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”