The Sources of Contemporary Church Music, an Issues Etc Interview

Thanks to Kari Anderson who posted this on the Faithful lists .. here’s a very interesting Issues, Etc. interview of Mark Eischer, Producer of “The Lutheran Hour”. This interview talks about the Sources of Contemporary Christian Music that is found in many churches, including Lutheran churches that are adopting Contemporary Worship forms. He has done some interesting research and is author of an Article in Lutheran Laymen titled “Two Congregations are the Biggest Influences in Christian Music”.

A few quotes that struck me as I listened to the program:

It has been with us for 40 years, and if you look at the theological roots goes back quite a bit further than that.

Most of the praise and worship songs are produced by people who attend one of two churches.

The picture that emerges is a very narrow source for most of the songs which are sung in churches on Sunday Morning.

What prompted me to research this was a comment from a relative who is a worship leader at a large Lutheran congregation. He said, “It’s been a while since he felt the Holy Spirit move through a service like that.” He’s a musician — not theologically trained, not seminary trained, where is he absorbing this kind of language — “movement of the the Holy Spirit”, a very pentecostal concept … Most people get their theology from the songs that they sing.

What is your concern theologically with Lutheran congregations who may be using these types of songs?

A steady diet of songs which are used in this way I believe is conditioning the congregation to believe in a certain way.

Encourage people to look for Jesus in the wrong place — not in the Word, in the Sacraments, and in the Preaching.

Some of the writers of the common songs are:

  • Chris Tomlin
  • Matt Redman
  • Darlene Scheck
  • Tim Hughes
  • Ben Fielding

And the intro from Kari:

This was on Issues Etc today, and I found it to be a program that a lot of people should hear and share with others that don’t realize or haven’t even considered where most contemporary Christian music comes from, and that it really does or will eventually affect our theology.

Kari Anderson

Listen to the interview .. it’s quite enlightening:


Or head on over to Issues, Etc. to listen to it or other programs.



The Lutheran Layman is the flagship, printed newspaper of the ministry. It has been in continuous production for more than 76 years. It is published seven times per year (bimonthly plus one special convention issue per year). Its purpose is to educate members, donors, volunteers, and employees about the ministry and to communicate election results, resolutions, and other official information from Int’l LLL leadership. Contact Gerry Perschbacher at 1-800-944-3450, ext. 4175.

source on LHM Website


Pastor Wilken mentions during the interview his latest Issues, Etc. journal article talking about the same data, looking at it from how many times the Trinity is mentioned in the top 25 songs used in churches — here is an excerpt from the article. Click here to subscribe to the journal.

How often (outside official statements of faith) do American evangelical churches speak about God in explicitly Trinitarian terms? Apparently, not enough. A survey of the lyrics of the top 25 contemporary Christian songs used by churches reporting to Christian Copyright Licensing International between February and August 2010 revealed a solitary reference to the Triune nature of God. There were numerous references to God, but only one to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It should come as little surprise that 58% of Christians in America have a less-than-Trinitarian view of God. According to a series of recent surveys conducted by The Barna Group:

…most Christians do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force, either. Overall, 38% strongly agreed and 20% agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.” Just one-third of Christians disagreed that the Holy Spirit is not a living force (9% disagreed somewhat, 25% disagreed strongly) while 9% were not sure. (“Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist,” April 10, 2009,

Another survey, conducted a year later, confirmed these results:

In total, 68% of Mosaic Christians [Christians under the age of 25] said they believe that the third person of the trinity is just “a symbol of God’s power or presence, but is not a living entity.” This compares to 59% of Busters, 55% of Boomers, and 56% of Elders who believe the Holy Spirit is merely symbolic. (“How Different Generations View and Engage with Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity,” March 29, 2010,

In other words, roughly 60-70% of self-professed Christians in America do not believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity appears to be disappearing from the theology of pop-American Christianity.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


The Sources of Contemporary Church Music, an Issues Etc Interview — 36 Comments

  1. I’m still hoping that the Brotherhood of John the Steadfast and Issues, Etc. will replace the Lutheran Layman’s League and the Lutheran Hour Ministries. How does one replace an auxiliary of the LCMS?

