Contemporary Christian music

Recently I was astonished to hear someone say his main method of teaching was to use “Contemporary Christian music” in his Bible classes. He pointed out that the lyrics of many rock, rap and country songs were sinful and degrading, while the Contemporary Christian songs featured lyrics that were “spiritual.”

There is no question that a great deal of popular music is trashy, mean-spirited and hateful. The Christian should turn that music off just as surely as he would walk out of a movie that is laced through with ungodly content.

You do walk out of such movies, don’t you?

Often, people use a version of the “two wrongs make a right” reasoning. It is undoubtedly wrong to fill your mind with the degrading, sinful thinking of the world. Paul reminds us that “the mind that is on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7).

I have a number of concerns about Contemporary Christian music.

  • The use of instrumental music: For those of us who care about restoring the worship of the church, to say this genre has wholesome, spiritual lyrics, please note, is telling only half the story.
  • The danger that commercial concerns, not the Bible, will become the bottom line: Where profit, not praise is the motive, fame, not faith, the standard of spiritual content is diluted. The very idea of consumer spiritual activity is worrisome. Perhaps the genre should be called “Commercial Christian music rather than “Contemporary Christian music.”
  • Performance, not an offering of the heart: When this becomes the key, the purpose of worship is deflected. How do you grade a “good” worship service? If such terms as “entertaining sermon,” and “spectacular singing” are frequently used, ask yourself whether these are terms a film critic or sportscaster might use in his arena. The truth is that as long as we insist on congregational singing, our singing will not be musically perfect, because we will be using the voices of the elderly, the children, the “vocally challenged.” When congregational singing gives way to “professional singers only need apply,” something vital is lost.
  • Confusing the boundaries: We will find ourselves trying to explain to teens and newcomers to church why we can listen to instruments on a CD, but cannot use them in worship. Teenagers with their active, exploring minds will want to know what the difference is.

And the fact is, beloved, there is no difference.

When lyrics express spiritual thoughts – praise to God, or teaching to his people, it’s worship! To their credit, contemporary Christian artists will tell you that they are worshiping. I don’t doubt their sincerity; I doubt our wisdom in using them in our churches and homes.

“Through him, then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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