Salvation By Saxophone

By Harry E. Osborne

In the last couple of weeks, I have received several notices of “Christian concerts” in the area. Of course, this kind of thing is very common in a denominational world caught up in the “social gospel” methods of getting attention and members. However, the notices of these concerts are, in my estimation, especially worthy of some comment. Some thought needs to be given to the statements made and ideas left by some of these things.

One of these notices came in with a full color brochure picturing six guys, I think, called “Mylon and Broken Heart.” All of them had hair past their shoulders (cf. 1 Cor. 11:14). The concert is advertised as an “action packed event” with an “explosive light show” and “58,000 watts of state of the art digital sound reinforcement by Peavey.” That ought to be enough for anyone to hear them even should a nuclear war break out during the concert. They must be a rock group – nobody else can stand that much noise.

All of this is necessary, I am sure, to reach their stated goal. They say, “This is more than a concert – it’s a ministry opportunity!” In the brochure, one member of the group is quoted as saying, “Our desire is to share the Lord with you and your friends.” He signs it, “Love, Mylon.” They say those coming to the concert will “hear the Gospel.” By the way, if you would like to “hear the Gospel,” these fellows will “share” it with you for $9.50, $10.50, or $11.50 depending on how close you want to be while you “hear the Gospel.”

As I read this flyer, several questions came to my mind:

(1) Does the Gospel of the crucified Christ need the hype of exploding lights to make it “action packed” enough for this society? If exploding lights are necessary to attract someone, their interest will be in exploding lights, not the Gospel. They will leave with the lights. Jesus said the same thing in principle to those seeking physical food rather than his message during his ministry (Jn. 6:26-45). If the fact that Jesus died on the cross so that they could be free from the penalty of sin and have a hope of heaven does not interest them, how are exploding lights going to make them change their minds?

(2) Just how do these guys plan to “share” the Gospel with their audience? Jesus instructed his apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature (Mk. 16:15). That task was achieved when the apostles revealed the message in words chosen by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-13). Paul says he was appointed “a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher” of that Gospel (2 Tim. 1:8-11). What is the point? The Gospel is a message which must be communicated in words. You don’t convey the message of that Gospel by strumming a C-chord, bashing the drums, and strutting across the stage. It is that message in words that can bring men to be purified and born again (1 Pet. 1:22-25).

(3) Can you imagine Jesus charging admission? The commercialism of selling seats so that people can “hear the Gospel” is totally foreign to the examples of Jesus and his apostles recorded in the Bible. It smacks of the commercial practices of the Catholic church in medieval times as they sold indulgences. How serious can the sinner take one who offers salvation only after receipt of admission amount? The world has seen “business world religion” in charlatans like Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, and others who will save you for a buck. How seriously are they taken by the undeluded?

Another announcement bears the picture of a “Christian hard-rock” group called Stryper. Maybe I should say it bares the picture of this group because that is what one of the four is from the waist up (except for his suspenders). They look like Alice Cooper, KISS, or the hairy monster from your most horrible nightmare. Charles Darwin may be right about these guys. Their announcement makes no promise of teaching one the Gospel, but they do promise to charge $16.75 for each ticket. I doubt seriously if anyone will hear these fellows talking about the Bible teaching on modest apparel.

A third notice came from the First Baptist Church here in Alvin. Their building and Family Life Center, a kind of church playground for all ages, sets just around the corner from our building. They have invited all in the area to a “Christian concert” featuring a saxophonist. His list of concerts is given and I am impressed. This fellow has perform, ed before the Ambassador of Poland, the President of Liberia, and the King and Queen of the Zoolu tribe. The New York Times is quoted as saying this saxophonist’s New York concert was “almost exhaustingly cathartic.” In fact, this notice says he is acclaimed by critics as the “World’s Greatest Gospel Saxophonist.”

Now this is where I have a bit of trouble with terms. What exactly is a “Gospel Saxophonist”? If the Gospel is Christ’s message revealed in words chosen by the Spirit (as we have previously shown), how can anyone teach the Gospel by means of a saxophone? Don’t get me wrong, I love the sound of a saxophone. It is a beautiful instrument and the one who can play it well has my highest regard. But how do those notes cause one to hear the verbal message of Jesus necessary to produce faith (Rom. 10:17)? I must confess total ignorance as to how a saxophone can do this.

The notice also says that this saxophonist has performed C don virtually every major Christian television broadcast in America” where he “played for Jesus.” Included in that list was one show, The Church of God in Christ Telecast, that teaches there is only one person in the Godhead. In other words, this program denies the Jesus our “Gospel Saxophonist” is supposed to play for. I certainly hope his saxophone spoke clearly there. He also played on “Trinity Broadcasting” which maintains that there are three persons in the Godhead. I wonder what differences there were in the two performances.

The claim is repeatedly made that this saxophonist “plays for Jesus.” He is said to have had asthma so bad he could hardly breathe as a young man. He says that he asked Jesus to heal him of his asthma. When did this happen? As he was walking home after playing his saxophone at a Kansas City night spot. He then relates the answer to his prayer as follows: “A few days later I was upstairs in our home sitting alone and thinking extemporaneously. (One wonders how you could think non-extemporaneously – H.O.) I remember blowing a song on my horn for Jesus and then taking one deep breath, and everything was gone! Gone! Gone out of my lungs! Jesus had touched me and now I blow for Him!”

Just think, this can start a whole series for our Baptist friends. They can get a “Gospel Cook” who can “fry for Jesus.” Following that can be the “Gospel Glider” who will “fly for Jesus.” Then there can be the “Gospel Barber” who can “clip for Jesus.” Wouldn’t that be sheerly divine? They might even conclude the series with the woman in the Unitarian church who calls herself the “Gospel Stripper” and have a “strip for Jesus.” Lest anyone take me seriously, let me hasten to add that I do not recommend such.

The letter sent with this notice concludes by asking local churches to cancel Sunday evening worship services so that all can listen to this saxophonist. Is listening to a saxophone concert more important than worshiping God? Again, I love the saxophone, but should I love it more than worshiping, adoring and learning about my God? God forbid! A social gospel which depends upon entertainment to reach people is not what Jesus or his apostles taught. We must look to the Bible to find what Jesus would have us teach and practice. We need not depend on entertainment, hype, or gimmicks – just the power of his message of truth (Rom. 1:16). Let us never take the first step in the path of social gospelism which leads to such a mess!

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 21, p. 660
November 2, 1989