Controversy does exist when defining "acceptable" music in certain Christian circles. And it's true that worship wars have been, and continue to be, fought behind the scenes and sometimes in public forums. But there is an undeniable growing trend toward more modern music in Christian worship services, especially in the United States and Canada.
Even with many variations of contemporary Christian music being played in churches today, worship leaders all over the world have one thing in common: a desire to draw in the presence of God and to give God praise and glory through music. So, for many Christians, the subject of worship music styles is not necessarily doctrinal, rather a matter of personal preference. Some people experience God through hymns and others through words and music of today's songwriters, singers and musicians.
The influx of modern Christian music is the direct result of The Jesus Movement in the 1960s, which spurred a new genre and helped to coin the term, Contemporary Christian Music. Also known as inspirational, contemporary Christian music at its core actually refers to the Nashville, Tennessee-based pop, rock and worship Christian music industry. Certain artists helped make this type of music popular, including Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Third Day, Avalon, MercyMe and Petra, among many others. And as time goes on, contemporary Christian music continues to expand well beyond the state of Tennessee.
The band dc Talk moved the Contemporary Christian music industry forward in the 1990s. This group consisted of three Christian artists who blended their backgrounds and faith to pioneer a funky, modern style of music that included R&B, hip hop and a long list of other styles. Since then, many other genres of alternative Christian music have been heard on the radio, in homes and at church.
In an April 2006 editorial written for ChristianityToday magazine, Charles Colson (with Ann Morse) warns Christians of slipping across the line from worship to entertainment. He makes a good point, especially since the purpose of worship is to exalt God and to bring Christians into a deeper, spiritual dimension.
Church worship was never intended to feature the performer or the performance, rather to stir the Christian's spirit and to create an atmosphere where the anointing, the power and the presence of God is easily accessed.
Don Chapman, editor of WorshipIdeas.com weekly ezine, writes that music in church actually sets the tone and flavor of a church. "Your music style will attract a certain style of crowd." Chapman, who has had songs and arrangements publish by Word, Integrity, Goliard Music Press, and others, also writes that great music is good for a church, but isn't the primary factor in growing a church. "It's the preaching," he says. "If the preacher is theoretical, boring, irrelevant and clinical, the hottest music in town isn't going to help draw a crowd. If the preacher is relevant, personable and preaching on spiritual issues that matter to the common man, the lousiest music in the world won't keep the throngs away. They'll put up with anything to hear the Word speak into their lives."
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." With this Scripture in mind, contemporary Christian music that brings God honor and focuses on Jesus has spiritual benefits, just as hymns do. In addition, worship with more modern music has proven to help retain Christian youth and resulted in the conversion of older unbelievers who relate to the sound and the lyrics.