Marsha West
Christian music? Not so much
By Marsha West
October 13, 2009

The Christian music industry offers a wide variety of music to consumers. Gospel, worship and praise, pop and rock, heavy metal, even grunge. You probably don't sit around thinking about this, but much of today's so-called Christian music has become secularized. Not all, but some of it is completely absent of spiritual truth.

The next time you're in church or singing along with your favorite recording artist on the radio or a CD pay attention to the lyrics. You may find that the song is not God centered at all. It is man centered. In a word, it is worldly.

Which begs the question: if I'm aware of the shortcomings of Christian contemporary music (CCM) how is it that those in the Christian music industry, to include songwriters, vocalists, band members, pastors, youth leaders, church choir directors, well-known leaders in the church, and the people who promote and sell CCM don't "get" that what they pass off as Christian is in fact unchristian?

I'll go out on a limb and say that many of these people know perfectly well that what they're putting out there isn't fit for Christian consumption. They don't care! One excuse they use is that in today's market CCM has to be edgy to make it to the top of the charts. Truth is, many in the Christian music industry are driven by greed. Their focus is not the Almighty, but the almighty dollar!

But what's really unsettling is that a large number of people in the industry are not even born again believers! Which explains why they're conscience doesn't bother them when they pass off secular music as Christian. In an effort to be fair, perhaps some of these folks are babes in Christ, thus they lack spiritual discernment. This isn't surprising because in this day and age many believers are immature in their faith. Moreover, they have little interest in growing in knowledge and wisdom. Why so many in the Christian community choose to remain on milk instead of moving on to solid food is a mystery to me. Hebrews 5:12 says: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."

Did you get that? As you mature in your faith you are expected to gain the knowledge to actually teach the Word to baby Christians who don't know boo about the Bible! Yet many self-professed born again Christians, who have been saved for decades, could not turn to Paul's letter to the Colossians in their Bible if their life depended on it!

I addressed this very issue in an article I wrote: Got Meat? If you want to learn more click here. (

One thing I will say is that for a follower of Jesus Christ to grow in knowledge is not only important, it is imperative! Many believers are unaware that in this lifetime they have an opportunity to grow in a way that they may not be able to grow in the next life. On his radio broadcast Christian apologist Greg Koukl discussed how our souls develop after we die. It is Koukl's understanding that our resurrection fixes our level of spiritual growth. "Opportunities in this life are not to be had in the future. The development we have in this life benefits us in the life to come." The Bible says that those who go to heaven will be made perfect. Greg reminds us: "We can be perfect light bulbs, but some will glow at 100 watts and others will glow at 1,000 watts." What he's saying is that it benefits followers of Jesus to make the best use of the short time they have on Earth.

Getting back to my point, I'm not saying that all CCM is worldly. I'm simply pointing out that Christians should pay attention to the words they are singing because a believer's sole aim is to glorify God. Words matter! Even the words you sing must be Christ-centered not man-centered. Songs that contain lyrics taken verbatim from Scripture are most likely Christ-centered.

Have you ever attended a worship service or a Christian conference where words and phrases in a song are repeated over and over, like a mantra, and noticed that some of the people around you get so caught up in the rhythm of the music that they seem to be in a trance? Trouble is, they very well might be! Just so you'll know, nowhere in the Bible are believers taught to go into an altered state of consciousness in order to experience God on a deeper level! And by the way, studies show that listening to a constant rhythm or a repetitious drum beat for an extended period of time has an effect on brain activity and can induce a trance-state. [1] Since doing this kind of thing mimics how pagans worship, it's evil! (Deut. 18:9-12)

Yet former Christian rocker Mylon LeFevre said in an interview with Rick Anderson: "Music is not good or evil because of the formation of the notes or the structure of the beat. Music is good because the heart of the person playing it is innocently and sincerely giving praise to our God."

With all due respect, it seems LeFevre sees nothing wrong with Christian musicians enticing their listeners into pagan practices as long as the musician's heart is sincere. Mylon seems to have forgotten that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

It's no surprise that the bulk of Christian CDs are purchased by "Christian" youth, which explains why much of CCM now imitates our postmodern culture. In some cases the lyrics are watered down so that the songs will meld into the mainstream.

Have you noticed that many Christian groups have a purpose or a theme? For example, evangelistic groups sing about the Savior. Praise and worship bands sing praises to God. Issues-oriented artists push political/social views hoping to persuade their fans to become involved in the public square. Some artists just want to encourage and inspire believers by writing about their own struggles.

