“Today’s Christian music has a very distinct sound — a cheesy, pseudo-inspirational vibe that’s so recognizable by its lack of soul you can “sense” you’re listening to worship music even before the lyrics start.” – Steven Zoeller, “Point: Is Christian Music Relatable?” The Oklahoma Daily.
This recently-published quote and the question posed in the title really got me thinking. The author argued that the Christian/worship music scene has become so homogenized that it seems phony and manufactured. Artists aren’t free to express real human emotions, feeling they need to always be hope-filled and uplifting (sounds like a Christian radio station slogan, right?).
I happen to agree with a lot of the things the author said, but I think the title question misses the mark. It misses because many Christian artists and church worship teams have tried so hard to be relatable that they’ve become inauthentic. I mean this in two ways.
Let’s first look at the artist side. Combine the dreams of someone trying to use his talents for God with the competitive nature of the music industry. Anyone trying to put food on the table is going to have to face the pressure of creating music that will please a sizable audience. Similarly, to get on a listener-supported radio station (which most Christian outlets are), your music must suit the donors to be played. That doesn’t lend to freedom of expression and outside-the-box creativity.
Now take church worship teams. We all want our music to be “relatable” and appealing to the average (unchurched?) person coming in for the first time as well as the deep-pocketed congregant supporting the church building drive (come on, let’s put all our insecurities on the table and be honest!). Don’t get me wrong, we need music that allows us to be on one accord, but when the temperament and tastes of the audience get in the way of real, authentic worship expression, the cart is leading the horse.
We have to cast down the idols of audience and money in order to be real and authentic in worship. Look at the Psalms. They are full of expressions that would never make it on the radio. They have lyrics that cause us to question, “Is that even Christian?!” Those writers weren’t writing to an audience or a paycheck; they were being brutally honest before God. And guess what? Those lyrics have lived for millennia. Talk about relatable!
If you’re an artist or worship leader, stop worrying so much what’s going to build your audience and focus on what will build yours and others’ relationship with God – and be yourself! And if you’re just a music fan and the local radio station doesn’t play music that inspires you to be closer to God, get online and find some music that does.