    After LLL/LHM came out with their goofy-format Men’s Network I asked them to remove me from their contact and ambassador lists. Mr. Wurdemann, who later replaced Larry Lumpe as Executive Director, emailed me at the time that my response was an isolated one and “God has a sense of humor.” I then replaced our LHM Project Connect booklets with the “What About?” series.

  2. Thanks for this post. Among other things, it highlights the need and opportunity for use of songs which teach truly Lutheran theology – hopefully even from Lutheran songwriters and theologians. And for a recognition of the differences and commitment by Pastors and worship leaders to incorporate those songs into the service, rather than just going with the flow of what is in the “top 40” of generic worship songs.

  3. I listened to the program. I tell folks all of the time that contempory music is old, but it is not Lutheran. As indicated on the show, it is Pentacostal, Baptist and right out of the Finney camp.

    Last evening we had our Advent song service. All of the songs were right out of the hymnal. The theology in the hymns were awesome. It gets us in the mood for the second coming biblically, not based on silly speculation. I went with my two 15 year old teenagers, and they loved the hymns.

    Ironically, my children love secular music, but they hate contemporary music in the church. They will flat out tell you that contemporary music does not belong not only in a Lutheran church, but in any church!

  4. The LLL became an organization of ill repute when it suspended as Lutheran Hour speaker, then fired the Rev. Wallace Schulz. There is no redeeming social value for the Missouri Synod to still associate itself with the LLL.

  5. There is an interesting situation that the contemporary versus traditional controversy overlooks. Among my friends, all of whom are members of our confessional, liturgical LCMS congregaton, many who enjoy modern Christian music are actually those individuals who have what I consider to be the strongest, boldest faith. They listen to Christian radio when the other members are listening to secular music. They often home school their children or send them to parochial school while the rest submit their kids to secular eduction. They speak about Christ to their friends and neighbors.

    In many cases the members who enjoy modern Christian music are those whom we are thrilled to have involved in the day-to-day life of the church. And they can’t understand how their life that is defined six days per week as faithful Christianity is rejected by the Pharisees on Sunday morning.

  6. Listening to secular music and having children in public school is indicative of having a faith that is not especially bold or strong? There you go.

  7. And we’ve gotten here because some Lutheran pastors will not teach Lutheran theology. So, the contemporary music scene, with its roots in theologies other than Lutheranism, actually fit much better with the teaching that these pastors are putting out there. Baptist songs support Baptist theology…Lutheran hymnody supports Lutheran theology.

  8. @Carl Vehse #5
    @Tim Schenks #2

    Lots of bad things were done under the influence or orders of the last administration. Are you sure there is no pastoral way of handling LLL and LHM now?

    I commend IE for hosting Mark Eischer. I for one do not take seriously the suggestion of replacing LLL with IE. That doesn’t even make sense. Anyway, IE is not going to submit itself to the MO synod’s control. I know what to do. Let’s replace the MO synod with IE.

  9. @Kelly #7

    I think Rich is trying to make a different point. I myself have more than one Lutheran friend who is very well catechized, faithful in attendance and strong in doctrine, and seems to live a Godly life, and loves contemporary Christian music. Neither of them wants that music to replace our liturgical services. I think Rich’s point was that in his experience his most-Lutheran friends like contemporary artifacts. If that is the case, I do not have any explanation for it, except that the ones I know like this are lifers, and may have been burned a little in the past by legalistic application of tradition.

  10. If the LLL were seriously repentant for their actions and desired to continue their association with the Missouri Synod, they have had plenty of time to make it known since they fired Schulz in 2002.

    To paraphrase James Bond
    “They’ve had their six (years).”

  11. I have actually grown in my zeal for the Word of God and in my study of theology since I gave up Christian music many years ago.

    Put me in the camp that would say, “I became a Christian and gave up secular music. I became a Lutheran and gave up Christian music.”

