And now for something completely different.
Despite having grown up in the church, going overseas on a mission trip and being trained as a bass/baritone, I don’t listen to contemporary Christian music, or CCM as it’s commonly called.
Why? A number of reasons.
- An almost complete and total lack of soul. Listen to the CCM, and you’ll hear some incredible musicianship, but what you won’t hear is a bass line. At all. I grew up listening to André Crouch , and even in today’s upbeat “Christian dance” music, there’s just no soul. It’s like they’re afraid of people shaking their hips or something.
- A lack of rebellion. From Elvis to Axel, the list of rebels in rock n roll is long and glorious. Rebellion in contemporary Christian music ended when CCM entered the sanctuary, and it’s not on the radio either.
- I’m not the audience for it. There are/were some tremendous artists like Phil Keaggy, Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill in CCM before Amy Grant, but their songs didn’t make it into the mainstream, even though Larry Norman inspired Frank Black, who inspired Nirvana, who upset the apple cart of hair metal and brought us grunge.
The fact is, the CCM of today is aimed at my wife, not me. I don’t enjoy it because I’m not supposed to enjoy it.
The problem with the feminization of CCM is that it has led to the feminization of worship services in the church. What gets played on AIR1 is what’s sung in church, and that leaves men on the outside looking in.
This was brought home to me personally when we moved from Arizona, where we worshipped in a mid-sized megachurch with a light show and rockin’ band, to a small town in Missouri where we worship in a small Baptist church with pews and hymnals.
We actually use the hymnals. And I’ve enjoyed worshipping in this church more than any “seeker friendly” service I’ve ever attended. There was no fog machine, no light show and the songs included classic hymns like “I’ll Fly Away”, and for the first time in decades, I felt like I was in church, not a concert followed by a motivational speaker.
Fourteen years ago, the soundtrack for “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” came out, chock full of classic hymns like the afore mentioned “I’ll Fly Away”, and it shot to the top of the charts. People loved listening to the album because even though it was full of music from eighty (or more) years ago, it sounded unlike anything else on either the pop or country charts.
Let’s bring it all together: Contemporary Christian music is designed to appeal to women, and that what’s driving worship music in the church, leaving men on the outside of the sanctuary looking in. What can change that? Let’s talk about what men want (no, not sex, although that is usually #1 on our list, followed closely by beer, cars and guns). To begin:
- Men have been the hunters and women the gatherers since at least the Pleistocene Epoch. If we men get together, it’s to bring down a mammoth or some other endeavor we can’t do by ourselves. Church, by it’s very nature, is congregational, and goes against 2.8 million years of programming (or 10,000 years, if you’re a young Earth creationist).
- Despite 40 years of Neil Simon plays and Alan Alda, men don’t show weaknesses. We just don’t. The idea of “humbling yourself before God” just goes against our nature, and church is all about letting go and letting God.
- Men are rebels. It’s men that explore and push the boundaries and do the stupid stuff that might bring them glory and/or death. Church doesn’t handle rebels well, which is silly, because the very nature of church is to rebel against the natural sinful direction of this world.
So what’s the solution? I’m not sure, because my experience growing up in the church and going on tour choir with a bunch of fellow students from a Christian school may not be anyone else’s solution, but for all their talk about being “seeker friendly”, I’m not so certain that by “seeker”, we mean “women who want a stronger marriage.” Men want a challenge and want a sense of accomplishment when they achieve that challenge. What about today’s church is challenging, and what about today’s church is rebellious?
This is why an “old-fashioned” church with hymnals and pews was so refreshing: The church wasn’t held hostage to the whims of what’s on the radio, and it was a return to the simple ways of my youth. In a world of constant change to keep up with what’s hot on the radio, choosing to remain rooted in hymnals and pews is itself an authentic act of rebellion that’s appealing to this man.
Is old-timey hymns the way to get men back into church? Dunno. I do know that the tremendous rush towards Christ that was started by the Promise Keepers appears to have foundered as of late. Men are still interested in God, but we’re not that interested in church, and that has to change.
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August 23rd, 2014 by exurbankevin