I love music. You probably do too.
Growing up, I don’t really remember my parents or Sunday School teachers ever directly telling me that secular music was wrong or evil, but for some reason, I just felt like I could only listen to Christian music if I believed in God. I grew up constantly listening Michael W. Smith. In fact, I was fairly obsessed. In fourth grade (with my parents’ blessing), I skipped school to meet him at a Christian bookstore. To this day, I still have nearly 200 of his songs on my iPod.
Honestly, I didn’t really explore music outside of the Christian culture until the past five or six years. And much to my initial surprise, I liked what I found. More than Michael W. Smith.
In my free time, I enjoy surveying iTunes. Not only do I like staying current on new releases, but the iTunes charts probably provide more cultural commentary than we may expect. It may be normal for Katy Perry or Eminem or whoever is popular this week to occupy the #1 spot for a few days, but the charts for secular music are pretty fluid. It isn’t that uncommon for new stars (like Jason Derulo or Ke$ha) to pop up seemingly out of nowhere.
Sadly, the Christian and Gospel section of iTunes is a completely different story. For example, today the number 14 Christian single is “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe (some weeks, depending on recent singles, this song is much higher on the charts). It is also the third most popular music video download this week. The CD on which it appears is in the top 50 album sales.
That song was written nearly ten years ago.
In 2005, Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan of Hillsong wrote the hit worship song, “Mighty to Save.” Because of its success, numerous bands have covered the song. In fact, around five years after it was written, there are currently nearly 200 covers of the song for sale on iTunes.
Similarly, there are around 50 different versions of John Mark McMillian’s hit song, “How He Loves” available for download (also written in 2005). And they all sound frustratingly familiar.
This just boggles my mind. How can followers of the Creator of the universe have so much trouble creating new content? Why are Christians always so far behind the cultural trends in art and entertainment? I strongly believe that God gave his people creativity and thoughtful minds for a reason. What if we are actually wasting our gifts by looking up the chords to a Hillsong single instead of coming up with something new? Are we embracing and encouraging mediocrity? Aren’t we capable of something better?
Even today, with all of our culture’s economic problems, the media and entertainment industry is actually still holding its own. It is no secret that media can change a culture. But will anyone listen if we have nothing new to offer? What if we instead shifted cultural expectations, and shocked the world with our creativity?
I can only imagine the possibilities.