Let’s Listen to More Christian Music

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CCM music

Last weekend I was working in my yard, listening to Pandora set to “shuffle.” Because one of my stations is “60s Oldies Radio,” I wound up getting Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” drifting into my earbuds.

I couldn’t reach into my pocket fast enough to hit the thumbs down icon on my iPhone. I hate that song and everything it stands for. Plus, since I was about 25, I’ve been committed to guarding my heart with my entertainment choices, and that includes the music I listen to. I strongly believe that to honor the Lord, my musical choices should be either positive or neutral. Nothing objectionable.  But as I mentioned, sometimes problematic tunes slip in.

I don’t just listen to secular oldies. If you were skimming through my Pandora stations you’d notice Chris Tomlin Radio and Hillsong United Radio, too. As you can tell, I don’t listen to Christian music exclusively, but I do listen to a lot of it. While jogging recently, I closed out my run with Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons.” I love that song because it reminds me that there are an infinite number of reasons why our loving Heavenly Father deserves praise!

I hope you listen to Christian contemporary music, too. A lot of it. If you don’t, I’d like to encourage you to do so.

When I started working for Plugged In here at Focus on the Family almost 25 years ago, our team was the new kid on the media-discernment block. Although there weren’t many voices encouraging the Body of Christ to make healthy entertainment choices (and there still aren’t), there were a few. One of those was my (now) good friend Al Menconi.

Menconi has championed the concept that, as believers, we’d be better off if we listened to Christian music. In his 35 years of ministry, he has spoken to more than a million people and closed nearly every message with a challenge for his listeners to consume CCM. In his book, The Christian Music Challenge, he spells out why he’s such a fan. He believes that listening to Christian music might cause a revival of sorts, both personally and nationally. I can’t do justice to what Menconi spent an entire book unpacking, but here’s what he writes:

The Bible promises us peace when we keep our minds on Christ.

When we, as Christians, start listening to a lot of Christian music, we begin to focus on life from a biblical worldview.

Our lives will begin to change when we’re led by the peace of God. We can start to see all of life from His perspective.

Others will notice the difference in our lives and will want to know how they can attain peace in our chaotic world.

I think Menconi is on to something.

Knowing that many of us need a tangible goal to propel us toward listening to more (if not exclusively) CCM, Menconi developed something years ago that he calls the 30-Day Christian Music Challenge. In a nutshell, he encourages fellow believers to listen to only Christian music for a month and at the end consider if the experience has been a boost in one’s spiritual growth.

Al has collected a boatload of testimonies from the many who’ve taken up his challenge and found the experience life-changing. I’ll close with one from Ray in Rochester, New York:

Your [Christian Music Challenge] not only changed my entertainment choices but it opened a whole new path where my spiritual life grew. I had no idea of the options (especially in music) that were available! Suddenly there were relevant songs, lyrics and artists! Your information came at a crucial point in my spiritual life. My faith was being stunted. With these new outlets I found myself spending more time in prayer, everywhere. Speaking to God, singing to God in the car, between meetings at work, a lot more than I believe I ever would have. All of that because of your challenge.

How about you? Are you ready to take up the challenge? If you do, email me in a month and let me know how it went. (bob.waliszewski@fotf.org)

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Elisa Kim 8 months ago
I love Hymns, when fully sung, not skipping the full biblical content and context, and specific Christian musicians that actually write their worship songs from a biblical and Christ centred worldview.

I stopped listening to secular music many years ago.  I only hear it because of others around me.  Or at work, because my boss keeps the radio on a secular station.  In my vehicle I always listen to Praise 106.5 FM.

I used to listen to my Christian playlists, I made specific playlists.  For serious worship.  For fun.  Christmas or Easter centred.  But gotten out of the habit, because I can't just download and listen like I used to.  Photos & videos take too much space.  App games, too.

Trying to get back to listening to my Christ centred playlists.  And podcasts.  Breakpoint, Focus on the Family and FamilyLife.

Very rarely I watch secular music videos of specific secular artists because it's like tv or film, for entertainment, but with discernment to reject secular glorification of unbiblical content.  And emotionally, mentally and spiritually affirming God's Word on the specific topic.

