Radio Killed the Music Star

Gungor I Am MountainDo you listen to Christian Music by way of the radio like K-Love or Air1. It’s a great place to be inspired and lifted up by music that is always positive. Next question. Is that the extent of your music listening? These stations do a great job thinking through playlists of songs that will lift you up through your day. There’s a catch. They are incredibly narrow in the style of songs they will play. The multi-billion dollar industry of Christian music dictates very strict formulas for the music that will make it in the Christian Contemporary Music scene. That’s fine, its their gig. The shame is that hundreds of non-conformist music makers go unnoticed and unheard by the greater population. It’s the same for music that is not Christian.

Sunday morning comes and most of you expect to hear these same songs you listened to all week. Grace required now. I rarely listen to these stations and like to hold a sacred spot for each of the 5 songs that we will sing together. It’s not that we avoid these songs intentionally, not at all. A good song is a good song no matter where it gets played. In the end we error heavily on the side of songs that are at least very familiar in the local church at large. In the heart of every artist there is deep desire for originality and I, at least, think it best to stay away from creating Sunday morning playlists that are heard on Christian radio all week. Let’s enjoy those songs Monday through Saturday and have a unique experience on Sunday.

Here’s an idea for all of you who have limited your music listening to Christian radio. Seek out bands that are local or don’t follow the formulas, but create equally inspirational, thought provoking, and musical sounds. Use the internet and sites like Pandora, Spotify and others to expand your music listening. Consider listening to music that is not on Christian labels. They are real people who have real stories and might inspire you to new heights.

– Karl

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21 comments

  1. I see the point of the article but I feel that the church should incorporate both styles ESPECIALLY if a church member has made a song request. The church should respect the opinions of its members even if it conflicts with the singers creative vision because the members are what makes the church. Songs affect people in different ways and if a song touches one person then it may touch many more even if the band doesn’t get moved by the words. I fear this comment will fall on deaf ears as most seem to since the word on the street of church policy is my way or the high way when it comes to members opinions/ suggestions. I love the message every week and get much out of it but the worship falls short for me and is hard to get into.

  2. Interesting. After 22 years in full time church music, I have to say I agree with this blog.
    A couple of other points…..
    1. Music on the radio is entertainment, and meant to simply be heard. It can inspire, cause us to meditate, challenge us to action and many other good things. But by a purely biblical definition, the act of listening to music can’t be defined as worship. I fear that we as pastors have allowed a great deal of confusion on what worship is, when in fact, the Bible is very clear on the subject and leave’s very little to our interpretation or personal preferences. The bible does not say that we have to worship to go to heaven, buy my hope would be that all Christians would choose to worship not only on Sunday whether they like the music or not, but through all they do during the week.
    2. Music in church is for participating with(worshiping) and God alone is the audience. So we’re missing the point if we say we “don’t like the music” so we can’t worship. “Well Lord, I would have loved to worship you with singing but I didn’t like the songs they used in church. I guess you weren’t worth worshiping if my personal preferences weren’t meant.”

    I challenge us all to seriously consider what worship is and who it is for. When we do, we’ll worship Him every chance we get!

    Pastor Doug Olson

    1. Doug, thanks for joining the conversation. You make good points. The music and worship lines are so blurred. I didn’t even refer to music as worship for the reasons you stated. If it was truly worship we shouldn’t need to talk about the music. We talk about the music because its art and not worship. Art is subjective to each listener. I am very sensitive to that. I love music and seek out the songs of varying styles in as many places as I can find. Really appreciate your comments.

      1. Jonathon, you can’t defend that idea from scripture. Sorry. It would be like saying you can’t have communion unless Jesus Himself is the one serving it.(as it was described in scripture) Be careful of legalism. It tramples underfoot the amazing gift the Christ gives freely to any who ask.

      2. Yes Karl. Its possible to worship with music, as well as serving the poor, ministering to a widow, witnessing, or living for Christ during the week. It’s 24/7. Worship with music however is the only thing we can do on earth that we know we’ll do in heaven. I’m wondering how the style arguments will work then. When I have a brother or sister in Christ tell me, “I can only worship if…..(insert 100’s of things here).” My thought goes immediately to worship at the throne of God. What happens then if the style of music isn’t to your liking?

    2. Pastor,

      If worship truly is for The Lord and not for us, then would you say it’s appropriate to only sing the Psalms as they are inspired and meant to be sung? Should we not worship God according “to the pattern shown to us” and also to worship in spirit and in truth?

