The Problem with Christian Music

Leading worship is an honor.  Leading worship beside the incredible people that I get to lead beside is even a greater honor.

One of the things I have loved about this team is their commitment to musical excellence but also doctrinal integrity.  Not only do they take what we lead seriously, but they have also worked so diligently studying the Word as we crafted songs that would come straight from the Bible.

We have set aside hours of songwriting but we have spent more time on Bible study than anything else.  That process caused our worship team to know the Bible more and that was a worthwhile pursuit!

Don’t Sacrifice Theology for Creativity

What has been unique in each process is that we have fought the urge to use trite, “Christianese” sayings in these songs.  In the attempt to get an easy rhyme, we could feel the temptation to sacrifice theology.  Never sacrifice theology for the sake of creativity.

Never sacrifice theology for the sake of creativity.

Our job is to help disciple people through worship music (Col. 3:16).  Fight to make sure that music for the Church is biblical instead of poetic.  If it can be both, great!  But if you have to choose one, make sure you always choose the Bible.

It honestly has burdened me concerning certain Christian music produced in recent years.  While I used to loathe the lack of quality concerning musical production, the CCM community has made leaps and bounds over the years.  And why shouldn’t it be quality?  Of all people, the Body of Christ should be playing and singing with excellence (Ps. 33:3).

I am no longer concerned amount the lack of quality in Christian musical production, I am concerned by the lack of commitment to the biblical message.

Good Music with Bad Theology

I have listened to songs on the radio that lack real biblical depth.  I have sat in worship services where I felt like the band was highlighting themselves more than Jesus.  I have listened to lyrics in church gatherings that are  filled more with mystical, New-Age thinking than pure, biblical truth.

If you write music for the Church, if you are a band in a Christian genre, or if you are speaking on behalf of God to a religious gathering through the medium of music, make sure that you are correct in what you sing.

I’d rather hear good theology sung sub-par than bad theology belted out to the masses.  I’d love to have both, but I know what I’d rather choose.

I’ll take pure, biblical doctrine over catchy, snappy, or trendy any day.

In fact, I believe there are some Christian and worship bands out there today that originally wanted to go mainstream.  They desired to be a generic artist on a larger platform.  They did not have what it takes to make it in that arena, so they “Christianized” their lyrics and became legends in the Gospel music genre.

Church people are so used to encouraging anyone in church with any level of degree with musical talent (“well, God is a lot more concerned with the heart…” “I guess you could call that a joyful noise…”), that when we see a group or an individual with decent talent, we sometimes check our head at the door because our ears are so inspired.

In fact, you can see this trend every time that you hear a Christian artist described as, “If you like this secular band, you’ll love…If you like this music from this raunchy entertainer, this is the Christian version…”  Don’t even get me started on this one.

Don’t check your head at the door just because your ears are inspired (or shall I say tickled [2 Tim. 4:3]?).

The Power of Music

If you listen to Christian music, listen to biblical Christian music.  Realize that these are short abbreviated sermons, and some of them are just plain awful.  They are not biblical.  They have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5).  Find some music that will push you more into the Word and not music that mystifies your theology.

If you are writing or performing Christian music, please get in the Bible.  Many people will listen to Christian singers more than they listen to their trained pastor who is not ashamed in accurately teaching the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15) and that scares me to death.

You might think I am being too harsh, but I want you to respect this power.  Music has a way of changing emotions (1 Sam. 16:23) and that is an extremely powerful characteristic.  Hours after a sermon, someone could still be humming a tune he or she heard.  They probably are rehearsing the lines from the music more than they are a sermon, so we must be careful what we allow to go on repeat in our minds.

Artists, you must be careful wielding this powerful tool called music.  Your lyrics are on repeat more than just in someone’s ears.  Take that responsibility seriously and provide the Church with biblical thoughts to get stuck in their heads.

Know Jesus Before You Write Music About Him

If you are listening more to the musical trends in culture than you are the voice of God through Scripture, don’t presume to speak for God.

You could be confusing the masses.  And even though you may not see yourself as a teacher, you have assumed that role in this arena and therefore will experience a stricter judgment (James 3:1).  Tread cautiously with those rhymes and those lines.

If your Christian song lacks such theological depth that I could replace “Jesus” for “baby,” you need to go back to the drawing board and get into the Bible.

If your song lacks such depth that I could replace “Jesus” for “baby,” you need to get back into the Bible.

Give us some depth, saints.

The Bible is the accurate description of an infinite God, and I promise that you will not run out of material when you get lost in those pages.

If you are going to write music about Jesus, at least get to know him.

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.

3 thoughts on “The Problem with Christian Music”

  1. Great article. I have always thought this. I have heard several bands on Christian radio stations that have been playing on other stations. I was like how can their music be portrayed a music glorifying Jesus Christ?

  2. the last time I cringed listening to (Christian) radio it was a local preacher taking a break from his sermon on why Christians no reason to ” worry”..,etc…..the song they played during the break was “I Won’t Have to Worry Anymore”…music trumped scripture….Go figure!

  3. To be fair though, many of the Psalms are metaphorical in nature. If they are to be held as Scripture does that not say that God delights in creativity? Before anyone replies with “yes, but it must be in the confines of the Bible”, remember that David did not have “the Bible”, but the Law as they knew it. It was God who inspired David but also David’s creativity in describing God. We are told we “see as through a glass darkly” which is itself a metaphor. The World itself is a metaphor for God “his invisible qualities are made known.” Yes, we should all avoid terrible, cheesy, watered down christian songs that are just awful, but to say that Theology trumps Creativity? That’s a little weird. God is larger than that. He is greater than our intellectual understanding/rationalization of Him which is WHY music is so powerful. Music does not need words to be more convincing than a sermon. Music does not need theology to be “Biblical” (though the proper word would probably be “divine”, since the term “Biblical” is apparently so relative that we can’t even decide on which denomination/belief is correct). Your article makes good points, but it’s also dangerous to put God in a box regarding anything especially creativity. He moves in ways we do not understand and His ways are not our own (at least according to the Bible). The point is, God is greater than “Biblical”, I know that sounds blasphemous but it’s not. Noone tells butchers how to “Biblically” cut meat (unless they’re Orthodox Jews). Maybe if we let people of God express the creativity God gave them we’ll see better music in general. It’s not the artist’s fault half the time. They have greedy labels and producers essentially telling them to write watered down crap that the christian populace will buy. Maybe if Christians knew better they could determine for themselves what is and isn’t truly “Biblical”/Godly. Why are artist’s punished for adhering to the very cheap guidelines their less educated bosses put on them?

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