When I was a kid and heard about “contemporary Christian music” I always assumed it was boring, dorky, or some other negative adjective. I hadn’t actually heard any of it but how could it possibly measure up to my Backstreet Boys, Garth Brooks, or Queen? (I had a varied taste in music from a young age. And I’m leaving out some of the more colorful choices I enjoyed…)
It wasn’t until I started attending non-denominational churches in the last ten years that I discovered what contemporary Christian music actually sounds like… and I completely fell in love. In fact, here’s an excerpt from the chapter in my book where I talk about Christian music:
I’ve always loved music. I remember my favorite song when I was 5 years old was “Good Golly Miss Molly”. (My mom was a fan of the “oldies” radio station.) Music has always brought me peace and joy. I loved listening to music from the 50s and 60s in the car with my mom. I loved listening to Queen and Aerosmith with my dad. One of my favorite memories as a kid is my dad, my brother and me blasting “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” and singing at the top of our lungs. I love how music can take you right back to a specific memory.
Jimmy Buffett always takes me back to sitting on the bow of our motor boat in the middle of a lake in North Carolina. Piano Christmas music takes me back to cozy winter evenings as a family in our living room around the fireplace. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” takes me back to college, dancing with Michael at 80s night. I love the emotions that come from hearing particular songs. I love the camaraderie of singing familiar tunes together.
As I’ve grown closer to the Lord, my taste in music has changed, but the effect music has on me hasn’t changed at all. I’d even say it’s intensified. If I have a particularly rough day, I no longer crank up some Eminem and sing along to his angry lyrics to feel a sense of release. (Don’t judge me. We all loved some Eminem back in the day.)
Now I crank the worship music. For King and Country’s “Joy” will absolutely turn my mood around on a bad day. I mean, who can listen to that song without smiling and wanting to jump up and boogie? My kids and I can have the worst ten minutes trying to get everyone out of the house for ballet and baseball, but if we get in the car and that song comes on, I can watch my kids in the back seat slowly start to smile, and by the end of the song, we’re all singing at the top of our lungs.
And don’t get me started on worship music in church. It can easily be my favorite part of a Sunday morning. There’s something about singing praises to the Lord in a large group… Plus I love being able to sing at the top of my lungs and no one is able to hear me since the music is so loud. LOL.
Recently, I saw a Tweet from someone that essentially said they think most current Christian music is really just emotional manipulation… that when we think we’re sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit, we’re really just being manipulated by a song.
Initially, I bristled at that thought because I didn’t like my beloved Christian music being attacked. But as with most things lately, I’m attempting to choose curiosity over criticism… so I decided to sit with this idea for a bit, pray to God for discernment, and see where it took me. This is where I landed:
That’s right… I had my biggest epiphany about this when I was in the shower a couple of weeks ago, singing a current Christian song at the top of my lungs. The water was very hot, yet I was still moved to tears as I felt goosebumps all over my body while I sang praises to the Lord.
There was no band in the background, no crazy light show, no beautiful voice belting it out with me.
Just me and my not-so-great singing voice and the steady stream of the shower.
Yet I still felt the same intensity of emotion… and would still say the Holy Spirit was present in that moment. So that tells me that it’s not about emotional manipulation, it’s about the lyrics. And aren’t those lyrics inspired by God?
Of course, it’s possible that some Christian songwriters aren’t channeling the Holy Spirit when they write their songs… sure, some of them may be motivated by fame and money. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here!
This music CAN bring us closer to God. It definitely helps me focus on God and His word and His promises when I listen to it and sing it. It helps me memorize scripture when songs include it word for word. And it inspires great conversations about God and the Bible when my kids listen to this music and ask questions about the lyrics.
And it might be your only connection to the Lord during a busy season of life.
So what’s your take on this debate? Is contemporary Christian music purely emotional manipulation? Or is it inspired by God and does it help draw closer to Him? Send me an email at email@example.com and let me know what you think!