From the age of 8, music became an integral and personal part of my life. I remember it vividly; dad and mom came to me and said: “Son we have made a very significant investment. Your mother and I sacrificed to purchase an acoustic guitar for you and your brother.” What was my response? I was blown away! A guitar to a little lad, knowing we did not have a lot of money. Wow! My gratitude was deep and sincere.
Of course I did find out later they purchased it from Fingerhut (not exactly a top 50 store for musicians).
Following that they arranged for a young man to give us lessons. He taught us three cords, and the rest as they say is history. My love for music grew along with my age. With that passion came a deeper interest in music genres in general. The Lord would graciously help me during those years. I grew up at the setting of the rock music collision, when it became tolerable. Then enter the rap music industry. I was a very young lad during those times, times of transition and temptations. For me, my interests in those genres did not appeal to me as much.
There was one artist whose talent and content was a wonderful blend. His name was Andrae Crouch. Andre Crouch rose to prominence during the 70s with many of those songs reaching a broad audience. He made appearances on television programs from the Johnny Carson show to Billy Graham Crusades. He was in many ways an icon during that time for the gospel music industry.
Andrae Crouch was one of the few singers who truly appealed to me. As a young man, I can remember listening and singing songs like “Jesus is the Answer,” “The Blood that Jesus Shed for Me,” “Through it All,” ”“Take Me Back,” or “My Tribute (To God be the Glory).” Andrae Crouch made singing truth respectable in many ways. He somehow had the uncanny ability to make his statements clear. He was gifted in communicating a truth in a song that would stick with you.
As a teenager, I needed that. With the world singing their songs, it was good to have a song we could sing because believers are the only ones who truly have a reason to sing.
Upon hearing the news of Andrae Crouch’s death, there was conflict in my mind for some reason. Immediately I scoured the Internet, looking for reports about it. I knew he had been sick for quite some time but knew very little of his present condition. So his death would come as a surprise. Furthermore, when believers die, it would be better for them. They are in the presence of their Savior.
Quite frankly, due to my line of work for the past few years while in seminary, I dealt with the deaths of many people. I served in coordinating some services and officiated others.
So why would I have this conflict? I found myself listening to Crouch’s music over and over to the point where my wife said to me, ‘I think you are mourning.’ I did not think I was, but for some reason, my sadness was deep. After thinking through the joys of being with Christ for believers, it was not until I messaged someone that there was some clarity to the conflict. You see, I had come to really love the Andrae Crouch of the 70s and early 80s, but grew distant to the Crouch of the 90s and following.
But I believed the Lord used Crouch’s early music to bless and encourage me. And unfortunately, that is the only Crouch I wanted to think about after his death. The latter Crouch troubled me somewhat. His musical affiliation with secular artists, one of whom I believe lives to blaspheme God, troubled me greatly.
Now, I must add this: no one makes the right decisions all the time. Man in sin is a horrible sight. Man in Christ is none the better had it not been for God’s mercy. Yet I cannot help but think; how should we think about our life and the choices we make? Musicians and singers especially, do you really consider the venues you participate in and the other situations you may be compromising your testimony?
Another troubling thought was the way many people would speak of Andrae Crouch’s human accomplishments, as if his awards were more important. Yet that is not what made him who he was. He admitted a deep love for God and for the most part heeded to the words of his father who encouraged him to say what Scripture teaches. Andrae was told to allow God’s word to speak because man has very little to say.
Knowing all of this did not help me, even though I knew we were clay pots.
So how did I settle this conflict? Once I realized I was trying to separate his history from his humanity, things were better. The fact that “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Rom. 3:23) puts things into proper perspective. You see, Andrae was a man, and quite often when men accomplish great things for God, we place them on a plateau and when they fail in some area we are devastated. My condition was not that extreme, but I failed to truly consider the importance of sound doctrine in the life of any musician and minister. Far too many singers are literally going solo, leaving the church out of the equation. Eventually they sing what they want, and work with who they please. Instead of influencing others, they are influenced. From drugs to infidelity, many music artists have given way to the vices of sin.
