Christian music invades secular-market genres

For those who love it, those who think it sucks, and everything in between.

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musicmonkey
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Christian music invades secular-market genres

Unread postby musicmonkey » Mon Feb 07, 2005 3:46 am

Christian music invades secular-market genres
by Christina Vos

If you thought the world of Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) consisted of only Amy Grant and Sandi Patti, think again.

In this past ten years, the industry has rocketed into fourth place in market standings, according to the August issue of CCM Magazine. Not only have the names and faces changed, but the target market has also developed a new focus: teens. Though not extinct, the sounds of "church music" have taken a back seat to popular music in the industry. Christian music now exists in every genre: ska, alternative, metal pop, you names it.

A number of Christian groups enjoy secular air play. One obvious example is Jars of Clay. Their self-titled debut album not only topped the Christian charts but appeared on the secular charts as well. This album reached platinum status within a year of its release, unheard of for a rookie band, fresh out of college. Their sophomore album, Much Afraid, hit the streets in September. Jars purposely made this album different from the first; though there has been much criticism, I think this album is an achievement in that it contains the depth and intensity of the first without succumbing to the temptation of being extensively crowd-pleasing.

Bob Carlisle, who has been in the business for about ten years, is another artist benefitting from secular air play. Few people who heard "Butterfly Kisses" on the radio this summer knew that the very same song topped the Christian charts the summer before. The album was re-released with the name Butterfly Kisses by a secular label earlier this year. Already it has produced enough income for Carlisle to pay off his house and buy the family's first new car. Carlisle even made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Another band that is making its mark is the Supertones. Probably the most popular Christian ska band, their songs are quickly climbing the charts. A fan of any certain type of sound can find its equal in CCM. Whole lists of Christian and secular artists exist for this purpose.

Now, my point is not, "You shouldn't listen to secular music because it's sinful." Many songs in the secular realm I have no problem with. I believe these songs have as much value as CCM. But after a while I get tired of having to mentally sift through the obscenities, sexual allusions, or references to violence that one is bound to come across in the secular industry that offend me as a Christian.

Some days it is just easier to pop in a CD and hear the words of Jesus in 'Love Song' by Third Day: "Just to be with you, I've done everything / there's no price I did not pay / I gave my life away." I know that some will accuse me of avoiding the "real world," but for me this is my real world -- to enjoy surrounding myself with the reassurances of God's love for me. Not that I am saying all music has to be a worship experience -- it is fun too. (Check out Audio Adrenaline's cover of Veggie Tales' The Hairbrush Song!)

Some critics of the industry accuse artists of only being in the business for the money. I will not deny that this is true for some artists. But in the past few years I have had the opportunity to meet numerous bands and singers in whose eyes I could truly see the desire to spread the Word of God. They are using their spiritual gifts to serve the Lord as much as anyone else. I have often wondered why people mostly in the music industry are accused of being in it for the money. No one ever questions the motives of Billy Graham (you don't think he gets paid to speak?) There are so-called "Christians" in every industry under the sun who only want to personally profit. I do not think it is fair to decry CCM to the extent that we have. We need to focus on the positive, not the negative, of the industry. For those of you who are happy with secular music, you may disregard this. But for others who, like me, enjoy secular music but feel a need for something more, there has never been a better time to check out CCM.

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Discernment in music

Unread postby musicmonkey » Mon Feb 07, 2005 4:11 am

Discernment in music
by Ken Heffner, Director, Student Activities Board, Calvin College

Last week's Chimes Opinions page featured an article on Christian contemporary music by Christina Vos. Well-written and thought-provoking, Ms. Vos's piece made the valid point that CCM has changed and branched out in recent years.

The writer expressed the sentiment that her appreciation of CCM is in part due to the fact that it is easier to listen to than secular music. Ms. Vos said that she gets "tired of having to mentally sift through the obscenities, sexual allusion or references to violence that one is bound to come across in the secular industry...Some days it is just easier to pop in a CD and hear the words of Jesus in 'Love Song' by Third Day..."

Ms. Vos's approach to secular music is admirable, reflecting Calvin's philosophy (and specifically, that of the Student Activities Office) of separating the wheat from the tares" in popular culture, using spiritual discernment to identify what is good and bad about various cultural expressions.

