I was on my to work one morning listening to the local Christian radio station, hoping upon hope that the format would change miraculously while driving. Well, the format didn’t change, but this is what I discovered. I heard a worship song that was a rather good rendition. Then about an hour and a half later I heard the same song, but it was a different artist. It was decent too, but it got me to thinking about the condition of Christian music and worship songs.
I love singing meaningful and relevant worship songs, especially if they rock and take me to a place where it is me and God. Of course, I don’t mind slowing it down either, but the acoustic and electric guitars must have some prominence in the song. Hey, that’s my preference…I like to rock it out and then slow it down where it is a prayerful atmosphere.
Anyway, I’m very disheartened by the trend in Christian music these past two decades. I’ve noticed how many artists are remaking a remade version of a remade worship song. How many times can “Breathe,” “Strong Tower,” or “Here I Am To Worship” be re-recorded? How many mainstream Christian artists does it take to screw in a light bulb, or remake a worship song? It’s as though mainstream Christian musicians have lost their ability for creativity and authenticity. Yet there are those who have taken worship and Christian music to a different level. For instance, David Crowder pushed his way outside the “box” because his music is original, creative and very worshipful. Other creative artists include Matt Redman, Seven Places, Telecast, The Afters, Needtobreathe and so on. Locally, I want to encourage you to take a listen to Seth Reeves, Wakingupandthemourningafter, and The Walla Recovery. These artists write their own music and speak from the depth of their heart. As believers their voice is just as vital as the next artist.
Am I too harsh on the Christian music industry? It depends on how you look at this issue. If “Worship songs,” or for that matter “Christian Music” as a whole is a sacred cow then it must be placed on the altar with all other unedifying traditions that they might be consumed by a Holy Fire. Let that fire refine, renew, and restore the purpose & passion that is at the core of those areas that we might be drawn to a God of wonder and amazement.
Many have criticized artists like Derek Webb or Sufjan Stevens because of their approach to music. Derek has been critical of the Church by pointing out its fallacy & failures. Yet, he has legitimate arguments and thoughts. Sufjan, on the other hand, has been the voice of many who want to enjoy a liberating God. He speaks for those of us who aren’t afraid of falling, failing and getting up again. Most people are not seeking a God of regulations, rigidity, and dying traditions. Why are we offering that to them? Why is it that when a voice of honest discontent speaks there is much anger, and even hatred? The answer is the sacred cows we hang onto. They become comfortable.
I recently read an interview with the band Radiant. They guys are believers and followers of Christ, but by no means do they want their music to be pigeon-holed into the “Christian Rock” genre. They say it would limit their audience and effectiveness as musicians. Unfortunately, the Christian genre has become a trapping for many a talented, gifted and anointed musician. Music should be for everyone to enjoy and not an exclusive club of listeners. This is why I admire artists like The Fray, Lifehouse, Switchfoot, P.O.D., Radiant, Matt Kearney and some of our local artists. They write music that is inspired by life, faith, experience and the Spirit. And it speaks to a diverse culture…not just a small group of people called “Christian.”
With worship songs, I say we shed the idea of redundancy by re-recording them over and over. Let the artist’s original work stand on its own merit. When it comes to music as a whole we should learn to appreciate the depth of the lyrics, the musicianship of the artists and the quality of the message, or story. Let God do as he desires with music and other forms of art because in the end it is about giving all respect and honor to a Glorious, Just and Holy God.