It is hard to find good, enriching Christian music these days. I think many contemporary Christian songs are suitable for background noise, such as when I am driving or working out. Yet I feel myself desiring more, needing my worship to sink into my soul, build my relationship with God, connect me with the Holy Spirit. I love worshipping God through music. There is something so moving and beautiful about it that allows me to be more aware of God’s presence. Yet this desire has not been met by many Christian songs today.
On a musical level, many Christian songs have a pretty predictable construction. There are one or two verses, a short bridge and a chorus that is repeated far more than necessary. I can understand replaying a bridge or chorus multiple times for spiritual effect. Some of my favorite songs do this.
But for some songs, it feels like the singer ran out of ideas and is repeating themselves just to take up space. This can get especially tiresome if the song is played on repeat on the radio and in churches as well. It just gets overplayed and oversimplified. To be fair, I have this gripe with songs in general—not just Christian ones. I like variety and complexity.
I think lyrics also play into this. While I am no songwriter, I am a writer. I know that specificity, authenticity and concreteness go a long way toward connecting with a reader. I have listened to too many Christian songs where the singer sings about their general struggle with “hardships.” Sometimes they do name depression and anxiety or feeling like they’re not good enough, which is a step, but the lyrics don’t go deeper than that. They stay at the surface.
Without those specific images that bring intimacy and authentic vulnerability to the piece, Christian music is left feeling emotionally shallow. It often goes like this. The beginning of the song will start with the singer’s general struggle in life. By the end, God will have fixed everything, and there is nothing more to worry about. This is a fine message. Yet it allows no time to simply be in the struggle with each other. The songs do not have to be sad. I think Christianity is all about hope, and our art should reflect that.
But is not the goal to reach people who are hurting and struggling, and let them know there are others who understand their pain? Should we not then understand that some problems do not just go away? Sometimes there are struggles that last our entire lives, and one song will not change that.
If a singer wants me to believe their message, they first have to gain my trust by showing they truly know what it is like to struggle. I do not think we should just gloss over the problems as if they are not there. Yes, have hope. But don’t neglect the struggle to reach that ending. It is the hardships that make the love of God so powerful.
As an aspiring theologian, I want my worship to deepen my faith, not be something I block out on my way to work. There are so many songs that make me question their biblical support. We should be basing our faith on God’s Word, not simply what we personally think or believe.
Expressing Christianity in art is hard. As a Christian writer myself, I know how difficult it is to communicate my faith without coming off as cliché, shallow, cheesy or all three. Yet I think there is a higher calling of beauty to our worship that should motivate us to search for something more than the ordinary: a way to experience and worship God.