further corroborating quotations from Matt Redman, Terry Virgo, Chris Bowater, Graham Kendrick, Philip Lawson-Johnston, Gerald Coates and John Wimber are freely available in the relevant literature.
This much is clear. These songs have facilitated the charismatic and ecumenical revolution within Christendom. A pattern has been repeated thousands of times: the new song books make their entrance, the band strikes up, hands are raised and very shortly afterwards church members start claiming to have received ‘the baptism’ and ‘tongues’. It is an undeniable fact of religious life that the new songs and the charismatic experience are inseparable bed-fellows. Remember, the authors all share the same charismatic experience. From Gerald Coates on his bike, to Graham Kendrick brushing his teeth at the sink, most have surrendered to the mindless tongues experience.
Many churches and hymn books have made the mistake of cherry-picking a few of Graham Kendrick’s better songs (to keep ‘up to date’ and ‘hold on to the youth’). Kendrick, who has been a rocker since the 1960’s, encourages worship times to be a celebration with “fun, laughter, noise and rhythm”, culminating in “loud applause to the Lord”, followed by silence, which may “give way to the beauty of singing in tongues.”14 With Kendrick’s songs, because they are tendentious, inclusion means endorsement. True, Kendrick has written some lovely verses, but in the words of Alan Howe; “To use Kendrick’s material is…implicitly to buy into an agenda which seeks to change the nature of worship; and once worship has been altered (usually in subtle steps), the rest of the charismatic agenda can follow.”15 Kendrick wrote many of his songs specifically for charismatic events like Spring Harvest and March for Jesus. By ‘marching for Jesus’ Kendrick believes he is engaging in spiritual warfare in heavenly places and ‘claiming back the ground’ under his feet for King Jesus. Kendrick wrote Shine Jesus Shine for March for Jesus. He wanted to hear millions of Christians marching through the world singing:
Shine Jesus Shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory;
Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire.
Flow river flow, flood the nations with grace and mercy;
Send forth Your word Lord, and let there be light!”16
The use of even just a few of these songs will begin to produce a ‘charismatic ethos’ within a church. Once that happens, drawing a line in the sand to prevent further encroachment will be practically impossible.
The Toronto ‘blessing’ would have been impossible without charismatic ‘praise and worship’. The loud, repetitive worship songs put congregation after congregation into a pre-hypnotic ‘Alpha-wave’ brain state17 thus producing euphoria inducing endorphins within the body. As the expectant crowd of worshippers stand with hands upraised, Kendrick’s words ring out:
Oh, let the living waters flow,
O let the living waters flow.
Let the river of Your Spirit flow through me [repeat 2x];
Flow through me [repeat 4x].
[Repeat again as required].18
At Taizé they repeat songs again and again to help people go, in the words of Sister Suzanne Toolan from the Mercy Centre in San Francisco, “from whatever your state of consciousness is, to a much more relaxed state of consciousness.”19 The resultant feeling of ‘closeness to God’ and ‘oneness with Jesus’, is merely a charismatic ‘Christianised’ variant of the alternative states of consciousness that New Age and Buddhist meditation, Shamanic chanting, and psychedelic drugs have been producing for centuries. Sadly, the entire experience is a delusion.
It would shock some readers were a list to be drawn up of all the irreverent, childish and just plain wacky songs (including one about being afraid of spiders and things that bark20) contained in MP and SF. Line upon line of unscriptural teaching could also be compiled, with everything from Jesus being ‘our brother’ (As The Deer, MP No. 37) to there being ‘healing’ in the communion bread (Here is Bread, MP No. 842). But while the dumbing down of hymnology and the naked trivialisation of worship is sad enough, the main point to grasp is that, as we have proved, MP and SF are powerful vehicles for the implementation of the charismatic and ecumenical movements’ agenda for the world (which forms part of Satan’s aim of worldwide deception). Alan Morrison again: “These songs have been composed for the deliberate purpose of seeding their teachings in churches…In their misplaced attempt to be relevant to today’s culture, churches which buy into these new songbooks are importing heresy into the heart of the fellowship…This is why resistance…is not merely an option, but it is vital.”21
Here is a summary of the charismatic nature of MP and SF under four headings:
1. Songs containing references to ‘dancing…clapping…celebrating…hands rising…the blind see…release my tongue…His healing touch…signs…wonders and healing.’
2. Songs that promote Dominion Theology such as ‘God’s kingdom is being restored…welcome His kingdom in…into our hands he will give the ground we claim…we see the signs of Your kingdom.’
