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The Future of Christian Music?

Because I’m very fortunate to speak at a lot of Christian churches, conferences, and other events, I get a chance to hear a lot of Christian music. In general, Christian music can be broken down into the following categories; contemporary Christian, Gospel, southern Gospel, urban Gospel, holy hip-hop, and traditional hymns.

To be more specific though, you can break Christian music down to black Christian music and white Christian music. Many people don’t want to talk about this, but that’s the current state of Christian music, and it’s been that way for a long time. It’s race-based and is mostly influenced by places like Nashville and Detroit in the United States. Even when I preach at a Latino church, the praise and worship is mainly contemporary Christian (white); it’s just being sung in Spanish.

Even Christian radio is segregated. Rarely does a CCM station play urban Gospel, and never have I heard a black Gospel/urban Gospel station play CCM. As a matter of fact, there aren’t very many black Gospel/urban Gospel stations, but mostly shows that last about two hours weekly hosted by BeBe Winans or Dr. Bobby Jones. Why is it that in this multicultural reality, Christian music is for the most part, race music? This shows how far behind Christian music is compared to so-called secular music.

Secular music has transcended race. A black artist like Seal to some sounds white, while Pink sounds black. A white rapper named Eminem is one of the hottest artists in what is considered a black and urban genre. Yet, we expect our multicultural, Christian youth today to value Christian music over secular music. You may want to push back at me (and you’re welcome to), but Christian music is held captive by race, and we don’t seem to want to talk about it. My theory is that this is done by secular record industry powers to keep Christian music a second-class genre, and we need local church folks to fight against this reality.

Most Christian record labels and other companies have been sold to larger secular companies. Find a Christian for-profit, and it’s most likely owned by a company headed by someone who is not a Christian. Maybe this explains it. Or maybe it’s because many Christians don’t want to have healthy and real discussions about race, business marketing, and power, and its impact on Christians.

There is hope though. There are Christian artists such as Toby Mac, Israel and New Breed, John Reuben, and Kirk Franklin who are being bold enough to cross race lines and create kingdom music. This must be the future. We must move beyond Christian music enslaved to race, to a more liberating genre. I will this call kingdom music. Kingdom music is Christian music set free, designed for all God’s people, also able to reach all lost people. Can I get an amen? Now what we need is a group of non-profit kingdom music record labels that won’t sell out to secular companies. Can I really get an amen?

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Efrem Smith is an internationally recognized leader who uses motivational speaking and preaching to equip people for a life of transformation. He also consults on issues of multi-ethnicity, leadership, and community development for churches, educational institutions, and other organizations. Efrem served as Founding Pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church and President of The Sanctuary Community Development Corporation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Currently, Efrem is the Superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. He is the author of the books, “Raising-up Young Heroes,” “The Hip Hop Church," and his newest, "Jump Into a Life of Further and Higher."