What makes a song “Christian”?

Greetings, world.

Yesterday, along with some ministry colleagues, we chatted with Billy Diehm – from Brisbane, Australia’s Christian radio station 96.5 FM. Billy is good value.  Somewhere amid all this I heard the question: What makes a song Christian?  It got me thinking.  I love music. I write my share of it. I encourage the use of it in worship through my Together to Celebrate site.

Funny how this thinking is happening.  A few days back, somehow I was prompted to check out the great new song by The Fray: “You Found Me” on YouTube

I’ve bought or more-recently downloaded my share of Christian music over the past 30 years or more. Michael W Smith is one of my heroes – he has a wonderful gift in songwriting. I currently am a big supporter of the music coming from the pen of the U.S. worship-song writer Chris Tomlin. My Together to Celebrate site promotes a wider range of contemporary Christian worship music – from Tomlin to Taize.

But does the injection of the words” Jesus”, “the Cross”, salvation, “Holy Spirit” and so on maketh a song “Christian”. Well – usually yes. That said, there’s plenty -perhaps more in the music offered over the years by the likes of so many artists – some of them (most of them) not professing Christians that points me, and perhaps many other listeners to the hope and life God offers in Jesus. In a great many cases, the ‘pointing’ is that much more profound and incisive, making many a Christian worship song really quite bland. Not all mind you, hear me clearly.

This song from The Fray impresses me.  Only the writers know if there’s God stuff behind the song, but the band are purportedly Christians.  Even if the “you” in the song is not meant as “God”, for me at least it’s a signpost toward the prevenient grace of God – God who loves, pursues and finds me before I know it.

I found God
On the corner of First and Amistad
Where the west
Was all but won
All alone
Smoking his last cigarette
I said, Where you been?
He said, Ask anything.

Where were you
When everything was falling apart?
All my days
Were spent by the telephone
That never rang
And all I needed was a call
It never came
To the corner of First and Amistad

Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor
Surrounded, surrounded
Why’d you have to wait?
Where were you, where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, You found me

Is this song “Christian”?  Well – it’s heightened my Christ-awareness and devotion, and that will do me.  What do you think?


2 Responses to “What makes a song “Christian”?”

  1. 1 PaulW February 5, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks, David!

    I downloaded Lily Allen’s “The Fear” video yesterday from iTunes (the ‘clean’ version, a gap where the f-word was!), and while I doubt she intends it as a Christian song, it is a very good statement of the ‘hyperreality’ trap so many of us are in.

    I think I’m trying to say that whatever makes a song ‘Christian’, the search for truth makes a song a potential ally of Christ’s way.

  2. 2 dmacgreg1 February 6, 2009 at 12:39 am


    That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. There will always be the place for music (irrespective of genre) which is overtly ‘Christian’ in its lyric. Sometimes (or is it often) it’s that music that requires a greater sense of reflection, delving and wrestling that ultimately, to use your words makes a song a potential ally of Christ’s way.

    It’s got me thinking – I might expand this one Sunday night at Indooroopilly, in place of the lectionary-based sermon. Just a thought

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