As country music is simply a certain style or genre of music, Christian country music—sometimes called country gospel or inspirational country—is music of that particular genre that expresses beliefs consistent with the Christian faith. Determining whether or not Christian country music is appropriate is ultimately a personal decision, but there are biblical principles we can apply.
Historically, many country songs have had a spiritual nuance, with many artists incorporating biblical themes into their music. It’s not uncommon for country singers to record some straight gospel songs, or at least songs that talk about God and faith. At the same time, other country songs celebrate drinking, womanizing, and other sinful activities. So, as a genre, country is a mixed bag.
Almost all genres of music have some sort of Christian sub-genre. However, simply labeling something as “Christian” doesn’t automatically mean that it is. Jesus taught that we should not make determinations by externals, but by the fruit produced (Matthew 7:15–20). In determining whether or not a Christian country song is appropriate, we need to consider several things, including the song’s effects (“fruit”).
First, what is the message of the song? A country song may mention God, for example, but is He portrayed in a way consistent with the Bible? Also—and this is a subjective test—what feelings, thoughts, and memories does a song evoke? Our thoughts should be focused on things that remind us of God’s goodness and truth (Philippians 4:8). If the music one listens to evokes thoughts or feelings that are contrary to God’s goodness, that’s a good sign it may not be appropriate for that person. For some Christians, country music can dredge up memories of the old honky-tonk days—memories of carousing best left forgotten; those Christians may have given up country music, regardless of the lyrics, as a matter of conscience.
Context is also an important consideration. A Christian country song may inspire you as you’re driving in your car, but that does not necessarily make it an appropriate fit for a Sunday morning worship session.
It’s possible to use any genre of music to create songs with a Christian message. Any type of music can be used to point people toward God and encourage relationship with Him. People enjoy different styles of music. The country style connects with some people; others may prefer a different genre. The Bible does not say anything about styles of music. It’s more the message of the music in question and the effects it has on us that will determine whether or not it is appropriate.