Why I Don’t Write “Christian Music”

Mali & Me

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

8 Thoughts on “Why I Don’t Write “Christian Music”

  1. Ben Bitter on 27 March, 2013 at 8:48 pm said:

    So well said, Mali. I have trouble articulating this point to fellow believers. I have a nice starting point now. 🙂

    • Thanks Ben! I hope that people will at least become a bit more open-minded about this issue, even if they don’t agree with my perspective.

  2. Laura Holdsworth on 27 March, 2013 at 10:53 pm said:

    Excellent post Mali. Very impressed with your line of thought and could not agree with you more!! Hope you are well 🙂 xx

  3. Good thoughts! I’m a Christian, and I write music, too . . . I’m wearing my Christian clothes, and eating my Christian food everyday . . . and pretty soon I will need to go somewhere in my Christian car. But first I have to practice my Christian music 🙂

  4. Hi there Mali

    I left the Christian church 8 years ago but while I was there, from about the age of 5, I grew to understand the power of free worship and what can happen when you create a mood for people to connect to their spirit, without having to worry about singing along to specific lyrics or melodies. I have experienced a similar awakening when attending Indian Classical music concerts or simply listening to said music.
    When one fades out the words and allows the pure notes to flow over your soul and spirit, you are compelled to drift into your own likeness and that is where true healing can begin.

    The piece you have written here is a compelling one! And have certainly helped to clarify a lot of the nonsense/judgements that many a fundamentalist have placed on the subject of music and its role for the modern day christian.
    Like this, “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?”

    BUT, ““Worship Music” is exclusively for Christians, and is not really something that non-believers can participate in.”, I cannot agree with. A few years ago I was exposed to a group of musicians who played Qawwali – a very well known form of Sufi music. This music uplifted me and I rejoiced in how it brought me closer to my sense of my own spirit. Western “Worship Music” can have a very similar effect on the ‘non-believer’ and thus one should be cautious in alienating a multitude of people, by saying (on a web-based platform – reaching all sorts of believers) that only Christians can participate in this genre of music, that we all know as worship music. Yes, the kids at Assembly probably wont dig you preaching about jesus through song, and I certainly cringed when any band tried to convert kids from stage but I feel you were a tad murky there, in a piece that had so much clarity and beautiful sincerity.

    Wishing you continued success with your music.


    • Thanks for your comment, Joshua! You make a very interesting point.

      What I was getting at is that if you write “Worship Music”, you’re very likely to alienate the majority of non-believers. I base this on observation – I don’t know a lot of non-Christians who are Matt Redman fans (for example)! And that’s fine, if writing worship music is what you feel led to do – we can’t be all things to all people.

      There are, of course, exceptions – I myself used to enjoy some worship music before I was a believer (although not in the same way as I do now). Music has the power to stir the emotions – people can be emotionally moved regardless of whether or not they agree with the sentiment of the song. However, I see the emotions and the spirit as distinct from one another. One can surely influence the other, but I don’t believe that an emotional experience and a spiritual experience are synonymous (although they can coincide). And I don’t think that someone can fully participate in the act of worshipping through a song if they don’t believe in the thing that is being worshipped, even if they are moved emotionally.

      So, you are quite right – non-believers can certainly participate in the enjoyment of worship music, even if they’re not participating in the act of worship itself.

      Does that make sense? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

      I will definitely consider re-wording that part of the post to better reflect my meaning!

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