CCM: Changing With the Times


In these days of corporate takeovers and the overall conglomeratization of businesses, names and functions change. In case you’re not a hockey fan, the CCM logo above is arguably the largest manufacturer of hockey equipment in the world… certainly the most recognizable. As I thought of them in relation to this post I did not know how good of an illustration they would turn out to be… it was beyond perfect. Founded in 1899, the CCM above was originally known as Canada Cycle and Motor Co. If you really care to know of all of their iterations and changes over the years, you can always count on Wikipedia for that kind of info. Suffice it to say that the original CCM brand has experienced a multitude of changes and adjustments over the years. In fact, their contract with the NHL expires next year.

There is, however, another CCM. It was/is the moniker given to so-called Contemporary Christian Music. In many ways I am so past this discussion that I am not sure I have much to offer. So I will not volunteer any final word… as I believe there are many. But I do remember well the thought processes involved in my movement from the very conservative music of my youth to CCM and beyond. That is the bulk of what I will share… my own experience.

Music may be one of the greatest areas where personal preferences take center stage. Plain and simple. We can say whatever we want about singing “songs, and hymns, and spiritual songs”. I’m sure that all of us who choose to have the name Christian attached to our music would say that it fits within the scope of that verse. Contrary to the belief of those with more conservative positions, the goal of the majority of us who have chosen to enlist more modern music is not to be cool, but to exalt Jesus… likely the same goal that you have.

There is zero biblical proof that the music itself (style, instrumentation, etc.) can be an isolated part of the discussion. Yet this is the very approach that most of the “discussions” take. This instrument or that sound is ungodly because the world uses it in their music. It really is an absurd ad hoc argument that suggests certain sounds can be labeled unholy. I cannot even intelligently or morally enter into that discussion because to do so would be to give it merit that is underserved.

Finally, to those of us with a less conservative view, a word about humility. Humility does not (necessarily) mean I stop sharing my opinion when it differs with yours. Humility realizes that when the Scriptures are silent on certain details it is usually because there is room for difference. Placing your viewpoint as the “more liberated view” is arrogance. So let the piano and organ folks sing their hearts out to God. There’s room for all of us… that should not change with the times.

3 thoughts on “CCM: Changing With the Times

  1. Oh man, so much to say on this topic . . .

    As a former worship leader and guy who records Christian pop music, I obviously have a skewed perspective on this, but it’s not all positive. First off, in general we have to remember that CCM music of the type that is recorded and sold is still very much a record company driven genre. The record companies are in it for profits, not blessings, so they sell what sells, not necessarily that which is spiritually edifying. The target is a very well defined group: women between mid twenties and late thirties, and they aren’t particularly concerned with doctrinal integrity. The thing that most concerns me about CCM on the radio is that it gets marketed as “safe”, which is a term that makes me ill. Of all things, Christiantiy is not “safe”. We don’t retreat back to our hideouts and listen to our niche music to get away from the big bad world. Christiantiy done right will really mess up your life, but in a very, very good way. But beyond that, the idea that Christian music is “safe” is a misnomer- secular music I can easily ignore the content and throw it out the window. At the least, I know I have to listen with a discerning ear. But with CCM people will just let any old thing get into their heads, when this is some of the most imporant stuff you can think of. You have to have MORE discernment listning to Christian music than the music of the world. I remember when a friend of mine’s band got a hit on Christian radio- their lyrics “I’m so thankful that I’m incapable of doing any good on my own.” I couldn’t believe it. Not that I disagree with those lyrics, but how many Christians would agree to that statement if you just walked up out of the blue and asked them? Maybe in Reformed circles- but Christian radio hits a wider audiance than that. I didn’t think of the popularity of that song was due to people’s understanding of the deparivty of man, but rather the fact that we’ll listen to any thing with a good beat, especially if it is deemed “safe”.

    Now when it comes to worship music, which is really the topic of this post, there is a whole host of issues. One is the disenfranchising of those who aren’t comfortable with “rock” music. Now I’m not saying folks shouldn’t be flexible (remember, I lead and have lead contemporary worship music), but we need to be respectful about how these changes occur. As a worship leader, I always want to consider the folks out there who have spent their whole lives singing some of the great hymns- do I really want to be the one to put and end to that? Thus, I try to work some of those songs, albeit modified for my instrument (guitar), as much as I can. And really, we have to be careful about making the music too loud or too performance like. We want singable songs that encourage participation. One trend that has been bothering me the last few years is putting octave jumps in the melodies of songs. Sure, this does a great job of building intensity of a song to dramatic effect, but how many average folks in the congregation have the ability to make that kind of jump with their vocal ranges?

    The other thing is that we have to worship in Spirit and Truth. That last part can be a sticking point. For example, a lot of CCM worship songs can tread dangerously into a modalistic view of the Trinity and no one blinks an eye. Consider the song “Our God” by Chris Tomlin (one of my favorites). The verses clearly talk about the work of Jesus: “Water you turned into wine- opened the eyes of the blind, there’s no one like you- none like you”. But then on the bridge the line is “And if our God is for us then who can ever stop us” which is a clearly biblical reference that is talking about the work of the Father. Now is this really modalism? No, but I think it’s getting close. When we talk about the work of the various persons of the Trinity and do not distinguish between them, we are at best blurring the lines of the “distinctness” of the members of the Trinity for the non-discerning congregation member expecting to sing “safe” music on a Sunday morning.

    And then there’s the issue of songs that are trite. How about this line “I’m trading my sorrow. I’m trading my shame. I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord”? Now tell me, how is the congregation memeber who walks in on Sunday morning after their child is killed in a car accident going to react to such a song? Can they really sing truthfully that they are “trading their sorrows” for the joy of the Lord? What does that even really mean? As a worship leader, I always feel the burden to sing songs that I know are true for every person standing in that room. Now sometimes I fudge on this by signing songs we WISH could be true (songs that state we are spending our lives completely serving the Lord, for example), but I’m not going to take a person at the point where they are touching God and force them to sing something that puts unrealistic expectations on them for their situation. By way of contrast, look at a song like “It Is Well With My Soul” which acknowledges the temporary pains of life but finds solace in the state of our souls. This isn’t to say that the older songs are all brilliant and the newer songs are all trite- but we should be careful in a “feel good” culture not to boil our worship down to sachrine hallmark card phrases.

    Well, I’ve probably ranted enough- sorry to go one and on, but this subject hits a nerve for me!

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