    The poor theology found in the songs on Christian radio can really screw up your faith and your concept of the Triune God. It would take a heavy dose of Lutheran liturgy and songs out the the hymnal to get back on track again.

    Dumb theology makes dumb Christians. (Please listen to Christian radio!)

  12. @Carl Vehse #11

    Hi CV – sounds like you’re up for the job of putting them in the boat and hauling them across the river, then?

    Weighed, wanting, judged, exiled?

    Because they could not muster enough of their own repentance. Never mind if a new administration might better apply the Law and Gospel to them and all of us.

    You think we can get $18M for them?

    I am very glad my forgiveness does not depend on you.

  13. mbw:

    Any Lutheran that has read and studied all of the BOC, loves our confessions and Luther’s Works and the Word of God, would have a hard time listening to Christian radio/music without picking it apart in light of all of the theological red flags that would go up because of the false doctrine.

    It is much easier for me to enjoy classic rock and jazz rather than proof read false doctrine.

  14. When I protested the firing of Wally Schulz to an LLL executive, he said they would lose funding if they didn’t. I felt that they would lose funding and credibility as a “lutheran” organization if they did. Haven’t bothered with them since.

    It’s possible that Wally Schulz is reaching more unsaved people through the multiple language translations of Good News than he could on the Lutheran Hour.
    Certainly Issues Etc is better off than they were and we benefit.

    They are two cases of “You meant evil, but God meant it for good.”

  15. @helen #16

    > They are two cases of “You meant evil, but God meant it for good.”

    There we go. So, is it up to us to say LLL cannot be ‘saved’ now ?

    It is up to us to write off anyone there who was afraid of the (then) administration?

    We are courageous to the point of shedding blood, of course; they were not, of course; let them be damned. Right?

  16. @Rich #6

    Dear Rich,

    I don’t want to be argumentative, because it is not my way of doing things. But your comments illustrate, in a nutshell, the sources of contemporary Christian music IN Lutheran congregations.


    Your friends “listen to Christian radio when the other members are listening to secular music” (your words; I assume you mean CCM).

    So the method of transfer of ideas and practices is from “CCM on the radio,” to members of confessional, liturgical LCMS congregations.

    These are the people whom some, including yourself, consider “the strongest, boldest faith” (your words). This sets up a perception of superiority among those who listen to CCM on the radio. As things progress in this perception, they see “the Pharisees on Sunday morning” (your words) as the enemy.

    So they first, internally, divide a congregation between the “boldest and strongest in the faith” on one side, and the “Pharisees” on the other. Favoritism toward CCM is then taken to be a “mark” of those on the superior side.

    When the time is right, they begin to introduce CCM into the “confessional, liturgical congregation.” Those who oppose CCM in church are branded as “Pharisees.” The “strongest and boldest” then go on the attack. After all, they are the ones on God’s side.

    If the “Pharisees,” leave, good riddance! If they stay, then a big congregational fight breaks out between the “strongest and boldest” on the one side and the Pharisees on the other.

    Your attitudes and your terminology indicates that your congregation is ripe for a big congregational conflict. You might want to warn your pastor in advance of this potential.


    Nobody is arguing about what people listen to on the radio (or iPod) in their free time. The issue is what we do together as Lutherans when we gather for worship. The question is whether or not CCM is appropriate or helpful in that time and space. Just because you and your friends like it does not make it right, or helpful.

    Not all CCM is “bad” from a Lutheran perspective, but most is. The purpose of this post, I assume, was to alert readers to the fact that close to 75% of CCM is written by Baptists and Pentecostals. Most of the rest of it is written with Baptist and Pentecostal theology as an assumption. This means that all CCM has to be critically analyzed before it can be used in Lutheran worship, otherwise it easily contradicts the Lutheran (and let me say BIBLICAL!!) Gospel!

    I have been listening to CCM critically from its beginnings, back in the days of “Jesus Music,” and the founders of CCM like John Fischer, Larry Norman, Love Song, Maranatha, Calvary Chapel, Resurrection Band, and others. There was a lot more real talent back in those days–from a lyrical and musical perspective–than there is today in the BUSINESS. Still, there is very little that is usable in a Lutheran worship context, because the theology is so bad.

