I have countless thoughts and opinions on this topic, because faith and music are two things that are very important in my life. But, one general thought I have is this:
Christian music sucks.
Sorry, I'll be fair: Practically all Christian music sucks. I can name several bands on Christian labels that are great, but people "into" Christian music haven't heard of those bands. Interesting.
You turn on the radio station Joy FM in St. Louis and you'll hear bad song after bad song. They all sound the same, they're all uncreative and boring, and they're all very counter productive. Christian music on the large has become a huge circle-jerk of poor art. Why? Because the industry sees no need to try to improve their output when the people who absorb it don't want anything of artistic quality. Now, I'll agree that this also applies to most of the music all mainstream radio stations play, but the difference is that Christians put their music on a "higher" plane than the rap heads and the country fans. That rap stuff is foul and vile, country is too popularized, but Christian music is what really pleases God and helps us feel close to our Creator, right? Not me. For me, music that is GOOD all around does that. The message might be great in a Praise and Worship song, but if the lyrics are uncreative, the music blows, and the mixdown is a late 80s rock ripoff, I feel bored and irritated. I don't believe there's any style of music, tempo, harmony, or melody that is more or less pleasing to God. The Christian music industry clearly believes that. And what exactly does that inspire? It inspires me to turn it off and put in some Robert Glasper (good jazz) or Erykah Badu (good soul) or Black Star (good hip-hop).
Actually, I am of the opinion that there's only two kinds of music: GOOD and BAD. But I won't digress into that...
I’m often very discouraged by my generation because we so greatly lack direction and motivation, and much of this is reflected in our artistic absorptions (or lack thereof). We have so much that we don’t use responsibly or wisely or for our benefit. Our cell phones and cars have built in GPS, and yet we lack direction where it really matters. Hardly any of us knows what we’re doing, where we’re going, and why. We squander our time, our gifts, our talents, our finances – most of all we squander our freedom.
As Christians, I find that completely unacceptable. We have the greatest freedom of all and we act like enslaved fools. We can be freed of worry and anxiety and fear. With that freedom, we should be able to accomplish great things. I recently read a book called Visioneering by Andy Stanley. He throughly discusses how we gave up the right to lack Godly vision and direction in our lives the moment we accepted salvation.
Now that brings me back to the Christian music industry. In general, I think that industry has great potential but is not pointed in the best direction. The industry believes that the music must be labeled CHRISTIAN MUSIC. The industry believes that the music must only cater to one style and genre of music. As a result, there’s just a very small niche of the world market that is reached. Iisn’t our primary objective as believers to help others understand the SACRIFICE Jesus made for us and the SALVATION and FREEDOM we can all have?
Now speaking of freedom... our planet has many stories of freedom in many different time periods in many different parts of the world. In this country, the more recent one was the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s, where we got so many great songs and artists. One song in particular that I love is called “People Get Ready” and it was written by Curtis Mayfield. Curtis Mayfield was not a “CHRISTIAN ARTIST.” In fact he wrote many songs that a lot of Christians would cringe at. But “People Get Ready” is a song that he wrote about the Civil Rights Movement. God reached out and moved Mr. Mayfield when he wrote this song, because it applies to salvation. He may have written it about the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, but it couldn’t be more appropriate for the Salvation Movement that was happening long before that and continues today.
God can work in anything – even secular music. God can take anything and shape it and mold it and give it meaning and it is our job to allow him to use us to do that. It's not our job to write the same lame old chord progression over and over, crank up the reverb, sing in a whispery voice, and do our best U2 impression while lyricizing about God's love (and I actually like U2). The lyrics and music of “People Get Ready” were written for the Civil Rights Movement, but a deeper meaning is there, and that's real creativity and real art.