The Never Ending Debate: Are Crossover “Christian” Bands Hurting The Name of Christ?

I recently returned from a trip to Nashville. It has been over three years since I last had been there on business and it was good to be back. While staying at the Aloft hotel in Brentwood, my buddy and I had the chance to meet a few of the guys in the mainstream band CAVO. The group was in town to finish up some extra tracks for their upcoming album and one night we were hanging out in the hotel atrium talking the “music biz” with lead vocalist Casey Walker and lead guitarist Chris Hobbs.

After I had revealed my 15 year involvement in CCM radio Casey mentioned that he had a question that was bothering him and he wondered if I might be able to help. He lowered his head and was silent for a few moments. I asked what was wrong and he stated that he was trying to think of a kind way to frame his question. I tried to ease his mind and I urged him on.”lay it out there…I can handle it.”

That seemed to help and so he launched into his question. ” We have toured with some Christian bands…” (I will leave their names out as they are very, very well-known.) ” …and I wondered what was up with some of them, because they drink and party harder than some of the rest of us!” And there it was. I hate to admit it, but deep down I had a sneaking suspicion about what his question would be. Especially since he had mentioned some of the “Christian” bands they had performed with. I let out a deep sigh, and before I spoke I shot a bullet prayer asking for the Spirit’s help in answering his question.

As I answered him, I tried to paint a clear picture of the difference between a band made up of professing Christians and a “Christian band.” “The first group tries to create art that is informed by their faith, but can still be enjoyed by people who are not necessarily believers.”  I explained. ” The second group feels called to share their faith openly and their art is directed to the Church at large. It is ment to encourage and speak to other believers.” I know that may have been a pretty simplistic response, but I was trying to make sense of a debate that has raged since the days of Larry Norman and the Jesus Movement that birthed what we now know as CCM.

Casey seemed to understand what I was saying and so I continued on.” I can’t tell you that it’s ok for the bands you’re talking about to party the way they do, but what I can say is this. Christians aren’t better than anyone else, we just realize that we are broken, sinful people and that we need a saviour. We are all just trying to work out our belief. We’re all screwed up, we’re all a mess.”  He nodded as if he understood and we talked a little about His wife’s religious background until some one cracked wise and we moved on to another line of conversation.

Obviously his question hit home with me and I have turned it over in my head numerous times since returning home. Did I make any sense? Was what I said helpful? I am still struggling with this conversation. “Self righteous Bill” wants to confront the bands that we talked about, but what could I say really? The consumption of alcohol is by no means a settled issue in the Church. Great teachers and wiser men than I disagree on this issue, each side backing up their positions with scripture. I also have my own opinion on this hot button topic. But how should we deal with it in terms of Christian bands in the mainstream?

Here is my dilemma, I understand if you don’t want to be a “Christian band” and I believe that the Christian faith gives you the freedom to make that choice. But just because you are not a “Christian band” doesn’t mean that you don’t have a responsibility to carry yourself in a different manner as a confessed believer. We will all be held accountable for our witness to the world, regardless of our particular band lable. Shouldn’t that give some pause to the partiers?

Some of you may argue that it’s your Christian liberty to drink, and you may have a case for that. But you have no justification for over indulgence. Excess of any kind, including the overlooked sin of gluttony, is unacceptable behavior for a true follower of Christ. I’m just asking folks to think about it. Consider the massive platform you have as a believer making music in the mainstream. Consider the responsibility you have to bear witness to the name of Jesus in word and deed. Now before you get defensive and start spouting verses about “meat sacrificed to idols” remember the caveat to that scripture passage…

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.” ( I Corinthians 10:23 )

…So before you “fight for yo right, to party…” ask yourself this question. “Is my freedom more important than the opportunity to lead someone to a personal and saving faith in Jesus Christ?” I’m just sayin’.

I know this conversation has been had over and over again, but it hasn’t been resolved. What can we do? I would love to hear your thoughts on this especially from some of you who have been, or are still part of “Christian Music.”


26 thoughts on “The Never Ending Debate: Are Crossover “Christian” Bands Hurting The Name of Christ?

