Archives For Christian Music

1231472_10201379536123104_1520633178_nThis is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Director. That I willingly share this is proof I can rise above the cynicism. 

I like contemporary Christian music (CCM).  In fact, I love it.  I know some of you may scoff at this comment, but I also know that many of you hum along and even sing aloud to MercyMe, Third Day, and dare I say, Chris Tomlin’s songs.

I’m inspired by contemporary Christian music.  Whether I’m running, driving in my car, or enjoying my time at home, my mood always improves while listening to these songs.  Many lyrics are taken from scripture.  Other songs are written with themes of hope, comfort, and joy while at the same time offering praise and worship to God. While these musicians often sing about matters of truth and religious commitment, they also explore the breadth of the human condition.

Contemporary Christian music began in the 1970’s as part of the Jesus movement; a mixture of 60’s rebellion with rock-n-roll rhythms.  As it became more popular, artist expanded the lyrics and added additional music styles such a pop and classic rock, and it developed into its own genre with songs about the love of God.  In the 1980’s CCM artists such DC Talk, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith found crossover success with their albums and took CCM to a whole new level.

Contemporary Christian music has now developed into a mainstream genre with lyrics and rhythms, which include, but are not limited to Gospel, Pop, Country, and Hip Hop, and Metal.

It also has become a major music ministry for Christians who feel the call to serve.

If you have never been to a contemporary Christian concert before, I highly recommend it.  It is a fabulous form of worship where people come together standing, singing, and listening to the message of Christ in a concert atmosphere through songs and stories.

People from different generations and backgrounds choose to attend, and the fellowship that occurs between virtual strangers is compelling.  You leave the concert feeling empowered with the Holy Spirit

Christian music reaches out to us on a level that we can understand and feel. It shows us that Jesus is still with us, even when we’re facing a crisis or celebrating our blessings. It keeps us on course with our faith.

Anything that allows us to ponder and explore our faith is beneficial.  For some of us, it is through music.  Others find reading books on faith and theology as a source of inspiration.

We are all uniquely created with different interests and personalities.

How God reaches out and communicates with us varies from person to person.

God will meet people where they are at and take them to the next level.

For those of you still uncertain, give it a try. Here’s a sample list of current CCM artists (random order):

MercyMe

Third Day

Big Daddy Weave

Crystal Lewis

Heather Williams

Mandisa

Casting Crowns

TobyMac

Selah

Matthew West

keith-and-kristynWhenever I watch a movie and the opening credits roll and I see that the screenplay was written by 4,5 + people, I instinctively know the film’s a turd.

Likewise, I’m regularly astounded that an entire corral of people are regularly credited with writing a single contemporary Christian song, even when the song has less than dozen words in it. In fact, some contemporary praise songs boast more authors than they do words or ideas.

That said, Taize chants are rarely more than a biblical phrase or a sentence. They’re spare and beautiful and no one critiques them the way they do contemporary Christian music.

I think the dichotomy between contemporary and traditional Christian music is a false one. Yes, Charles Wesley’s lyrical theology makes Chris Tomlin seem like he’s writing his songs in crayon, but it’s a mistake to suppose that all old hymns are superior by dint of being old.

If you’re a churchgoer, then you know that ‘Up from the Grave’ is as gooey bad as anything on Christian radio today while ‘How Great Thou Art’ (a ubiquitous favorite) has Hallmark theology and moves at the pace of a tugboat.

Art is art and crappy music is crappy music and both distinctions apply to all genres of music.

Yet, the NPR piece below does get at something important: the role of music in not just offering praise to God or inducing inspiration among the congregation but in teaching the faith.

There was a time when hymns were used primarily to drive home the message that came from the pulpit. But then came the praise songs.

Matt Redman’s song “Our God” is the most popular piece of music in Christian churches today. That’s according to charts that track congregational singing — yes, there is such a thing. But approaching the Top 10 is a retro hymn: “In Christ Alone,” co-written by Keith Getty.

Keith’s wife, Kristyn, sings the hymn, while he plays the piano in their home near Nashville’s Music Row. The couple came to town to write songs not for individual artists, but for what Keith Getty calls “the congregation.”

“Our goal is to write songs that teach the faith, where the congregation is the main thing, and everybody accompanies that,” he says.

There’s no definition for what’s a hymn and not a praise song. But Keith Getty says it should be singable without a band and easy for anyone sitting in the pews to pick up. And it should say something bold.

“I think it’s to the church’s poverty that the average worship song now has so few words, so little truth,” he says. “[It] is so focused on several commercial aspects of God, like the fact that he loves our praises.”

Kristyn Getty says that some of the most popular music doesn’t show God the proper reverence.

“There is an unhelpful, casual sense that comes with some of the more contemporary music,” she says. “It’s not how I would talk to God.”

This old-school approach has made the Gettys stars with the country’s largest Protestant denomination: Southern Baptists. Mike Harland, who is with LifeWay Christian Resources, which publishes the Southern Baptist hymnal, flips through the index, counting how many Getty hymns made the latest edition — there are 12 in total. That’s more than just about any other living songwriter.

Harland says the Gettys have set a new bar. He’s been pushing LifeWay’s own staff of songwriters to go deeper.

“We would say, you know what, this is pretty, and this is nice, but it doesn’t really say much,” Harland says.

While modern hymns are finding an audience, those songs that may not say a whole lot still remain the most popular. Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” is a refrain sung in megachurches worldwide. Nashville producer Ed Cash collaborated on the song and says he laughed out loud the first time he heard a rough draft.

“I remember thinking, you know, that’s exactly the simple kind of brainless praise-chorus things that drive me crazy,” Cash says. But Cash has had a conversion to the praise chorus. He now says you shouldn’t complicate the message.

“You know, for some people, singing a simple, seven-word, simple chorus, draws them into the presence of God,” he says. “And to me, ultimately, what is the goal of worship music? It’s to exalt God.”

In the past few decades, some church leaders have called the tension between contemporary and traditional styles a “worship war,” and it hasn’t exactly let up. But the hymn is getting more love from modern worship leaders, even if it’s just tagging a new praise song with a classic chorus.

I got this question recently from a friend with a sharp mind and wit:

The other day at church they played ‘Lover of the Light’ and I promptly freaked out. Something tells me if you could choose worship music it would be heavy on Mumford and Sons. Just curious, what are your thoughts on turning secular music spiritual?

Before I answer, I wonder what all you think about turning the secular into sacred?

Most of you could probably predict my gut reaction but here goes anyway:

First, reworking popular secular music for a worship gathering, to me at least, reeks of precisely the kind of eager to be relevant desperation that I think non-Christians find cloying and repellent. It strikes me as the musical equivalent of my grandfather saying ‘cool man.’

Second, I think it trades in the kind of sacred vs secular dichotomy that is Platonic, leads to overly spiritualized Christianity and is unbiblical. While secular music may not be appropriate for worship that doesn’t mean the artist who created was not inspired by God’s Spirit nor does it mean that music cannot be a means of grace to people.

Here’s the real- moral- problem I have using secular music for worship: It’s using art in a way that is contrary to how the artist intended it to be received. This seems to me to be the opposite of worshipping a non-violent Lord. It’s a sort of violence to disregard an artist’s intent and use it for other ends. I mean, it’s certainly the case that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or ‘Tears in Heaven’ are better art than any Chris Tomlin garbage, yet Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton didn’t write their songs for the sanctuary. And if Christians are people who respect others, we should respect that.

And write better songs.