Why 'Pop Christianity' Falls Short of Pleasing God

Make sure your children are getting a balance in what they listen to.
Make sure your children are getting a balance in what they listen to. (Flickr )

You may think my 10-year-old son is moderately tone-deaf when you listen to him sing, but he only rivals his father in our household when it comes to being a music lover. His interests are not broad, but laser-focused on one genre: Christian rap.

But his two current favorites are not Lecrae's. Instead, he loves to "crank it like a chainsaw" with Family Force Five, and "keep his eye on it" with Toby Mac.

Few songs are as mindless as "Chainsaw." It's lyrically and visually absurd, even to this previous summer camp staffer in charge of playing this genre every morning at camp and former youth pastor who relied on these things to generate enthusiasm at special events.

But honestly, I really like this song! It's just pure FUN, and it brings my son and I together in ways that no one else in the house appreciates (well, maybe my toddler daughter, but she loves everything loud).

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In some ways, "Eye On It" is even more disappointing. Lyrically, it is one trite platitude after another (I set my eyes to the west; Walkin' away from it all; Reachin' for what lies ahead; I got my eye on it; I see my sweat hit the ground; I put my foot in the block; This is the race of my life; And I can't wait for this shot). Yet it does manage to make a vague reference to Philippians 3:14, but only those familiar with Paul's pen would pick up on it.

But again, my son has all but memorized the song and jumps around the house like a fiend if given the freedom, so I'm grateful for this enthusiasm and give a nod to Toby Mac for creating beats, rhythms and rhymes that resonate with the souls of many. Hey—it gave me a chance tell my boy about Philippians 3, so it's not all bad.

But what if all that ever came of my son's spirituality was what Toby Mac and Family Force Five gave him? What if his faith was at the mercy of mainstream Christian media? What if my son lived perpetually in the world of pop Christianity? What if his understanding of perseverance in the faith was nothing more than "gotta keep my eye on what matters"? What if, in need of hope and inspiration to work through a difficult situation, he could only tell himself, "Now hear me roar; I'm an apex predator; From the sycamores; Let's get skeletor"?

I think the answer to that question is obvious. A faith as thin as the lyrics of these songs is easily shattered. Pop Christianity is not Christianity. It's not that these types of music don't have their place. I think my appreciation for them has been adequately stated. But to live in them and depend upon them, even in middle school and high school, is a treacherous way to live the faith. But let's let the Bible speak for itself on this issue.

Jesus warns us against putting stock in trite Christian behavior. Matthew 7:21-23—"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name?' But then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice evil.'" Jesus is not impressed if we have "beats so sharp they call us Jaws." He cares that He knows us.

Jesus beckons us to something deeper. John 15:1-4—"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that bears no fruit, He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean through the word which I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, neither can you, unless you remain in Me." I'm not suggesting no fruit comes of listening to pop Christian music, but just how far can it go in even helping us produce the fruit Jesus can produce in us?

Heaven's music is far richer. Revelation 7:9-12—"Then I looked. And there was a great multitude which no one could count, from all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures and fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.'" Apparently, eternity in the presence of God is a little deeper than "Fresh flannel shirt, country bumpkin; Lumberjack your moves, a.k.a. Paul Bunyan."

I hope I'm not coming across as prude. I listened to Family Force Five and Lecrae with the boys recently as I drove them to an event at church (and I'm fairly confident they wouldn't hear this music where we go to church).

But when I consider Jesus' warnings, Jesus' call, and what awaits us in heaven, I'm encouraged to push my boys toward lyrics that are more substantive ... more gospel-centered ... more God-centered ... more explicit and challenging so that they can heed Jesus' warnings and answer His call.

Rob Tims has served in the local church for 20 years as a children's pastor, student pastor and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at LifeWay Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is the author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.

For the original article, visit lifeway.com.

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