  1. Concerning the expose of a band’s party habits, it is also hearsay. I appreciated your poignant words on this topic, and your willingness to respond.

  2. Forgive me if someone mentioned this already as I have yet to read through the comments, but for me personally, I would have appreciated knowing who the bands were that the guy you talked with had mentioned.

    I think it’s fair game that if we’re to consider a question which both the secular and religious spheres recognize, then it’s also fair game to mention all the particulars of that question.

    In any case, I’d answer the question of what is christian, musically or individually, with a reformed theological bent in the manner of New Testament scripture: you shall know them by their fruit.

    Thanks for the blog post. It’s definitely something worth mulling over!

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, some folks had mentioned that thought already. But as I told them, I just feel that this is not the right forum to address specifics

  3. Pingback: Marc Byrd Speaks (Common Children, Hammock, “God of Wonders”) | BackSpinRadio

  4. Are we putting God in a box by saying there are only two kinds of christian bands? Those that are to minister to the the body of christ and those that are christians in a band. I think that people that do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, look at us and laugh. We are here for one reason only and that is to lead others to Christ. When we look like the world ( Our actions not our look’s) and people cant see christ in us we sin. The bible states he who knows the good and does not do it sins.(James 4:17). So i guess what I am trying to state is that we know deep in side what we are here for and whether or not drinking is wrong. The bible also states (Matthew 18:6)
    But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. Well alcohol is the number one killer of teens and there will be hundreds of them drink there first drink this year.For some of them they will never put that bottle down.They will become drunkards and will throw away there lives. I don’t want to in any way be apart of that and I pray we all become more sensitive to the holy spirit.( Romans 14:21) It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. Again he who knows the good and does not do it sins.(James 4:17)

    • Put God in a box? Absolutley not! My answer to Casey was my feeble attempt to give a tiny bit of clarity as to the types of bands usually found when speaking about this issue. Thanks for your sobering post. There are lives at stake!!

      • I did not mean to come off hasty. I understand your question. I get a little work up because there are lives at stake. Its just that Casey question God because of people who clam to to serve him and then in front of the lost they party. in my eyes I see it. The world even knows whats right and wrong. Casey didn’t question whether or not parting was wrong. He just can see that these guys are not living what they clam.

        When this kinda thing happens to me. I explain that there are many bands that use the christian market because they 1 cant make it in the general market. 2 they find it easier to go though the christian market. Also explain that there are some bands that do love God but they lose track of there mission. Yes We have all fallen short but the way casey sees it is not someone falling but someone laying in the mud.

        I can tell you have a good heart. The fact that the you even care is awesome!!
        Im not prefect in anyway I just care. I love God and I love people.
        I say sell them out let the lost know there are people that clam to be servants
        But God loves them also and they need a savior.

        Thanks Bill I will be preying for you and Casey’s band.

  5. as a member of a rock band where all of us are christians, where our beliefs come out in our lyrics, and where we have no intention of using our faith as a marketing tool to sell records and get a significant audience, i feel like this whole argument of how “christian” bands conduct themselves is highly overstated. i’ve met plenty of “christian” bands that, musical quality aside, are really just incredibly rotten people that use the evangelical demographic to try to sell records (those bands don’t typically last too long, anyway, but that’s besides the point).

    if you’re going to talk about this honestly, why make the assumption that people make music in the christian sphere for totally virtuous, God-serving reasons? there may be stumbling blocks along the way for some who get caught up in the rock and roll lifestyle, but there are others who simply don’t care. that’s what it all comes down to, and i feel like that’s gone completely missing in this post over the whole “omg, is drinking bad?!” question.

    to that, i will superimpose the words of paul from 1st corinthians: you can get incredibly drunk, be my guest; but acting like a fool and making yourself incredibly sick the next morning are not beneficial to you (or anyone).