Hardcore Christian metal band Demon Hunter addresses cutting, depression and "feeling like an outcast." [2] So I have to ask, are heavy metal musicians qualified to help our youth deal with these kinds of serious issues? First and foremost, any Christian recording artist who truly wants to encourage and inspire the younger generation through their music and to help them deal with depression must have a worldview that lines up with what Scripture teaches.

Demon Hunter declares that they don't water down their music. They claim to offer kids a Christian perspective and Christ-centered music:

"Kids see music as something that defines them. They can either be defined by worldly music, or by positive, Christ-centered music. Although some parents may hear our music and jump to the conclusion that we must condone evil because we have a heavy sound and the vocals can seem very abrasive, what they don't know is that their kids dig deeper than that. Kids don't stop at the appearance. They get into the music in a way that their parents could never imagine them doing. They learn about the band, meticulously read the lyrics, and they look to get something out of it."

Suggestion: Parents should also meticulously read the lyrics to the music their kids listen to make sure that what their kids are getting out of it is within the pale of orthodoxy. As I said, some CCM stems from pagan practices! And some of it is heretical!

There's no question that unorthodox teaching has reared its ugly head in the Church. Even some mainline churches have fallen prey to false teaching, bowing before the post-modern god of political correctness. The Body of Christ has been shamed into becoming "tolerant" of unbiblical practices such as abortion and homosexuality! Is it any wonder that Christian books and music are swarming with unbiblical teaching? But I digress.

Demon Hunter continues:

"At an impressionable age, they may very well take to heart whatever it is they're being told in a song. What we offer them is a Christian perspective. It's just wrapped in a package that looks a little more aggressive than what you might be used to seeing in Christian music."

I'm sure they mean well, but should Christian youth be exposed to aggressive Christian music, even if it contains a Christian perspective?

Christian rock band Superchick encourages fans to "go nuts with their gifts and abilities." Their album Rock What You Got "infuses a 'rock-o-tronic' sound — an electropunk mash-up of slashing guitars, pulsing keyboards and grit-pop vocals." Band member Max Hsu told the band, "Everything we do, I want it to be more. If we are going to be rock, let's be more rock. If we are going to be punk, let's be more punk. If we are going to touch metal, let's really do metal. I just wanted to fire all the barrels." While recording Rock What You Got they "touched metal" until their fingers bled.

According to hard rock group Day of Fire:

"[I]t's the interlocking of sonics and syllables that's going to reach the disaffected populace."

Do the syllables Day of Fire croon actually embrace the teachings of the Bible? Lead vocalist Joshua Brown says their music is, "very aggressive because we're reaching out to an aggressive generation. ... It's a vehicle and a language."

I don't find examples in the Bible of the apostles having to be aggressive to reach their audience (the lost). The Bible says they reasoned with people through the scriptures. (Acts 17:2)

Someone should inform Day of Fire that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. (Gal. 5:22)

A new trend in CCM is taking secular hits and changing the lyrics. Christian singer/songwriter/blogger Steve Camp sees this as foolish:

"Past secular hits are currently being sung to represent our Lord Jesus Christ; and they are nothing more than "God as my girlfriend songs." Some examples are: "Bridge Over Troubled Waters"; "Free Ride"; "Love is the Answer"; "You Raise Me Up"; "Love Lifted Us Up Where We Belong"; "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You"; "Maybe I'm Amazed"; "Because You Loved Me"; "Everlasting Love"; "In The Air Tonight"; "I Want to Know What Love Is"; "I Believe I Can Fly"; etc. Parroting what one Christian radio network likes to say, "Boring, for the whole family." Taking past secular hits and changing the original meaning of the song to now make it seem as if they're about Jesus because a Christian happens to be singing it is ludicrous. It not only violates the "original intent" of the meaning of the song by its author; but it is just as foolish as if some CCM artist recorded a remake of the great Beatles classic, "Hey Jude," and then tried to spiritually justify it by saying it is about the little epistle before the book of Revelation. Could you imagine if some secular artist took "Amazing Grace" and said it was about a female seductress? The Christian community would be up in arms... and rightly so. But why is Christian radio and the CBA (Christian Booksellers Assoc.) so accepting of these poorly done "covers" of classic pop hits passed off as legitimate representations of Christianity? I am convinced that this is CCM's failed attempt at "Sister Act Three" — artists superimposing a religious meaning to a secular lyric that was never intended in the first place to appeal to people in making the faith more acceptable.