3. Songs designed to precipitate a charismatic mood in a gathering such as ‘this is where the party is…touch me now…send the fire…fall upon me right now…wind blow on me…fill me again’ (expect any song copyrighted by Vineyard in particular to contain such lyrics).
4. Songs designed to create instant intimacy with lines such as ‘I long to worship You…I give myself to You…I want to love You from deep within…Let me be Yours alone.’
A.W. Tozer spoke discerningly of this last issue: “Many of our popular songs…are…shocking in their amorous endearments, and strike a reverent soul as being a kind of flattery offered to One with whom neither composer nor singer is acquainted. The whole thing is in the mood of a love ditty, the only difference being the substitution of the name of Christ for that of the earthly lover. How different and how utterly wonderful are the emotions aroused by true and Spirit-incited love for Christ. Such love may rise to a degree of adoration almost beyond the power of the heart to endure, yet at the same time it will be serious, elevated, chaste and reverent. Christ can never be known without a sense of awe and fear accompanying the knowledge. He is the fairest among ten thousand, but also the Lord high and mighty…No one who knows Him intimately can ever be flippant in His presence.”22
Likewise, spiritual souls need no seminar to teach them that rock, pop, jazz and rap are unsuitable idioms for profound Christian worship. The use of ‘music’ so obviously associated with and arising from an alternative rebellious culture of free sex, godlessness, drugs and emotional orgies, is worse than inappropriate – is sinful. (For a technical explanation of this, with examples and illustrations see The Sound of Contemporary Christian Music, Music for Good or Evil, a video presentation by author David Cloud). Worship must be in spirit and in truth, for true worship is the overflow of a grateful heart expressed in conscious intelligent words addressed to God (Eph 5:18-21). Historically, worship has always been wholly distinct from the sound and style of secular entertainment. Songs were written to promote doctrine and aimed at extolling the dignity and deity of Christ. They were never used to generate feelings of blissfulness or to conjure up a ‘worship atmosphere’. According to scripture, songs must contain enough doctrine to qualify as vehicles of teaching and admonishing one another (Col 3:16). In the church, all things, including the singing, must be for edification (1 Cor 14:26). That leaves no place for the superficial ditties and tendentious songs born out of the erroneous tongues movement.
To introduce MP or SF, or to extract tainted songs from them to be included in otherwise scriptural hymn books – such as Waiting Praise, Praise and Christian Hymns – is, in the words of Dr. Peter Masters, “to be guilty both of great foolishness and spiritual disobedience. We must stand clear, not on the grounds of taste, but on the grounds of sin.”23 May the Lord give Biblically minded Christians the sense and courage to take a stand against this dangerous tide of charismatic songs.
1. Peter Horrobin heads up Ellel Grange, an extreme ‘Toronto’ style charismatic ministry, www.ellelministries.org
2. The Brighton Interviews, July 1991 p. 15.
3. Zschech Please, Michael Herman, christianitytoday.com, June 4, 2004.
4. To the Praise of His Glory, Dave Fellingham, Kingsway 1995, p. 41.
5. I Went to Taizé, Catholic Truth Society, 1986.
6. Letter in Renewal Magazine, Richard Connor, Dec 1989.
7. Open Thou Our Lips, Alan Morrison, diakrisis.org, p. 19.
8. Worship Restored, Dave Fellingham, Kingsway 1987, pp. 118-123.
9. In Spirit and In Truth, Dave Fellingham, Hodder & Stoughton 1989, pp. 53 & 56.
10. The idea that before Christ can return, the church must establish the kingdom on earth by taking control of every aspect of national and global life. Ecumenical unity, the restoration of apostles and prophets, spiritual warfare and signs and wonders are all essential to accomplish this end.
11. Songs of Fellowship, No. 648, Kingsway Music, Eastbourne, 2003.
12. The Beauty of Spiritual Language, Nelson Word 1993.
13. Worship His Majesty, Jack Hayford, p. 22-23.
14. Worship, Graham Kendrick, Kingsway Publications 1984, p. 168.
15. CRN Journal, Summer/Autumn 2000, p.18.
16. Mission Praise No. 867; Songs of Fellowship, No. 823.
17. Alpha is 8-13 electrical brain cycles per second, compared to the normal Beta rate of 13-26 cps as measured by an encephalograph.
18. Mission Praise No. 445; Songs of Fellowship No. 362.
19. CNN Web news posting May 20 1996.
20. Songs of Fellowship No. 822. Check any song by Ian Smale for crazy lyrics.
21. Morrison, p. 9.
22. The Art of True Worship, Christian Publications, Harrisburg PA, 1964, p. 125.
23. Peter Masters, Sword & Trowel, No. 1, 2001.