    • Thanks for the post Johnny! It’s nice to get some perspective from someone in a band. However I think you were a little unfair with your assement of this post. Nowhere in what I wrote can you take it as I am asking the “OMG is drinking bad” question. I was veyr careful in not making a judgment on drinking. Like I said, Godly men smarter than you and I disagree on this issue. That’s not the point. of the post. The point is this: As Christians how should we handle our freedoms within the context of mainstream music. Over indulgence and abuse of “freedoms” by those who claim to be Christians caused someone who is does not claim to be a follower of Jesus confusion and possibly could hinder him from surrendering to Jesus. I think that’s a very serious issue.

      I also understand that there are fakers and phoney’s in the Christian music industry who claim to be “Christian bands.” You and I both know that you can’t “throw the baby out with the bath water”, for evey fake, or phoney, there is aanother band truely devoted to Jesus. In the context of my convesation with Casey, i was trying to explain it as simply as possible with muddying the waters and confusing him even more. Maybe you could have done a better job. Maybe God will give you the chance one day. I hope you’re ready.

      As far as your translation of the passage I used from Corinthians I think it’s a strech, but I can see what you are trying to say. However, I would have added “…are not benificial and possiblly harmful to your ability to share Jesus with those who need Him.” The whole point of that chapter is that as followers of the “Way” we are free to do certain things, but we are also free to not do those things, because the mission of making disciples of Jesus is more important than our “liberties.”

      Thanks again for sharing, it was very thought provoking!

  6. Great article. This is something that I am having a hard time with currently as I seek to fill my life as well as my children’s lives with things that glorify God. I linked over from the facebook page of one the bands that I am having concern about. I have heard the band is “Christian” but, when I go to the website and facebook page there is no mention of Christ, their faith or testimony. In one interview I saw on youtube it was as if they were saying “I’m a Christian. I’m just not a goody-goody Christian” and were chastising believers that boldly proclaim their belief by the clothing they wear. If you are a Christian you are first and foremost a Christian and everthing else must be filtered and matched up to God’s word. We do have a duty to the world to let Christ’s light shine through us. We are blessed with gifts and talents for that purpose. As Christians we also have duties to other Christians. One duty is to not be a stumbling block. I will drink a beer but, if I am with a believer that struggles with drinking I will refrain. When a band puts themselves out there they must remeber they are in the spotlight and there are alot more people that will notice and may stumble. They must remeber it is no longer about them. There are a lot of young Christians and teenagers that look to them as part of their support system when the world has so many other temptations, persecutions and draws. I must decrease so that Christ can increase. If they are not willing to do that then I cannot support them no matter how much I enjoy the music. I think in a way we as Christians also have a duty to call them to the carpet on this. (James 5:19-20) I also need to know who these groups are so I can steer my children away from them.

    • Chris, thanks for the encouragment. It is a struggle to find music that you can trust for your kids. I suggest checking out WHRZ , I know those folks personally and they do a great job of finding good music to share. We take our job as gatekeepers very seriously. However none of us are perfect and we don’t always know who is “real” and who is “fake.” You are already doing the right thing by being a Dad who is involved in his kids media intake. That’s the best thing to do and I wish more parents were like you. I think a good policy to follow is if you don’t feel right in your gut, move on. There are a ton of great bands out there these days who are open and honest about their faith.

  7. Hi Bill – there is a difference between a band made up of Christian people and a Christian band. Thankyou! As a Christian person, I have heard poor-quality recordings made by “Christian bands” that simply don’t grab me musically. That’s fine. They are still doing their job in presenting Christ, it’s just not the style for me. Equally, there’s something to be said for bands that happen to be made up of (or include) Christian people, who play to huge audiences (not just in a church) and get across general life in their songs through a faith-tinted window (in my experience, that would be IONA, U2, Brooke Fraser, RED for example). It is not my place to denounce either musical format – both have their application in faith and art generally. There’s nothing in the Bible saying Christian people can’t make terrific music that may appeal to more than the local church audience, and nothing saying they can’t enjoy a drink either. No over-indulgence, I agree with that bit. Smoking? Not illegal but hardly what I’d call a recommended activity (for health reasons!). So if as a Christian you refuse any music but Christian bands, fine. If as a Christian you want something more to light up your brain than the usual praise/worship/everything’s fine and dandy stuff, and there are Christian people out there that play just as well and talk about everyday life/struggles etc, then fine. There’s also that group of Christian people that have been willing to serve time in positions in other bands…. Chester Thompson (Genesis drummer for 20 years), Rick Wakeman (YES keyboard player for 30 years), etc. They too in their own way are both using the talent God gave them AND being God’s presence in that studio/venue.