Still working on not watching tv or film with discernment.  Grown a lot, but still room to be more discerning.
James Gadomski 8 months ago
Um...did he just give Hillsong United as an example of "good" Contemporary Christian Music? Dude, modern worship is PRECISELY why so many Christians despise modern Christian music. Theologically shallow music filled with emotional manipulation and "boyfriend Jesus" lyrics doesn't magically become Christian because of the name Jesus. And quite often we find not only theologically shallow lyrics, but outright heresy in these songs. 

So no thank you: I'll continue listening to Gregorian chanting. You can keep your boyfriend Jesus songs. 
DeWayne Hamby 8 months ago
Great editorial, Bob. I agree. Christian music gives the words of life. Why wouldn't I want to keep pouring that into my mind? 
library_girl 8 months ago
I usually listen to classical or Lutheran Public Radio (or very select secular playlists that I've carefully collated in iTunes). LPR plays mostly hymns, which have more meat than a lot of CCM. As far as CCM goes, Matt Maher is my favourite  - since he's a worship musician in a liturgical church, his songs tend to have more substance/be more hymn-like than a lot of stuff.
n9wff 8 months ago
Much of CCM and CCW are devoid of true worship and biblical backing.  It is very weak on praise and strong on sounding spiritual.  Even CCW bases all on sales, not the Bible.  It's more on feelings than truth.
Diana Ramirez 8 months ago
Something I haven't heard so far is that Christian media in all its forms is a type of evangelism. I think we can fulfill the Great Commission by financially supporting the preaching of the gospel in all its forms instead of giving our money to messages that are meaningless or anti-christian.
Jody Roberts 8 months ago
I first heard Al Menconi at a Christian teacher's convention in Anaheim years ago.  I continued to go to his classes every year at the convention and considered myself a "groupie."  We raised our daughters on an exclusive Christian music diet, and every year I taught my students this concept as well.  We've now moved to Nashville, TN, and I continue to share this concept with everyone I come in contact with, as well as my students at the Christian school where I work now.  This changed our lives!!!  Thanks for sharing this!  
Michael Parente 8 months ago
I heartily agree with Bob... as a rock/popular music lover my entire life (and I'm 61), my life has been moved to incredible emotions over the years. Music has that power.. so it follows that CCM will have the same effect once you become a believer. It becomes worship to our Lord and that is a great thing to indulge in. On the other hand, I still love oldies and contemporary music and my iphone is filled with Playlists of both Christian and secular... which helps me soar when i'm out running in God's creation.  Like you Bob, there are a number of songs that have lost their influence, especially much of the 60's music that did glorify sex, drugs and protest.  How about "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones. Contrast that song with Chris Tomlin "How Great is Our God" and you see the battle of a fallen world.  
lslakajun_sbrvm 8 months ago
The theology is almost always ABYSMAL. No thanks.
Dan Haynes 8 months ago
Why you you be in a hurry to "thumbs-down" an anti-drug song? I'm not crazy about that track myself, especially Clapton's cover of it, but that seems like a message that FotF and its bloggers would be falling all over themselves to get behind. 
Anonymous 8 months ago
I looked up the lyrics... how is that song anti-drugs? Seems like a pretty clear endorsement of drugs, actually.
Dan Haynes 8 months ago
The writer, J.J. Cale, has explained it in interviews, in case "If you want to get down, down on the ground" isn't explicit enough. Clapton stopped performing it for a time because he was tired of people missing the point, but then he started playing it again he threw in the lyric "that dirty cocaine" for the people incapable of understanding nuance. Not every anti-drug song needs to beat the listener over the head with a ham handed message like "White Lines (Don't Do It)."
Anonymous 8 months ago

I agree with a lot of the comments, that CCM music can be pretty mundane. That's why I went on a search for a good Christian music. I have compiled it in a Spotify playlist:  http://open.spotify.com/user/kitcaptain/playlist/0jHDVVVoYP3xlQlan13Dgi

Inkfeather1 . 9 months ago
I have always found Christian music to be very boring and repetitive. The only artists I kind of like are the old Newsboys and Skillet. Other than that, everything just has the same sound to it.
Anonymous 9 months ago
I primarily listen to contemporary Christian music, gospel and instrumental. I still occasionally listen to pop though. It's all mostly on iHeartRadio. As with any genre, there artists and songs I like and ones I dislike.
[removed] 9 months ago
This comment has been deleted
Anonymous 9 months ago
How is there bad doctrine?
bobed 9 months ago
They affirm "gay marriage," for a start. It's simple to Google it. I am not a search engine.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Thank you very much for your time :)
bobed 9 months ago
May I ask why my comment was deleted? There was nothing inflammatory or hateful about my words.
Anonymous 9 months ago
All the comments claim CCM had bad doctrine were deleted
Anonymous 9 months ago
Posted by Lionsong

