So, I am going to do something blasphemous; I am going to critique Chick-Fil-A. Yes, I know that their chicken is really breaded in manna crumbs and that they deep fry it in the widow’s oil, but lately I have been embarrassed to sit through a whole meal there. Why? Because that instrumental “Christian” music drives me nuts.
Those familiar polytone melodies reach me like some weird secret handshake. “Hey, if you recognize this, you’re probably a Christian.” They say. “ But if not, just enjoy this odd guitar synth trying to match the nuances of someone’s voice.”
But this post isn’t about instrumental music, it’s about instrumental Christianity. What makes music “Christian”, anyway? There is certainly an argument to be made that all things belong to God, including melody, but what makes it distinctly Christian are the words. Chick-Fil-A can get away with this because they are a business; we cannot. The old saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” But St. Francis was just being a sissy.
Ahh, see what I did there?
Actually, he probably never said that, but I needed to get that pun in here somewhere and now we need to get back to the point. And that point is that the same temptation that Chick-Fil-A has - to be silent but maintain a Christian glow - is the same one that so often tempts us. What makes music distinctly Christian? The words. What makes your good deeds more distinct than those done by an Atheist or a Muslim? The words. Christianity is built on glorious, articulated truths. Which is why Paul asks the question in Romans 10:14 “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” Who are they going to call to? What are they going to believe? What is the preacher going to say? The need for clarity is imperative.
Paul speaks this way in many places. One of my favorites in this from Ephesians 6: “keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:18-20).
Don’t give in to the temptation of instrumental Christianity. After all, how many people have repented and come to faith simply because your life was as pleasant as a polytoned hymn?
Use words. Celebrate them, think about them, chew on them, memorize them, share them, preach them, but don’t keep them to yourself if they can bless the world with the treasure of gospel hope.