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The Myth of Christian Music

The Myth of Christian Music

This article isn’t aimed at encouraging you to stop doing “Christian music” in your worship services. I’m not proposing you sing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” pre-service, mid-service, or even post-service (though that song is infectious in all the right ways). No, you don’t need to worry about me asking you to do “secular” music in your services. Rather, I want to show you that “secular” and “sacred” are myths when it comes to music.

Let’s face it. Your favorite Chris Tomlin album won’t make it to heaven. Tim Hughes’ “Here I Am to Worship” isn’t sanctified.

I think we see Heaven as a Library of Congress. All the “Christian music” is copyrighted up there, and as long as Jesus is listed somewhere in the credits we’re free to use it. It’s like the CCLI license for our souls.

But Jesus isn’t in the licensing business. He’s in the business of bringing glory to the Father. And let’s just say it. Not all “Christian music” brings glory to the Father. And not all “secular music” brings glory to our religion’s he-who-must-not-be-named.

So “Christian music” is not Christian. And frankly, neither is worship music. Music is music. The question is whether or not it bring glory to God. And that’s all in how we use it.

Music is music. The question is whether or not it bring glory to God.

Note: I’m not suggesting you re-work Carly Rae Jepsen’s song to something like “Hey I just met you, and this is crazy. But I’m your savior, so praise me, maybe.” Please don’t. But I am suggesting a few things.

Christian music is not sacred.

Christian music isn’t untouchable. David Crowder’s “O Praise Him” will never be canonized. And even if it makes it to our holy hymn books, it doesn’t mean the song is sacred.

The Scripture is untouchable. It’s perfect. But many worship songs we sing are actually flawed. They’re filled with bad doctrine or misleading messages. That’s why it’s important to be careful what songs we sing. Too many Christians get all their doctrine from the songs they sing.

So what does that mean? It means you can mix and match and even change it up. If you don’t want to call Jesus the “darling of heaven crucified”, you can call Him the “Lord of heaven crucified”. If you don’t want to talk about heaven coming down like a big sloppy kiss, why not call it an unforeseen kiss?

Because here’s the deal: worship music is a tool – not sacred.

Worship music is a tool – not sacred.

Worship music isn’t your only tool.

Worship music is a tool to help people focus their minds and attentions on Jesus. It helps your congregation sing about His worth. But worship music isn’t our only tool for worship.

A well-executed and explained Lord’s Supper is a fantastic element of worship. It’s not just a tradition. What if we prepared the Lord’s Supper with the same artistry that we used for worship?

Baptism is a wonderful form of worship. Yet again, it’s not another tradition. Imagine infusing artistry into this wonderful confession of faith.

Both the Lord’s Supper and baptisms are mandated by Scripture. There’s nothing wrong with worship. But it also isn’t mandated by Scripture. This means it shouldn’t be the sole vehicle of our worship services.

Let’s step beyond calling five songs “worship”. Let’s start seeing this as a bigger experience than just a block of music.

Worship music can become worshipped music.

Worship music can become worshipped music.

Worship wars. Church splits over musical preference. This is the result of our elevating music to being “Christian” or “worship music”. When we start seeing music as sacred, we too easily engage in holy wars defending the stuff. We put the same effort and passion into defending what we see as God as we should in defending Scriptures.

Worship music too easily becomes worshipped.

We’ll even start worshipping our rock stars with guitars. We worship the worship leaders because they’re the keepers of the precious – of the worship music.

It’s not meant to be this way. The tool of worship is never supposed to be worshipped. When that happens we have an idol. And God won’t stand for it. He isn’t in to sharing the spotlight.
So let’s break this myth of Christian music. I’m not hating on the music industry or worship music. I love (sometimes) all of it.

But let’s focus on the right things. Let’s focus on God’s glory. Let’s focus on worshipping Him in spirit and in truth – whether music is present or not.

About The Author

Jonathan Malm

Jonathan is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of "Created for More," a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind. You’ll find him in San Antonio, Texas, roasting his own coffee beans and enjoying life with his Argentine wife, Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanmalm.

7 Comments

  1. C van Straaten

    There are songs I would use more if I could only “mix and match and even change it up” – but I’ve hesitated on changing words because of copyright issues. Is there no problem with changing a few words in a worship song if it’s only going to be used in a church service, not recorded or sold?

    Reply
    • Benjamin

      From what I understand, you can sing a song pretty much however you want. However, making a change to the lyrics in then displaying that change on screen is not, strictly speaking, legal.

      Reply
  2. Scott

    I disagree with the points you make about adding artistry to worship music, the Lord’s Supper and/or baptism. None of your points are backed up by the word of God and everything we do should be based on the word of God, nothing added, and nothing taken away. If people only want to come to church for the “artistry” then they are totally missing the beauty and purpose of God’s word and what we are asked to do when we assemble together.

    “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2 ESV)

    “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”
    (Proverbs 30:5-6 ESV)

    Reply
    • Jonathan Malm

      Do pastors add to the word when they tell stories to help illustrate their point? I would call that artistry.

      I’m not suggesting baptism become a broadway play…but a little preparation to help people connect with the event (as God told us to practice the event) is a good thing.

      I think you took “artistry” to making it about ourselves…it’s not…it’s about communicating it more effectively.

      Reply
  3. Scott

    Thanks for the quick response, Jonathan, I appreciate it and I really enjoy the site you have here. 🙂

    Pastors tell stories just like Jesus told parables. That’s totally fair game. A pastor relying on the need to have a 12-piece band/orchestra on stage while wearing a costume and with firework explosions in all directions (complete hyperbole to make my point of course) just to make a Biblical point is not necessarily forbidden in the Bible, but I do feel strongly that we have to be careful about what God feels is worthy and necessary, ESPECIALLY when it’s within the context of a worship service. The “artistry” and appeal to the audience should be reverent and should always try to come from God’s word and not any kind of “show”.

    “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
    (Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV)

    “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 ESV)

    Reply
    • Jonathan Malm

      Sounds like we agree. 🙂

      Reply
    • Stephen Duplantis

      Scott-
      Do you realize that the entire formula of our worship services are not biblical at all, yet we follow it? You want us to follow a biblical formula for something that isn’t biblical?

      Reply

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