      1. Jonathan, worship is truly for the Lord and not for us. Psalm 115 right? The psalms have inspired countless songs that we sing today in our church gatherings. If I remember Jesus encounter with the woman correctly, when he told her about worshiping in spirit and in truth he seemed to free us from strict rules. My conclusion is that to “only” do one thing like sing the psalms would not give us any freedom to express ourselves to God in our own unique experience and relationship with him. I don’t claim to be right, its just my view. That was a very thought provoking question and I’m looking forward to reading a new book by N.T. Wright on that topic.

      2. Jonathon, I answered you above. The other consideration would be that if we only sang with the psalms, what we do with all of the great psalms, hymns and spiritual songs written today?
        Also, if we’re going down that path, we should make the music sound like it did in David’s time. We have great music historians that can demonstrate how that sounded. I promise you, everyone would complain about worship with music if we did that.

  3. Anonymous, thanks for reading and even more for commenting. We are a pretty close group of friends at FCC, so I wish you could let me who you are. The songs we sing on Sunday morning come from the radio, popular CD’s sung by the local church at large, and hymns and or classic choruses. I take song requests nearly every week and listen to those songs to see if they will be a good fit for Sunday. In the 13 months I’ve been at FCC I’ve been working to build friendships with everyone, listen and learn as much as possible. I haven’t heard about this word on the street, but I would love to hear more if we can talk and I can know who you are.

  4. I take short trips in my car, generally, and I’m guilty of camping on K-LOVE – there are times it is helpful for me, and many more times recently that it is more annoying than anything…

    I actually heard a lyric recently (and it’s in a song they play frequently, but I forget which one), that said ‘everything happens for a reason…’ Are you kidding me??? Is someone going to tell that to the person who just lost a loved one unexpectedly, (or even expectedly), or someone whose child was kidnapped, or a million other tragedies that happen to people in this fallen world – what kind of sick theology is that??? If we don’t provide a useful and real theology for people who are hurting through some the events of life on this earth, if our ‘Christian’ music doesn’t reflect that, then we aren’t giving people anything that is truly helpful in the dark times. And we manage to seriously misrepresent God with lyrics like that.

    1. SandPiper, no need to feel guilty, radio has its place, but there are so many other good options. When it comes to Christian music bearing the weight of perfect theology, I don’t know. Songwriters and composers observe and experience life and then respond to it. Good insights. Thanks so much for joining the conversation.

      1. The theology within song lyrics doesn’t have to be perfect of course (and couldn’t ever be anyway), but it could come a lot closer to the mark than it often does…I mostly think about this in the context of people who don’t know God well or at all…’Everything happens for a reason’ to me seems to paint God as this big bully in the sky, just waiting to throw his lightning bolts on random individuals. Which is a classic view that pre-believers often have. It would have been better for the writer to say something along the lines of ‘Everything happens…some good, some bad…and with God’s help, we grow as a result.’ (note to self: that particular sentence would not flow well in any song anywhere!) But, that is a better line of thought, especially for pre-believers who might catch bits of Christian music. And to be fair, that may have been the meaning intended – but it comes across to me as poor theology. And I hate to see God misrepresented like that.

  5. I understand how you feel, i felt that same way about talented artists getting overlooked because they do not conform to a certain style, but what i found (Especially in a topic like this one) was that our purpose in worship to take the congregation out of mindset of everyday obsticales and put us into state to where our hearts are open receive the message, glorify God, and proclaim the gospel. It shouldn’t matter where the music came from whether its from a Mainstream music station or an unknow indie station. If the song moves people and makes them feel closer to the Lord, then it doesn’t matter what station it came from.

    Also, please understand, that people are not as open to change like some of us are. If the worship service transitioned into playing mostly songs from unknow indie music artist, Many will fall off because they don’t know the song or what direction its going. People like what they are familiar with(kind of that whole comfort zone mentality)

    1. Companies know they can’t make bank on indie artists, which is fine. There are many ways to support the music. I 100% agree with your take on congregational music which is why I put mainstream songs requested by my friends and church members first. If I just played songs that I found on indie records it would lose most people. Participation is critical because Sunday is a corporate gathering. Great insights. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  6. I like it when we sing songs from K-Love because it makes it a lot easier for me to participate. When we play songs that are a little off the wall I kinda just stand there and awkwardly stumble my way through waiting for the next song and hoping I know it. Also wish we would do some old school worship songs that just make you want to throw your hands in the air. Hard to feel like your praising God to a pop style song or even just a more modern song. Old worship songs have simple lyrics and seem to really focus on God.
    Reading through the other comments and the responses to them I feel like the blog doesn’t really come across the way you had hoped. The blog makes it sound like you will not be using mainstream music in Sunday services anymore so I was a bit confused by that.

