(Photo: Hillsong Church)
Dan Lucarini, a former worship leader, had to get away from the Contemporary Christian Music movement.
No, he's not a fundamentalist "stuck in the old ways," he says. But he's a Christian who says he realized CCM was man-centered and unavoidably associated with a spirit of immorality.
While the use of CCM in churches is an old and probably tired debate, Lucarini's book, Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, is in its 20th printing, seven years after it was first published.
"It continues to, I guess, touch a nerve for some folks in the church today," Lucarini told The Christian Post in a recent interview in Denver, Colo.
When the book first came out in 2002, Lucarini thought it would just be part of the "transitional period" around 2002-2003. But today, people still have the same questions about CCM and about worship in the church.
"I think this is always going to be an issue in Christianity," he said. "As long as we have churches and Christians and we're in the world, we're going to be struggling with how much of the world should we bring in and how fast and at what point do we offend and scandalize other Christians."
A former rock musician (keyboardist, singer and composer) from the Baby Boomer generation, Lucarini became a worship leader just as CCM was beginning to take over church services in the late 1980s to 1990s. He was a new born-again believer at the time and was happy to use his talents for God. He helped a couple of churches transition from traditional to contemporary worship services.
He thought he had all the right motives and enthusiastically promoted the acceptance of CCM in evangelical and fundamental churches.
"We used the excuse that we wanted to reach out to the young people," Lucarini said. "You know what? They didn't like the music. It was our music. It was classic rock. We just did it for ourselves. That was the conclusion I came to."
"Let's be honest about it. It wasn't to save souls. It was just because we like that kind of music and we're the rebellious generation so we just basically thought we could do whatever we wanted," he added.
Nearly 20 years later, CCM is a staple in many churches and the younger generation of believers has for the most part grown up on it and thus do not see the controversy in it.
So when Lucarini and other like-minded Christians challenge the popular music style in church services, they're often labeled as legalistic Pharisees and dismissed because of the generation gap.
But Lucarini reminds readers that they cannot dismiss him as being a traditionalist considering how heavily involved he was in both the secular rock music and Christian praise and worship scenes.
At the heart of his argument is that rock music, and all forms of it, is a music style that was created by immoral men for immoral purposes.
Whether it's soft rock, pop/rock, jazz, praise and worship, Chris Tomlin, Delirious? or Hillsong, CCM is "scandalous and offensive because of where it came from and what it means around us in the world today," he argues.
"And I don't believe that Christians can just take it and sanctify it and call it holy," he says to those who say it can be used to reach people for God. "I think it's a mistake."
It's like serving a nice juicy steak on a garbage can lid (even if you try to scrub it, it remains a dirty garbage can lid), he explains.
"I can sit and talk to anybody about why I think rock music is the wrong musical language to tie with 'praise the holy God,'" he contends. "They’re incompatible. You see the results of it everywhere with the tension and church splits and even the younger generation."
He adds, "I meet a lot of people today that are questioning because they’ve gotten burned out on the worldliness, the entertainment, and the no holds barred 'we can do anything we want with music' and 'God loves us.' And they just come to the point where they go 'that ain’t right.'"
In his book, Lucarini strikes back at most of the arguments Christians make to defend CCM, including "Isn't music amoral?", "Isn't this just a matter of personal preference and taste?", "Show me where the Bible says rock music is evil," "Isn't CCM easier to sing than hymns?" and "Isn't God using CCM to save and disciple teens?"
After his experience with taking teens to CCM concerts, Lucarini believes the harm done (CCM artists, whether intentional or not, role modeling indecent dress and rebellious images, or stirring improper crushes and lustful interests among fans) far outweighs any salvation or discipleship benefits.
He submits to the argument that some would not even give the Gospel message a listen or step into a church without the medium of CCM. But Lucarini ultimately believes CCM is not needed.
"Whenever I face the question that you ask, which is a great question, 'What about all the good they (churches that promote CCM) are doing?' Then I got to step back and say, 'Could that good be done without having signed up for the rest of what they're doing?' I don't know," he said.
Many Christian leaders argue that music style is a secondary issue or a matter of secondary doctrine and lament internal church conflicts over such matters. But Lucarini rejects that argument.
"It's very arrogant for people to declare issues that split and divide Christians as secondary. It's just an attempt to suppress what’s going on," he said. "Any issue that scandalizes and offends brothers and sisters in Christ cannot be called secondary. At that point in time it’s primary and must be dealt with."
After more than ten years of leading worship and later questioning the CCM movement, Lucarini says he has come to learn the true meaning of worship.
Worship is not a response to the opening guitar licks of a song, but a response to God's revelation and who He is.
"Worship, first and foremost, is a personal response to the revelation of God through Jesus Christ," he said. "And it does not involve me having a self-fulfilling experience. It’s very much a one-sided act as the scriptures teach. It’s acknowledging that God and Jesus are Lord, Master, King. I bring nothing to that equation at all."
Lucarini advises churches not only to get rid of CCM (anything that has a rock beat influence) but also worship bands and leaders.
“We don’t need anybody to help us worship God,” he said.
Lucarini currently attends a Baptist church in Denver where they sing hymns as well as contemporary songs (not CCM).