Christian Art: what the Church is doing good at right now…music

It seems clear to me that in many areas the Christian Church in American, in particular, the Evangelical branch, is doing some things in art fairly well. One of those is music. Sure, when it comes to visual art, and even film, we are still working in baby steps to influence and be on the edge. But, in music, the influence on culture in the West is apparent in what we see on the surface both in form and in substance. Here are some observations to support this.

  • Currently, 5 of the top 10 American Idol participants are active in their local churches. In fact, many of the past winners and top contestants are. It should also be no surprise that even though lip syncing is big on American Idol, it is rare if ever to see that happen in a church service. You do not even have to go to a huge church to find great music, either it seems.
  • Artists like Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay mimic the form of gospel and church worship. Do people feel “spiritual” in those concerts? Chris Martin’s upbringing in the church comes out in his sing-along form. Bruce steals the form of a black gospel service with his performance and call and response antics.
  • Schools in America are decreasing music education, which has left the local church as one of the last few places where musical people can cut their teeth. This is nothing new, though. Elvis sang in his church’s choir, too. Where is the best place to learn to sing these days?
  • Christian musicians are more and more in the mainstream of our music scene with groups like Switchfoot, The Myriad and with many other writers having music played in TV ads and broadcasts. The platform of Christians in the music scene is influential, if still small. But, it is there. Yes, there is a Christian music scene, too. The thought here is that beyond that we see the influence and impact on what we listen to each day.
  • The tech in church services matches and exceeds how most hear live music today. Go to an AES show and you will see the new audio technologies with three applications: stadiums, clubs and houses of worship! So, churches today are literally influencing the technology of how music is heard to entire culture. Companies now know this and market to the church.
  • Simply, the artistry of church musicians is now recognized, whether it is sitting next a Grammy award winner a couple months ago who is a church music guy or the response from industry people who now take note of the good. Yes, there is that “Christian ghetto” some of us will still hope to break down, but as far as art is concerned, it is happening inside the Church these days.

What is “good art” is usually defined by those who pay for the art. Music is sold as a grassroots medium for the most part, but churches invest in music. This is why it is way ahead of other areas of art. When we start investing in film, visual arts, storytelling and more we then might see our impact on culture grow.

I caution us to not derail our baby steps by simply complaining about how bad we are doing but to envision how we can create. The next step is to not just impact or influence, however. How can we “create culture”

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

20 comments

  1. Interesting insight! I think there are some great observations in there. I think it’s awesome that Christians are growing in their art skills and not being so afraid to “mingle with the secular world.” 🙂 If “the glory of God is a human being fully alive,” than certainly we see the glory of God in a musician/artist using their gifts to the fullest, whether they feel led to share their gifts in a secular market or Christian one. I myself, though mainly a worship leader and worship songwriter most of my years, feel stirred more and more in this season to find new ways to share music – in whatever context, to whatever crowd, in whatever style. Admittedly, I have been afraid that in the “secular” world that my gift won’t match up or be well received (the Church is an easy crowd to sing for, and usually quite easy on you!), but I feel the Lord challenging me to offer it, nonetheless. Thanks for sharing this blog and continuing to stir the pot in my own life as an “artist.”

  2. Interesting insight! I think there are some great observations in there. I think it’s awesome that Christians are growing in their art skills and not being so afraid to “mingle with the secular world.” 🙂 If “the glory of God is a human being fully alive,” than certainly we see the glory of God in a musician/artist using their gifts to the fullest, whether they feel led to share their gifts in a secular market or Christian one. I myself, though mainly a worship leader and worship songwriter most of my years, feel stirred more and more in this season to find new ways to share music – in whatever context, to whatever crowd, in whatever style. Admittedly, I have been afraid that in the “secular” world that my gift won’t match up or be well received (the Church is an easy crowd to sing for, and usually quite easy on you!), but I feel the Lord challenging me to offer it, nonetheless. Thanks for sharing this blog and continuing to stir the pot in my own life as an “artist.”

