“What I mean by evangelistic: we’d go for an hour and a half of head-bangin’ music; I’d get up, preach, and give an invitation.”
Franklin Graham interviewed by Canadian Christianity, April 8th, 2010.
Rock the river is a ‘ministry’ of the Billy Graham Organisation aimed at young people. In the Fall of 2010 Rock the River is coming to venues in western Canada—Fraser Valley, Calgary, Edmonton. As the name suggests it is an event that revolves around a rock music theme. The ‘Christian’ rock bands that are scheduled to be involved in the Western Canada events include: Flyleaf, Skillet, Starfield, Thousand foot krutch, The almost, Downhere and Tedashii. The events will also feature preaching by Franklin Graham.
Rock the River aims to combine a rock concert feel which is appealing to modern youth with a presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To some no doubt this is a laudable ambition but in the light of God’s word it is a fatally flawed strategy that results only in a perverse form of worship that is abominable to God. Further, it results in the delusion of a great many young people especially that the activities at such events are pleasing to God and are in fact what Christianity is about.
What about the music?
Even a cursory examination of the websites promoting these bands reveals that their musical performances are a grotesque, devilish perversion of the praise of God aimed squarely at the worldly minded. In an interview with Canadian Christianity Franklin Graham was asked: “Are the bands all Christians? FG: They are; but you see, Lacey and Flyleaf – that’s not a Christian band, it’s a secular band. I mean, they open for Korn, a hard rock group. Everybody in the band is Christian, but they don’t play Christian music.” [Note: Flyleaf is scheduled to play at the Calgary Rock the River event, August 21, 2010.] What a statement! Graham also stated in the same interview: “…I use these bands as a magnet to draw kids. Let’s do something all-out, just for the kids. Now if the adults want to come and have that head-bangin’ music, then they’re invited — come on, but bring your earplugs, it is loud. Lacey [lead singer of Flyleaf] was 110 decibels on the stage. You could have earplugs, put your fingers in your ears, and your body vibrates.”
Praise is a vital part of Biblical worship. The song that the Christian sings in the worship of God is called a new song and is the gift of God to the redeemed, Ps 40:3. This song is new, not because it is constantly being updated or in sync with modern music but it is new in contrast to the songs that marked our old, unregenerate state of sin and rebellion against God prior to conversion. Truly Christian praise is to be seen as much in contrast to the music/singing of the world as new is in opposition to old. The music/praise of Rock the river is unquestionably the ‘old song’ of those who are ignorant of God. The Scripture clearly states the duty of God’s people with reference to the old things and the things of the world:
- “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 AV)
- “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15-16 AV)
The world here refers to the ungodly, the kingdom of darkness. It is a term that describes a spiritual entity. The rock music scene certainly falls within the scope of this term and yet Rock the river claims to worship God by adopting the actions, style, music, appearance of the wicked. According to I John 2:15-16, God is not in such a venture. No man can love God and love the things of the world! These are the old things that are to have passed away from the life of every one who is in Christ.
As an integral part of worship, the praise of God is regulated by a Scriptural view of God. Biblical worship is marked by a fear of God that is very conscious of the holiness of the Almighty.
Is this kind of evangelism Biblical?
The methodology behind Rock the river is wrong in that it quite deliberately apes the wickedness of the rock music scene. There is a deliberate attempt made to catch sinners by baiting them with music that appeals to their wicked nature. The philosophy is that the gospel of Christ is naturally unpleasant and has to be made attractive by the lure of rock music. Those who would be fishers of men cannot use the devil’s lure to catch souls for Christ. Using the devil’s bait only catches souls on the devil’s hook. Franklin Graham himself defined the evangelism that occurs in the Rock the river context: “What I mean by evangelistic: we’d go for an hour and a half of head-bangin’ music; I’d get up, preach, and give an invitation.” (Interview with Canadian Christianity, April 8th, 2010.) This is a scandalous statement and plainly indicates the ignorance of God and the means by which He saves sinners that prevails in the ministry of Franklin Graham. Where in Scripture do the proponents of such ‘evangelism’ find an example of Christ or Paul or any faithful servant of God using such methods? It is entirely unscriptural, it is the ministry of false prophets.
What about the message? Isn’t ‘the gospel’ being presented?
Perhaps one of the most difficult concepts for modern, undiscerning believers to grasp is that there are many ‘gospels’. Only one is the truth and the rest are false. Not everything that claims to be the gospel of Christ actually is. When a message is claimed to be ‘the gospel’ and yet embraces what is contrary to God’s word, it is not the gospel of God, Romans 1:1. The ‘gospel’ of Rock the river is patently a falsehood and a deception. In order for the truth of the gospel to have a saving effect upon the soul of a sinner, God must work. He does not work where the ways of the world are mimicked and employed. Once a course of amending the gospel to cater to the worldly minded is adopted it is not long until the potent, saving truth of the gospel has been removed since it is that truth that is offensive to the ungodly. The Saviour makes this obvious point:
- “…Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6 AV)
The addition by the Pharisees of their own ideas to the commandment of God robbed it of its power. This is a crucial point that modern evangelists seem unaware of. It is not possible to combine God’s truth with worldly ‘ingredients’ without entirely ruining the ‘recipe’. The ‘gospel’ preached at such events as Rock the river has no power to effect the salvation of the soul.
Rock the river is just another compromise in a long line of departure from God’s word.
Long ago the Billy Graham Organisation abandoned a stand for truth to pursue popularity and success. Decades ago Billy Graham courted the good-will and support of the Roman Catholic Church in his crusades and altered his message to allow room for Rome to be involved. He and his organization under his son Franklin, have continued the same policy. The use of rock music with a supposed ‘Christian’ flavour is just the most recent development of that course of catering to the depraved appetites of the natural heart.