What Makes A Christian Band Christian :
10 Top Artists Weigh Inby Tracy Darlington
Is it the music a group plays or the condition of their souls that makes it a Christian band? The message or the messenger? We posed this question to some of your favorite artists and they have some great insights to share with you:
JON FOREMAN (Switchfoot):
I’ve struggled with this question ever since that title was put upon us because I feel like it’s a heavy, heavy weight to bear. The idea that you would call anyone Christ-like comes only after a long time of being with the person and understanding who they are. In a commercial world where the term “Christian music” is primarily a title that shows where an item is sold it becomes even that more troubling. I’ve been wrestling with this for a long time. I have probably hundreds of pages of thoughts and attempts to answer this question because we get asked this question every day. It’s a great question. It used to kinda frustrate me. I didn’t know what to make of it, but then I realized that this is a question that whether you’re Johnny Cash or Bach or Little Richard you have had to struggle with what it means at the intersection of art, at the intersection of your faith, and at the intersection of commerce. There’s a lot of traffic and you don’t want to get run over. There are a lot of definitions that are floating around. Ultimately, as we all know, no guitar, no guitar string, no tent, no speaker can be called “Christian” because they do not have a soul. This right here (points to his heart) is a gift that those elements don’t possess. As far as a Christian musician, I think it’s gotta be simply a musician who’s attempting to follow Christ. And wrestling with those concepts and wrestling with what it means to be a Christian. Because I do believe it’s not a definite thing that you can stamp on the back of someone’s head or something and say, “Yes, you have arrived. You are a Christian artist.” There’s an arrogance to that doesn’t sit with me very well. Ultimately, it’s in God’s hands whether He’s gonna at the end say, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have followed me with your music and with your life.” It’s not really our job to put that stamp on our head or on our own CDs.
NATHAN "NaDaddy" CURRIN (Family Force 5):
What makes a Christian artist a Christian artist is whether or not they’re walking with Jesus. If they’ve given their heart to God, then they’ve given their heart to God. You can see that from their fruit, yes, but you may not be able to 100% tell from their music just depending on your personal interpretation of what it is, whether it be musically or lyrically. It may be a style you wouldn’t at first associate with as being Christian. They may be lyrics that relate to a very personal situation in that person’s life that you may not be able to show someone who’s unsaved and have them say, “That’s a Christian lyric.” It’s a very situational thing, but when it comes down to it a Christian is a Christian if they’ve given their heart to Jesus.
That’s a big question! There are a lot of things that come to mind. I think it has a lot to do with what happens off stage and behind the scenes. Humility really marks people who love Jesus. Not Christian musicians, not somebody who writes Christian songs. Somebody who really loves Jesus . . . that just kind of oozes out of them, whether they’re announced that way or they’re on tour with another Christian artist or not. This generation especially sniffs out a phony pretty quick. To see humility on somebody, to see real affection for Jesus and real compassion for other people . . . that makes somebody who leads in a creative way to the presence of God. And I’m totally in it. I feel responsibility for what I do when nobody’s looking, and when I’m on stage. He does the work. There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes. You can’t just pull it all together when somebody says your name and you walk out into the spotlight. And I fall short of this probably five hundred million times a day! I’m not saying this like I’ve got the corner on it, but I’ve seen that authenticity, and that’s “it” to me.
ROB BECKLEY (Pillar):
The heart of the artist. Period. If you’re an instrumental jazz band, you can be a Christian band. It’s not the lyrics that make you a Christian band. It’s the heart of the artist.
ANTHONY ARMSTRONG (Red):
This is an awesome question. I love having the opportunity to say something about that. There’s no such thing as a Christian band. There is Christian music; there is Christian content. You can play a song, I can just sit here and play a guitar for you and label it a Christian song. When lyrics are involved, that’s one thing. You’ve got bands like Casting Crowns that are talking about the altar and the door. They’re carrying the cross in their message. And you’ve got bands like us where the meaning is embedded, and it makes people more or less dig for the question, and the answers. I think everything about our band is like that. We’re Christian guys who have been saved by grace with a Christian upbringing, and we love music. That’s basically what we are. It’s hard, because in the mainstream . . . look at Sting, who’s a Buddhist. People don’t call his music Buddhist music, thinking, “Well, he’s Buddhist so his music must be talking about Buddhism.” It’s easy for people to label you if you sing about God. There are bands out there who sing about God, like U2, but that doesn’t make them a Christian band. What it makes them is their own thing. We always like to call ourselves a Christian band because that’s what we are. If they ask us if we’re a Christian band, we tell them yes. And if they ask us why, we tell them why.
JACK MOORING (Leeland):
If you’re a believer you’re a believer. We all have a certain calling, if you are believers in music, to show the love and the gospel of Jesus Christ to whoever you come in contact with. I’ve seen some bands do it very vocally and direct from the stage, and I’ve seen some bands do it a lot more subtly which gives them access to a crowd that maybe we couldn’t access because of how blatant we are. It calls for both. You can’t really judge other bands by what they label themselves. It’s all based on the fruit of their ministry. To me, what defines a Christian band is do they have the fruit—are they winning souls? That’s what defines it for me.
What makes a Christian artist, at least in my definition, is that obviously it starts with a faith in Christ. But I would take it a step further and say that your music should reflect your faith, not that every song needs to be a seven-part eschatology teaching, but I think it should reflect who Christ is in your life. The Bible says out of the abundance of your heart your mouth will speak. Now I’m not saying that if you don’t speak of Christ in your music, or it’s very veiled—that doesn’t detract from your faith. I don’t look at somebody like that and think, “Oh, he’s a lesser Christian than I am.” I don’t want to communicate that, but then I don’t think you should call it Christian music. Just call it music made by Christians. You know what I mean? I love The Fray, but I don’t think there’s a blatant message there, if any. I guess you could find it if you wanted a message there, but if you’re having to dig to find the message then I don’t know if you should call it a Christian band.
TRICIA BROCK BAUMHARDT (Superchick):
You can put a title on anything. You could say, “I’m a Christian plumber.” But what about you plumbing skills are Christian? I would hope lyrically there would be something evident about Christ in your life that’s showing in your music and your writing. But I think the more important thing is that if you’re saying the name of Jesus, and that you’re saying you’re a Christian along with who you are that your life should represent it. Your life and your heart, and we don’t always know people’s hearts. But we have no problem saying we’re a Christian band but we always try to explain that’s more about us and who we are, not necessarily that you’re going to be able to put in our album and go, “Yes, this is a Christian album, and that’s not a Christian album.”
KEVIN YOUNG (Disciple):
There’s a part of me that really is proud of being a Christian band. Then there’s another part of me that wishes it doesn’t have to be that way because you’re the only style of music that gets put into a different genre because of what you’re talking about. It has nothing to do with what we sound like. I mean somebody could talk about sex or some other god—they could talk about anything and they would just be a rock band. But the moment you talk about Jesus you become a “Christian” rock band, and you get put in another section over here in the corner. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, but at the same time I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I’m not ashamed of the name of Jesus, and I’m very open about talking about him. What makes a Christian band a Christian band is the message, what they’re talking about. Some bands are labeled a Christian band that aren’t. Like the band Evanescence who was labeled a Christian band for so long, and they were like, “Look, we’re not.” The message is definitely what makes somebody a Christian band, even though I kinda wish it wasn’t that way. I’m not ashamed of it though.
MATT DALY (Superchick):
tell people are Christians by whether they use the word “Jesus” a lot. [Makes loud buzzer sound to indicate “wrong
answer!”] Being a Christian is your personal issue with Jesus Christ.
I know a lot of people who aren’t in Christian bands who have really
amazing personal relationships with Jesus and are Christians. But unfortunately,
I know a lot more people who are in Christian bands who do not have a personal
relationship with Jesus, and do not act like they have a personal relationship
with Jesus. The fact that they are selling music with Jesus in it just to
make a buck and be famous in some circle kinda makes me sick. When it comes
to that question, yes, it is about your personal relationship but unfortunately
there’re more people than you think who don’t have one in the
Christian music industry.
Tracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.