What Makes Christian Music, Christian?

There’s a bit of a debate as to what makes Christian music, Christian, and it’s something I thought I’d voice an opinion on. Though I don’t have all the answers to define what’s Christian and what isn’t, I can give you what I think on the subject.

I think there’s a line that separates between music that’s good for Christians, and music that isn’t good for Christians. Though it’s been argued that there isn’t such a thing as secular and Christian music (as some, including myself, believe it’s not a person, thereby it can’t possibly be Christian), there is such a thing as Christian morals and values in music. While I agree putting the word Christian in front of something doesn’t necessarily make it of Christ, Christian music does present values that Christians can grab onto, whilst secular music sometimes lack in that area (you’re not going to find any ‘trust in Jesus’s’ in the mainstream market).

So what makes Christian music, Christian? Is it the values it presents, the worship it often brings, or the Christians who play it? What I see are three groups Christian musicians fall under. One: The musicians that sing about Jesus, and no one but. Two: the musicians that sing about Jesus, but also want to appeal to the mainstream audience. And three: The musicians who are Christians, but separate themselves from the Christian music scene altogether. I love artists in all three categories, but what group really fits into the Christian music label? If it’s number one, is it more Christian than the others?

I used to be a firm believer in group number one myself, even going so far that if an artist didn’t say the name of Jesus, or even talked about God in every one of their songs, it was enough to almost make me abandon the artist altogether. I even threw out albums I’d bought because not every song was about Jesus. Looking back I can see that that was a pretty ridiculous mindset to have towards music, and since then I’ve nearly departed from the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) scene altogether, apart from, of course, some of the incredible artists still running in that industry. In its place, I’ve begun listening to artists in the independent scene, that is, the scene where artists aren’t signed to major labels, and so usually never make it into Christian stores. But what the Indie scene is missing is its amount of worship artists. It’s incredibly limited, and a lot of worship artists that are in that scene were originally in the CCM industry to begin with.

So should we label independent artists like Copeland, Jars of Clay (who were sort of in the CCM scene, but are now independent), and Sleeping at Last Christian, or secular? What about bigger, mainstream artists like Switchfoot and Needtobreathe? Should they be labeled Christian even though their music is mostly far away from the worship scene?

Listening to only worship music or music that sings only about God, is brilliant, but while singing “Lord I Lift Your Name On High” will bring me into worship, it isn’t really going to strengthen my Christian walk. I love music that speaks to every aspect of the Christian walk, from the happy times, the worshipful times, and the broken, depressing times. These songs help me draw closer to God and to live the life He called me to live.

The truth is, sometimes we just need some encouragement, sometimes we just need to hear songs that talk about loving people, sometimes we just need to hear songs that hurt with us in our pain, and sometimes you just need to hear a song that’s romantic/

We should have a soundtrack to every part of our lives. Music can reach so much deeper into our lives if we branch out of worship music and listen to music that travels into every part of our lives.

So what is Christian music? I think it all comes down to personal opinion. Where some might clearly see God in a song, others might see something else that coincides with their worldview. While some might see a song about a man and woman, others could easily see it about God. I’ve even been inspired to worship by some secular songs because I see God in it all. It’s my worldview.

So if a song points you to God and you see God in it then I can’t see how it can be anything other than Christian, even though others may label it, or even you, otherwise.