    • Right you are! As I metioned in the blog a “Christian Band” focuses on the church at large with songs of praise, adoration and edification. Most times the lyrics are clear and direct. A band made up of Christians can be focused on may different issues, it is best summed up by this statement. Music for music sake thier faith may inform the art they create but it isn’t all about the message or the mission. I beleive both approaches are valid and God can use both. But as Christians all are responsible for their actions and reputation no matter where they are, or what they do!

  8. What people do on their own time is their own business and they will personally answer to God for their behavior. However, a Christian band “partying” while on tour is just infantile, stupid, and shows worse than bad judgement; grow some brains for gosh sakes! As one who enjoys an occasional cigar and beer, I can appreciate consumption in moderation. But I’m not gonna go out on stage on a bottle of JD, nor am I gonna party after a show if I’m attempting to represent Christ. It’s just common sense, and unfortunately many folks just don’t have any; Christian and non Christian alike.

      • Be ye Holy for I am Holy! Unfortunately a lot of these so called Christians, are only deceiving themselves, and some day will hear the Lord say “Depart from me, for I never knew you”. One of the most things in the Christian’s live is obedience, “obedience is better than sacrifice”. What are some of these Christians giving up for the Lord? “take up your cross and follow me” Your testimony is the only Bible that some people read, Christians are supposed to be different, not weird, but living a Holy life, that people will notice and ask what it is that they have and that they don’t have!

      • And by living a Godly life people will think that you are “weird,” or “different”. Which is cool by me. People will see our “weirdness”, or the Spirit living with in us, and that is what will attract them as the Spirit moves.

  9. Funny, I’m sitting here in my car listening to Cavo and reading this blog about our conversation with them…

    I think I even said this that night, I am not a fan of CCM. In my brief time in Christian radio (about 6 years), I really found many of the people I encountered to be fake. I’m being harsh, but when I came into the Christian music biz, I actually thought people would be different.

    My experiences and age have given me the wisdom and the knowledge that we’re all screwed up. Just as you stated, some of us have realized a need for a Savior.

    Still not sure we need to be weird, but I know we need to be attractive. Jesus Christ shining through us makes that possible. I just need to be who God created me to be and keep my eyes on Him. When I do that, He takes care of the rest.

    Maybe the real issue is that we don’t listen to and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading… it’s a lost art in most churches.

    By the way, sorry for cracking wise 😉

    • And that’s the daily struggle, getting out of the way of the Spirit. Hey I didn’t name names, you outed yourself!

  10. Yes, when I say “weird” I mean no common sense and no consideration for people we are trying to reach. To me that is wierd, but I understand your take on being “wierd” too. Those who go on “cruise control” instead of seeking fresh annointing from God become “weird” and out of touch.

    PS I am in line for a coaster at 6 Flags, lol

  11. Good blog Bill, I would say that God has always expected His people to be different and unique (not wierd) from the world. Also a genuine believer is going to change and grow in his or her faith by bearing fruit, which is the ultimate witness. If I never change then I better check up to ensure that my calling and election is sure.

    • Thanks for the thought Mark! Isn’t being Wierd the new normal? According to Craig Groeschel in his book “Wierd.” Normal isn’t working anymore, it’s time to be Wierd by the world’s standards. We are after all a “peculiar people.” .

      • What does it mean, normal doesn’t work anymore? The problem today is that Christians are trying to save people, that is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict sinners. We can’t say anyone, only the Lord can do that!

      • Normal or the “world’s system” doesn’t work. To be a true follower of Jesus is to be “wierd” by the world’s standards. which is ok with me!

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