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Camp reiterates convictions of music drawn from Scripture & glorifying God

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Contemporary Christian music fans know Steve Camp as a gifted musician. Students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., also observed Camp’s theological prowess and his convictions regarding the contemporary Christian music industry in lectures he delivered at the seminary Oct. 20-22.
Camp described some of today’s Christian music as having a “watered-down, pabulum-based, cream of wheat kind of message” that masquerades as “acceptable spiritual truth.” He delivered his remarks for Southern’s Institute of Church Music and the annual Gheens lectures at the Louisville, Ky., seminary.
“What gives our music power and permanency and relevancy in an age of moral pluralism is that it’s not simply our view on society, but it is the power of the truth of the living, active, sharp Word of God put to music,” Camp said.
Many Christian musicians — and churches — have a distorted view of true, biblical worship, said Camp, whose lecture series was titled, “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Noise.” He cited movements in some churches that directly contradict the Bible: “When we make music the leader and totality of our worship in the context of the local church, we are teaching people not how to know their God, but how to feel their God. … Worship is not emotional exuberance or mystical experience. People confuse goose bumps with God.”
Biblical worship must not be antithetical to Scripture, Camp said. It must proactively represent a biblical ethic, he said; it must glorify God and exalt Christ by proclaiming the gospel in spirit and truth; and it must proclaim the authority of Scriptures.
“It’s not enough just to say the right words. … The beautiful songs and hymns that we sing could be noise to the ears of a holy God if we are men and women with dirty hands and impure hearts. The life must be right before the music should begin.”
Camp noted a trend in contemporary Christian songs that falls short of theological and biblical ideals, calling them “God is my girlfriend” songs. It’s evident in lyrics of songs that replace references to “God” with words like “love,” he said.
As a 20-year veteran in the Christian music industry, Camp knows the temptation of secular relevancy and materialism. When he signed his first album deal in 1975, music executives told him they had a problem with his songs: They all focused on Jesus. “They told me if I’d change the name of ‘Jesus’ to ‘baby,’ then I’d have some wonderful songs,” Camp recounted.
That experience taught Camp that he couldn’t partner with the world and still make music honoring to Jesus Christ. “You have to be yoked only with those who know Christ as Lord and Savior,” he said, which is a comment reminiscent of his 1997 document that called for reformation in the Christian music industry. That lengthy treatise challenged Christian musicians to “do all to the glory of God,” “be above reproach in all business activity,” “reclaim Christian music for Christ” and not to be “unequally yoked with an unbelieving world.” He mailed his “107 Theses” on a 4-foot poster to about 6,000 music industry officials and followers.
Camp’s remarks struck a chord with Lloyd Mims, dean of Southern’s school of church music and worship: “Steve does the best job communicating the authentic nature of Christian worship,” said Mims. “His knowledge of the Bible and ability to communicate it far exceeds my impression of most Christian artists.”
Camp’s call for reformation in the Christian music industry is one he leads by example. He no longer charges for concerts, believing it is wrong to make people pay to hear the gospel. He also has no price tags on his tapes and CDs sold at his concerts. People can have his music for whatever they can afford.
There’s more than strong convictions that keep Camp going, as he spoke of “a heavenly song to sing. His [God’s] Word is our music. His theology is our doxology. His law book is our songbook. … We have to use psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to glorify God.”
And he challenged all Christian musicians — and all Christians — to do the same.
The yearly Gheens lectures are made possible through the generosity of the family of the late C. Edwin Gheens.

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  • Dan Odle