The Second Eclectic

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A Quick-&-Dirty Guide to Christian(y) Music

I have undertaken to name and define the various categories of Christian(y) music in your iPod or church.

God-centered worship – giving God props for his stellar personality and for what he has done/is doing/will do

Some exemplary musicians who consistently produce God-centered worship songs – Chris Tomlin, Shane and Shane, David Crowder Band, Matt Redman

Self-centered worship – giving God props for giving me what I want, or at least letting me take it

For more information see my faux Christian music post

Body-builders – “edifying” the body, encouraging and inspiring followers of Jesus to do good deeds (unity; to praise God [exhortation]; to stop sinning, obey God, and follow Jesus)

Body-builders tend to sound like Roaring Lambs (see below) or worship songs but are actually neither

Examples - Tobymac, Steven Curtis Chapman, Casting Crowns

Roaring Lambs – musicians who are preserving culture by filling the airwaves with their music (see the book with this title by Bob Briner)

Except for the next group, these are the most complex, and have a viable reason to be. They play and write music that talks about the same things and uses the same words (mostly) as mainstream music, but they have a totally different perspective – a hopeful one driven by a purpose found in God.

Examples – POD, Switchfoot, Reliant K, Lifehouse, Rachel Lampa, Tobymac (Volvo commercial and Transporter 2 movie previews), Bethany Dillon (Dreamer movie), Grits (The Perfect Man movie), Sixpence None the Richer

Posers – musicians who sound like Roaring Lambs but aren’t serving a purpose

They look, sound, and feel like mainstream music, but unlike the Roaring Lambs, they have no viable reason to, except pure imitation. They mostly talk about things limited to the Christian experience (going to church, struggling with faith, wondering where God is). That only serve to entrench us more in the Christian "ghetto" (to use Briner's term). Thus, they serve no purpose: they don’t edify like the body-builders, they don’t glorify like the God-centered worshipers, and they don’t preserve like the Roaring Lambs.

Subsets:
Mission: Evangelism – attempt to create evangelism anthems that motivate listeners to share their faith. Modern, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” music. I don’t see a huge need for this or a huge effectiveness. If people aren’t motivated to tell others about their relationship with God, a song won’t change that. The goal is admirable but I don’t think music is the medium for it. (Ironically, the "Roaring Lambs" cd is a appropriate example of this.)

These songs are generally quite overt and uninteresting. Mostly, it feels like a seedy car salesman trying to sell used (sorry, pre-owned) Christianity like a shrink-wrapped commodity.

Playing God – Singing a song from God’s perspective is just weird. It’s sort of presumptuous no matter how good the theology is. Unless the audience is Christians, it has little to no connection for its hearers.

Classification, Specification, and Clarification
Every Christian(y) song should find its place in these categories; however, no musician/band can be categorically labeled as they contain multiple songs which might fall into different categories. However, as you have seen above some artists' songs fall in the same category consistently enough that they can be presented as good examples for that category no matter which song of theirs you're listening to. Also, some musicians move through different categories in their career.

If you have more good examples of musicians who fall into these varied categories, leave a comment.