Fixing Christian Radio: Part Deux

Fixing Christian Radio

Fixing Christian Radio

Allright, so a few days ago I posted a blog about an idea I had to fix “Christian Radio.” You can read the blog in it’s entirety here, but the gist of it is that I propose we separate music made by Christians into two general purposes: one station plays solely music written and designed for corporate worship, while another station plays solely music written by Christian artists “not” designed for corporate worship.

I received quite a bit of interesting feedback, and so I thought it merited some followup thoughts on my part. Here are 2 primary reasons, in more detail, WHY I wish Christian Radio would separate their music.

REASON # 1: Works Against Proper Understanding of Worship

I’ll use some excerpts from people’s responses to get started:

Brian writes: “I don’t see how Christian music can be separate from worship, though. What’s the point?? If as a Christian you are not bringing worship 100% there is no point, whether you are a worship leader or a “Christian artist”

You bring up a good point, here Brian, and on one level I agree with you. But I think Logan is correct when he offered this:

I believe that when Colby is talking about “worship” he is being very specific to what would be considered “corporate worship,” or actual music that you would find in a church being sung by a congregation.

In my original post, I was trying to make that distinction, and when using the term “worship music,” was doing so in the context of music specifically designed for use in a corporate worship environment. The word “worship” is so multi-faceted and has so many dimensions and layers to it, that it really does require a note about how the author is using it. Most certainly, one way to talk about worship is like what cnhutch wrote:

It’s true that all music, indeed all of life, is worship. When we understand that worship is a bowing down or submitting oneself in attitude and in action toward another, then it’s true that everything we do in life as believers should have this bent.

So this would be where I agree with your overall sentiment, Brian, that all Christian music could effectively be labeled as “worship” music. It might be

  • a) written as an act of worship by the author
  • b) listened to as an tool for worship by the listener
  • c) sung as a demonstration of worship by an individual and/or congregation

In this sense, you could use a very broad definition of ‘worship’ and apply most (hopefully all) music written by Christians as worship itself (the product) or able to assist in worship (as a performance).

But I think you can, (and as I argue, maybe “should”) separate the music as best as you can. This is one thing that bothers me now about going to a Christian Rock concert where there is a section of “corporate worship” stuck right in the middle of the rock show (which is the inverse of what bothers Janice:

There is a time and place for special music, but not smack dab in the middle of deep and meaningful vertical worship (I, Colby, might agree with this as a general principle, but I do believe that if well chosen and well executed, you can have a very meaningful, powerful, and impacting moment of worship with a special music stuck “smack dab” in the middle)

Back in the day, I used to love going to Third Day shows for this very reason; fantastic “corporate worship” time in the middle of the show. But now, I think I take issue with it. I don’t think we are training people well to separate these two moments, these two realities.

Third Day Concert - Entertainment? Worship? Both?

Third Day Concert - Entertainment? Worship? Both?

One says, “come, be entertained… observe but don’t participate… watch and enjoy.” The other says, “come, be engaged… enter in and participate… join the hosts of heaven and earth.” Is it possible that we are, indirectly, cutting off the branch we sit upon by blending these two realities so closely? Are we just to assume that people are able to cognitively flip off the “observe” switch and enter in to “participation?” Is there too much in common between these two that it makes it hard to distinguish one from the other? This same distortion of distinctions between these two realities is happening on Christian Radio, and that’s a big part of why I wish they could be separated.

It’s not unlike a principle my wife and I share in our house with our kids. We try and teach them that some words are okay for grown-ups but NOT for kids. And if certain words find there way into a general conversation, we pause and remind our kids that these are “grow-up” words, not suitable or acceptable for their vocabulary. It would be unfair for us to expect them to know the difference and separate the two if we didn’t teach them about the differences. How could we hold them to a certain standard if they didn’t know where the boundaries were?

In the same way, maybe Christian Artists need to take more responsibility to understand their influence on people, and “teach” them in their concerts that they’re shifting gears from performance to corporate worship. Maybe the DJ’s on the radio could assume the same responsibility?

REASON #2: Waters Down Good Christian Music

Okay, I get that this is totally subjective, and I’m not asking you to completely agree with me, but I DO think that mixing “songs made for corporate worship” and “songs made for general enjoyment” are crafted differently. And a lot of people’s critique that “Christian music” is lame comes from a set of expectations and standards that “songs made for corporate worship” are never intended to meet. But again, throwing them all together on the radio makes it impossible to separate this.

I’m not saying that “songs written for worship” are NEVER creative, unique, or good art. But I may offer that “most” songs of this nature are not written with those goals necessarily in mind. There is a LOT of really good music being made by Christian artists out there (most of it you can’t find on the radio, but that’s a different story) that I believe could really turn a person from a place of, “man, Christian music is lame” to a place of, “wow, I didn’t know there was GOOD music in the Christian industry!”

So if there was a designated station where songs of this nature could be played, and not be “watered-down” in a sense by songs written for a different purpose, I think the Christian Music Industry would get a lot more respect and credibility from the outside world, and they might actually give it a listen!

