Friday, February 17, 2012

Matt Papa: Jesus Isn't Safe- An Appeal to Christian Music and Its Listeners

Here is the first post in a series, from a musician, on the need for more depth in the Christian music industry. Also, you can download a free song from his site. Stay Away From Jesus. It's a good song talking about the Biblical Jesus and how he isn't safe enough for Christian radio.

Now, I post this as one who appreciates not having to worry about the content of songs with my girls. And also I wish most stations played more than the top ten or twenty of the same songs, especially when there are so many good ones out there. And as, Matt points out, I understand this could cause some points of disagreement, but I think it is important to think about these things.

A friend recently said that music is said to bypass part of our thinking process--if that is true, we especially need to be careful with the content we are casually listening to, and this includes the theology of our Christian (or worship) music.



Imagine with me: The apostle Paul, John the Baptist, the prophet Isaiah, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and Hudson Taylor all sitting in a room together. The year is 2012, and they’re listening to a mainstream christian radio station. After listening for an hour, someone finally speaks up:

Isaiah: um….

Paul: wow.


Augustine: Did that song just say ‘God you are super neat’?!?

Taylor: Haven’t heard a song about the cross yet.

John: This is embarrassing. (bites into a bug)

Over the next month or so, I’ll be writing a series of posts about the current state of the christian music industry, more specifically, the current state of that which spearheads it, namely christian radio. By saying radio “spearheads” the industry, I realize I have begun with a proposition a small percentage of people could find disagreeable. Certainly, there are a few christian artists who do not utilize radio and still have a good deal of influence (Lecrae, John Mark McMillian, Phil Whickam). But for the most part, despite the rise of the internet, radio remains the key player in getting songs and artists ‘out there’. If you don’t want to take my word for it, check it out for yourself HERE. I will speak more to this later, but essentially, you can think of it this way: christian radio is to the christian music industry what the movie theatre is to the movie industry. If a movie hits the theaters, you hear about it. If it doesn’t, you usually don’t.

As you might have gleaned from the title, what will follow will be a hard, honest, word of rebuke. I have no idea if anything I say in these posts will mean anything for the sake of change, but someone has to say it: Mainstream christian radio is altogether banal and shallow in both a musical sense and a spiritual sense. The songs are man-centered and the DJ’s and radio programmers are man-pleasers…..they play the songs that will attract the most listeners to their station, period. Christian radio is like Joel Osteen in musical form….safe, happy, and untruthful. It is the TBN of music…a large-scale, embarrassing presentation of Christianity to the world. Now, before I continue, I would like to make some clarifying statements:

1. All in all, my appeal is positive, not negative. I’m not writing these posts for shock-value, or to simply complain about the way things are. Anyone can complain about what’s wrong. I’m writing this because I want for christian radio to be christian. I’m writing because I care about the things that have Jesus’ name tacked on them….I’m writing because I care about people and the huge forming and informing effect music has on them. I not here to just say what’s wrong…I’m here to say what’s RIGHT (and missing), namely, Christian radio playing songs that are Biblical, theologically accurate, Christ-exalting, gospel-proclaiming, artistically meaningful, and truly encouraging.

2. To be fair, not ALL songs that are played on mainstream Christian radio are trite. Just most of them.

3. I am thankful for those few DJ’s out there who play Jesus-exalting, Bible-saturated songs, and I hope these posts are an encouragement for them to continue doing so.

4. I don’t think that EVERY SONG played on christian radio should be a John Piper sermon set to music. I’m just calling for SOME level of weight in what is labeled “christian” radio.

5. Several of MY songs have gotten airplay on some major networks, which has been a tremendous blessing to our ministry and for which I am very thankful.

6. By writing these posts, I am not saying that all christian ARTISTS who get played on christian radio are compromising, sell-outs. Some definitely are, but I personally know many who are very genuine. In theses posts, I am simply saying that the system is broken….and that radio in large-part “forces” christian artists to succumb to compromise. MANY bands/artists whore themselves and their Lord all for the sake of getting a song on the radio, i.e. “making it”.

7. Some might say that to do what I’m doing here is career suicide….if a christian radio network reads these posts (which I hope they will) they’ll never play my music again. That may be true. However (and I’m not trying to be overly spiritual when I say this), my goal isn’t to build a career, it’s to build a kingdom. I care too much about this issue to remain silent. Plus, I might be one of the few people who are currently in the “industry”, have some wherewithal, AND are crazy enough to say something.

So here we go! I hope you’ll join me in what I hope is a great blessing to the body of Christ, and a conversation that will at least stir up some awareness and discussion.

Writing, jealous for His Name-


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