Nevertheless, the article implies that by switching to a CD bearing a label of a Christian record company, one can then "turn off" that process and just relax. While this implication was probably unintentional, it is important to emphasize that there are no hard and fast lines separating the Kingdom of Light from the Kingdom of Darkness. While all of creation is redeemable, it is all, to some extent, tainted by man's sinfulness. Thus, Christians must always be vigilant, utilizing their discernment to analyze all music, including CCM.

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Re: Discernment in music

Unread postby interpretisto » Sun Jun 19, 2005 7:34 pm

thE EvErglOw wrote:Discernment in music
by Ken Heffner, Director, Student Activities Board, Calvin College

Last week's Chimes Opinions page featured an article on Christian contemporary music by Christina Vos. Well-written and thought-provoking, Ms. Vos's piece made the valid point that CCM has changed and branched out in recent years.

Nevertheless, the article implies that by switching to a CD bearing a label of a Christian record company, one can then "turn off" that process and just relax.


Wow, I must have slept through deer season, as we've moved briskly into CCM-season. As with any type of music, of course you should use discernment, but I get the impression that Ms. Vos is guilty of some crime (like attending a mega-church) for not wanting to hear profanities.

I don't think Ms. Vos said CCM was the "end all, be all" of music, but I have to agree with her aggravation with some secular music. I too, find a lot of comfort and support from Christian music, and there are some days I don't feel like hearing negative words in my music. Does this mean I think all non-CCM music is evil? No way. I have great deal of secular music in my collection.

When did it become a crime to listen to CCM? Is anyone else a little tired of this chronic urge to buck mainstream at all costs?

Jeremy
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." --Edmund Burke

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Re: Discernment in music

Unread postby musicmonkey » Tue Jun 21, 2005 12:50 am

Discernment, Wisdom, Sloth & Testing Everything:

terrainkeeper wrote:As with any type of music, of course you should use discernment


Yes, that's the main point of the article as I see it and we both agree on this one. Smile Not wanting to hear profanity or negative lyrics is also a wise choice [Philippians 4:8] Smile and there's <a href="http://www.pastemusic.com/">plenty of music out there</a> (not necessarily found in Christian book stores) that isn't negative and that shares a biblical worldview.

John Calvin wrote:All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.


In Psalm 119:11, David wrote:Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.


In James 1:5, James wrote:If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.


I'm not sure how you got out of the above articles that CCM is criminal. The Bible does teach, however, that spiritual laziness (sloth) is a sin. Turning off our desire to discern (even when we play a CD bought in a Christian book store) is not wise (which we both agree on). We need to test everything - even sermons from the pulpit [1 Thessalonians 5:21-22]. And insodoing, iron sharpens iron Smile

That said, I'd like to clarify that, as I see it through my own tinted lenses, there are two distinct purposes of CCM:

  1. Worship
  2. Evangelism

CCM As Worship:

Worshipping God is good. Very good. We are called to worship God. Worship is inreach to Christ's people (discipleship) and upreach to God himself.

In <a href="http://monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/whyweworship.html">Why do we worship the way we worship at KCPC?</a>, Pastor Charles wrote:Part of teaching and maturing as Christ's disciples is to humbly reconsider what Scripture teaches about how we approach God and do worship, or how we form liturgy ... Worship is not evangelism! Worship is not outreach, it is inreach to Christ's people and upreach to God himself, taking hold of his promises in Christ, and being nourished on his Word by His Spirit!


In <a href="viewtopic.php?t=542">Confessions Of A Former Worship Leader</a>, the reviewer wrote:Essentially many CCM songs are general worship music... just insert the God of your choice as you sing. Where is the exclusivity of Jesus?


The warning here is to exercise discernment during worship (CCM or otherwise) that your worship isn't white-washed to praising generic higher powers or creation itself and that your worship is more than feel-good chicken soup. We need to be corrrected and admonished also. We need to be maturing and challenged. On a sidenote, I've seen people who chug back communion like it's a refreshing beverage and they don't spend quiet time getting right with God beforehand. Recently, a buddy of mine tapped me on the shoulder while I was praying before communion wondering why I hadn't downed it like a shooter.

In <a href="viewtopic.php?t=475">Growing in Your Faith</a>, Dr. David Jeremiah wrote:Your spiritual growth is your most important pursuit as a believer.


For me personally, I get more meat from traditional hymns or a Switchfoot concert than from a lot of CCM worship music.

In Hebrews 5:12, Paul wrote:For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.


