My Thoughts on Contemporary Christian Music

love music. I listen to it all the time. I require my music to meet certain standards, though. I believe these  standards are very biblical.  Basically, is it pure, wholesome, noble, admirable… or is it not?  Which leads  me to a very controversial topic I would like to discuss today: contemporary Christian music. (I hear the  Traditionals gasp.) I’ll be writing my own views on this issue and have thought them through very carefully.   However, I would love to hear someone else’s ideas. One of the ways that we become wise is by listening  to others’ arguments.  So, let’s hear them!  Politely and with love, though, please.

The church that I attend has the mindset that all contemporary Christian music (CCM) is evil. There is some  CCM that isn’t edifying, true, but I disagree with their blanket statement and stance. Anyway, I had it in my  head for a long time that it was just their old fashioned ways, that they simply weren’t open to any music  besides hymns. But then I started to wonder, what is their reason for so proactively speaking against CCM?  I never heard them give any proof or scripture to back up their teaching. Therefore, it made me question the  whole idea that CCM is wrong.

There was a time that I kind of believed them, that CCM was evil. I only believed them because I was at a  point where I was believing everything I heard without analyzing it. I didn’t consider myself gullible; after all,  I’ve been raised to look at everything analytically, to process what one calls “truth” and pick it apart, to  separate truth from fallacies. But I wasn’t putting this into practice; I merely accepted what our pastor stated  as truth. Therefore, I thought that hymns were the only way to go.

That was for a season. I eventually decided it wasn’t worth giving up all I had known to listen to these  hymns only. Since I wasn’t truly convicted, I didn’t act on what I had thought I believed as truth. So I  listened to CCM again. It didn’t seem in any way bad to me. If it was by a Christian artist, it had to be a  “Christian” song by my reasoning. That made sense. But then, one day, there was a special speaker at our  church revival, and he gave a message that made me question all I had thought to be true on the topic.  After hearing him speak, all of us went home convicted in one way or another. My brother and I felt  convicted of the music we listened to. I now believed that what I listened to was wrong, and I was  determined to weed out what didn’t honor God.

But I still didn’t have clear, set beliefs for what I thought was right and wrong. Again, I simply followed what  I had heard someone else proclaim as truth. So, my conviction/repentance didn’t last long. I quickly sank  back into listening to the same old music. The songs I listened to were never actually bad in themselves;  they were just really fluff, not edifying at all, but not blaring out “evil” messages, either. I always had in the  back of my head a slightly guilty feeling, though I didn’t act on it.

So eventually, I started hearing more about how this CCM stuff was bad, evil, wicked. I sort of blew it off.  There was nothing wrong with the CCM I listened to, I thought. I was hearing arguments and debates on  why it was evil, and I thought the reasons that these stubborn people were giving was all ridiculous. They  had no legitimate reasons for why CCM was wrong. It all sounded foolish, like they were trying to prove  why they were right, instead of why the belief in itself was right.

So I started doubting, starting to question my own beliefs. Why did I think that CCM was good? Was it  really? What did I believe about the music I was listening to?

I eventually came to a decision, and acted on that. This is how I determine what songs I should listen to:

The song should be God – honoring, not sound like the world in any way, and not try to draw attention to  the artist; rather, to God.

I drew this from the verse: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your  mind, that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Actually, I drew most of my  convictions from this verse. Don’t conform your mind to the world; you will grow to reject the truth. I know  this first – hand. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can know what God’s  will is for you. Don’t choose styles of music that sound just like the latest Taylor Swift song, done with  “Christian” lyrics. How are you separating yourself from the world when you take worldly tunes, beats, and  rhythms and set Christian lyrics to them so you can enjoy the pleasures of the world under a Christian label?  It doesn’t edify you at all as a believer, and you’re not standing out from the world.

The lyrics should be God – honoring. This one isn’t as hard to draw a line for as it may seem. Would you  feel comfortable if Christ had an earbud in, listening to it with you? Do you think He would be pleased?  Would He listen to it? Does it praise him, glorify Him, speak of Him at all? I know it sounds cliché, but it’s  true. I know of many, many songs that are just fluff; they literally have no point. It’s like a bunch of random  words flung together to a really catchy beat. I don’t think those would honor God in the least. To me, those  qualify as dishonoring God; because there’s no neutral between dishonoring and honoring.