The only non-Christian music I listen to are video game/movie soundtracks (with no words, just instrumentals) and a very, very few other songs - Johnny Cash's version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky," Paul Simon's "Obvious Child," a few Pat Benatar songs, etc.

Why do I choose to listen to those songs as well as Christian music? ...because a lot of Christian music is, in my opinion, mind-numbing boring. There are some standout songs that I adore, but some of the others...frankly, listening to *only* Christian music for thirty days seems like a punishment for the ears. Especially since it's become something of a trend for female singers to sing in a really high-pitched, breathy voice that sounds like they're about to pass out, cry, or be sick.
Or it becomes plainly obvious they're (singers of both genders) singing just to hear their own voice and not actually glorify our Lord.
Or they simply. Cannot. Sing. In that case, it's hard to get to how good the lyrics are (or not) when you're listening to someone warbling them off-key, too-high-pitched, with their voice wandering all up and down the scales with no control. (And the radio station plays that song all. The. Time. And constantly promotes it in every which way. Why...!?)
Or they *can* sing, the music itself is great...and the lyrics are so vapid it's painful. "Life is hell," is their message, "but that's okay BECAUSE JESUS and now everything's sunshine and butterflies and even when incredible tragedy strikes, like my only child dies horrifically or I lose everything I love, I can just shrug it off and focus on God and be happy!" ...er...well, yes, you *are* supposed to focus on God, but...not that flippantly. That's not realistic. That's almost patronizing.

I like Christian music with substance. With acknowledgement that yes, this life is hard and painful, but we have a blessed hope. (And that actually sounds decent to listen to.) There don't seem to be many songs like that anymore.
Anonymous 9 months ago
If you care for rap I would check out NF, he is very talented and his raps are meaningful and powerful.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Posted by Lionsong

I don't like rap very much, but thanks for the suggestion! I might look that up, see if it changes my opinion. Does "NF" stand for anything in particular...?
Anonymous 9 months ago
It stands for Nathan Feuerstein, NF is his stage name
Anonymous 9 months ago
PluggedIn reviewed his album Therapy Session, that would be a good place to go to find more information
Anonymous 9 months ago
Oh, thanks! I'll go look at that. :)
bobed 9 months ago
I try not to be cynical like that. Yes, life is hard, and there is suffering, but we always have hope in Jesus. We have a guide, a protector, a friend, a rock. Why should our songs that worship Him not be cheerful? We are to make a joyful noise unto Him, not a sad one that only focuses on our own suffering. We have a good and faithful king. Let us rejoice!
Anonymous 9 months ago
I'm not saying that I wish Christian music was all dark and gloomy. Bleh. Don't think I'd listen to it at all if it was like that. What I meant was that some of the "cheerful" songs go right past "righteous joy" (which I'd rather see more of) and into "I'm going to stick my head in the sand and say everything's okay even when it's really not, and I won't focus at all on *how* exactly God helps me move past tragedy, I'll just say that He does and everything's good now, la la la ~ " Not really how it works in real life.

- Lionsong
bobed 9 months ago
I've never really heard a CCM song that talks about sticking your head in the sand and ignoring problems. We must listen to different stations.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Probably. The radio stations I listen to - the only ones I can seem to find in my area - seem to have an unfortunate tendency to play the same songs from the same artists over and over and oooover again...it gets tedious. Of course they introduce new songs every once in a while, but they keep falling back on the old ones.
Anonymous 8 months ago
 Have you ever listen to John Foreman's music? 
Anonymous 8 months ago

I would suggest Sara Groves, my current favorite.  She is down to earth and real.  Her songwriting is wonderful and her voice good.  She sings from her heart, emotions and life experience. 

Sara Groves' song, "The Word" quotes a number of Bible verses, which I wish was done more frequently.  The worship songs used today should take advantage of that easy means of memorizing scripture.