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Greetings, faithful readers! I’ve been away for a few days this week and as a result don’t have a pick of the week this morning. But I DO have a great guest blog post from my friend, Pastor Dave Weiss, that I’d like to share instead. I’ll also have some music news updates throughout the day.
There are a ton of new CDs being released on July 22, so I’ll bring you a couple picks next week. For now, take a few minutes to give some thought to the questions Dave raises in his guest blog post …
What Is Christian Music?
A Guest Column by Dave Weiss
A few weeks ago in this very column, my friend Joanne posed this question: What criteria should the music industry use when designating an artist “Christian?” What, exactly, is “Christian music”?
I’d like to say I have a great answer to that question, but instead I’d like to turn the question around slightly. Can music be Christian? I’m old enough to remember when people first started to try to do Christian rock. A great many people in the Christian community argued that the term “Christian rock” was an oxymoron; that certain rhythms were pagan and could not be redeemed. Hopefully by now we have gotten past that, but I still long for a different attitude toward artists and faith.
Surely, we can agree that there are different types of ministers. The apostle Paul wrote, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Just as some ministers are called more to the church and others more to the world, so it is, I believe, with Christian musicians. I think we in the church need to be a little more charitable with our brothers and sisters called to use their musical gifts in the Lord’s service.
Should we call them to a high standard of morals and ethics? Absolutely! James wrote, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” If the Lord calls you to serve Him in the public eye, you need to be obedient to Him. If you are going to step up and tell the world that you represent Jesus, you better represent Him well. Remember the great Brennan Manning quote from dcTalk’s What If I Stumble: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” When we serve Jesus, how we live matters.
At the same time, in my opinion, we need to give Christian artists more freedom in their lyrical content. Why can’t a Christian rock artist do songs about every day life without the fear of criticism? “Oops, he didn’t mention Jesus in that song, he’s selling out.” “Why, that song’s about his love for his girlfriend, that’s not Christian.” Do we really expect them to be so one dimensional? Christian artists are real people with real feelings and real experiences and it’s in the authentic expressions of their struggles that some people will see the Lord.
Some days I wish we could change the Christian music industry. I remember listening to an artist “talk back” session at Creation East a few years ago. Delirious was talking about recently finishing a European tour with Bon Jovi. They stated that the industry is different in Europe. The musicians are not divided between Christian and secular, they compete on a level playing field. If their music is good enough to get airplay, it gets airplay and the message goes out to the whole world not just the church. Songs are judged by their merit rather than how many times they mention the name of Jesus.
The underlying message for them is that the only way to get to the rest of the world is to leave us behind (can you say Evanescence?). Reaching the world is not the same as selling out. I’m pretty sure Jesus would agree with that statement. Could it be that some artists are wired to make music to edify the church (pastors, prophets and teachers) while others are called to make music for the world (apostles and evangelists)? Maybe if we recognized that, we could stop stifling our artists, allowing them to do their part in “prepar(ing) God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Wouldn’t that be cool?
Dave Weiss is pastor of New Creation Fellowship in Reading, PA. He’s been involved in the visual arts for more than 20 years and is passionate about helping creative people use their gifts to serve the Lord. He is the founder of A.M.O.K. Arts Ministry Outreach for the Kingdom and writes lesson plans and articles for the Christian music based youth ministry resource. He does a weekly podcast called the Running A.M.O.K. Podcast that features messages and arts ministry ideas at runningamok.mypodcast.com.