What do you think?
Have you ever found yourself with mixed feelings about corporate worship? (is this “entertainment” or “engagement?” Do I “observe” or “participate?”)
Do those lines get blurred sometimes at church? Have you been to a concert where this has happened, and how did you feel?
Have you ever made the comment, “Christian music is lame,” or something similar?
Why do you think that is?

I welcome your responses and thoughts…

Fixing “Christian” Radio

Chris Tomlin - Gifted Worship Song Writer

Chris Tomlin - Gifted Worship Song Writer

As a worship leader, it is sometimes assumed that all I listen to is worship music, or at the LEAST, “Christian” music. Closely related is the assumption that I listen to K-Love or Air 1 whilst in my car.

Without bursting any bubbles or crushing people’s thoughts of me, I emphatically say that I listen to all sorts of music, and rarely does my dial cross Air 1 (and never does it land on K-Love).

Now please, don’t think that I’m “against” either of these (or other “Christian” stations), it’s just that they’re not really for me. I’m not particularly inspired by much of the music (by inspired, I mean both spiritually moved and/or encouraged or pushed to something new and different “musically.”) and I tend to get bored of hearing the same artists and the same songs.

However, I don’t think all is lost. And so, I propose the following changes to Christian Radio. And if something like this WOULD happen, I would be a dedicated listener of “Christian” Radio.

1) Separate the music that is created for “worship” in a corporate setting with music that is created for the sake of good music. What I mean is this: I don’t find it particularly healthy to blend so closely together a song that is written for and meant for use in public worship with a song that is meant for the purposes of entertaining/inspiring/encouraging/convicting/etc. I’m constantly frustrated by how “worship” has become so marketable, as though it’s just another genre of music. When we hear, on the radio, “Made to Worship” by Chris Tomlin, followed directly by Jeremy Camp’s “There Will Be a Day,” it evokes confusing feelings. On the one hand, we want to jump in and sing along and enter into meaningful worship. On the other, we want to sit back, watch and listen, and be lifted up by powerful vocals and moving lyrics. Then, we get to church on Sunday, we half-expect a show, or concert. To be entertained and inspired, like the songs on the radio. We switch in and out of “engaging in worship” and “watching a concert” modes. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely the potential for genuine worship to occur in simply listening to and soaking in a song. We do it often (i.e. “special music” pieces). But the juxtaposition of “worship” music (music written for and intended for the purposes of singing together in corporate worship) and non “worship” music (music written by songwriters and bands for the purpose of entertaining/encouraging/etc) can lead to fuzzy thoughts and expectations about worship.

So, my thought is to have different “Christian” radio stations with different purposes.

Let one station be all worship music all the time. And let another station be devoted to all those singer/song writers and bands who aren’t trying (and don’t want to be) the next Chris Tomlin or the next David Crowder Band. A lot of bashing on Christian music as a genre, by various music snobs, is in regards to the poor level of creativity and originality of songs they hear on the radio. But the problem is that songs written for the purpose of “worship” are written DIFFERENTLY than other songs. They’re written SO THAT they can be somewhat simple and easy to remember. Relatively un-complicated melody lines and song structures. Somewhat plain or ordinary production and arrangements. This is all intentional so that thousands or millions of people can play and sing them. But if songwriters and bands who do NOT write like this were given a separate station to be played on, I think many of those “snobs” who bash Christian music would think differently.

Wanna listen to worship music? Tune in to 107.1 for artists like Matt Redman, Hillsong United, Brenton Brown, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Paul Baloche, Rita Springer, etc.

Wanna listen to original, creative, unique, and great music that happens to be written by Christians? Tune in to 107.7 for artists like Andrew Peterson, Matt Kearny, Brandon Heath, Brooke Fraser, Logan Martin, Phil Wickham, Jimmie Needham, etc

That would be great. I would listen to both at different times, depending on what I’m looking for.

I think this could help the perception of Christian music, increase the number of listeners, and work towards a more healthy view of worship in the church.

2) Hmmm… Re-read the first idea, because it’s a good one.

What are your thoughts?
Do you listen to Christian Radio, and if so, why?
Do you agree that there are different types of “Christian Music,” songs written for the purpose of worship and songs written for the purpose of making art? Am I just paranoid about thinking these different types should be separated?

Song for Today

If you’re a “Christian,” and you tend to not like “Christian-music,” then I invite you to check out Lincoln Brewster’s newest release Today is the Day.

For me, it’s one of those albums that, from a musical perspective, does not sound like a Christian album.

For instance, check out “Arms of a Savior.

I think you’ll
a)  appreciate Brewster’s fantastic chops on the electric guitar
b)  find satisfaction in some of his non-expected arrangements and composition
c)  enjoy his simple but beautiful lyrics, that definitely sounds like a Christian album.

Enjoy.

Lincoln Brewster : Today is the Day

Lincoln Brewster : Today is the Day

Heaven? Which Heaven?

Some common phrases heard in Christendom  go something like this:

When I get to Heaven, I will ______________

I can’t wait for Heaven because ____________

This world is not our “home,” Heaven is…

And here’s what I often want to ask the person making such a statement, “Which heaven are you talking about?”

