I was out at dinner with my eight-year old daughter earlier this week, when some generic, Nickelback-ish schlock-rock started playing over the restaurants’s speakers. She turned to me and asked, “Daddy, is this praise music?”

Simultaneously, I was beaming with pride at her discerning ears (she’s a Kings of Convenience kind of girl) and horrified at the state of CCM / praise & worship music (for cranking out so many bland soundalike “hits”).

Cliches or Creativity?

Michael Gungor, an artist whose music I deeply appreciate, has written a thoughtful blog, Zombies, Wine, and Christian Music, in which he advocates for authenticity and creativity among Christian artists.

Recently, on Grantland, Molly Lambert coined the term “foreclosure rock” to describe the various tropes CCM videos utilize:

Genre cliches from Christian rock videos: denim shirts, stripped rooms with bare brick or concrete walls, golden lights and lens flares. People struggling with real-life issues like bills and bullies and then overcoming them through faith in Christ.

The Imago Dei 

My intent is not to blindly rail against all Christian music. I unironically enjoy all kinds of CCM, particularly of the fun 80s/90s variety. However, I’m all for thoughtful, engaged artistry when it comes to worshiping God.

My daughter’s aforementioned question led to a great conversation about art, faith, and the Imago Dei. We agreed that when we offer up creative (as opposed to derivative), heartfelt praise it witnesses to and honors the heart of our creator God.

I love the work of bands such as Gungor, Rend Collective Experiment, John Mark McMillan, Future of Forestry, and the David Crowder*Band. I’m predisposed to like indie music — both as a musical genre (in the vein of Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros, Dirty Projectors, etc.) and as DIY ethic.

These kinds of artists expand our worship vocabulary, both through their lyrical craftsmanship and their effective use of banjos, strings, accordions, and horns alongside more traditional rock instrumentation.

Beyond Singability 

As someone who loves to worship God through singing and, having been involved in worship music ministry for a number of years, I can definitely understand the need to find “singable” songs. However, there’s no need to flip the switch to autopilot and mindlessly sing the latest and not-quite-greatest worship “hits.”

Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength is an inherently creative endeavor — I’m all for worship leaders writing songs that reflect what God is up to in their particular communities. The songs don’t have to be cool or hip, just honest. And, even though leading a worship ministry is a lot of work already, maybe we need to raise the bar in seeking out meaningful songs that can help lead our churches beyond worship-karaoke and into a new openness to God.

Here are a couple of my favorites: