What’s Wrong With Christian Music?

We recently sang a song during our Sunday morning worship service that prompted me to do some research. Here’s the song:

Friend of God
© Israel Houghton, 2003

Verse 1
Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me it’s amazing

Verse 1 Again
Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me it’s amazing

Chorus
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

Verse 1 AGAIN
Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me it’s amazing

So amazing, it’s amazing

Chorus
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

Random Repeated Phrases Similar to Chorus
God Almighty, Lord of Glory
You have called me friend
You have called me friend
You have called me friend

I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend
He calls me friend
He calls me friend…

Granted, we also did some traditional hymns, and I appreciate that, but this one encapsulates so many of the issues I have with the music we’re singing in church. There are three verses, but they’re all the same. The chorus is just the same phrase over and over.

Compare to the same message as expressed in these classic hymns:

Christ a Redeemer and Friend
John Newton, 1799

Poor, weak and worthless though I am
I have a rich almighty Friend;
Jesus, the Savior, is His Name;
He freely loves, and without end.

He ransomed me from hell with blood,
And by His power my foes controlled;
He found me wandering far from God,
And brought me to His chosen fold.

But, ah! my inmost spirit mourns;
And well my eyes with tears may swim,
To think of my perverse returns:
I’ve been a faithless friend to Him.

Often my gracious Friend I grieve,
Neglect, distrust, and disobey;
And often Satan’s lies believe
Sooner than all my Friend can say.

Sure, were I not most vile and base,
I could not thus my Friend requite!
And were not He the God of grace,
He’d frown and spurn me from my sight.

He cheers my heart, my needs supplies,
And says that I shall shortly be,
Enthroned with Him above the skies;
O what a Friend is Christ to me!

And this one:

What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Joseph Medlicott Scriven, circa 1885.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

There are important differences. First is the density of doctrinal content, yet without taking away from the poetry. Second is that Jesus, rather than the writer is the object of adoration. That is, in Friend of God, I am a friend of God. In What a Friend We Have In Jesus, it is Jesus who is my friend. The former is name dropping; the latter is praise. The former lifts me up, the latter lifts Jesus up.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14)

3 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Christian Music?”

  1. Thanks for posting this, I agree with you that the contemporary praise and worship is repetitive and many times the chorus is repeated 3 or 4 times before the song leader/worship director finally decides to end the song. I am not opposed to contemporary music but we need to remember where the focus of our praise and adoration is to be directed to, Jesus.

    I grew up in a traditional conservative church and we sang the old-time hymns which I love and cherish. After I was married, some of the churches we attended sang a mix of traditional hymns and contemporary praise and worship. Where we attend now is mostly traditional hymns still out of the hymn book with an occasional contemporary chorus.

    I would like to see more contemporary Christian music with less repetition and more story or contemplative verse in which the singer/reader can really stop and ponder on. Again, great article and thanks for posting!

  2. Craig,

    It is not the case that all hope is lost. See this song, which I would have sworn was an old hymn, but was published in 2001.

    In Christ alone

    In Christ alone my hope is found;
    He is my light, my strength, my song;
    This cornerstone, this solid ground,
    Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
    What heights of love, what depths of peace,
    When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
    My comforter, my all in all—
    Here in the love of Christ I stand.

    In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
    Fullness of God in helpless babe!
    This gift of love and righteousness,
    Scorned by the ones He came to save.
    Till on that cross as Jesus died,
    The wrath of God was satisfied;
    For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
    Here in the death of Christ I live.

    There in the ground His body lay,
    Light of the world by darkness slain;
    Then bursting forth in glorious day,
    Up from the grave He rose again!
    And as He stands in victory,
    Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
    For I am His and He is mine—
    Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

    No guilt in life, no fear in death—
    This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
    From life’s first cry to final breath,
    Jesus commands my destiny.
    No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
    Can ever pluck me from His hand;
    Till He returns or calls me home—
    Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

    “In Christ Alone”
    Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
    Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

    (from http://www.gettymusic.com/hymns-inchristalone.aspx)

    1. I agree. It’s not that all recently written Christian music is bad, it’s that our churches often choose the wrong music to sing. I’m not opposed to contemporary instrumentation or contemporary composers. I’m opposed to any singing, preaching, or teaching that waters down the message, or hides it in inanity and ineptness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.