Christian music used to be so simple. You knew what to expect.
You went to church. You waited until the song leader indicated that it was time to sing. (I went to a small church. We didn't have a music director. We did well to have fifty people there. We had a song leader.) You picked up your hymnal and the music portion of the service began. You turned to the page selected by the song leader, the pianist (only a pianist...no guitars, drums, horns, etc.) played a short introduction, and you started to sing. A very familiar tune. Someone's favorite, for sure. I think my daddy's was "In the Garden," but I'm not sure. We didn't talk about it much. I have no idea what my mother's was. Again, we didn't talk about it much. What was there to talk about? This is the way it was. Everywhere. This was the ritual.
Admittedly, there was not much life to the ritual. Don't get me wrong. I loved the people. They were either neighbors or people my parents knew or relatives. I loved them. I loved the songs. I loved the pianist. She was only a year younger than me and we took piano from the same wonderful teacher. Marla was better at it than I. She had that playing-by-ear thing going on sometimes. I don't do that. I wish I did but I don't. Sometimes we girls would sing. There were four or five of us. Sometimes Marla's mother would play and we girls would sing. Sometimes Marla would play and we girls would sing. Sometimes Marla would play, "Whispering Hope," and I would sing. That made me only slightly nervous. Playing the piano would have made me sweat bullets. I'd much rather sing.
Over the years Christian music has changed. If you listen to Christian radio, unless you're listening to a lively gospel station, you hear some contemporary, upbeat music that just might make you tap your feet. I like some of it, but some of it I find a bit problematic. The rap music makes me wince. In the first place, it doesn't do much for me because, truthfully, if I can't understand the words (and this is radio, folks, there's no lipreading) it doesn't do much to minister to me/help me minister to others/bless me/encourage me/draw me closer to Christ/teach me to reach others. It could be any of that other foul stuff on those other stations, for all I know. Right now, I'm trusting that it's not, seeing's how it's on a Christian station. But "Christian" rap is just, for the most part, a bit garbled, in my humble opinion. It has the rebellious sound that the other rap music has and the words just don't always come through the speakers.
Then there are the "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs. I wish I had come up with that cute little phrase, but I didn't. I heard a guy on Christian radio tagging them as such once and I realized that's a good name for them. You know the ones, don't you? There's one out right now called, "Hold Me," and honestly she could be singing it straight to her boyfriend as she says, "I love the way you hold me," and "Just when I feel this crazy world is gonna bring me down that's when your smile comes around." There isn't a real hint that she's talking to God. I looked up the lyrics online and she doesn't even bother to capitalize "Your" to make sure everyone knows she means any part of the Trinity. I searched for something that made me know it was a Christian song and the word, "Lord" is in there three times. You know, like, "Lord, I was born a ramblin' man." Or "Oh, Lord. Stuck in Lodi again." Or "My Sweet Lord," George Harrison's tribute to Hinduism.
Call me old-fashioned (I've been called worse) but I think Christian music should have something to do with Christianity. You know, God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. It should say that Jesus Christ is my life, that He is the One Who gets me through my day (which I think is what "Hold On" is supposed to convey.) It should tell you about Him, lead you to Him, praise Him, worship Him, scream that I'm nothing without Him, encourage you that He is your help in times of trouble.
You probably aren't getting the fact that I love contemporary Christian music by reading this, but I do. I love the songs that do what I just described, not the ones that someone hoped would be crossover songs and make it on the pop, rock, or rap charts. I like the ones that don't do a lot of "oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh" but that have actual words and that lift Jesus Christ up to people, that offer what He wants you to have, that praise and worship Him.
Church is for worshiping the Savior and telling folks about Him and what the Bible says, and I think the music part of the church service should do that as much as the sermon does.