Contemporary Christian music

I pull the plastic wrap off ย the album and gaze at the soft brown cover. There is a man staring intently at the camera with his guitar propped against him. He has a kind smile on his face.

The Great Adventure.

I pop the CD into my player, and it doesn’t come out for another month. It is constantly on repeat. It was a birthday gift from a good friend. He knew that I had been listening to a loaned dcTalk cassette tape and thought that I would enjoy a new album by another Christian artist. It turns out that Steven Curtis Chapman turns into my favorite Christian artist.

I enjoy the music, but the lyrics compel me. I have gone to church for years and I believe in God, but he speaks of a faith that is lived everyday. He sings of a Savior that changed him completely. There is a peace and a passion evident throughout the album, and I long for it.

I don’t remember where it happened or exactly when. I can’t pinpoint an exact “salvation date.” I didn’t drop to my knees and confess all my sins at once and invite Jesus into my heart. But gradually, slowly, I started to let the message of these songs melt my heart a little. I felt myself soften and noticed I was praying more. Before I knew it, Jesus was Savior of my life. I found myself wanting to live for Him. All of my actions were held accountable to Him.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Christian music saved my life. God could have reached through to me some other way, but He chose to do it through music. I’m thankful that He did.

Contemporary Christian music used to be the only thing I listened to. I cleared out all secular albums and tuned my car radio to the Christian station 24/7. Every song spoke directly to me. I could play name that tune and win every time.

Now, I rarely listen to it. The music seems trite and the lyrics contrived. There are a few Christian artists that I still respect and enjoy, and though I don’t listen to him much anymore, Steven Curtis Chapman is still one of my favorites. But on a whole, Christian radio just seems so unoriginal.

So I wonder… is it just me that’s changed or is it the music that’s changed? It may be due to a bit of burn-out, or changes in musical preference on my part. I also believe that this music is becoming unoriginal. Much of today’s Christian music lacks originality and passion. It’s like there’s this formula that all Christian musicians have to follow. Where’s the fun in that?

15 Replies to “Contemporary Christian music”

  1. The formula is: human failure + divine intervention = happily ever after, with the melodic complexity of “It’s a Small World.”

  2. I think emily may be onto something. I think when I, personally feel hollow, the music, too, feels hollow. Even when I don’t — my Christian radio station plays 6 songs 10 times per day and another 20 the rest of the time. So it DEFINITELY all sounds the same. My daughter has found some that’s pretty good, and I know some people that are really “into” music that introduce me to new music all the time, but the stuff that gets top billing? Yeah… it all sounds the same. It doesn’t have to speak to you right now. It doesn’t mean you’re broken. It means God wants to use something else. Be listening for what that is.

    1. There is a LOT of good Christian music out there, but you’re right. Only the top 20 hits get played, so it gets repetitive and boring.
      Thanks for the reminder that I’m not broken. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Here is the thing about Christian radio. I could go turn it on right now and half the songs I would hear would be the same songs they were playing 10-15 years ago (I’m looking at you “Testify to Love” by Avalon).

    And the new songs don’t really sound much different (lyrically or musically). I can’t help but feel God deserves better, you know?

    1. Yes! He does deserve better. And I know people are out there giving Him that, but why doesn’t Christian radio play that?
      “I’m looking at you “Testify to Love” by Avalon” – HA!

  4. I rarely listen to “Christian” music. I think the fact the genre exists is really a marketing tactic. There are two kinds of music to me: music that I enjoy, and music that I do not enjoy. Music resonates differently with each of us. If I think the song “Where The Streets Have No Name” is about Heaven, then it is about Heaven and it can be a praise or worship song to me. Even if the songwriter had different intentions.

  5. I think part of the problem is a faulty worldview from some artists, fans and outlets that privileges the “spiritual” over the “non-spiritual” Back in the day when I used to participate in online Christian music forums, there would regularly be debates about whether an artist was really Christian. The criteria was generally if they mentioned God enough. If they didn’t, they were shunned and sometimes had it hinted that they were backsliding.

    Problem is, if you applied the criteria of what they thought should be talked about to the bible, you would loose an awful lot of it. God does not seem to follow our neat spiritual is good, not directly spiritually focused is bad division.There are books like Song of Solomon and Esther that don’t talk about God a great deal. There is sections of the bible talking about money, war, sex, friendship, marriage, food and work, just to name a few. There is also a very broad range of emotions expressed, particularly in Psalms. It is as though some Christian music fans are trying to be more holy than the bible. When you confine acceptable topics to primarily the “spiritual” (and a fairly narrow definition of spiritual at that) of course the music is going to start sounding contrived. It would be like being restricted to only painting with one or two colours.

    1. Oooo, I like the painting analogy.
      I heard a debate on Christian radio over a particular song that didn’t mention God. People didn’t want it played because it didn’t say God’s name. Never mind the fact that it dealt with some real life issues. Annoying when people get so narrow minded when it comes to “Christian” music.

      1. It is a real shame that those arguments end up happening and meaning people don’t hear good music.

        I’ve been thinking more about this and have been wondering if there are other cultural factors in play. In my large Australian city, the Christian radio station plays about half Christian music and half (clean) mainstream pop, rock and dance. I’m pretty sure there is other major Christian stations here that do similar. I don’t often hear complaints here about the music- mainstream or Christian- not talking about God enough.. I wonder what it is that seems to make the music being very obviously “spiritual” a higher priority in some places than others?

  6. I struggle with this big time! I’ve only truly followed Jesus for a couple of years now, and I have a hard time with Christian music. I am a musician (drummer). My favorite bands are Rush and Depeche Mode, and I like goth dance music a lot. However, now, I have a hard time with even my favorite music because the message is sometimes contrary to what I believe. I need either musical complexity or something quirky and unique when I listen to music. The only Christian band I’ve found that offers both is David Crowder Band, and they are breaking up. Although, the Chris Tomlin concert I recently attended was a truly awesome expierence. I wish there was more in Christian music for people who are not solely concerned with words.

    1. I agree! Christian music seems to lack musical complexity.
      One band that is AWESOME is Mutemath. They’re not a “Christian” band (probably adds to their appeal to me), but they’ve got some spiritual undertones in many of their songs. Funky rhythm and percussion. I bet you’d really enjoy them.
      My husband also has “different” music tastes. He enjoys hard rock, screamo and some of those not so conventional types of music. He’s had to really search to find any decent Christian musicians that he enjoys. They are out there! They’re just not in the mainstream.

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