Lucarini, Dan. Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement. Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2002. 141 pp. $14.99.
Author Dan Lucarini shares his experiences as a former worship leader in the contemporary Christian music style in his book Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement. Much of what the reader can expect from the book–in terms of tone and temperament–can be found in the author’s dedication. In it, Lucarini expresses great remorse and regret over the role pastors and worship leaders who endorse Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) have had in the fracturing of the church over the years. Of those who were against the use of CCM in the church Lucarini writes, “They never ceased to warn us about the dangers of rock music to a Christian; but we did not take heed. . . . To them, we owe an apology and a debt of gratitude.” It is from this perspective that he argues the inherent evils of CCM (and the rock music style associated with CCM), in addition to the sinful acts that can result from embracing CCM in the church.
In Chapter 1, Lucarini compares CCM to a violent winter storm that blows away and kills vulnerable wildlife. He acknowledges that, like the storm, CCM is an incredibly strong force that has taken hold in the church. He writes, “CCM is well entrenched now, perhaps even the favoured music style in the majority of fundamental and evangelical church services. CCM has taken deep root in the lives of many believers . . .” (18). In Chapter 2, he shares his testimony of how he became a Christian, how he got involved in the music ministry while thoroughly embracing CCM and rock music styles, and how he became disenchanted with CCM and eventually left the movement altogether.
In Chapter 3, after sharing his personal testimony of how he came to leave the CCM movement, Lucarini declares his testimony to be a call for all evangelical churches to abandon CCM and similar music styles. In this chapter, he calls his readers to join him in “a bold movement of reformation,” the two overarching admonishments being as follows: “Let’s remove the worldly CCM styles and influences from our services,” and “Let’s return to traditional and conservative music styles in our services” (48).
For much of the remainder of the book Lucarini addresses, one by one, the common arguments pro-CCM advocates use for why CCM is permissible for use in the church. Among those issues that Lucarini addresses: whether or not music is moral; whether or not CCM/rock music has a propensity for leading believers into immorality; whether using whatever means necessary, including CCM, to reach unbelievers is biblically permissible; and whether CCM is easier to sing than traditional hymns.
The remaining chapters (18-19) are devoted to how CCM in the church can be discarded and how traditional music can become predominant in church sanctuaries once again, with Lucarini also providing guidelines and suggestions as to how churches can “reform” (a word he uses somewhat regularly) their services.
Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement is a thought-provoking book that challenges pastors and music leaders alike—especially those who embrace contemporary/rock styles. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, Lucarini does present views and holds opinions of CCM that are not uncommon amongst Christians. There are a number of positive contributions from Why I Left, particularly where Lucarini accuses CCM proponents of embracing the music style without sufficient caution and self-examination. Any potential major change that takes place in church should be prayerfully considered before it is carried out. In other words, change should not be done just for change’s sake.
That said, because CCM and contemporary music styles are already firmly established in many evangelical churches, it is no longer so much a question of “Should CCM be used in church services?” as it is a question of “Should churches continue to use CCM in their services?” or “Is there any way to make our existing contemporary music less entertaining and more God-centered?” Lucarini’s criticism and disdain for seeker-sensitive churches (seeker-sensitive churches being among the strongest supporters of CCM) is a welcome contribution, especially since he is so strongly opposed to such a model: “The church’s mission is to bring glory to God in all they do (1 Corinthians 10:31). . . . Contrast this to the seeker-sensitive church, where every detail of the service is judged by how well it pleases people” (126). Overall, Lucarini’s admonition for churches to use more discretion in the decisions they make regarding music style is very helpful.
Ironically, a number of the rebuttals he uses for CCM’s weak arguments are equally weak. For example, Lucarini does well to point out that though we (twenty-first-century believers) do not know how ancient Hebrew percussion instruments sounded like, they probably did not sound like “the drum set used by groups such as the Rolling Stones to the timbrel and cymbal mentioned in Psalm 150” (102); yet, he conveniently overlooks that same logic when defending modern-day orchestral instruments because they “can . . . be traced to the handiwork of Jubal (the harpist mentioned in Genesis 4) and his descendants” (93). Just as modern-day drum sets sound nothing like how ancient Hebraic percussion instruments sounded, modern-day orchestral instruments probably sound and are played far differently than anything Jubal played.
Lucarini also uses very antiquated arguments as to why rock music is not just unsuitable for Christian worship, but immoral and altogether wrong. In Chapter 6, “Seducing the Saints,” he writes that rock and roll music’s influence on CCM music is bad because “rock and roll is a musical style that was created for immoral purposes by immoral men, and has always been used by the world to express its immoral attitudes in song” (68). The question of whether or not certain forms of music, played in certain ways, can directly affect and alter the thoughts and behaviors of humans has long been debated for many centuries. That debate has yet to be settled beyond a doubt, and Lucarini is out of his depth when venturing into such territory. It would have been better for him to stay away altogether from that argument.
What is also perplexing about Lucarini’s stance towards CCM is that, though he is strongly antagonistic and critical of the music style, he quotes a Matt Redman song (“Heart of Worship”) to argue—or so it seems—that the Traditionals (Lucarini’s term for those who are against the use of CCM) have a better, more biblical understanding of worship and what it entails. Later in the book, though he writes that some contemporary songs are fine for use in the worship service, he qualifies his statement by saying that those songs should not “mimic CCM styles.” Elaborating on what “mimicking” entails, Lucarini writes, “Contemporary songs are acceptable, as long as the emphasis is not on a syncopated beat, but on melody and harmony” (135). Such statements are rather vague and may confuse contemporary musicians and leaders who read this book.
Lucarini, though gracious in acknowledging his lack of discretion when defending CCM in his younger days as a contemporary worship leader, ironically seems to be attacking CCM with an equal lack of discretion. His faulty and poorly substantiated arguments as to why CCM is immoral, divisive, and man-centered, etc. leave much to be desired. Though the book was written ten years ago, the issue of contemporary music’s very existence and place in the church continues to be on the minds and lips of pastors and laity alike. Lucarini’s testimony and personal experience in the CCM movement have made it clear that contemporary music in the church is not “for him.” However, he argues that what is impermissible for him should be impermissible for all of Christ’s followers, and he ultimately fails at that. Given that the title suggests a more personal, “cautionary tale” perspective on the matter, Lucarini’s attempt to go beyond and unabashedly attack CCM as a whole leaves much to be desired.
Brett Koji Imamura
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, TX