Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gospel-Light "Christian" Music

I just read an article - two articles, in fact - on the topic of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music).  One was from a woman who grew up in the church, an avid consumer of CCM as a young teenager, who became aware of a truth that's not even on a lot of believers' radars.  She discovered that the majority of CCM is more focused on keeping up with the Jones' (i.e., secular music) than with Gospel content.  This is an insightful woman, for she further saw how CCM's intense desire for "relevance" mirrored the church's striving after the same.  In her longing for authenticity & truth, she saw through the vacuous nature of what she was being fed &, unfortunately, abandoned her faith.  Her words - both truthful & heartbreaking - should be heeded by believers, for statistics show that she's not alone.

"In trying to compete in this market, the church has forfeited the one advantage it had in the game to attract disillusioned youth: authenticity. When it comes to intransigent values, the profit-driven world has zilch to offer. If Christian leaders weren’t so ashamed of those unvarnished values, they might have something more attractive than anything on today’s bleak moral market. In the meantime, they’ve lost one more kid to the competition."
~Meghan O’Gieblyn

The second article was actually the one I read first, the one that led me to Meghan's aforementioned piece.  In citing it, Denny introduces his audience to Meghan's struggles & - accurately, I think - describes her as "a girl who becomes increasingly disillusioned with a vapid, degraded church culture".  From her experience, Denny draws some very important conclusions that - just like Meghan's words - should be given careful consideration.

"In any case, there is a lesson here for all of us. You cannot market the gospel like you market a Big Mac. I have seen lots of Big Macs in my lifetime, but I’ve never seen one that looks as good as the picture on the billboard. That’s because marketers are in the business of taking something ordinary and making it to look better than it really is.

This is the opposite of the ministry of the gospel. We are not in the business of making the gospel to look better than it is. It is already far more glorious and weighty and substantial than we could ever describe. The gospel doesn’t need to be photoshopped to make it effective, nor does it need an extreme makeover “Madison Avenue Edition.” It just needs to be preached plainly and faithfully. And where that simple proclamation occurs, people find it to be the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 4:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:5)."

Early on in our relationship, Michael tried to show me the shallowness in CCM.  At that point, I had listened exclusively to CCM for around 15 years.  I loved it!  So, I took his negative evaluation quite personally, & it made me angry.  Then, when he exposed me to Sovereign Grace Music, I thought it was "too churchy".  But, as I listened to the words in SGM & compared them to many CCM songs, I became aware of a vast difference between them.  The Scripture- & Gospel-saturated lyrics that flowed from SGM songs were riveting, while CCM was almost devoid of that which would make it truly Christian.  Now, that being said, not every song classified as CCM bears these characteristics; however, far too many sadly do.

A clear distinction needs to be made here between that which calls itself Christian - be it media, church, or individual - & that which truly is.  Just as not all that glitters is gold, not all that claims to be Christian actually is.  I wonder where Meghan would be now if she had seen this distinction.  If she had been in a church that unashamedly, unapologetically, unreservedly preached God's Word, that was faithful to God's Word, whose practices were informed by God's Word, would she have walked away from the faith that she was taught in her youth?  Because, when all is distilled down, this is not mainly an issue with music; it's an issue with the church.  And in the case of CCM, music is just a symptom of the underlying illness.