Keith Green’s voice was silenced in 1982 when he and two of his children perished in an aviation accident.
Green employed a lyrical technique that used to be common in Christian music but is virtually absent today: the Call To Repentance.
Call To Repentance (CTR) songs are designed to convict the listener of his own sin. Here is an example of CTR lyrics, from Keith Green’s Asleep in the Light (1978):
“Oh, bless me, Lord! Bless me, Lord!” You know, it’s all I ever hear! No one aches. No one hurts. No one even sheds one tear. But, He cries, He weeps, He bleeds, and He cares for your needs, and you just lay back, and keep soaking it in. Oh, can’t you see such sin?! ‘Cause He brings people to your door and you turn them away, as you smile and say: “God bless you! Be at peace!” And all Heaven just weeps ’cause Jesus came to your door, You left Him out on the streets.
Here are two reasons CTR songs sound so out of place today:
- While most contemporary worship songs focus on comfort and assurance, CTR songs point out our shortcomings.
- While most of today’s praise songs are sung from the perspective of the disciple, CTR songs are sung from the perspective of God. In praise and worship, we are the speaker, telling God how we feel about him. With CTR, God is the speaker, telling us how he feels about us.
CTR songs are sometimes hard to listen to but there is no question as to their effectiveness. Keith Green’s songs are the slap in the face we all need from time to time. We need to be spurred on toward greater obedience and his songs certainly achieve that purpose,
“I repent of ever having recorded one single song and ever having performed one concert if my music, and more importantly — my life — has not provoked you into godly jealousy, or to sell out more completely to Jesus!” Keith Green
He made audiences squirm by saying, “If you praise and worship Jesus with your mouth, and your life does not praise and worship him, there’s something wrong!”
CTR songs focus on our actions, not our emotions. They demand change. And they challenge rather than comfort.
A decade ago, researcher Christian Smith at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the religious beliefs of teenagers and coined a new phrase to describe the faith held by many: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, or MTD. Albert Mohler writes:
As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these:
- “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
- “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
- “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
- “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
- “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
With beliefs like these, it’s easy to see why CRT songs seem so out of place in churches today. It’s easy to tell God how wonderful he is. It’s hard to hear how depraved we are.