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What makes Christian music Christian?

Christian music, Contemporary Christian Music or CCM is a broad range of music, from pop to rock from rap to top 40 radio. But the lingering question which has overshadowed Christian Music since it began as a genre way back in the late sixty's and early seventies -what makes Christian music Christian?

Christian music draws thousands to festivals every year.
Christian music draws thousands to festivals every year.
Photo by Theo Wargo

In the early days Christian music, or Jesus music as it was sometimes refereed to, used the folk music of the time combined with spiritual lyrics to spread the message of peace and love which moved through the love of God. In the early years the Christian music movement was more or less rejected by the church because of its secular musical associations of beat and rhythm but the Christian music movement persevered and continued to grow. In the words of one of CCM's early pioneers, Larry Norman, "why should the devil have all the good music?"

As noted on Wikipedia, "there were two albums recorded in 1969 that are considered to be the first complete albums of "Jesus rock": Upon This Rock (1969) by Larry Norman initially released on Capitol Records, and Mylon – We Believe by Mylon LeFevre, released by Cotillion, which was LeFevre's attempt at blending gospel music with southern rock. Unlike traditional or southern gospel music."

There were other pioneers of the early Christian music movement, such as Keith Green, John Michael Talbot, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Petra, among others.

All through the seventies and into the eighties the Christian music movement grew into and became a multi-million dollar industry. Some artists like Benny Hester, Amy Grant, Stryper, Jars of Clay enjoyed cross over success. Even as the CCM gained popularity in the Christian community there were still questions in the church about what makes Christian music Christian- the lyrics, the person singing the lyrics or the contents of the songs.

The answer to the question can be all of the above or none of the above. What makes Christian music Christian is the heart of the person who sings the song.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23, "21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’’"

What Jesus is saying in this passage is the actions of the person do not matter, as it pertains to someones salvation, it is where the heart lingers that matters. A 'Christian' artist must have a heart for God which is reflected in their lives and which will come out in the lyrics to their songs, no matter if they blatantly mention Jesus or not.

There are two books in the Bible, Ruth or Song of Solomon, which do not mention God but through their words obviously point to God. The same should hold true for an artist who is Christian and writes and publishes music- the end product even though it may not mention God must reflect a Godly perspective.