    The sad thing is that there are so many former Lutherans who have abandoned the Lutheran church, because they like CCM more than Jesus body and blood (which non-denominational churches do not have). CCM is their sacrament, as far as I can tell. I hope it is not for you.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  17. The LLL is an organization, not a person. I advocate nothing other than terminating the LCMS auxiliary status of the LLL. If you want to make it analogous to an exiling across the river, well, that’s more of a historical scenario a congregation has applied to an individual deposed miscreant.

  18. How did the LLL get into this conversation? Have you even listened to any of the Men’s network Bible studies by our seminary profs?

  19. mbw :@helen #16
    > They are two cases of “You meant evil, but God meant it for good.”
    There we go. So, is it up to us to say LLL cannot be ‘saved’ now ?
    It is up to us to write off anyone there who was afraid of the (then) administration?
    We are courageous to the point of shedding blood, of course; they were not, of course; let them be damned. Right?

    MBW, you’re reading a lot into these posts.


  20. @Martin R. Noland #20

    Wow. The illustraion reminds me of elements of TCN. Rick Warren also advocates such things, in that if people do not want to get on board, ostracize them.

    Speaking of which… My congregation didn’t really do TCN fully (or well so far). I am under the impression that the process strongly encourages CoWo. Does it also promote CCM? Or is that just corroraly to the TCN leaders views of worship?

  21. @mbw #18
    There we go. So, is it up to us to say LLL cannot be ‘saved’ now ?

    There you go. [I think you read me too quickly.]
    I didn’t even think it. After all, Joseph, who said what I did say then proceeded to save his brothers from starvation and relocate them in the best part of Egypt.

    It is my opinion that LLL behaved in an unChristian and unLutheran way, putting threats against their income above ethics. I don’t have to reward such behavior, as an individual, but whether they can be “saved” is hardly the issue.

    My point was that Wally Schultz is still spreading the Good News; the medium has changed from radio to print. That’s all.

  22. @helen #28

    Helen, you are right; I was not actually responding to you. I agree with you about what LLL did to Dr. Schulz. They are looking for a new speaker now; let’s pray that this goes well.

  23. @Martin R. Noland #20
    I think we do need to discuss what is occurring in people’s free time. I have noticed a large influence theologically amongst members who listen to CCM and Moody Radio in particular. And it is not good. We spend one maybe two hours sharing good sound theology and then they spend the rest of the week having it all undone as they drive to work. It is one of the reasons I have been promoting amongst our members shows such as Issues, etc. and Worldview Everlasting, so that they are exposing themselves more to good theology and will hopefully become more discerning.

  24. @revaggie #31

    > We spend one maybe two hours sharing good sound theology and then they spend the rest of the week having it all undone as they drive to work.

    We are extremely blessed in St. Louis to have KFUO. With the right phone and plan, you can listen to KFUO in your car. I would like to see a network of small transmitters across the nation carrying KFUO and other Lutheran programming. An FM transmitter as small as 100-250 watts can cover a town or a section of a metro area, and does not need any staff (only local contract help to do maintenance, repairs and upgrades).

  25. @Tim Schenks #25

    > MBW, you’re reading a lot into these posts.

    Tim, what I’m reading is people saying to kill off LLL or replace it with a radio program.

    I believe those are immoderate statements. Let’s be serious.

  26. @mbw #32

    I trust that the new administration will do everything it can to restore those who were persecuted under the last administration. I think this will take some time. We have seen many good signs already. I also believe this administration will not repay evil for evil.

  27. @mbw #34

    Um, didn’t that already happen? I remember reading one of their nespapers, and I thought they were going to disband or more accurately rebrand themselves as Lutheran hour Ministries. So by their own title they seem to be an extension of a radio program, that has gotten into ministries. (any similarity to Camping and Family Life raido?) In the past, wasn’t the Lutheran Hour a radio program supported by LLL? What I am asking is: who are they? and what (who?) is driving the car? Never being a part of LLL, I don’t know enough details.

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