By Paul Proctor
July 15, 2004
There�s a saying among old timers on Music Row here in Nashville: �Country music is not for everyone.� Just like most styles from bluegrass to country to R & B to jazz, there is a perpetual push to turn particular types of music into something they were never intended to be by watering them down in an effort to make them more appealing to a larger audience. This invariably happens whenever a specific genre is made popular by the quirkiness of a traditional artist and is momentarily embraced by the mainstream, resulting in non-traditional artists jumping onboard to ride the wave of success created by the traditional artist�s crossover hit.
Unfortunately, the herd that follows brings with it all sorts of non-traditional things that result in cheap imitations of the real deal. The undiscerning ears of the mainstream don�t know the difference between genuine country and counterfeit country because they were never really country music lovers to begin with. Pop music is essentially whatever is popular to the largest listening audience at any given time. That�s why you hear artists from all music genres on pop music stations. You might say it is a smorgasbord of bastardized music forms brought together, not to promote any specific style but to increase the number of listeners by tapping into the fickle tastes of mainstream America.
The best and most recent example I can give of this occurring was in the mid 80�s after country music had become very pop oriented with artists like Conway Twitty, Barbra Mandrell, Lee Greenwood, Gary Morris, T.G. Sheppard and many others. A young fellow named Randy Travis exploded on the country music scene with a VERY traditional sound that was so different from everyone else on radio at the time that he stood out as if he was the only one who was truly singing country music. His vocal style, song selection and music production were about as traditional as it gets � at least among those with access to electricity. He even had a humble and simple demeanor on stage that few, if any in country music were displaying at the time. By comparison, most big record-selling artists had either a Vegas style act or a rock and roll attitude.
Well, when Randy�s records began selling like crazy, the herd followed and many became �traditional� again � but only in appearance and only for a time. It lasted until the mainstream eventually grew tired of the traditional sound and started looking again for something new and different. That new and different thing was a closet rocker with a cowboy hat from Oklahoma named Garth Brooks. He made �country fans� out of people who hated country music and actually ended up out-selling the Beatles. The fact is � they weren�t really following country music � they were merely caught up in a magnificent marketing campaign to generate sales by redefining what country music was for jaded consumers.
All the while, true country music fans were shaking their heads and saying to each other. �He ain�t country.� But pop music doesn�t care because the mainstream isn�t comprised of true country music connoisseurs; just fashion fanatics feeding on the frenzy of the next big thing.
I say all this to make a point: In many ways, this is what�s happening to Christianity and the church today. Shrewd marketers have been busy bastardizing the faith and redefining what Christianity is to consumers in order to appeal to a larger demographic. In doing so, they are making a lot of play-like Christians out of people who, for the most part, hate holiness and have little or no time or tolerance for God�s Word � cheap imitators who carefully pick and choose from the bible what appeals to their trendy lifestyles as if God has given them that option.
They buy big crosses, WWJD bracelets, magazine bibles, slogan-bearing bumper stickers, Jesus is my homeboy T-shirts and all of the purpose driven paraphernalia their paychecks can provide them � like the yuppies who role-played John Travolta during the Urban Cowboy craze with fancy new hats, jeans, boots and buckles.
It doesn�t take a prophet to see where the church growth movement is headed. Most of its participants, who joined the fad, will soon fall away when something new and more exciting comes along or their superficial faith is tested by the harsh realities of life. They will simply look back over their shoulder at the big empty building they once called their church and say to themselves: �Been there � done that � got the Hawaiian shirt� and move on to the next big thing.
Like country music � Christianity is not for everyone. But, in the meantime, there is a lot of money to be made and glory to be had from all of the purpose driven pretenders passing through.
�For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.� � 2nd Timothy 4:3-4
� 2004 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved
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Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for NewsWithViews.com, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at [email protected]�
It doesn�t take a prophet to see where the church growth movement is headed. Most of its participants, who joined the fad, will soon fall away when something new and more exciting comes along or their superficial faith is tested by the harsh realities of life.