Confessions of a Pastor #2 – I don’t listen to Christian music

Posted: October 15, 2011 in Serious Stuff, Words

The radio in my truck has six preset buttons, and since I don’t have a CD player, I push those buttons a lot.

Well, most of them.

The six presets on my truck radio are as follows:

  • #1 – Local Christian radio
  • #2 – ESPN radio
  • #3 – “Adult Alternative” (Wide variety- Springsteen to Mumford; Black Crowes to Decemberists)
  • #4 – Pop/Top 40
  • #5 – 80s Music
  • #6 – Local news/weather/etc

I spend 90% of my time on numbers two and three.

I never push #1. I just don’t like most Christian music.

There are a few bands and artists I like, but for the most part it all sounds the same to me. Generic, full of cliches, boring. Lots of talk about “opening doors” or “moving mountains.” Lots of songs where the message is “you can do it, girlfriend, because God loves you.” And I just don’t like it.

And I consider myself a very musically diverse person. My iPod has Jason Mraz, Jay-Z, James Taylor, and Jane’s Addiction. I grew up in a house that had albums- vinyl albums – by the Beatles, Willie Nelson, Jimi Hendrix, Kansas, Ray Charles and dozens more. I know music. I love music. But I don’t like most Christian music.

And I know what some of you are thinking- “But Jared, it’s about the message. The message is what’s important.” OK, but most of the time the message is packaged really terribly. I like to drink cream soda, but if you pour it out of a shoe we’ve got problems.

I agree that the message is important. In fact, Christian music has the most important message of all. So shouldn’t the style, creativity, and delivery of the message reflect how important it is? If it’s the most crucial message on the planet, shouldn’t it be delivered in the most powerful, moving, beautiful way possible?

Instead, what we get is a hundred bands that sound alike. A hundred pretty girls in their mid-twenties singing about blessings and being beautiful. A hundred songs with the same lyrics and same chords and same instruments and it bores me to tears.

So, I choose to listen to music that I like instead. Stuff that makes me sing loud and drum on my steering wheel. Songs with clever lines and weird melodies. Odd rhythms, unique voices.

Like I said, there are some Christian musicians I really like. And to prove that you can be both Christian and beautifully creative:

__________

__________

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Comments
  1. efchristi says:

    I have both a radio and a CD player in my truck, but I don’t listen to either. I sing only Christian songs and the majority of those songs are placed in my heart by God. When I visit churches and assisted living facilities, I go in with one song on my mind and God places others in my heart during the presentation.

    I offer you a challenge Jared, invite me to sing at your church – it will be a wonderful experience and change of pace.

    E.

    • i’m sorry if you didn’t mean it that way, but this response sounds very self-serving.

      • efchristi says:

        I don’t mean to sound self serving, I only want to indicate that God puts songs in our heart for a reason and we should use them for His Glory. The fact that Jared doesn’t listen to Christian music on the radio, to me shows there is room for a better experience. Listen to the songs God puts in your heart – you just may be surprised.

  2. djw2410 says:

    i agree bro…i listen to either the old Brownsville Revival worship, Jesus Culture worship, or ESPN Radio…lately its been the latter…KLOVE just seems to be beggin for money here lately so they lost a listener…and 88.1 sounds horrible…good point and good blog…

  3. I don’t listen to it either. We have this wonderfully creative Creator and too many of us are just not. I read recently that is we are boring and dull it might be a sin. Why don’t we strive to be God/Christ honoring with our creativity. Let’s max our imaginations.

  4. here’s the problem with Christian music, it’s the radio program directors. they operate out of a place of fear. they are terrified of getting complaints. artists, musicians, engineers and producers are working really hard to make good music, but nobody will play it on the radio.

    with the recent exception of Gungor who is not focused on the Christian market.

    Christian radio requires everything to be watered down to it’s most palatable form. anything bold or new is unequivocally rejected.

    unless we all start calling and asking for it in force.

    ask for Gungor, Audrey Assad, anything off of Music Inspired by the Story…there is good music out there they can play. we just all have to ask for it. a lot. the good stuff just never gets heard.

  5. Scott Moore says:

    Like you, I spend about 95% of my time in the car listening to sports talk. It is a disease, really. I dont care at all about the University of Georgia’s offensive line play, but I will listen it being dissected for 45min. I’m not sure why.

    “I like to drink cream soda, but if you pour it out of a shoe we’ve got problems.” Well put, my friend.

  6. yeshuab says:

    Is this where I inset a pastoral plea to come back to the fold? Jared I struggle with the same issues. I spend my days trying to find musical alternatives for students and it is hard. I will say this…no one laugh…some Christian Rap artist are really presenting a message that is not simple or cute or cookie cutter. My biggest issue is the lack of art period in the church world. I will say this…I find it interesting that bands like you have posted are really throw backs to older generations and are just a counter to the current pop scene. The first song you posted is simple and yet profound but really is meant to mock Christian culture. I will stop ranting but I enjoyed your post.
    One final thought ….I struggle personally with not being too much of the world. I know people abuse that verse but I really do. Sometimes I need to detach and be alone with my father and I can not do that while listening to Kryptonite or Smells like Teen Spirit.

