This debate has been going on for a long time. Should a band be called a Christian band or is it okay for a group to simply call themselves Christians in a band? Some bands take the debate a step farther and completely shy away from the Christian market. Some even get offended if you call them Christian or label them as a Christian band. When looking at this long standing debate, who’s right and who’s wrong?
I want to start this blog post by saying that neither side is completely right or completely wrong. Both sides have their merits and both sides have their shortcomings. I am not writing this blog to create another debate or argument. I just feel like this is an important issue in Christian music.
Looking at the Christian world of today, I think we really have lost our focus. We have turned our focus from God to focusing on our opinions, beliefs and labels. Why is it so important to label a band Christian? If today, people suddenly stopped calling the Newsboys or Thousand Foot Krutch or Hawk Nelson a Christian band, would that have any effect on their relationships with God? It doesn't matter what name or label you put them under, the Newsboys are still going to be followers of Christ.
Bands shouldn’t be forced to call themselves Christian. Before you call me a heretic, let me explain. A Christian is a follower of Christ. Can an entity such as a band follow Christ? My answer is no. The members of a band can definitely be Christian, but it’s impossible for an object or thing to be a Christian. This part of the debate can stretch into all kinds of different territories. Can a book be Christian? Can my phone be a Christian? Can a car be Christian? Once again, my answer is no. However, people who use those objects can be Christians. It’s the same way with music. I don’t think a band can necessarily be Christian, but members of the band can be followers of Christ. Some bands are very open about their faith through interviews, lyrics and live shows, while others simply want to perform music on their own terms. I would say neither type of band is right or wrong. They are simply two types of groups expressing their art and faith to the world.
When we label a band as being Christian, we also forget that most of the time, their music is their career. Musicians are getting paid to write and record music. It’s their job to be a musician. Bands almost depend solely on their fans for support. If fans do not support a band, the group will likely split up very fast. In today’s music industry, the label of being a Christian band carries a stigma. It’s very tough for an openly Christian musician to be successful in the secular market. It’s not impossible, but it is tough. I know success and fame should never be our goal in life, but musicians support themselves and their families through their music. Sometimes, bands choose to play in the secular market because of money and finances. Other times, they simply want to sing about more than just their faith. Christians who are in secular bands are not forsaking God or turning their back on Christianity, they are simply trying to make a living with music.
Plus, the music industry is really the only industry where we base a person’s career on their religious beliefs. I am a Christian. I am proud to be a follower of Christ. Yet, when people ask me about my job, I don’t tell them I am a Christian writer or that I am a Christian broadcast technician. I tell them that I am simply a writer and that I am a broadcast technician at a radio station. Same thing goes for other jobs. Do we label a Christian who is a professor, plumber, mechanic, doctor, etc. as being a Christian professor, Christian plumber, Christian mechanic or Christian doctor? The short answer is no. My question is, “Why is music so special in that we feel the need to label a band as Christian or secular?”
Many times, Christians argue and debate so much that we forget one vital detail: the Bible. We get angry and spew out our opinions and thoughts on different issues before we even stop to consider what the Bible has to say. In scripture, God calls us to live a holy life (1 Thessolonians 4:7). He doesn’t call us to label ourselves Christians. In and of themselves, labels are meaningless. A label doesn’t make me a Christian; my belief in Jesus Christ makes me a Christian. Our goal shouldn’t be fulfilling a label of Christianity. Instead, our focus should be living holy lives before God. Jesus was the prime example. When Jesus preached or when He performed miracles, He didn’t say, “Before I begin, I need to tell everyone something. I am a Christian, and I want to be labeled as a Christian.” Jesus didn’t say that, nor did He need that label. Jesus reached people through His words and lifestyle, not under the pretense of a name or label.
I truly believe everyone is unique in how they choose to minister to people. Some are very open about their faith. Others let their actions do the talking. Some accept the call into ministry. Every Christian is different in how they share their faith with the world. For me, I love bands that openly share their faith and are not afraid to call themselves a Christian or their music Christian. I have a lot of respect for people who unashamedly preach the gospel through music. If you want to label your band as Christian, go for it! I will proudly stand behind you and support your music ministry. On the other hand, if you believe in Christ and want to play secular music, that’s awesome too. Play secular music to the best of your ability.
As Christians, we should stay away from focusing all of our attention on putting a Christian label on everything, and instead put all of our focus into living in the truth and grace of Christ. Jesus is not a label. Christianity is not a label. Christianity is not a band. Christianity is a lifestyle.