Michael Card on the industry of CCM

Michael Card is one of my favorite artists precisely because he does not embody the plastic, contrived sound that defined early CCM. He is simply one of the best poets of our time. A recent article details the history of the commercialization of Christian music, and in it, Card’s quotes are the ones that stand out:

But not everyone in the evangelical world – even in the Christian publishing world – thought all was well. Christian music pioneer Michael Card lamented, “Worship is supposed to be a sacrifice. When did it become an industry? How can we talk about being ‘sold out for Jesus’ when Time-Life is selling praise and worship music in infomercials? For years the ‘holy grail’ was to crossover into the mainstream market, so we can have an impact on the world. But to most non-Christians, what we do may be crossing over into their pocketbooks, but not into their lives.?

“I trace a lot of what is wrong with contemporary Christian music to the fact that in the early days the church closed the door on us,? Card said. “And in the late 80s, when the church invited us back, they invited us back for the wrong reasons. It was about power and money. Christian music became popular and profitable and the church wanted a piece of this. Those are the wrong reasons, but churches too have become industrial.?

For Card, the dividing line in this debate is this very conflict between community and industry. And he says it is not a question merely of style, or taste, but of theology. “When we first meet God,? Card says, “he is an artist. He’s a painter, basically, stepping back and forth from a canvas. It is a shame the church has overlooked this, because the tools you need to be an artist are the same tools you need to be a disciple. You need a servant’s heart, you need obedience to a call from God, and you need humility, teachability.? In other words, if the church knew how to nurture artists, it would be excellent at disciple-building and it would have a much more biblical understanding of the God of the Bible. And this kind of nurturing can’t go on in what Card calls an “industrial? church. This kind of disciple-building takes place in a community.

If Card’s diagnosis is accurate, what is his prescription? “The question I would ask the industrial church and the industrial entertainment world is this: ‘What is your basis? The basis of any industry is money and power. The basis of community is letting go of money and power. Unqualified acceptance is not based on performance. Unqualified acceptance is the hallmark of community, which is what the church should be.? Card says that “at the point it becomes about money and power and more people and a bigger building, despite the best of intentions the more delicate aspects of community become trampled.?

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