Also, the artists have two ways they can present their music. They can do it with exaggerated voices,  showy movements, gaudy apparel, or fashionable modern poses, words, or other actions. This simply  cannot please God. What we do will reflect what condition our hearts are in; if we are filled with self and  pride, it will flow from our actions. If we are filled with Christ, everything we do will have the love of Christ  emitting from it. Or, they can present it in a humble fashion, directed toward the Lord and away from  themselves. These are key things I look for when listening to music.

I want to present my answers to some common questions concerning CCM:

Is CCM evil?

Most legalistic, traditional churches will tell you yes. I’m not here to dispute that. There are songs, as  mentioned before, that I disapprove of. However, I am not of the mindset that CCM overall is evil. I don’t  think we’re limited to hymns only. I think it depends on the song. As I’ve said, if it’s a Taylor Swift – style  song that simply has “Christian” lyrics, I don’t think it’s God – honoring. On the other hand, if it would  honor the Lord and help me to praise Him, I think it’s perfectly acceptable. It depends on your personal  conviction. I don’t know where that invisible line is drawn. I haven’t met anyone who claims to know the  answer. This is kind of a dangerous line to walk; but I can’t control your relationship with God. Only you  know the depths of how your relationship with God is growing or diminishing. You have to go by truths, and,  when it’s controversial, your convictions on how the truth is proclaimed.

But anyway, the kind of churches that oppose this style of music will tell you that it’s because it’s “worldly”. I  agree, to a large extent. Most of the CCM I hear on the radio today absolutely imitates the world. However,  much of their additional reasonings aren’t legitimate to me. I heard one man protest that you must first know  if the artist is truly saved by knowing their testimony to deem their music appropriate for listening. I disagree.  I don’t think you need to pore over every artist’s life story to approve of the songs. But then, that’s my  conviction. I’m not here to tell you what to believe. I’m just stating what I believe and feel is right.

Why do some think CCM is evil?

I briefly touched on that in the paragraph above, but I want to focus on it solely. Some think that it imitates  the world too much. Others think it encourages your interests in the style of music and leads you down  worldly paths into enjoying that same style of music, but in the world. I even heard one man say that people  listen to CCM because they’re trying to revamp the emotional love for Christ they lost. I can’t disagree with  all of this. It’s true, sometimes certain CCM does lead you to enjoy the same kind of music of the world,  and some CCM does imitate the world. A lot of it does. However, I can’t agree with it completely. I know of  some artists who do a very good job of honoring the Lord with their music and voice.

Where do you draw the line between “worldly” and “clean”?

I’m not afraid to say it; I don’t know. For me, it depends on personal conviction, unless someone shows me  differently and I agree that it matches up to the Scriptures. Set your standards for acceptable songs. Be  reasonable. Don’t bend the rules to satisfy your fleshly desires; don’t cheat God. Then, see what songs you  listen to meet that criteria.

What about drums and guitars? Are they sinful?

I personally think it’s a matter of presentation. Drums and guitars really do have the capability to provide a  worldly effect to a song. They’re instruments: as with all instruments, you can either use them to glorify  God, or dishonor Him. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to call them sinful. There’s nothing about the  instruments themselves: it’s the way you use them that creates the effect. However, for a church I would  say no. It does create that “rock – concert” feel, and though there’s nothing wrong with the instrument, it  invites in things you wouldn’t desire to have in your church.

What if the song has an amazing message, but worldly beat?

It depends if your standards let you bend far enough to wade through the stuff you disagree with to get to  the message. Some songs to me just aren’t worth it, and others are. Personal conviction.

Is dancing sinful?

Okay, so maybe this one’s not exactly CCM, but it’s another legalist church argument that’s in relation to  music. Dancing can be a way to express joy. David in the Bible danced for joy. But these days, it’s become  a source of entertainment; one that can quickly go beyond appropriate. This is the argument for the  legalistic church. Dancing is sinful because of what it leads to. Okay, so in the sense they’re talking about, I  agree. What dancing can lead to isn’t exactly pure, and I think that the kind of dancing they’re referring to  can have a bad effect on some. However, I don’t think dancing’s bad. I don’t see how some forms of dance  could be considered evil.

