What happened to Christian music?

Posted: September 10, 2014 in Christian Living, Music & Videos
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As a young man in my 20s, I turned to Jesus and became a Christian. As a singer/songwriter myself, one of the biggest encouragements I had was the Christian music of the 70s and 80s. Christian artists back then shared strong views of Christian values and recorded direct, uncompromising music that confronted the world (And the Church) with the message of the Scriptures.

Larry Norman, who is considered to be the godfather of Contemporary Christian Music, became a Christian at the age of five. In 1969, Capitol Records released Larry’s first solo album, ‘Upon This Rock’. Because Larry and his music was denounced by various television evangelists and Christian radio stations, Capitol deemed the album a commercial flop and soon dropped him from their label. So in 1970, Larry established his own record label, One Way Records. He released two of his own albums, ‘Street Level’ and ‘Bootleg’ on the label as well as Randy Stonehill’s first album, ‘Born Twice’.

Throughout his career, Larry had a contentious relationship with the mainstream Christian church and with the Christian music industry in general. He wrote in September 2007, “I love God and I follow Jesus but I just don’t have much affinity for the organized folderol of the churches in the Western World.” Larry Norman’s music addressed a wide range of social issues, such as politics, free love, the occult, the passive commercialism of wartime journalists, and religious hypocrisy, that were outside the scope of his contemporaries. He often complained that Christian music generally meant “sloppy thinking, dishonest metaphors and bad poetry.” He also criticized what he saw as the “commercialization of Christian music in America”. In 2008, Christian rock historian John J. Thompson wrote, “It is certainly no overstatement to say that Larry Norman is to Christian music what John Lennon is to rock & roll or Bob Dylan is to folk music.” Larry Norman died at 60 years old on Feb 24, 2008 of heart failure.

Steve Camp was well-known for his strong views that Christian musicians are called to make direct, uncompromising music that confronts the world with the message of the Scriptures. He is well-known for his strong views that Christian musicians are called to make direct, uncompromising music that confronts the world with the message of the Scriptures. In 1998 following Martin Luther’s 95 theses, he sent out his own ‘107 Theses’ calling for a reformation in contemporary Christian music. Steve Camp has been the pastor at The Cross Church in Palm City, Florida since June 2009.

Keith Green is best known for his strong devotion to Christian evangelism and challenging others to the same. Often considered controversial for his frequently confrontational lyrics and spoken messages, among his most notable songs were, ‘Asleep in the Light’, ‘So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt’ and ‘To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice’.
In 1979 Keith negotiated a release from his contract with Sparrow Records and initiated a new policy of refusing to charge money for concerts or albums. His album, ‘So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt’ was offered through mail-order and at concerts for a price determined by the purchaser for whatever they could afford. By May 1982, Keith had shipped out more than 200,000 units of his album – 61,000 for free.

Rich Mullins and his work with the group Zion were first noticed by Christian music superstar Amy Grant. The inclusion of his song ‘Sing Your Praise to the Lord’ on Grant’s ‘Age to Age’ album in 1982 soon lead to deals with Reunion Records and the start of a successful career as a songwriter and singer. The profits from his tours and the sale of each album were entrusted to his church, which divided it up, paid Mullins the average salary in the U.S. for that year, and gave the rest to charity. Mullins was also a major supporter of Compassion International and Compassion USA.

His faith can be understood by a quote he gave at a concert shortly before his death. He stated that: “Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken-hearted.” Rich had numerous hit songs to his credit including, ‘Hold Me Jesus’, ‘Step By Step’, and ‘Awesome God’. Sadly, Rich’s career was cut short by an automobile accident that took his life on September 19, 1997, in Illinois.

Christian Music Today
Music itself, apart from lyrics, is neither good nor evil. It is how it is used that makes it good or evil; much like a kitchen knife. In the hands of a cook it is a useful and necessary tool, but in the hands of a murderer it becomes a weapon that kills. Music is the medium that mirrors the heart of the composer, singer, instrumentalist, or listener. Therefore, if the heart is sensual then the music will reflect the same. If the heart is rebellious then the music will reflect rebelliousness. But if the heart is spiritually minded then the music will reflect Godliness.

Christian music used to teach the doctrine of Christ as revealed in God’s Word. Its lyrics echoed the attributes of God. It was characterized by the Godly presentation of musicians’ lives in public appearances in concerts as well as their private lives. Christian musicians used to emulate true Godly attributes as defined in God’s Word.

So what happened to Christian music?
Why has it departed from following its true form? No longer does Christian music attempt to characterize Godly attributes, but more often it characterizes worldly feelings through sensual rhythms and vocals. Most Christian artists today spew out a mix-mash of pseudo-religious, moral platitudes and vague, pious feelings in their lyrics on stage.

Sadly, young Christians today have become enamored with this pseudo-Christian music because of its sensual fleshly appeal, and defend its “spirituality” with great vigor and apparent offense. As music mirrors the heart of an individual, so does this pseudo-Christian music reflect the carnal condition of the hearts and minds of such persons.

The Bible teaches, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Gal. 5:17)
The fleshly music used in many Christian songs today and are absorbed daily by many Christians is contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29)

One only has to scroll through the posts of Christian artists on Face Book, Twitter, or the numerous other social media sites to see that most Christian musicians are more concerned in promoting themselves than they are in promoting godly desires. Recognition of the fact that such corrupted use of Christian music is displeasing to God and will demand repentance from the usage of it as well as repentance from the carnal condition of the soul. Then replacement must follow-replacement of corrupted music with true Christian music.

God chose me to show the world that He’s not impressed with our talents or intellect. When we see ourselves in the light of His glory, we can only fall down in grateful thanksgiving and praise.

I pray that God will raise up more Christian musicians who live uncompromising lives committed to God and the ministry of Jesus; with songs from the Spirit and making music from their hearts to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19)

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Comments
  1. sonworshiper says:

    You mentioned some great artists there. I’m not familiar with Larry Norman, but my parents passed on their love of Keith Green, and Rich Mullins’ music is a major part of what really spurred on my commitment to Christ as a young adult.
    I think of a lot of the worship music that goes out today, and some of it can be taken to fall into the category you’re describing. But what helps me get past the simplicity or maybe sensuality of a song is finding out the artist’s story on where that song comes from. What motivated them to write? What scripture inspired them to attempt to communicate (perhaps awkwardly) some truth? What did they think was the point of what they were saying?
    But I agree, it’s an awesome responsibility and privilege. I just worry that if I were to look at the songs I’ve written and the worst moments of my Christian witness with the same critical eye, I’d probably find plenty of fault as I might find by looking at others.

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