I would, to say the least, consider myself a musician of some sort. I am not an instrumentalist but a vocalist. God has blessed me with the gift to open my mouth and allow musical tones and notes to be produced that don't sound too bad. I love music. I love the art of writing and creating a song. I don't do much of it but the thought of doing so excites me. I have not always been akin to singing songs about Jesus but from the age of about 18 up until now....if you hear me singing anything it will more than likely be to give praise to my God. Sometimes when I pray I sing to the Lord and I love to enter into His presence by worshipping Him through songs that I sing to Him (in my private times with the Lord). It is also an awesome thing to be able to lead, or as I would like to say, sing WITH other believers as we ALL lift our voices in praise to our God.
As a twenty something African American female I gravitated towards gospel music. Gospel music is essentially what the music industry has termed black folks singing soulful songs in the the name of the Lord about the Christian faith. Would I REALLY call this "gospel" music? I have my opinions and maybe some of those will be revealed as I go along. Anywho, this music (or the sound of the music) related to me on a cultural level. I could identify with the sounds of the voices and the instrumentation of the songs. I will honestly say that many of the songs have served a place in my life to connect me with God to a certain extent. The lyrics were uplifting and many served as a means to express how I felt about Jesus. I have performed, YES I SAID PERFORMED, with several groups and choirs from the time. We sounded great! If you weren't moved by the "spirit", whatever spirit it was, you would be moved by the sound. I didn't realize it at the time but it all had become a show....lights, camera, action, you're on!
Then one year, I had the privilege of being elected as El Presidente of my college gospel choir. We did the same thing as usual, we performed but with limited musicians and limited voices (quality voices truth be told). During my tenure as "El Presidente"(lol) I began to realize that this was so much more than just singing at what we called GospelFests (GospelFest - a day when several colleges get together to perform at a concert) and at other events around campus and surrounding areas but that most of what we were doing was futile if none of the members in the choir were growing spiritually. There were so many issues afloat amongst the young people in the choir that it wasn't even funny. They had so many questions about God and some weren't even sure if they were saved. Truth be told, I was not very confident in my relationship with the Lord either and had my fair share of "college mishaps". Most of us did not have our bearings in Christ and His word and didn't quite understand how to get there, but singing in the "gospel choir" was a means to maintain some association with Jesus regardless of what we did or said after rehearsal or those many performances. I will say this, I did experience growth while in the choir but it was definitely NOT because of the choir or because of any of the songs that we sang. It was because of the people I met in the choir and some the things I'd experienced while in college. And the fact that I actually had an earnest desire to know the Lord.
Then after college I was involved in a group of young people that sang but there were some bumps along the way and the Lord disbanded that...and rightfully so! Here is the point...while I believe that there is definitely a place in the Kingdom of God for music, we must know its proper place. Can Christian music change lives and convert others to live a life submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ? Possibly. David played his harp and and the evil spirit in Saul was lifted as he played but it was only a temporary solution. But as I have seen lately, Christian music (gospel, contemporary, rock, hip hip, rap or whatever genre it is in) has become rather self serving and tainted by many, many...(did I say many) strange and worldly spirits.
What makes (some) Christian music pretentious? Personal agenda and it bleeds through every pour and fabric of the song from the production choices to the lyrics. When listening to your Christian musicians/songs of choice ask yourself these questions:
- Does this song appeal more to my emotions or is it edifying my spirit?
- Are the lyrics Biblically sound? If the song is not actually Scripture, are the themes and content of the songs strongly based and rooted in the Word of God?
- Does the background music (beats, instruments, production etc.) take away from or drown out the message that is being portrayed by the lyrics? I have listened to Christian songs that I like just because of the beat where the lyrics were secondary. This is not wrong all together but should most definitely NOT be the first criteria. The beat can be hot but the lyrics could be garbage.
- Why do I like this song? What is it really that appeals to me? Be truthful with yourself.
- What is the actual focus of the song? Is it to give praise and worship to the Lord? Is it to edify and encourage the saints ACCORDING TO WHAT THE WORD OF GOD SAYS?
- Does the song give me a false hope in my own ability to overcome?
Ask God to give you more discernment concerning this subject through His Holy Ghost. For those of us who love music, in all of its forms, it is a difficult thing to do but as we follow the leading of His Spirit we will find Truth!
Hallelujah!! (Praises Be To YHWH)