I recently attended the TobyMac, Skillet, and Lecrae concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver, Colorado. It brought back some very interesting, and divergent, memories for me. Before I came to faith in Christ, I had attended some secular, to say the least, concerts there. And, after becoming a Christian, I remember attending a DC Talk concert there. Needless to say, there can be a very different vibe in the amphitheater depending on the type/style of music being played.
I am not very musical in that I have very little musical talent. I do not play any instruments. I can sing well enough that my voice blends in with those around me. But, I have always loved music. As a teenager, I had quite the collection of 80s and 90s rock cassettes. My cassette holder was filled with music from AC/DC, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses, Metallica, Poison, Bon Jovi, Tesla, Firehouse, etc., etc.
After I became a Christian in my mid-to-late teens, one of the first things the youth pastor who discipled me told me to do was to throw away all of my secular music. What?!? He said I shouldn't be filling my mind with that garbage. We actually sat down and listened to a few songs and he had me pay attention to the lyrics. He was right, most of it was garbage. I reluctantly threw all of my cassettes away. Well, all except the favorites cassette I had created. Shhhh!
To replace my music collection, my youth pastor gave me two Petra albums (Not of This World and Beyond Belief if I remember correctly) and one DC Talk album (Free At Last). It was a difficult transition for me. The quality of the music was very different. The style of music was very different. I had to occasionally, gasp, listen to the radio to hear good rock music. But, I definitely noticed a change in my thoughts, mindset, and behavior when I stopped filling my mind with anti-Christian messages and started listening to music that was in agreement with a Christian worldview.
Now, 20ish years later, I listen almost exclusively to Christian music. Thankfully, the quality of Christian music has increased dramatically since the early 90s. And, thankfully, there are quality Christian musicians playing good music in virtually every genre of music. I have, over time, broadened my listening habits to include more "Christians in a band," such as Switchfoot, the Fray, and Lifehouse, instead of exclusively listening to "Christian bands." I think I have reached a level of spiritual maturity that I could listen to secular music with no ill spiritual effects, but I choose not to.
My youth pastor was entirely right. If we fill our minds with garbage, garbage will come out in our lives. Especially as a new Christian, I did not need the negative influence that secular music was giving me. I needed to entirely separate myself from it so that there would be less competition in regards to what was going on in my mind. I needed to be, and wanted to be, "transformed by the renewing of my mind" (Romans 12:2). And, secular music was not going to help that process.
For me, Christian music was, and is, extremely important. It has had a tremendously positive spiritual impact on my life. It has greatly aided me in my walk with Christ.
Admittedly, I am sometimes disappointed by the lack of spiritual depth in the lyrics of much of contemporary Christian music. At the concert the other day, I wish the Gospel presentation had been far more clear. There was a lot of talk about the fact that Jesus saves and that He can help you with the problems in your life, but very little about how He saves and how He can clean and redeem our lives. But, as a guy in his late 30s, I was not the target audience of the concert. If that concert had been 20 years ago, it likely would have been precisely what I needed to hear.
Lyrics in Christian music should be positive, encouraging, and point towards the value of having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Christian music does not need to be a theological dissertation. Christian music should not be looked at as a primary discipleship method. That is the responsibility of parents, pastors, youth pastors, teachers, and mentors.
What Christian music did for me as a new Christian was replace the sewage I was listening to with a message that pointed to Jesus as Savior, both of my eternal destiny and my everyday life. What Christian music does for me now is provide a clean, encouraging, and uplifting form of entertainment. I need that. Most of you probably need it too.