By Tyler Smith- Youth Pastor and Author of Alektor DVD Series
One simple question has been on my mind a lot lately: When will Christians start celebrating instead of criticizing? Specifically, when it comes to Christians in music.
I’m very passionate about my Faith, and I’m very passionate about music. When the two of those collide, it can be a powerful thing. And I’m not just talking about worship songs, hymns, or the music you hear on Christian radio. I’m talking about Christians that make great art. Christians that dive deep into their lyrics. The ones who ask big questions in their songs, or even the ones who write about different topics but they’re singing from a Christian perspective.
The problem is, an unbelievable amount of Christians in the world falsely believe that Christian music should only be done a certain way.
“If you don’t mention Jesus by name in every song, you’re doing it wrong!” Or, “If you mention God in a song, you better be singing about the Gospel too.” Or how about, “This person is a Christian, but they only have faith-based lyrics in two songs on the entire album!” I see these comments constantly, and they just start online debates and turn people away from what Christianity is all about.
Jon Foreman of Switchfoot has dealt with this for the last two decades, which led him to write this article. He says:
“None of these songs have been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, He came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from Scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me…. We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach. we’re trying to be Switchfoot… Please be slow to judge brothers have a different calling.”
I’ve also heard him ask the question, “Would Jesus be in a Christian band? Most of His interactions were with people that didn’t fit in with the Church of the time.”
No offense to the Chris Tomlin’s of the world, but I think guys like Jon Foreman have reached more people for Christ than the ones who simply sing worship songs. There’s a need for both types of music, but which one is more likely to reach new people? And if Switchfoot is reaching lots of people in places outside the Church, isn’t that something to celebrate instead of criticize?
Recently, Lauren Daigle faced criticism for performing on “Ellen.” Why? I have absolutely no idea. But once again, some Christians thought it would be a good idea to judge someone for performing in a “non-Christian” setting. Because, you know, why would we want a Christian singer to get a platform like that?
Daigle responded by saying- “I don’t have all the answers in life and I’m definitely not gonna act like I do, but the one thing that I know for sure is I can’t choose who I’m supposed to be kind to and who I’m supposed to show love to and who I’m not, because that’s the mission right? Be who Christ was to everyone.”
She also performed on Jimmy Fallon recently, and you guessed it- I immediately saw tweets saying “I didn’t hear God or Jesus in the song!”
Another great example is rapper Lecrae. I can’t recommend Lecrae’s book, “Unashamed,” enough to you. He explains everything in great detail in that book. When I see people criticizing him for “not rapping about Jesus enough anymore”, I immediately tell them to read his book before saying another word.
Lecrae is reaching SO many non-Christians with his art, and instead of celebrating that, fans can’t stop whining that he has “non-Christians like Ty Dolla Sign” featured on his songs. It’s really unbelievable.
In his book, Lecrae says- “How can we be salt and light if we never encounter meat and darkness? “I could no longer sit comfortably inside my Christian subculture and thank God that He was keeping hell away. It was time to leave the religious ghetto and kick down hell’s front door.”
Stephen Christian is now a worship leader and was formerly the lead singer of Anberlin. In an interview, Stephen said- “Both are for God. One is in front of a Church, and one is for a festival in the middle of Europe. God gave me so many opportunities, even off stage, even though Anberlin was not a “Christian band.” Though the mission is the same, it’s a different platform.”
Despite all of these examples, this isn’t just about music. This is about life. Is every Christian supposed to work at a Church? No. Can you imagine if God called you to be a teacher in a public school, and Christians judged you for not being a children’s minister instead? Why not celebrate that a Christian is in a public school ready to impact the lives of many?
When somebody that has a troubled past accepts Christ, shouldn’t we celebrate that? Some people don’t. The Apostle Paul says hi. The 11th-hour workers (Matthew 20:1-16) say hi too.
When Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne accept Christ or sing songs to Him, maybe there should be more “Praise God!” comments than “I bet it’s not real” remarks.
When Christian pastors start Churches in bars… Is that not cause for celebration?
As Paul says in Philippians, “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
It’s time to throw away our criticism and start celebrating any work that glorifies God. Jesus spent time in synagogues. Our time in Church is needed and extremely important. But Jesus spent MOST of His time in other places, trying to “seek and save the lost.” We should follow that example, even when someone else’s calling looks different than ours.