    • Jared says:

      “My biggest issue is the lack of art period in the church world.”

      Totally agree. Last time I checked, the God we serve is pretty creative. We should try hard to reflect that.

      • efchristi says:

        It is not that today’s songs are not creative, the words are wonderful, as is the message, the problem is the music itself. The background music is way too loud and you can’t hear the message.
        In my opinion, for what it is worth, we don’t pay enough attention to the words that are sung. Even on a Sunday morning in church, we sing the songs, but don’t listen to the words we are singing. We miss the message because of it. This is the main reason I sing accupella. The main message needs to be heard and when you add the Spirit from your heart with the words you can accually feel the message moving.

  7. First of all, that second song, awesome.

    Second of all, yes cream soda out of a shoe is gross, but so is cod liver oil. That is to say, my complaint is, yes we’ve done a bad job of packaging a good message, but we’ve also badly packaged a bad message. “Generic, full of cliches, boring. Lots of talk about “opening doors” or “moving mountains.” Lots of songs where the message is “you can do it, girlfriend, because God loves you.” That makes us sound like Oprah Lite and the world sees that, calls us lame, and rightly so. If we’re going to be seen as fools in the world, lets let it be because we have this crazy message about God saving sinners through Jesus on a bloody cross. i.e. give me “Amazing love how can it be/ that thou my God shouldst die for me.” rather than, “I wanna be beautiful/ make you stand in awe/ look inside my heart and be amazed.”

  8. Andrew Z says:

    Powerfully honest and refreshing. Thanks

  9. skottydog says:

    Jared, first off– “God Is Not A White Man” is brilliant! Thanks for that! We have played it about 20 times already! Good music, good lyrics, great video!

    It’s nice to hear another Christian say that they don’t particularly care for Christian music as a whole, just because they are Christian. My wife and I have struggled with this our whole Christian lives. We don’t “hate” any type of music, but some types just don’t grab us. We’ve tried. We just can’t force ourselves to like something because we’re supposed to like it.

    No one has yet presented a case for a good Christian artist that, song after song after song, has changed our life. Many friends, family, and church members in good intention have tried. Many have also told us we shouldn’t be listening to “secular” music at all, because it doesn’t glorify God.

    Many of those same people also”bless their food to our use in Jesus’ name” while eating a Big Mac. To quote Bono, “where’s the glory in that?”

    I love bands such as Tool, David Gray, and The Smiths, and admittedly there are some songs that I REFUSE to listen to, when it comes to blasphemous content. But I’m not going to throw out 25 years of great music for a few songs. I’ll just throw out those songs.

    But find me musical depth and intensity like say, A Perfect Circle, Tool, or The Cure, and I’m in. Or lyrics like David Gray, Ryan Adams, or The Avett Brothers and I’m on board.

    But for now, I’m just on “bored”.

  10. dankulp says:

    I had a spell of hating Christian music. Then I found Andrew Peterson. That guy sings a story. He’s surrounded himself with some quality folks too – the Square Peg Alliance (Jason Gray, Randall Goodgame, Andy Gullahorn, Eric Peters).

    • Jared says:

      Oh, I totally agree. I got the chance to hang out with Eric for a couple days earlier this year. Those guys are good musicians and great people, too.

  11. Lisa says:

    Hmmm…. well, I love it when this guy I work with sometimes leaves his pandora open on the computer- then I get to steal new ideas for stations. My taste in music is all across the board 🙂

    It is great to see the perspective of Christian music from a musician’s point of view. Many times I’d rather put in a cd instead of our local Christian station and you’ve put into words what I could not.

    Oddly enough, I’m usually prefer contemporary Christian, but lately I have been missing hymns (mostly because it’s what is on my heart). Funny, I think we have the same #3 choice!

  12. Lisa says:

    Poor edit…*I* usually prefer….

  13. joshfults says:

    I just bypass Christian radio altogether. I think there is plenty of good “Christian” music out there. I just by the music I like. I also do not think that music ALWAYS has to talk about God to be “Christian”. God also created music for music’s sake. I think we can worship through creative music that isn’t necessarily about “moving mountains”. If it isn’t profane or negative, then whats the problem? But as far as Christian musicians go, here are a few of my favs: Jon Foreman, Mat Kearney, Needtobreathe, Mutemath, House of Heroes, Eisley, Switchfoot.

    Also, as far as the Art’s and Christianity, have you read Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey? If not, DO IT!

  14. JBen says:

    Love your examples at the bottom.

    The medium is the message.

    So if the music sounds like garbage, so does the message. The “christian” message from most mainstream CCM music is that God is safe for the whole family, slickly produced, and for upper-middle class white people.

    But, God still uses it. Sometimes that makes me mad. But he is probably smarter than me.

    • joshfults says:

      Yeah, and this whole principle isn’t limited to music, as some others above have stated. Any creative medium (music, writing, teaching, preaching, painting, etc) have people that invest themselves and do quality work and those who do just enough to get by. Some people are about pleasing others and playing it safe, while some take risks. Some people are in it for profit and others are in it for serving God. I am with you, God uses it all because His word doesn’t return void. But as for me and my house, we will seek out quality art. =) Because I think God created us to do all things the best we can.

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