Am I being too picky? Too analytical? Maybe. But I don’t think that common arguments are something to  just stand by and watch go on all around you. Take a stand, take a side. Discern what you believe, and  ground yourself in faith. That way you may know how to take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

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10 Replies to “My Thoughts on Contemporary Christian Music”

  1. I agree with you. The only thing is, whats a “Worldly beat”? I mean does that just mean anything with drums? And if so what makes drums worldly?
    Thanks for the post. =)
    -Mikayla-

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    1. No, it doesn’t just mean anything with drums (although they certainly help, in my opinion, at least for me). To me, a “worldly beat” is a “beat” that imitates a worldly style. If it seems no different from something that you would hear while you were out somewhere. For example, I know that you and I have both listened to (and loved) some TobyMac songs. There’s nothing against some of his songs, but overall I would have to say that it does imitate the world in its “beat”, for lack of better wording. There are some of his songs that I think are really good (i.e. City on Our Knees), but then there are some that sound just like any other “worldly” song (i.e. Showstopper). I think if we analyzed what we listened to and searched for what we thought of as a “worldly beat”, we would be able to realize more what that looks like. Did that make any sense?

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  2. I would say you got pretty good tests. Nice job!

    I do have one question though. If I am singing a psalm to a “worldly” beat, is it worship or not? Do lyrics or a beat define worldliness? Honestly, I’ve always wondered what the definition of worldly is, as you and I have talked about before.

    To me, my definition comes from 1 Jn. 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

    That seems to be a fair definition of worldliness (“all that is in the world”, “is of the world”.) So, any song that promotes any of those three things in my heart is worldly.

    I’ve never understood the idea that worldliness is looking or sounding like the world. I do tons of things everyday that are undistinguishable from what unbelievers do. (I wear t-shirts, enjoy fishing, exercise, etc.) None of these things are considered wrong, even though unbelievers do them. Why?

    Thank you for taking the time to think through an issue like this. Most people in our church circles don’t bother to, so it means a lot to see someone actually pursuing truth!

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    1. *Sigh* I don’t know. I’m too exhausted to think clearly right now, and your question just made my head hurt. I’m not entirely for sure where the line is drawn for everyday things and for things that are of the world. I haven’t completely figured out that one. I was tired last night, too, when I replied to Mikayla H.’s comment, so if I said something that’s wrong, I’m sorry. I’m not in a mental state to determine these things right now, it’s been a long day.
      You basically are saying though that it’s a matter of personal conviction?

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        1. Okay, so I guess I agree with you. (I think.) I haven’t actually heard a lot of definitions for “worldliness”, just out of curiosity, what have you heard?

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      1. Honestly, I’ve never heard anyone give a definition for worldliness. From sermons I’ve heard on the topic, I would say a paraphrase of the accepted definition would be something like this, “behavior or thought patterns similar to the world”. However, that definition, as I said before, doesn’t seem to make the foggiest of sense. We all do too many things similar to the world.

        I think 1 Jn. 2 makes a better definition, because it makes more sense. It’s addressing anyone in the world who is falling prey to those three sins. “All that is in the world”. Everything that falls in the category of worldliness fits into those three categories.

        That means that there will be some things that tempt me to pride that don’t tempt you, and vice versa; once again, different for every individual. I think that is why Paul never offers a list of things that are worldliness like he does for sin. The sins he mentions are always sin. I don’t believe there is a set standard of worldliness that is true for every individual anywhere in the entire world.

        I guess what led me to this point was this question: why doesn’t Scripture give a list of things that is worldly (a mohawk, blue hair, rock beat, etc.)? It’s strangely silent, which has given many pastors a chance to insert whatever they are against into that blank. But we see Paul himself commanding the church to obey certain of the culture’s customs (for example when he speaks to the Corinthian church about women keeping their heads covered, it was because that was what their culture mandated. Now if worldliness really was imitating the world in any fashion, then Paul would have told the Corinthian church to do whatever the blazes they wanted with their heads! But instead, he told them to stay in line with their culture.)

        I don’t know this for sure; I’m still trying to think through all the angles of it. But very good article and good tests!

        Sorry, here I go, long-winded again!

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  3. Fabulous post, Lauren! You tackled this very well. I love how you clearly state that a lot depends on personal conviction, that you can’t control someone’s faith. Good job. I also appreciate you tidbit on dancing; as a dancer myself, I feel you handled that well. It reminds me to dance only to glorify my Saviour. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Cassie! I don’t really like to base a lot on personal conviction, because I think that it opens doors for excuses for things that aren’t acceptable, but I also think there are things to base on personal conviction. Thanks for the encouragement!

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