Is most contemporary Christian music on the level of the song “How He Loves,” which explains that “Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss”?
After nearly four years of experiencing vigorous discussions about various worship practices within Christianity, I’d say that many students would answer “yes.” Since we focus on tradition here, it makes sense that students sometimes single out contemporary Christian music for ridicule.
I am sympathetic to people who dislike CCM. Sometimes, it seems like churches pick songs for their services based on popularity rather than doctrinal import. Furthermore, the lyrics of CCM songs are often poorly written, and some worship bands play the music as if they were playing for a rock concert.
Still, CCM is an acceptable option for Christian worship practices, and all Christians should recognize that there is theologically rich music within this genre.
Consider the CCM song “We Will Dance.” A big part of worship is celebrating and magnifying God’s name. The song says, “Sing a song of celebration / Lift up a shout of praise.” Worship should also point to doctrine. The song discusses the Christian hope of the deepest possible communion with God: “Oh, we will look on His face.” It reminds us that this experience will be corporate: “We’ll join in the song of the Lamb.” Christians have the duty of waiting for this coming of Christ with expectation since “the time’s drawing near / When He will appear.”
I first heard this song when I was five. I had an emotional response to the song, of course — it made me look forward to the glories of heaven with greater anticipation than I had ever experienced. But, even at that age, it also instructed me. I greatly enjoy studying theology and doctrine, and songs like this put me on that track.
Some Hillsdale students object not only to the lyrics of CCM but also to the instruments used to play it. But while some of us might prefer a piano or organ, Scripture does encourage us to use whatever instruments are available (see Psalm 150). This extends to praising God in whatever styles are around.
I’m not saying that everyone should be singing CCM at their church services. Rather, in our discussions about worship, we should think of CCM as a legitimate way of worshipping God from which Christians of all traditions can learn.
We do need to discuss the flaws of some of the music within the genre.
In the early days of Vineyard, the songs were often simple. Songwriters frequently took the lyrics directly from Scripture. These songs were beautiful expressions of God’s majesty and worth that helped the Christians singing them to think about who God is and delight in celebrating His goodness. Now, the songs are often expressions of personal emotions about God that do not reflect specific doctrines. We should think about ways to make it better.
Nevertheless, Christians don’t need to reject this genre. Those who generally disapprove of CCM should thoughtfully evaluate the best examples of the genre, rather than focusing on the worst. CCM has its glories, and we should appreciate them also.