CCM As Evangelism:

My views on this can be summarized with the following quotes:

In <a href="viewtopic.php?t=541">God Goes Mainstream</a>, Brendan Boughen wrote:Mark Joseph, author of The Rock & Roll Rebellion states, "The [Christian] faith community must acknowledge that the present system simply hasn't worked very well for taking their message out of the church and into the mainstream of popular culture." He is acknowledging something crucial: that CCM is, on the whole, preaching to the choir.

CCM is clearly encouraging and affirming for Christian teenagers growing in their faith. However, the question remains as to whether CCM is innocuous to the point of irrelevance in the wider pop culture ... and its capacity to be alienating to non-Christian young people at a stage in life where group 'membership' is a crucial factor in peer relationships.


In <a href="http://monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/whyweworship.html">Why do we worship the way we worship at KCPC?</a>, Pastor Charles wrote:Liturgy, Evangelism, and the Great Commission

The liturgy of God should be formed from Scripture to the best of our ability as we attempt to be reformed according to Scripture, and always continuing to be reformed with humility! The liturgy in the worship service is for God's people, not for outsiders ... We want to fulfill the Great Commission and we want to reach the lost evangelistically, but we also must be about becoming mature disciples in Christ which is only obtained through the corporate covenantal community in Christ coming to hear God through His Word and the means of grace He has provided us, and our responding in obedience- -including the obedience of evangelism.

The two main parts of the Great Commission in Matthew are:

  1. Evangelize by "Going!", not merely to make converts (this was one of the reasons Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, see Matthew 23:14-15)
  2. "Make Disciples" from all the nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Jesus wants us to evangelize, but to make mature disciples for service to Him (Ephesians 4:11-18; Hebrews 5:13-6:2; 2 Peter 1:3-10).


In conclusion, if someone is being edified and is maturing in their faith by CCM artists, then continue to do so and pray for continued discernment of false-doctrine lest you be led astray. Additionally, if you have friends who are postmodern unbelievers who get weirded out by "religious music" and you have a desire to let them find the Truth for themselves, <a href="http://www.pastemusic.com/">buy them a few CDs here</a> and then talk to them about song meanings. A sense of discontentment with one's life can lead to people finding Christ.

Testing everything...

David

roy

Unread postby roy » Wed Jun 22, 2005 8:15 pm

Just a few observations.

This has always been an issue for me. Thank God the discussion has matured beyond the point of "secular music is evil, especially rock and roll, and Christian rock is marginal at best." That was a pretty big one when I was growing up, and I suppose it still is in some, hopefully very small, circles.

However, there still seems to be a somewhat unnatural division in the minds of both Christians and non-Christians between the sacred and the secular. I've been able to remove myself from such a mentality quite successfully, and in many cases if it were not for the labels, and in what forum you hear the music, it would be easy to forget about the whole concept of secular music vs Christian music. The lyrics are one thing, the subject matter - does a song have to mention Jesus or God to be considered "Christian"? etc. etc.. But as a musician myself I like to focus more on the musical dimension.

There is musical inspiration to be found in so called "secular" music and a lack of musical inspiration to be found in so called "sacred" music. Some CCM, especially some of the praise and worship stuff I have a hard time getting excited about, Still in recent years I think Christian music has come a long way, but I can't find it in myself to spend much money on any mainstream CCM music. One exception would probably be Jars of Clay. I think I own all their CDs.

Unfortunately, in the case of many artists there has developed a sort of CCM sound, or production technique that can easily be discerned on any mainstream CCM radio station. Apparently someone has determined that if you stay within these production boundaries your music will get played on CCM radio. If you listen to such a station the music all starts to sound alike after a while. Not that the music is bad or poorly produced. Quite the opposite. For the most part it is very well produced (perhaps over produced) and most of the songs are well written, it's just sort of has a generic quality about it. It's too homogeneous.

Take for example an artist named Warren Barfield. I saw a live video of just him and his guitar. I was impressed. He is a very talented musician and song writer. So I expectantly got his CD, but was disappointed. Not that it really stank or anything, It just seemed to fall below his potential, and was purposely produced to fit into mainstream CCM radio. I really expected better because I do believe such a mentality is going by the wayside, but apparently we have a long way to go yet.

That's why groups like Lifehouse who are refusing to be boxed into the "Christian" label will in the long run have a much greater impact on our culture. CCM has always had the problem of trying to appeal to a certain formula rather then just allowing the artist to find their own voice creatively. As long as such a mentality persists within the industry it will probably not be able to grow in overall influence in the broader culture.


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