Mark Weber says church music is racially segregated and I agree.

Check out this article here to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Brandon Heath wrote a song called “Give Me Your Eyes,” and white people loved it. Since the Christian church in America is very, very segregated– there’s the white church and the black church, and rarely do they blend together– there is now a black version of “Give Me Your Eyes” by the group Joshua’s Troop; I saw the video on BET. — Mark Weber

Full Blog Article: Brandon Heath for whites; Joshua’s Troop for blacks « Mark Weber Music Blog.

There is a trend happening and I think it is happening quietly because many people don’t spend time listening to anything from artists who don’t look like them.

I’ve observed songs that have been popular for years in (white) Christian Music  suddenly becoming “new hits” in (black) Gospel Music arenas.  “Breathe”, “Let It Rain”, and “God Is Here” just to name a few.  While it’s nothing new for a Christian song to be covered (almost endlessly – “How Great Is Our God”) there is such a cultural disconnect that people don’t know a song exists until it’s been re-recorded by their favorite artist.

In the same way, at my church — which is diverse but mostly white) we’ve done Contemporary Gospel songs that have been hits for YEARS (by artists like Fred Hammond, Mary Mary, and Kirk Franklin) and it never fails that people come asking about that “new song” and give a blank stare when you mention the artist.

I’m African-American and was previously in an all black church.  More than 10 years ago I branched out into what my friends then called “white people music”– referring to Contemporary Christian Music and Worship songs– after growing discontent with the Gospel Music I’d been listening to at the time.

What has been interesting to see is the gradual change in the black Gospel Music scene as “Praise and Worship” has become more popular.  It seems to have been pushed into the mainstream by groups like Shekinah Glory (“Praise Is What I Do”) and others.  What I note most often is that only the choruses of some of these songs make it in to the re-recordings like “We Fall Down (But We Get Up)” and yes the favorite… “How Great Is Our God” with 3 lead vocalists and no verses!

So what are your thoughts and what trends have you seen?


Update: 9/24/2010 – title edited to add “racially”  distinguish what kind of segregation the article talks about.

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  • Will Saunders

    You know what Darren, when I first saw the subject of this post and began reading it, my mind went into another direction. I think of the many churches I have belonged to. Even within the black church, the music is segrated. I look at some of the older church members, say those 60 + years old who might have performed a song one way and then the 40 and under choir jazzes up the same song a little bit and everyone is wanting to know what song it is. When it gets to the chorus, everybody chimes in to sing. They recognize it.

    I suppose this is the sort of thing we'll have, and it won't likely get any better.

    • <div>Hey Will,</div><div>
      </div><div>Yes, generational segregation another 'issue' but one that I think is a bit more manageable at this point.  Our culture is racially segregated so we must somehow dig into the deeper systematic ways that segregation is entrenched (from the way new music is broadcast in media, to the way it's advertised and distributed, into Church Musicians and Worship Leaders being intentional about diversity, to the way we as individuals choose to make efforts to break the cycles that have kept us separate for so long.
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      </div>


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  • Between Two Worlds

    Well yeah. It is segregated like the people who attend the churches. The music tends to reflect the faces of the people singing it. What people like is what is familiar to them. Rick Warren's vision for church includes asking the community what music stations they listen to so the church can craft music that appeals to them because it's familiar to them. And all that.

    But your point about the music LEADERS needing to do something about it – that's great. I don't think the people in church are going to ask for diversity, but I also don't think they're going to mind diversity. I think that they expect the leaders to do the – you know, LEADING.

    Your point about the black/white music thing is spot on. I must confess I listen to black gospel because I'm just tired of CCW – that sounds all the same. To me, gospel sounds different and fresh and new; it seems to me that the people who sing it are in touch with something I miss. Since I hear the same 5 songs every week in church, I start to lose the sense of freshness – the “sing a new song” aspect of worship.

    Perhaps it's the mix we need to stay fresh.

    Oh but one request. Please don't tell me I have to listen to country & western praise & worship. Please.

  • joey

    I place the blame mainly on white Christians (I am white and was raised in the suburbs) where there are few black-majority churches. Whites discriminated against blacks for so many years and still do more subliminally (spelling?) today. They seem to run for the hills or other churches when “too many” black people show up regularly to worship. I think it’s the same with gospel music. I listen primarily to what is called by some urban gospel music. I just happen to like it more. I love mass choir music. It touches my spirit so much. I attend a church where there might be 3 whites worshipping among the 99-percent black members. We’re all the same. Sometimes, whites need to step outside their comfort zone and they’d realize through growth and understanding that all people are the same. As long as a song praises God, I love it. Thanks for the forum to respond. Joey

    • Thanks for your reply Joey! While majority (white) culture has some part in all this, I recently heard that in any congregation, when another ethnicity or culture begins to make up about 30-40% of the group, the majority starts looking for a new place be. Its an interesting dynamic that I hope we can be intentional about being together AND unique all at once. 🙂

  • Ihrtdon

    I am an African American who has noticed this musical segregation for years. Even with something as powerful as the radio stations, you have contemporary (white) and gospel (black). They sing of the same God, but I have NEVER been able to find a radio station with a great mix of current forms of both styles. Very frustrating and sad.

    • I think a multicultural Christian Radio station would be great! For now, I’ll stick with my Pandora Radio! 😉