"The Bible never suggests, implies or condones that the redeemed people of God are to sing an old song of the world to the Lord as an act of worship with the only justification is that we simply "say" it is about God. A praise team at a local church in Nashville used for a while "I Want To Hold Your Hand" as a worship chorus (I heard this when visiting the church one Sunday). The Bible commands us, beloved, to sing "a new song to the Lord." "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so... (Psalm 107:2a)."

One blogger commented:

"[L]et's be honest here: the glory days of CCM are over. You're not going to see a company like the early Sparrow Records anymore because the industry is controlled by giant secular media houses. You don't have guys like Billy Ray Hearn hand-selecting the artists that go on his label. That's why so few of the "older" acts in CCM still have recording contracts."

In his article on the Christian book industry, "Why compromise costs in the long run," Jim Fletcher reveals that in the 1990s "there was a shift in philosophy. Publishers, stores and distributors began to realize the vast potential for making money. As time went on, to appeal to the broadest possible audience, works began to creep in that were decidedly not aligned with the Bible."

It seems Satan has crept in to the Christian music industry as well. In my article, "Be Careful What You Buy In Christian Bookstores," I revealed that the devil has gotten a foothold in a huge number of Christian bookstores. As I said earlier it's all about greed. It seems some "Christians" are willing to sell just about anything to make a buck. (Read my bookstore article here

Admittedly, some Christians in the book and music industry are oblivious to the fact that some of what they help promote and sell is rank heresy. But I repeat, there are people who work in the industry that do know — and don't care. These folks had better heed God's warning:

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness..." (Isaiah 5:20).

One thing's for sure. Serious Christians have a responsibility to write/perform/promote songs that are consistent with a biblical worldview. Instead much of today's music has become corrupted with leaven:

"By definition," says Debra Rey, " leaven is an agent that causes a cook's batter to rise when baked. By means of fermentation, leaven (yeast) gradually modifies and expands the dough. Metaphorically, leaven symbolizes sin or false doctrine. When mixed with the doctrine of God, a little leaven corrupts largely. Jesus shared the Parable of the Leaven to show how something small becomes something big."[4]

Now, many Christians will no doubt disagree with my concerns. So they'll clog my email box with their line of reasoning hoping to set me straight, which is fine. Disagreements with regard to music aren't uncommon amongst Christians. You could say there's a music war going on! And it doesn't appear that the controversy will be resolved any time soon, if ever.

According to Guidelines for Christian Music:

"With all the different styles of music in the world today, the question will arise concerning what types and styles of music are appropriate in the local New Testament Church for the Christian today. We realize that this subject is a sensitive one in which people indeed have different styles and tastes in music they prefer. The Christian must therefore look to the Word of God for principles for music used to praise and worship the Lord, especially the music and performers we place before our people and set as role models to our children." [5]

The performers we place before our people is a subject for another article.

Because different styles of music are demanded, churches now offer both traditional and contemporary services to please people. The traditionalists are mostly older folks who enjoy singing the good old fashioned hymns, while others, especially the younger generation, prefer CCM. Personally I enjoy hymns as well as contemporary music. What matters to me most is that the words that go up to God truly honor Him and are for His glory.

The sole purpose of worship and praise music is for singing accolades to God. Christian music should not put the focus on "self." In other words, it's not about what you can do for Him. It's about what He has done for you!

When you sing to the God you love it should be heartfelt. I fear for people who clearly understand the words they're uttering to the Almighty, but don't mean one word of it!

Consider this. Do you really mean it when you sing: "Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above, with wisdom power and love, our God is an awesome God." Do you truly believe that God is awesome? That He rules the world? That He is wise and powerful and that He loves you?

Do you mean it when you sing the popular song: "Lord I lift your Name on high. Lord I love to sing your praises! I'm so glad you're in my life. I'm so glad you came to save us..." When you sing those words they go from your lips to God's ears. Hopefully you're sincere.


[2]  Not A Safe Band — By Jackie Chapman

[4]  Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire — By Debra Rey

[5]  Guidelines for Christian Music — Gospel Center Church

Recommended Reading:

Ex-Worship Leader: Why I Left the CCM Movement — By Lillian Kwon, Christian Post

© Marsha West


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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