A few months ago Newspring Church@ Florence, one of his multi-church video sites, had the idea to Play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” as part of their praise and worship set. Newspring is no stranger to this sort of controversy, having infamously played ACDC’s Highway to Hell as their opening song on Easter Sunday. When asked about that particular choice, lead Pastor Perry Noble said that the reason he played it was to “p*** off the religious people”. Other songs that have been sung by the band over there have included Kelly Clarkson’s “I do not hook up“, Taylor Swifts “Love Story,” the Darkness’ “I believe in a thing called love” Christiana Aguilera’s Hurt, Metallica’s Enter Sandman, and a host of others. In regards to this specific song, I’ve embedded the video below
In terms of what people think about this, I know several people who think this is one of the coolest ideas alive. They believe part of the Church’s mission is to be attractional and that anything they can do short of sin to get people into Church is a good thing. A certain subset of this groups also believe part of the Church’s mission is to be entertaining, and so anything short of sin that can be done to keep the congregation members from getting bored while they are in Church is a good thing, as this also ensures repeat visits. With regard to playing these specific songs, I imagine that much of it revolves around the Churches ability to be culturally hip and relevant, with the idea that playing this type of song will draw people in and then they’ll be able to experience Jesus while they’re here. Another group thinks this is a horrible idea, and that it is some mixture of blasphemy and idolatry as people replace worship songs with classic rock and roll in a desperate bid for relevancy. They would say that this type of mindset and everything that goes with it is what makes a goat factory that produces unbelievers with spiritual convictions of the most shallowest depth.
While I would fall somewhere near the latter category, I want to focus on how something like this blurs the line between praise and worship, and something else altogether. I certainly don’t like the idea of them playing these songs during Church, but if you watch those videos of those others songs you’ll notice at least that they are merely singing them. They don’t have the lyrics posted up on power point for people to sing along. There is some nuanced division between song A and songs B, even if its hard to see and is very minute. At the very least this represents some sort of delineation between a rock and roll song meant to entertain, and a psalm, hymn or spiritual song, regardless of which side you take.
But this song was different, because in this case they projected the lyrics up on power point for the congregation to sing along. On this particular Sunday morning there was no delineation. There was no separation from the Ozzy Osbourne song and the worship songs. They flowed naturally into each other and people were encouraged to sing along with the Ozzy song and then jump right in with fare like “Revelation Song” and “It is Well”. That blurs the lines, if not completely decimates it. I’ve written before how the worship music is in and of itself a sermon. I made the case that
“When we worship, we are saying things about the Lord. We are teaching, rebuking, professing, declaring, correcting and confessing based on the revelation of God in Christ as revealed in his word. That is the function that our praise and worship lyrics have. Paul says that we ought to teach each other the words of Christ using hymns and spiritual songs- the intent being that this is how the words of Christ will dwell richly in us. That is how we will know more about God, and how we will know more about the words of Christ and how he works through his words. That is a sermon.That is preaching.So when we listen and sing lyrics, we need to ask ourselves “what are we teaching others? What sorts of things are we expounding upon? Are we accurately reflecting God’s character? Are we accurately teaching the words of Christ? Are we teaching the scriptures?” We also ought to ask ourselves if we are preaching deep, thoughtful sermons through our music, or if we are singing light, breezy, unclear, muddled, mindless, vague sermons?
At the time I was arguing against vapid christianish songs, but how much more true is that when you throw in a secular song like this? When your praise and worship set is 6 songs long, and one of those songs is by someone known as “The Prince of Darkness” shouldn’t that be enough to send up some red flags? I hope that irony is not lost on people. When we consider the breadth of the lyrical content and some of the satanic, hypersexualized songs that Ozzy and his former bands have sung in the past, I suppose on one hand I should be thankful that they did not choose other songs to be sung, and wonder how many people will think the Church is tacitly or overtly encouraging the listening of this artist? Or perhaps I should be thankful they did not change any of the lyrics to make it more christian-y… i.e. “I’m riding on the rails of the Jesus train…”. Is it wrong to secretly hope that someone would have thrown a dead bat on stage during that song, just to see what would have happened?
Which brings us to a few questions, what do you think about singing these sorts of songs in Church? Is there a difference between the band singing them solo and having the congregation join in via lyrics on power point? Does this blur the line between worship and secular songs? Lastly, if Newspring had enough money, and Ozzy was coherent enough and willing, do you think they would have brought him in to sing live and would that have been a good idea?