Eric Geiger, the senior VP at Lifeway, wrote a blog about some new research that revealed the top 5 influencers on child’s spiritual health. The one that seemed most surprising to people that saw this study was the fact that number 4 on the list was listening to Christian Music.
I want to say… I’m not surprised at all. And not because I could’ve predicted it, but because of what the medium of music does to us.
Music is our modern day catechesis. What is that you say? A catechism is a simple system of instruction by which we memorize questions and answers to learn theology. It was primarily used for educating families and became particularly popular during the Protestant Reformation. Because the reformers recognized that there needed to be a systematic way of teaching families the recovered doctrines of the gospel, they devised a conversational method of teaching Biblical truths to their children. As a father of 3 young children, I can say personally that catechism is a particularly satisfying way of instructing our children. We have been doing these questions and answers with them since they were two years old and we are all slowly but surely learning together.
In our modern age, catechism is no longer a popular method of instructing children. Instead, music has taken its place as a way for children to memorize and learn things easily. When we learn the English alphabet, for example, we sing the ABC’s to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” (That may be news to you, but the ABC song and TTLS have the same melody.) My children are learning all of the states and capitals by song this year, and it works.
This is why the Christian music thing doesn’t surprise me. Our culture’s catechesis is music. What our young people are listening to, they are becoming. The values of our culture are steeped in the songs they hear, and they’re memorizing it, one lyric at a time. And in the age of streaming music, the industry is working harder than ever to create short, repeatable hooks with melodies and lyrics that run over and over again in our heads. It’s why specific genres of music also tend to have a culture that goes along with it. There is a cultural identity behind people who listen to goth music or EDM or hip-hop.
And so it is with students that listen to Christian music. They are influenced by the lyrics to take their spirituality seriously. But that doesn’t mean that if our children listen primarily to Christian music, they’re all good. The bigger lesson here is that we need to be mindful about the music we are listening to because it influences us in ways that we may not be aware of.
Here’s a sermon I did at our church this past summer where I covered why it’s so important for us to be discerning about the media we consume: