Recently Collide Magazine published an article that considered the question, “Is Christian music dying.” It addressed what some perceive to be a growing irrelevance to the mainstream culture, as well as an increasing tendency among Christian musicians to buck the title of “Christian.” One industry insider went so far as to predict that the industry would eventually collapse altogether.
This article is not surprising. Christian music has been judged and scrutinized by Christians and non-Christians alike for many years. In high school my brother wouldn’t allow me to listen to the Christian radio station when he was in the car because he thought the quality was so unbearable.
So it’s actually become quite trendy to dislike Christian music. Some Christians wear their distaste as a mark of superior theology. It’s too cheesy and superficial for us “sophisticated” Christians to condone.
Yet as much as I would like to join in with this chorus (and I have in the past), something stops me. Yes, a lot of Christian music is cheesy and annoying and pales in comparison to the musical talent we see in the mainstream. But to judge Christian music purely on that basis is to miss the point.
The Christian music industry, and Christian musicians in the secular music industry, serve two very different functions. One reaches the Church, and the other reaches the world. Both are equally important roles, and both are equally Scriptural.
In response to this point, some of you may object, “But Christian music doesn’t minister to me. I’m too distracted by the bad music to hear the message.” Maybe that’s true for you, but it’s certainly not true for everyone. Many Christians enjoy the music intensely–it speaks to them. Just because it doesn’t fit your personal preference doesn’t invalidate the genre, or its mission, altogether.
What’s more, Christian music frequently contains lyrics taken straight from Scripture–I don’t care who you are or how musically brilliant you might be–truth is truth and Scripture is Scripture. It’s going to shape you in a positive way no matter the quality of music.
And that’s what I appreciate about Christian music. When I need a break from the cynical news on talk radio or the self-centered message of secular music, Christian music is a refreshing change. Whatever you listen to most will shape you, and I would prefer that that influence be Christ-centered.
I also happen to like some of the music. I admit it!
Granted, this is no excuse for Christian musicians to become sloppy or uncreative in their work–if anything, God deserves the very best of our innovation. There are certainly ways in which the industry can and must grow. But what I do mean is that we as Christians should have a little more respect for a valid ministry, a ministry that has inspired and encouraged the hearts and souls of countless believers. Not to mention my own.
In closing, I want to offer the final conclusion of the article itself. It’s a prescription for a better music industry, and I find it to be helpful since it challenges the Christian music industry to grow rather than dismiss the industry altogether:
Artists—Innovate, don’t imitate. Yes, every musician is influenced by those who came before, but don’t wear your influences so prominently on your sleeve. Make music that refuses to be pigeonholed as “the Christian White Stripes” or whatever the case may be. Dream about creating music so extraordinary that a mainstream act is known as “the secular you.” View your lyrics as poetry; don’t be content with rhyming clichés and scripture passages. Don’t turn your hooks into platforms for bumper sticker theology. Great artists, regardless of their chosen medium, see the world in unique ways and create art that tells the rest of us about what they see. See the world. Create art.
Labels—Refuse to function as holiness gatekeepers with Jesus-per-minute quotas to meet. Don’t play it safe; take some risks. Don’t be afraid of edgy or outspoken artists; pursue them. Reject formulas; embrace creativity. Don’t produce what you think we want to hear. Develop a vision for the future of Christian expression through music and share it with us. If your function as an industry is to minister, feed, and disciple, why is your product marketed as safe and family-friendly? Find the disconnect and fix it. Don’t rely on promoting an ethos and the nice people who make music for you. Promote good music.
Fans—This is perhaps the simplest of all—support great art. In doing so, you reward the risks taken on the part of artists and labels; furthermore, you are explicitly clear in what you’re looking for from the industry. Then, it’s up to them to respond.
To read the whole article click here.