I think most people, when speaking in terms like the above statements, have in mind a definition for “heaven” as the place I/we will “go to” immediately when we die. To which I might say, “well yes, and no…” So, the whole sentence might go something like:

When I die, and go to Heaven, it will be like _____________

When I die, and go to Heaven, I will ______________

This world is not our “home,” when I die I will finally be in Heaven, I will be “home.”

Before you start crying “heretic!”, hear me out on this.

I’m NOT saying that when you die you will NOT be found to be in the presence of God, in a place you can probably safely refer to as “heaven.” What I AM saying, is maybe this is a misleading word/term to use in some contexts. I think that maybe, when we make statements like the above ones, what we REALLY mean by “heaven” is the time and place described by John in Revelation 21 and 22. Let me show you:

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down OUT OF heaven FROM God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is WITH men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” -Revelation 21:1-5 (emphasis mine)

“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending OUT OF heaven from God.” -Revelation 21:10 (emphasis mine)

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, as the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” -Revelation 22:1-3

A few questions for you to consider:

1)  Do the things in these verses resonate with much of what you think about when you think about “heaven?” (i.e. God wiping away tears, no more death or pain or sorrow. In the presence of and dwelling with God. The curse on the world and all those in it being removed. Healing… life…)

2)  When does John see these sorts of events taking place? In the middle of history? (such as, when people die right now?) Or at the end of history? (if you read the first 20 chapters of Revelation, you’ll discover that John is seeing these things at the end, or culmination of history as we know it now).

3)  What is happening with the interaction of “earth” (our domain) and “heaven” (God’s domain)? And how does this align with the prayer that Jesus gave us, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, ON EARTH, as it IS in HEAVEN.”

Here’s what I’m getting at. There’s nothing inherently wrong with making some of the above statements about expectations or thoughts about Heaven and what it will be like. In fact, the anticipation and hope of Heaven is one of our greatest gifts. But I do think more intentionality could be given to describe WHICH Heaven we are talking about.

Jesus spoke of the “Kingdom of God/Heaven,” as God’s reigning and ruling presence on earth. It’s what He came to announce and establish (leaving us in charge of implementing it). He spoke of “Paradise” as being the place to which the dead immediately go to when they die (in the presence of God and Himself? Yes, of course. The final destination and/or home? No.) Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and John all talk about the “new Heavens and the new Earth” when talking about the end of all things, the final destination, when God truly and finally puts the world to rights and dwells once again with man as He did in the beginning. When Heaven is JOINED to Earth. Our final “home,” if you will, is not in “heaven” (God’s current realm, what Jesus called Paradise), but in the NEW heavens and earth. THAT is our final destination. THAT is our final hope. THAT is when we receive our resurrected bodies and enjoy the wonder and beauty and glory of God’s restored, renewed creation in perfect harmony, peace, and love.

I just wonder if sometimes we confuse ourselves and others when we use the two interchangeably. When we use the term “Heaven” to describe both where we go when we die, AND where we go AFTER the place we go after we die (when God puts all the world to rights, and brings all of “heaven” with him to re-join the new earth). There is “life-after-death,” AND there’s “life-AFTER-life-after-death.” Two similar, but very different realities and places.

Or maybe, if you’re like I was about 4 years ago, you never realized there’s a difference? Maybe you, just like I did, sorta lumped all we knew (or thought we knew) about “heaven” in to one big pile in our minds, and thought of it all as the “place” we go when we die. If that’s the case, I encourage you to do some reading and studying… I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

For a good place to start, check out Surprised by Hope, by N.T. Wright.

"Surprised by Hope" by N.T. Wright

"Surprised by Hope" by N.T. Wright

Other Scriptures to read would include:
-Revelation 21,22
-1 Corinthians 15
-Romans 8
-Philippians 3
-Ephesians 1
-Isaiah 25
-2 Peter 3

What do you think?
When you use the word “Heaven,” what are you thinking/referring/meaning?

Song for Today

Today’s song comes from the incredible vocal chops of Amos Lee.

This song, “Careless,” is a beautiful cry from a frustrated heart. Light in production, heavy in melody and vocal blending.

Check out more from Amos Lee, each of his 3 albums are filled with surprises.
Great for background music, cruising in the car music, or just lying in bed with the iPod music.

Amos Lee - Careless

Amos Lee - "Careless"

Song for Today

Today’s Song is: “West of Her Spine” by Bell X1

A great little number from Music in Mouth, Bell x1′s 3rd album.

Stripping down much of their usual instrumental layering, West of Her Spine uses primarily acoustic guitar and banjo to create a “sittin’ on the back porch sippin’ lemonade and seranadin’ my girl” atmosphere.

Should put a smile on your face.

*If you’re not familiar with Bell X1, they are a folk/rock group from Ireland with a sound you can only get from across the pond. It used to be the band of Damien Rice, current brilliant and successful singer-songwriter. Cheers to Scott Erickson for introducing them to me.

Bell X1

Bell X1