My husband, Cuan and I are believers. That is, we believe that Jesus is Lord, that he died to redeem us, and that Bible is the true and inspired Word of God. We are also musicians. You could say that we are “Christian musicians”. This is true, in that we are Christians and we are also musicians. However, a question that we frequently get asked by fellow believers is, “Do you write Christian music?”, or, “Why don’t you play Christian music”, or something to that effect. In this post, I hope to give you a new perspective on how faith and art can interact.
Firstly, let’s define what it means to be “Christian”. According to my understanding, a Christian is someone (i.e. a human being, not an object or an abstract concept) who has accepted Jesus as their Lord and saviour and is now following Him. The word “Christian” literally means “little Christ” – a term coined by the Romans, who noticed that the followers and disciples of Jesus conducted themselves much like He did. Thus, the word “Christian” can only be accurately applied to a person, since a) it is not possible for anything other than a person to accept Jesus as their Lord and be saved into the church of Christ, and b) it is not possible for anything other than a person to behave in a Christ-like manner. As such, the term “Christian Music” is a huge misnomer. Music can be inspired by Christ, or written by Christian people. It can reflect spiritual truths, or even directly quote the Bible. But these things don’t make the music itself “Christian”, since the music itself cannot choose to follow Christ.
I also dislike the assumption that anything other than overt “Worship Music” must, by default, be “secular” (the term “Worship Music” is also a misnomer, since all music is an expression of worship towards something). Secular means, “of the world”. The Bible is very clear that “the world” is at enmity with God. So what happens when one writes a song that is not a “worship song”, but strongly reflects a spiritual truth? How can it be categorised as “secular” or “of the world”, when truth is the very thing God delights in and the world rebels against?
It is true that we should glorify God in our work (in all we do, in fact). But what does this actually mean, on a practical level? Must a Christian carpenter carve Bible verses into all of his products in order to glorify God in his work? Must a Christian architect only design church buildings? What about someone who cleans toilets for a living? Is he spiritually inferior because he’s not a qualified preacher-man? Does his life glorify God less than that of a pastor? The answer, of course, is no – at least, not by default.
Christianity is not a genre – it’s a way of life. Equally, worship is not a genre. It too is a way of life, a condition of the heart. With every decision we make, we can either glorify or deny God, and which one of these we do is usually dependent on the motive or heart behind it. It is possible to stand in a church building and lead worship, without actually worshipping God. Equally, it is possible to do very ordinary things (e.g. wash dishes) in a manner that brings glory to God.
So, back to the original question: why don’t I write Christian music? Firstly, because (as discussed above) there is no such thing. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that the question is, “Why don’t you write music that overtly praises Jesus?” The main answer is that I don’t believe that’s what God wants me to do right now (that’s not to say that I don’t praise Jesus with my heart and with my very life). “Worship Music” is exclusively for Christians, and is not really something that non-believers can participate in. Whilst I know that not everyone will love what I do, or be able to relate to my songs, I don’t want to deliberately exclude anyone. I have no problem with those who do choose to write music exclusively for the purpose of edifying the church, but I don’t believe it’s what God wants me to do at this point in my life. If that changes, you can bet the content of my songs will change too. At present, the desire of my heart is to relate spiritual truths to believers and non-believers alike – to encourage those who already believe, and to bring a message of hope to those who don’t. I honestly feel like I don’t have much to do with most of the songs I write – they’re gifts, over which I am given stewardship. As such, I have no desire to strive to write anything other than what I feel compelled to write.
I hope this makes sense, and clears up some confusion for those who have been wondering why on earth a Christian would write anything other than “Worship Music”. If you have any questions, or have had direct experience with this particular issue, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Peace and love,
Photo courtesy of Warren Fleming