  3. Interesting insight! I think there are some great observations in there. I think it’s awesome that Christians are growing in their art skills and not being so afraid to “mingle with the secular world.” 🙂 If “the glory of God is a human being fully alive,” than certainly we see the glory of God in a musician/artist using their gifts to the fullest, whether they feel led to share their gifts in a secular market or Christian one. I myself, though mainly a worship leader and worship songwriter most of my years, feel stirred more and more in this season to find new ways to share music – in whatever context, to whatever crowd, in whatever style. Admittedly, I have been afraid that in the “secular” world that my gift won’t match up or be well received (the Church is an easy crowd to sing for, and usually quite easy on you!), but I feel the Lord challenging me to offer it, nonetheless. Thanks for sharing this blog and continuing to stir the pot in my own life as an “artist.”

  4. Interesting insight! I think there are some great observations in there. I think it’s awesome that Christians are growing in their art skills and not being so afraid to “mingle with the secular world.” 🙂 If “the glory of God is a human being fully alive,” than certainly we see the glory of God in a musician/artist using their gifts to the fullest, whether they feel led to share their gifts in a secular market or Christian one. I myself, though mainly a worship leader and worship songwriter most of my years, feel stirred more and more in this season to find new ways to share music – in whatever context, to whatever crowd, in whatever style. Admittedly, I have been afraid that in the “secular” world that my gift won’t match up or be well received (the Church is an easy crowd to sing for, and usually quite easy on you!), but I feel the Lord challenging me to offer it, nonetheless. Thanks for sharing this blog and continuing to stir the pot in my own life as an “artist.”

  5. “mingle” is a word to live by perhaps 🙂
    I think we should put it out there. Our worship team did our thing in a public park a couple times recently and it seemed to work, be relevant and we were ourselves. And, it was fun.

    Granted, its not “lets sing a long church” but it was authentic cause it was just us. I am also trying to write songs and think of ways I can connect to the community other than just being the worship leader music guy.

  6. “mingle” is a word to live by perhaps 🙂
    I think we should put it out there. Our worship team did our thing in a public park a couple times recently and it seemed to work, be relevant and we were ourselves. And, it was fun.

    Granted, its not “lets sing a long church” but it was authentic cause it was just us. I am also trying to write songs and think of ways I can connect to the community other than just being the worship leader music guy.

  7. “mingle” is a word to live by perhaps 🙂
    I think we should put it out there. Our worship team did our thing in a public park a couple times recently and it seemed to work, be relevant and we were ourselves. And, it was fun.

    Granted, its not “lets sing a long church” but it was authentic cause it was just us. I am also trying to write songs and think of ways I can connect to the community other than just being the worship leader music guy.

  8. “mingle” is a word to live by perhaps 🙂
    I think we should put it out there. Our worship team did our thing in a public park a couple times recently and it seemed to work, be relevant and we were ourselves. And, it was fun.

    Granted, its not “lets sing a long church” but it was authentic cause it was just us. I am also trying to write songs and think of ways I can connect to the community other than just being the worship leader music guy.

  9. One word: innovation. Market leaders always make more money simply because they are the market leaders, instead of the immitations. It’s the original, the one and only. They did it first – they do it best. Look at the iPod and all it’s knock-off clone MP3 players. Apple invented it first. Everyone else was a copycat.

  10. One word: innovation. Market leaders always make more money simply because they are the market leaders, instead of the immitations. It’s the original, the one and only. They did it first – they do it best. Look at the iPod and all it’s knock-off clone MP3 players. Apple invented it first. Everyone else was a copycat.

  11. One word: innovation. Market leaders always make more money simply because they are the market leaders, instead of the immitations. It’s the original, the one and only. They did it first – they do it best. Look at the iPod and all it’s knock-off clone MP3 players. Apple invented it first. Everyone else was a copycat.

  12. One word: innovation. Market leaders always make more money simply because they are the market leaders, instead of the immitations. It’s the original, the one and only. They did it first – they do it best. Look at the iPod and all it’s knock-off clone MP3 players. Apple invented it first. Everyone else was a copycat.

