Positive, uplifting, and safe for the whole family.
Those are the taglines of many local Christian radio stations, which are becoming increasingly popular alternatives for parents to tune into during their commute to school, work or soccer practice.
But songwriter and worship leader Kristen Gilles wasn't so sure whether those "kid-friendly" stations were actually what they claimed to be.
"After critically listening to [one of our local Contemporary Christian Music] radio station during my commutes to and from work for the past several weeks, I've found myself asking these questions: Is it really positive? Is it telling the truth? The WHOLE truth?" she questioned on her blog.
Unable to hear foundational Gospel truths proclaimed during the programs and songs – such as total depravity, redemption, repentance and forgiveness – the Sojourn Community Church praise leader felt that Christian radio stations and CCM were preaching a false gospel.
"If Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is not telling...gospel truths, if instead it's telling listeners that they're 'special' and everything's going to be okay, but without saying anything about the incredibly high price God has paid to make them His own special possession, or what he's done to conquer the power of sin and death, and what he will do in returning to free us from the very presence of sin and evil, then it's not wholesome, positive, safe for the whole family, or helpful," she wrote.
When asked to respond to the songwriter's criticism of Christian radio stations today and whether they were guilty of playing positive but not Gospel-centered music, KSGN 89.7, WIBI 91.1, and 95.9 The Fish, did not provide statements to The Christian Post.
According to Gilles, Christian music and programs that were not centered on Christ only served to point people away from the truth.
"We don't need more self esteem programming with little religious language," the experienced pianist and vocalist shared. "We don't primarily need more encouragement to feel good about ourselves."
What people needed instead were sobering truths, "that we are sinners who will fall into the hands of the Living God either as His enemies or His reconciled, redeemed children."
And it was through the hearing of the Gospel that listeners would be encouraged to confess their sins, believe in Christ, and turn from their own ways to the way of Christ, of course with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Listening to "positive" Christian radio made Gilles aware of the lack of Gospel truth-telling music, despite the number of "good songs and good artists" currently in the music world.
As a Christian songwriter herself, she knew she too was accountable to the lyrics she wrote that thousands listened and sang along to.
"It compels me all the more to write songs that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ – the only Way, the Truth, and the Life," she revealed, encouraging other songwriters to do the same.
The Indiana resident also hoped that Christians would make sure songs resonated with the Gospel before putting them on repeat, being more mindful of the "positive, Christian" music they listened to.
"If it doesn't, leave it," Gilles advised. "Be a listener advocate for gospel-centered music."
Gilles' husband Bobby, director of communications at Sojourn and former radio disc jockey and music director, also advocated for Gospel-centered music, stating that songs should teach the Gospel, admonish one another, center on the word of Christ, and stem from thankful hearts.
Both were doing their part "to recover an ecclesial, rooted sense of worship," Dr. Russell Moore, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, previously said of the Gilles.
"[They] seek to equip our churches for our worship by, for example, teaching people to write their salvation testimony, giving people guidance on writing songs, and pointing site visitors to a number of other resources.
Bobby and Kristen Gilles currently live together in New Albany, Ind., writing songs, hosting writers' practice group gatherings, raising children and serving the multi-campus Sojourn Community Church.