I’m alive and write Christian music, so am I a contemporary Christian music writer? Is contemporary Christian music acceptable for the believer?
The word “contemporary” means “current, present, living or existing at the present time”.
In that sense of the word, I am a contemporary (living) composer and writer. However, Contemporary Christian Music, commonly called CCM, goes far beyond that definition.
Music is a powerful force, one that produces a great deal of passion, and is a topic that is the source of much confusion and debate in Christianity today. No matter how deep our feelings, it is vital for those who are children of God to examine everything, including our music, by the Word of God.
There are some who say that the liberty we have in Christ makes anything permissible that is not overtly evil; but examining the Word of God teaches us that is not true. We are not to use our liberty as an occasion to serve our flesh (Gal. 5:13). We are to “believe not every spirit”, but to “try the spirits whether they be of God” (I Jn. 4:1). We are to “walk as children of light”, discern between light and darkness, and be separated from the world and that which is unholy (Eph. 5:6-17; II Cor. 6:17; Jas. 4:4). Satan’s plans to confuse and corrupt are often very subtle and cloaked in a shroud that resembles a lamb and light in order to disguise the dark wolf within (Mt. 7:15; II Cor. 11:13-15).
This post is not an in-depth examination of music. Rather, it will seek to look at some basic definitions, distinctions, and principles that can help us to discern the music that we should and should not choose to fill our hearts and minds.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Are all new songs “contemporary”?
- Should anything written recently be avoided?
- Is all “old music” good?
- How can we know?
First, it needs to be understood that Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is an established style and genre of music. Its goal is to meld popular music with religious lyrics so that it is marketable and “comfortable” to both the church and the world. This definition is from a secular source: (www.allmusic.com/style/ccm )
“Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is pop music with inspirational and religious lyrics. Musically, much CCM is indistinguishable from mainstream pop/rock, featuring the same melodic and production techniques. CCM developed in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as gospel artists found a new, more contemporary way to market their music. Using electric guitars and synthesizers, the religious music industry created a viable new form of gospel music that sounded like pop music – with their slick, professional productions, many CCM records could fit comfortably on adult contemporary radio stations.”
Though I am alive, and thus your “contemporary”, I do not write CCM music. I want no part of CCM, and am convinced that no child of God should. Its unapologetic purpose is to try to combine light and darkness, the church and the world, which God forbids (II Cor. 6:14-18).
There are some who will argue that only the lyrics matter. Lyrics do matter. One of the issues I have with many CCM songs is their lyrics. Many are doctrinally incorrect, or they are so watered-down and generic that they could easily be sung to your friend or lover instead of to Jesus. This last type of song is known as a crossover song, first because it is such an amalgamation of Christian and pop that it “crosses over” both genres. Second, many pop artists have “crossed over” from CCM to pop music through songs like these.
There are a few CCM songs whose lyrics have nothing doctrinally wrong with them. Some CCM artists may even take a classic hymn like “Amazing Grace” or “At the Cross”, and set them to contemporary music. What about these? Are the lyrics the only consideration?
Without going into a detailed history and explanation of music theory, I will assert that musicians and fans alike know that music matters as well. The rhythms and harmonies that define styles and genres of music do so because of how they affect and influence our bodies and our souls. The same crowd who argues that music style should not even be considered tends to reject traditional, conservative Christian music because it doesn’t “move” or stimulate them enough. Music that primarily feeds the spirit will rarely appeal to the flesh. Lyrics are important, vitally so, but the music that we wed our lyrics to is also vitally important.
Every song, old and new, should be held up to the light of God’s Word. If it is not faithful to the Word and distinct from the world we should stay away from it.
God has always given His people “new songs” (Ps. 40:3; 33:3; 96;1; 98:1; 144:9; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 5:9). The problem is not new songs, but an old deceiver. We need to guard our music. It is to be filled with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. It is to be a source of sound doctrine, spiritual teaching, and scriptural admonition (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
If we fill our hearts and minds with music that is weak and worldly, we are at great risk of becoming the same.