Human success without accountability is grounds for trouble and failure. Am I saying this happened in Crouch’s case? No, rather the trend is consistent. Success must be brought under the leadership of a local fellowship. A fellowship, although it may be too conservative or to ‘biblical,’ is one of the best safeguard against making foolish decisions.
At this stage, I cannot stress any more my love and affection for Andrae Crouch’s early work. On the other hand, the conflict over his life in my mind was something I could not simply ignore. The importance of boundaries in all we do must be shaped according to God’s word. Doing whatever we need or going wherever we want to ‘get the gospel out’ is not wise.
There is always the question of motive. Crouch was quoted as saying he wanted to get the message out everywhere he could. But the problem was the unsaved liked the music but not necessarily the Master. Furthermore, sinners can never be led to think they can sing about it when they do not know it. They must first be born from above. God must give them spiritual life in order for them to understand their spiritual need. If we don’t make that clear to them, “gospel” or “Christian” music is just another genre on billboard’s top 50.
Additionally, wherever we find ourselves, we need to think about our present actions and how they may affect others in the future. The past is behind us; we cannot undo it or do it over. But right now, where we are in life, we must deeply think about the impact of our decisions for the next generation and ultimately for the Lord. Far too often we trap ourselves within the present day privileges we have without thinking about the negative repercussions it may have in the future.
Today many popular people claim to be Christians but they have no idea what it means. Sometimes damage is done trying to reach an audience on their terms. Christianity will lift the sinner up, not meet them where they are and leave them there. Beyond that, can we truly be happy when a sinner likes our songs? Shouldn’t they be convicted and through that truth, should it not compel them? Would it not be more fruitful for them to recognize they are in desperate need of a Savior? Of course, some of that may be taking place, but how can we allow God’s truths to be taken by the world to be amused by it and not amazed by it?
Now what is my warning to today’s singers and musicians? This cannot be done in one blog, but my challenge to singers is to make sure you are submitted to godly leadership. Music is a very powerful tool; there is nothing more moving than music. It is unlike any other occupation. Therefore it goes beyond a job or paying the bills.
For the listener, it does matter what you hear. Anything that collides with a biblical worldview is an enemy of truth. The debate over listening to secular or so-called Christian music is not so much the issue. Some “Christian” songs are antithetical to truth anyway. Ultimately what must underline what we take in is content of the song and the character of the singers.
Here is another consideration: there are no lone rangers for the Lord. If you feel you are the only one doing what you do because you are pioneering a new movement, you can be assured the Lord is not with you. The fellowship always includes a body of people. Make sure you submit to a local church. God does not call revolutionaries; He calls sinners to be His disciples who will then make Christ known to others.
For pastors, there is a need to train and disciple musicians. Growing up as a young musician, many leaders were more concerned about the playability of the musician than his or her spirituality. They would hire the nightclub performers because they were skillful. But there is a serious flaw with that philosophy. The church consists of separated people––separated by God and for God. When musicians are hired hands and not servants of Christ, you have only imported the club into your place of gathering. You no longer function as a body of believers. Instead you are most likely functioning as a body of spiritual underachievers.
I want to end on a note of gratitude. Truly I am grateful to the Lord for the few men and women he uses in the music. For the most part, the “Christian” music industry is tainted with compromise and unbiblical lyrics. But as a tribute to Andrae Crouch, he was a blessing to me at an early age. Many of the songs he wrote were rich and caused me to look to the Lord. Some of them were songs that compelled me to worship God.
The other side of the tribute taught me that we are all flawed and are in constant need of the Lord’s help. May we, after our death, not cause conflict in the hearts of those who looked up to us. And I pray we are faithfully telling them to look to Christ as the ultimate and only example of perfection.
I bless the Lord for using clay pots for His glory. May He sanctify us, removing the dross of the world, and draw us closer to Him.
Thanks, and now I will continue to listen to my song of the week, “My Tribute: To God be the Glory.”
A special thanks goes to a fellow TMS (The Masters Seminary) alum, Adam Waller, for offering some of his insights.