There is of course music written specifically for Congregational worship in a church setting. I love songs of worship, I love writing songs of worship, and sometimes a song so carries the presence of God on it. Yet it simply is not appealing to even other Christian circles, let alone a secular market. That's just the nature of communicating to God through art.
But then there's this soft pop rock that the Christian music genre is so infamous for, and I can't help but shudder in disgust and embarrassment at the artistic mediocrity displayed in these Ned Flanders stereotypes that modern pop culture snicker at.
On surface level, there shouldn't be much more than a few egos being hurt in the Christian arts industry, but it goes much deeper than that. When people find this art so un-relatable, they can disregard the message that is associated with the genre, thus putting us Christians on the back foot as the world attaches a negative connotation to the true message we're so desperately trying to spread.
There is great importance in the quality of art we produce for our King. Why? Because the world is watching. If they can glorify drunkenness and debauchery with such skilfully contagious swagger, then what, in our glorification of God, reveals His superiority that would appeal to them?
Truth is, I think we often sell God short in our uneducated scribbles of 'art'.
However, worship music hasn't always been so culturally segregated. In fact, in earlier eras such as the Baroque and the Classical periods, worship music was the culturally accepted supreme for listening and entertainment in the Western world. Indeed, it was an elitist social excursion to listen to sacred hymns, liturgical music and cantatas set to Christian literature by some of the biggest names of musical composition ever â J.S. Bach and L.V. Beethoven to name a few.
Of course these were in times when the church had a power closer to that of the government today, and when faith was an accepted â even forced â part of life. As information became more accessible however, the post-modern philosophy arose and 'religious belief' got separated from other facets of life. This social change had incredible repercussions in the artistic world, with artists expressing less about God and more about man.
Art â reflection and hope
Art is both a reflection of its context and also an image of what lies ahead of it, as it both reacts to social change and instigates it. This is very important to note because the responsibility it places upon artists is quite profound.
If what prolific artists write, draw, express and perform influences the culture of their context (which in this connected age of technology is not bound by geography), then what are the artists saying? If artists are voices that are speaking into the minds of individuals and into the culture of societies, then what are they saying and who's saying it?
If these are the very positions of influence that Christians once held, should we not wrestle them back? If this is where one's voice is the loudest and influence greatest, then let's work towards being those voices of impact!
The very title "Christian Music" was coined by non-Christian industry types in the modern era, confining its influence to a niche market of saved church-goers who are apparently tone deaf and about one generation behind popular culture.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love music that is tailored specifically to empower the body of Christ in worshipping God, and often non-Christians simply don't understand that. There will always be a place for this in the church and a market for this in the music industry, but I want to see more Christians in the pop charts, dropping hits that generations will remember as songs of their time.
Instead of kids wanting to grow up and be like Lil' Wayne or Eminem, their heroes will stand for justice and live righteously and fight for a cause.
Growing up impoverished and uneducated was never coolâ¦ until some artists started making incredible music that shocked, intrigued and captivated the world, saying they were proud of the ghettos they were raised in and the education they never got. They weren't preaching a particular message, they weren't pushing an agenda; they were simply making great art, representing who they were and where they came from.
It's time we rose up and instead of making Christian music, we need to have international chart toppers and number one hits, enchanting art and just great musicâ¦ simply made by Christians.
Daniel J. Mathew has finished his Bachelor of Music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and currently volunteers in Hillsong Creative, City Campus.
Daniel J. Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html