I have to be honest, this is something I have struggled with for ages. As a musician, I have gone back-and-forth between wanting to only do Christian songs and to do no Christian songs at all. On the one hand I see the positive influence that Christian musicians could have but on the other I see the excesses of the Christian music industry and it really turns me off. Sometimes Christian music comes off as little more than a method to sell music to Christians. Somehow calling it Christian is equivalent to calling it kosher. All the lyrics have been inspected and are uplifting, written in the code language of Christianese, therefore it is good for Christian consumption.
Please don’t misunderstand me, there is a place for truly Christian music in worship and as edification for Christian people. It’s a wonderful thing to encourage believers and that’s part of spiritual gifting for some people. Edification is just as good as teaching or preaching or any other spiritual gift. We are encouraged to “speak to each other with psalms hymns and spiritual songs”. But let’s not forget that one person’s spiritual gift is not the same as the spiritual gift for every other person. Some people are called to be evangelists, and evangelism doesn’t have to be undertaken with the same music and tools as you are using in the church. The truth is people that aren’t in the church simply don’t understand that language any more.
The thing that I see with Switchfoot is that although they aren’t openly Christian in their branding, they preach Christ in a way that perhaps someone who doesn’t know Christ might understand. To me it’s kind of like translating Scriptures into a different language so that someone else can understand them. If you only use the King James to communicate with a nonbeliever they’re never going to understand you. In the same way if you come at a nonbeliever and just shout “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” at them they’re not going to hear you anymore than they would hear the Westborough Baptist Church. Kind of goes back to the last post I made about disagreeing with your neighbors; are we trying to win an argument or are we trying to actually introduce someone to Jesus?
If we are truly called to “go into all the world” why should we be apprehensive to sing songs in a nightclub, or bar or anywhere else where the lost can be found? Jesus dined with sinners in the sinner’s house, will we find the courage to do the same? He did so without being conformed to the world, and through the power of the Holy Spirit alive in us, we can too.
This article titled “Why Switchfoot won’t sing Christian songs” contains a great quote by lead singer Jon Foreman. I also contains a ton of depressing comments by well meaning Christian people who just don’t seem to remember what it was like to be unsaved. If they could only hear and understand the freedom of Christ perhaps they would be willing to “become all things to all people in order to reach some.” There are some lights in the comment soup however.
Doug Pierce, a worship pastor quoted the following…
Derek Webb said, “The word Christian, when it applied to anything other than a human being, is a marketing term.”
I think, almost always, that calling your art “Christian” is a way to sell your art to “Christian” people. It says, “buy my music because I love Jesus.” It’s one of the reasons Jesus went ballistic on the money-changers.
The lead singer for Rascal Flatts once tweeted a scripture…in that one small moment he reached more people for Christ than almost all the CCM Industry combined. Most of America has tuned “Christian Music” and “Christians” out. I’m on a plane and someone asks me what I do for a living. I say, “I’m a pastor”. The conversation is over. He picks up his magazine and buries his head. If I say, “I’m a musician”, the conversation continues. A relationship can form and possibly one day he’ll be ready to HEAR my thoughts about Faith. Until he’s ready…it’s nothing more than white noise pushing him further down the path of apathy toward God.