Contemporary Christian Music Leading People Away from Salvation?

Well it is Monday and I have been pondering over this since I saw it Saturday morning. I guess now is a good time to share my thoughts.

When reading the Saturday Ramblings put out by Internet Monk, I was made aware of an article on the Christian Post about Contemporary Christian Music or CCM. I listen to CCM, all though it is a “heavier” version of it, so of course it got my attention. Now I have had more than enough articles from Internet Monk talking about the downsides to CCM, as how it is the downfall of the church and other ilk, so I figured I knew the direction that this piece was going to go in. I was not wrong.

You can read the whole article here, but here are a few snippets that I wanted to focus on.

Positive, uplifting, and safe for the whole family.

Those are the taglines of many local Christian radio stations, which are becoming increasingly popular alternatives for parents to tune into during their commute to school, work or soccer practice.

But songwriter and worship leader Kristen Gilles wasn’t so sure whether those “kid-friendly” stations were actually what they claimed to be.

“After critically listening to [one of our local Contemporary Christian Music] radio station during my commutes to and from work for the past several weeks, I’ve found myself asking these questions: Is it really positive? Is it telling the truth? The WHOLE truth?” she questioned on her blog.

Unable to hear foundational Gospel truths proclaimed during the programs and songs – such as total depravity, redemption, repentance and forgiveness – the Sojourn Community Church praise leader felt that Christian radio stations and CCM were preaching a false gospel.

“If Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is not telling…gospel truths, if instead it’s telling listeners that they’re ‘special’ and everything’s going to be okay, but without saying anything about the incredibly high price God has paid to make them His own special possession, or what he’s done to conquer the power of sin and death, and what he will do in returning to free us from the very presence of sin and evil, then it’s not wholesome, positive, safe for the whole family, or helpful,” she wrote.

“We don’t need more self esteem programming with little religious language,” the experienced pianist and vocalist shared. “We don’t primarily need more encouragement to feel good about ourselves.”

What people needed instead were sobering truths, “that we are sinners who will fall into the hands of the Living God either as His enemies or His reconciled, redeemed children.”

Here is what Kristen Gilles originally wrote.

Now, I understand where she is coming from. If something has the Christian label attached to it, then it needs to represent Christ in a positive light. I do not disagree with her on this.

What gets me, and this is true of sermons as well, is that Christian music must always be telling us that we are sinners and making sure we know about total depravity, redemption and repentance. These are doctrinal issues that will trip up many mature believers, so I have no idea as to how a song will convey these messages.

Now I get why she feels that these messages must be in the music. When those who do not believe in Christ here it, they need to know that the message of Christ is not just to feel good about yourself and know that you are special. That gives people such a poor idea of what it means to be a Christian and there is no certainty of salvation in it.

I have to ask the question though, are only non-believers listening to CCM?

Since the target market is Christians, I would say not. Are we then putting too great of an emphasis on music to get people saved and not focusing on the idea of equipping the saints?

This happens a lot with sermons as well. Someone will complain that there is not enough bible in a message, but what they are really saying is that there is not enough of a reminder that we are sinners and need Jesus to save us.

While it is a key to Christianity and something we all need to hear, how am I being equipped if that is all I ever hear, either in music or through preaching?

People do not want to sit through a service every week hearing about how they are totally depraved and worthless sinners and should beg for forgiveness. What I said sounds a little dismissive doesn’t it? It probably is, because I like other Christians need to grow up and mature, so if the message stays the same, it can not really do that can I?

I listened to my CCM station on the way to work and there was only one song that I felt did not speak to a reliance on Christ / God. It was kind of a feel good message, but I think that actually addresses the “Positive” aspect of positive radio. No one will get saved because of that song, but no song really saves anyone. That is the work of God right?

I am not trying to defend CCM in all instances. I know there are some fluff songs out there that get put out simply to make money. That is away of life in the West and should be expected. I also do not think that all CCM songs have a place in the worship portion of a church service either. That does not mean they are bad though and should be avoided. A positive message is a good message for people to hear.

I love some of the old hymns that are sung by real singers more than I like hearing them in a church. There is not much uplifting about hearing a group of people barely singing the words to “Amazing Grace” while being drown out by the piano / organ and the choir. That does not save people either nor remind them of their need for God to save them, as they are more focused on not being too loud or being off key.

There is not one right type of music for a worship service. If the person is worshipping with their words and feelings, what is the problem with the song? This is what really bothers me about the attacks on CCM. For the most part it is coming from a place that it is not the approved type of worship that God desires and that those who are moved by it are some how wrong. The people doing the accusations, I am sure have the best intentions, are doing more damage than the song does.

One can read through Psalms and see that not every one speaks to total depravity or speaks of “the incredibly high price that God has paid”. You can read about how David danced and sang before the Lord in joy instead repeatedly singing of how much of a sinner he was.

I know that people want to protect others from going down a wrong path in worship, but speak to what it is and not the method it is being done in and you can keep people on the right path.



Filed under Bible, Christianity, Music, Religion

4 responses to “Contemporary Christian Music Leading People Away from Salvation?

  1. I think there is a very different emphasis between contemporary music and traditional. The traditional hymns hail from a post-enlightenment/modernity era which emphasizes reason as the primary means by how we come to encounter God, and come to know truth. This hasn’t always been this way throughout Christian history. We have eras where the tradition of the church becomes the primary means, and eras where personal experience is the primary means. In all of these, the worship style reflects this. Liturgy, for example, hails from tradition-oriented eras.

    The current contemporary era is rooted in postmodernism. Like modernity, this has positive and negative aspects to it. Central to the postmodernist ideology, however, is the idea that truth is determined by experience. The result, as played out in music, is an experientially-driven worship encounter. Whereas the hymns are internally oriented, leading one inward to reflect on the theological depth in the words, contemporary music becomes expressive, leading one to detach from the music and seek out the presence of God. The music, in this manner, is designed to creative a worship environment, then get out of the way so that you can express to God your love and devotion. We see the same thing at work in the worship styles of the Christian mystics, who were similarly experience-oriented. Thus, we have the chants of the mystics, which parallel the repetition often found in CCM.

    CCM may be different than traditional hymns, but different isn’t bad, and the modern style even has historical precedent.

    • Why do you think groups resist the change and movement away from traditional music in lieu of something more contemporary that promotes the experience with God?

      • I think they both promote the experience of God, just through different avenues. Traditional is more contemplative, contemporary is more expressive. The one you connect with is, in my opinion, a combination of personality and culture. We need that diversity, because we are not all the same people, and God interacts with each of us differently. As a side note, this is also one of the reasons we need community… the perspective you have on God is different than my own, and I need you to expand my vision, just as you need me. Otherwise, our perspective is increasingly narrow, and that limits our ability to encounter God in all of His fullness.

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