    Side note…. and way off topic…. really wish we would do altar calls. Feel like we miss a huge opportunity to pray for people who really need it because we kind of vaguely suggest they find someone with a name tag after service instead of calling them up right then and there to allow church volunteers and church members to surround them with love and prayer. When I joined the church a year ago I was in a bad place and could barely get through the worship and a church member noticed and wrapped her arms around me and it affected me in a way I never expected. Even if only one person comes forward it was 100% worth it….In my opinion 🙂

    1. Andrew, you need to help my boy Joel get back on track. Nice to have a future #1 NBA draft pick reading our blog. Now get back to practice. Texas is closing in and we need another Big 12 title.

  7. I hear you Kyle, familiarity is key when you sing. If you go to a show to hear your favorite band most likely you and everyone else know all the songs by heart. What makes it tough is we are a group of people who don’t have common music interests, we want to be apart of FCC not a band.
    Altar calls. They are an option and they have their place. The bigger thing is that someone made you feel loved and at home, which you are. Thanks for you insights!

  8. Okay so I guess there’s no right or wrong here- just opinions from different perspectives.

    Here’s my humble one: As many of us, I have experienced the gamut of “worship” styles. From hymn book only selections , contemporary songs from the radio, to rolling in the aisles gospel, and I enjoyed something about them all. I have to say though, that the current music I have experienced at FCC in the last 6 months since we’ve been attending is my absolute favorite. I feel that there is a balance of songs I’m familiar with coupled with new ones that have a tie to the message.

    I can appreciate enjoying the familiarity of a song on the radio- I listen to them regularly and it washes over allowing me to worship THROUGH it, which is nice when I’m driving along and needing to also pay attention to the road 🙂 But the music I experience on Sunday mornings at FCC has more INTENTIONALITY to it. Maybe because I have to sometimes learn new songs… Maybe because I have to focus on the actual words I’m singing to the Lord… Maybe because of the passion and transparency behind the musicians…

    For me, it has fulfilled its purpose which is to prepare my heart – making it soft and malleable so that I am ready to hear the Word. It seems to me that many others are moved as well- based on the reactions I can hear and see during the music time. I only WISH I was singing to the Lord with that much sincerity in my heart through the week.

    I also feel that there has to be some level of trust when I attend services at a place I have determined to call my church home. There is so much that I have to worry and stress about in my own job through the week- the last thing I want to do is stress over what the church staff is doing. I trust that the teaching pastor has prepared his sermon and chosen the topic not by any person’s preference but by the leading of the Lord. I also trust that the worship pastor has prepared the music in such a way that it will relate and prepare us for the message, born of his own wrestling with the Holy Spirit. If I had been the one to select the sermon topic and song titles… I most likely would have missed out on an opportunity to see where God wants to lead me… perhaps even PUSH me.

    All I really know is that I absolutely look forward to the music every week along with the challenge and transformation that occurs within my heart during “worship”. Thank you Karl for the thought, prayer and preparation that goes into that process Thank you also for writing this article and graciously encouraging feedback. I SO enjoy hearing these different opinions. I will accept your challenge to explore less known artists!

    If it’s good enough for Wiggins…

    And while I’m throwing out opinions… for what it’s worth- I agree with Kyle 🙂 It might be the Southern Baptist, Charismatic or Nazarene in me, but I do love altar calls!! It’s not an essential for sure, and it’s not a deal-breaker by any means; but some of us who need to come forward may find it easier to do so while music is still playing…

    In Christ’s Love,
    Jen

    1. Jen, let’s be honest you know me well, but what I know about you is that you speak from your heart. Thank you for your insights and for joining this conversation.

      Last year I had a short coffee conversation with an author, songwriter who I admire deeply. He had never been to Phx. This is what he told me, ” How can a songwriter working for a CCM label in Nashville know the heart of your people and their relationship with God? You need to look around your city and write the songs that God puts on your heart that relate to your people”. Not a day goes by when I don’t agonize over that, but I have tried to look at songs and the music and say, “this feels right”. But at the end of the day the situation remains the same, our people don’t have common music interests and we will likely never stop talking about our differences when it comes to music.

      The point of the blog was two fold. I’m building this great friendship with the people of FCC and finding out that we don’t have common music interests. People are always telling me about the songs they love. This was one of the ways I could tell all my friends that there is great music out there in other places. Second, to talk ever-so briefly about my heart for our Sunday morning sets. Its has been a great first blog experience. I can’t wait to carry it on and continue forward.

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