CCM has been kind of a dirty word for a while in the Christian community, and it’s been forgotten what this subset of Christian music is supposed to sound like. At one time, artists like Amy Grant, Michael W Smith, Rich Mullins, Steven Curtis Chapman, DC Talk, Jars of Clay, and several others, infiltrated Christian and secular airwaves with music that was positive, either spoke directly about having a relationship with Christ or alluded to it in a ‘seeker friendly’ way. In the latter part of the 90’s, many young artists came to the forefront of the CCM scene, who were still young in their faith and life and promoted by major labels without care for their spiritual development and were sent out on the road to promote and tour their newly created albums. Youth, unproven faith, and situations that call for an incredible amount of faith in God, make a recipe for failure. Unfortunately, the American church burned the albums and careers of many young artists, abandoning them when they made mistakes, and in turn several CCM artists abandoned the American church. The American church then receded into a steady diet of praise and worship music, decrying any artist or music that wasn’t entirely devoted to worship, even discarding certain genres of music.
What is CCM? It’s not so much of a genre, as it is more of a focus or perspective. Praise and worship is music that is meant to enhance our relationship with God, for us to focus on who God is and to glorify Him through music, which can sound folky, bluesy, rocking, ambient, etc. What ultimately defines praise and worship is the inclusion factor, these are songs that are meant to be sung by all believers. Contemporary Christian Music’s focus is music that is about being in a relationship with Christ and tends to focus on songs about working out faith, doubt, and what it can be to struggle and release, love, war, etc. These songs should, and often point to Christ either overtly, or nudge the listener in that direction. CCM is meant to be listened to, not that they can’t be catchy or you can’t sing along with them, but the ultimate goal is more of explaining truth and struggle. These are songs that can be about love, joy, hope, people going through tough times, anger, resentment, with the ultimate goal being that Christ redeems us, in spite of ourselves. CCM, like praise and worship, can sound folky, ambient, Hot AC, Jazzy, R&B infused, classical, etc. If there’s a frequency God created, it can be used to either exalt His name or for some other purpose, it’s the focus that’s important.
Artists who have made CCM albums, have strengthened the faith of Christians and even brought some to Jesus where they would have gone on their way without thinking twice about redemption.
Let’s be honest here. I love praise and worship music, and you probably do too if you have a healthy relationship with Christ. But, praise and worship is not going to draw most non believers to Christ. It’s foreign and weird to sing love songs to someone you don’t know. Most of you wouldn’t step out on the street, grab a random person, and then start singing “I Will Always Love You” (a love song written by Dolly Parton made famous by Whitney Houston), with absolute sincerity in your heart to that person. Likewise, someone who doesn’t know Jesus, is going to find it really weird to sing along or listen to songs like “I Exalt Thee,” to a God they don’t know.
CCM is the evangelist weirdo of the Christian music community. Evangelists are weird. They walk into bars, step into nightclubs, befriend the biker down the street, and reach people that the average Christian won’t do, or can’t do. They can listen to a secular band or watch a secular show and somehow revert that all back to Christ and explain the gospel. They’re wired differently, they think and are moved to share the gospel in some of the most creative ways. CCM is filled with evangelists. They’re going to dress up in odd costumes, they’re going to do odd things, they’re going to walk into places that most Christians would never dream of, or want to. They’re going to sound a bit like Bruno Mars or Lady Gaga at times, not because they adore those people or their lifestyle, but because there are people who follow Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga that need Jesus.
Can we, as believers, make an effort concerning CCM artists?
These are suggestions, not hard and fast rules of how to deal with CCM music and artists.
1. As a believer, develop your relationship with Christ. Spend a lot of time listening to the voice of God and in prayer, so that you not only know God, but how He works in people.
2. Pray for artists who are putting out CCM and Worship music. Pray that they have a strong community of believers and mentors to nurture and enhance their gifts.
3. If one stumbles publicly, be quick to forgive, and pray for them to be restored to relationship with Jesus. We all stumble, and in this day and age, it’s easier to stumble publicly than to hide mistakes.
4. Recognize that even a saved believer makes mistakes. Ask God to search you and expose to you all your mistakes, and you’ll be more forgiving when a public figure falls.
5. Recognize that we are not called to minister to the same people. Some are called specifically to go into really dark places and bring the light of Jesus. Even Jesus was accused of being a sinner because he was hanging out with sinners, publicans, whores, tax collectors, and other broken people.
6. Do not place CCM or Praise and Worship artists in an ‘idol’ position. Artists are people. Music is a discipline, much like math, science, grammar, technology, psychology, etc. You may be grateful for your doctor for finding or recommending something to help your ailment, or for some counseling you receive, but we typically do not readily worship our doctor, plumber, caterer, food server, etc. as we would an artist.
7. Because they are ministers of the Gospel, we should hold artists to a higher standard, but we are not called to crucify them when they fall. That’s read as a warning to anyone who is thinking about entering into a relationship with Christ, ‘if you screw up, those people will excoriate you like the Jews did to Jesus.’
Maybe a CCM artist hurt you by falling away, maybe they led some of your family astray with some bad theology.
We are not meant to argue what’s on the heart of God or what’s written in His word, concerning doctrine. If you believe someone is wrong, pray that God will show them correctly. I remember in a bible study, a woman came in and told everyone that she was beginning to explore ‘blind writing’ in her daily devotions. I did not confront her nor did anyone else, but I prayed that God would reveal to her the truth. The next week, she came in and explained she was wrong, that God will not reveal to her what’s in His word if she hadn’t read it. I believe the entire room breathed a sigh of relief, we must have all been quietly praying for her.
Imagine if all the believers who purchased the albums from those CCM artists who fell away from the faith, or were not in it to begin with, had prayed for them instead of worshiping their fame. The music landscape might be different today.
Let’s walk into this with eyes open. Quiet as doves, but cunning as snakes. Let us be aware that things can happen, people can be exalted, theology can become twisted, but let us also pray that the will of God prevails.
Let’s give CCM another chance.