  13. If we are created in the image of the ultimate authority on creativity, shouldn’t we be setting some standards in art? In the past the christian art market has suffered from “It’s good enough to sell to christians” because its a cornered market. There had never been much money spent and value applied to music, art, media etc.
    A plague in the christianity is that we do cheap knock offs of what the world has already done. We change labels of famous products to look “Jesus ish” and put em on T shirts. We mimick tv shows for sermon series. back in the day some people use to play “Saved Songs” changing the words to popular radio songs.

    I think much of it is getting better because we’re not afraid of art and expression in the church anymore. The reality is in the secular world money makes the art go around. Movie studios don’t let people make the movies they want anymore. they get screened and rewritten and then mismarketed. Awards shows pay actors to sit in the front and go crazy for every artist so it looks good on television. Everything is calculated, and very little is free expression.

  14. If we are created in the image of the ultimate authority on creativity, shouldn’t we be setting some standards in art? In the past the christian art market has suffered from “It’s good enough to sell to christians” because its a cornered market. There had never been much money spent and value applied to music, art, media etc.
    A plague in the christianity is that we do cheap knock offs of what the world has already done. We change labels of famous products to look “Jesus ish” and put em on T shirts. We mimick tv shows for sermon series. back in the day some people use to play “Saved Songs” changing the words to popular radio songs.

    I think much of it is getting better because we’re not afraid of art and expression in the church anymore. The reality is in the secular world money makes the art go around. Movie studios don’t let people make the movies they want anymore. they get screened and rewritten and then mismarketed. Awards shows pay actors to sit in the front and go crazy for every artist so it looks good on television. Everything is calculated, and very little is free expression.

  15. If we are created in the image of the ultimate authority on creativity, shouldn’t we be setting some standards in art? In the past the christian art market has suffered from “It’s good enough to sell to christians” because its a cornered market. There had never been much money spent and value applied to music, art, media etc.
    A plague in the christianity is that we do cheap knock offs of what the world has already done. We change labels of famous products to look “Jesus ish” and put em on T shirts. We mimick tv shows for sermon series. back in the day some people use to play “Saved Songs” changing the words to popular radio songs.

    I think much of it is getting better because we’re not afraid of art and expression in the church anymore. The reality is in the secular world money makes the art go around. Movie studios don’t let people make the movies they want anymore. they get screened and rewritten and then mismarketed. Awards shows pay actors to sit in the front and go crazy for every artist so it looks good on television. Everything is calculated, and very little is free expression.

  16. If we are created in the image of the ultimate authority on creativity, shouldn’t we be setting some standards in art? In the past the christian art market has suffered from “It’s good enough to sell to christians” because its a cornered market. There had never been much money spent and value applied to music, art, media etc.
    A plague in the christianity is that we do cheap knock offs of what the world has already done. We change labels of famous products to look “Jesus ish” and put em on T shirts. We mimick tv shows for sermon series. back in the day some people use to play “Saved Songs” changing the words to popular radio songs.

    I think much of it is getting better because we’re not afraid of art and expression in the church anymore. The reality is in the secular world money makes the art go around. Movie studios don’t let people make the movies they want anymore. they get screened and rewritten and then mismarketed. Awards shows pay actors to sit in the front and go crazy for every artist so it looks good on television. Everything is calculated, and very little is free expression.

  17. For those that critique Christian art, are they even willing to pay for a decent painting or support an artist in some way? That is where the breakdown is. We complain, but when it comes to making something better, we sit on our hands and wallets.

  18. For those that critique Christian art, are they even willing to pay for a decent painting or support an artist in some way? That is where the breakdown is. We complain, but when it comes to making something better, we sit on our hands and wallets.

  19. For those that critique Christian art, are they even willing to pay for a decent painting or support an artist in some way? That is where the breakdown is. We complain, but when it comes to making something better, we sit on our hands and wallets.

  20. For those that critique Christian art, are they even willing to pay for a decent painting or support an artist in some way? That is where the breakdown is. We complain, but when it comes to making something better, we sit on our hands and wallets.

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