Christian Contemporary Music

As a teen, I was a big listener of CCM. I kept up with the latest releases of most of the artists out there that I enjoyed. It was the “soundtrack of my life” so to speak. I viewed the music as a form of entertainment that would occasionally even touch me or convict me of sin. I listened to the music without much regard to what the songs were really about. I mean, they were all Christian songs. Why get too critical of them? It’s better than listening to secular music after all.

Being more purposeful

Since my wife and I have started attending our new church (Providence Church), I have (by way of excellent teaching) been led to a much better understanding of the role of music in worship — a “theology of worship music” if you will. It has been very helpful to me in evaluating music with respect to its usefulness or appropriateness in a worship service.

I now tend to look at songs and ask “is this a strong song or a weak song?” where I decide its strength or weakness based on how clearly it conveys Christian truth, how well the feel or mood of the music matches the strength of the message, etc. One aspect that I think is very important is whether the song is more God-centered or more man-centered in its message.

It is this last item that has really started to grab me lately with respect to CCM that I hear today. My wife and I were on vacation last week and on the drive to and from Kentucky were able to hear various Christian music stations. I was surprised at how many songs seem to be very man-centered.

I don’t claim to have a good handle on the temperature of CCM out today. I don’t get to listen to it very often. So it might be that I heard a non-representative sample of what’s out there. But many of the songs had as their core message something like the following:

  • I’m so glad I’m a Christian because God helps me live a good life
  • My life is pretty hard, but it’s OK because God loves me
  • I know a person who has a very hard life, they need to know God
  • God needs us to get out there and do His good work

These kinds of topics are really much more about man than they are about God. The songs just aren’t very “strong” in their content. Honestly, I’m a bit conflicted about these kinds of songs. I think this quote by John Piper sums up what makes me uncomfortable:

“The Christian Gospel is about ‘the glory of Christ,’ not about me. And when it is — in some measure — about me, it is not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of him forever.” — Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper.

A majority of the Christian music that we heard on our trip seemed to fit into this category of being quite a bit more about man than about God and His greatness.

The reason I say that I’m conflicted about this is that I’m not sure what role “Christian entertainment” music has in my life. I certainly don’t feel that all music I listen to must be as theologically strong as the music that I sing in a church worship service. I do listen to secular music as well, so I’m not saying that I think these are bad songs or that this is bad music. It just seems to me that Christians have so much more to be singing about. I guess I’m applying a higher standard to Christian bands. And maybe it isn’t all that fair.

Christian “entertainment”

Another part of this that makes me a bit uncomfortable is the idea of Christian music as entertainment. It’s somewhat akin to seeing the Passion of the Christ movie and evaluating it based on its entertainment value. It seems crass to me.

But the alternative is to insist that all entertainment be secular. That doesn’t seem to make sense either.

God can be glorified in the arts. I firmly believe that. And I’m sure that God can be just as easily glorified by Christian artists who are performing their craft to His glory as He can be by a Christian musician in a symphony who views his or her playing as a reflection of God’s gifting and creativity. Even if the Christian artist is doing so while putting out a message that isn’t all that strong, theologically.

But I have to admit that it’s still hard for me to listen to a lot of it…