Dove AwardsIn true, on the spot journalistic fashion I finally got around to viewing this year’s Dove Awards telecast just a few days ago. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Dove Awards for the past couple of years, largely due to some questions and frustrations with the industry in general as well as being simply overwhelmed with the sheer amount of award shows that seem to exist anymore.

I was frankly prepared to be critical so imagine when, to my surprise, I found myself moving from criticism to praise.

It wasn’t the actual awards themselves. While I understand the desire for our Christian industry to host a slate of awards for artists working wholly in that genre, much like the Americana Music Awards, I do struggle with how we match up against our mainstream counterparts. The simple fact is that, in some cases, mainstream music is blowing up because, and this is a tough pill to swallow for us, they’re simply creating better art. But that’s a post for another day (and yes, one is in the works.) Plus, some of the awards themselves seemed a bit askew, like the “Song of the Year” category which seemed to feature just about every single that released this past year and even had presenter Bart Millard quipping to co-presenter Lecrae that they were the only ones left off the list.

No, as I sat and watched this broadcast, the thing that leapt out at me was the amazing diversity showcased within the show. Featuring performances and honors for everyone from TobyMac, the Gaither Vocal Band, Trip Lee, and Tamela Mann, and several others, this was an awards show that captured a snapshot not only of an industry but of something more. This was a community, united around the common theme of music but held together by something greater.

I needed to be reminded of that, to see unity instead of division. It was a delight to see pop stars celebrating the victories of gospel music mavens and to see a southern gospel legend honored by all. Hip-hop artists were cheered alongside rock acts and more and the heartbeat of the industry was strengthened as these artists showed a true sense of camaraderie and appreciation for one another’s art.

There’s a greater lesson to be learned here, something that transcends a simple awards show with some exciting performances and trophies. It’s a lesson for the Church at large, particularly at a time when we in many ways are known more for our division than our unity. Whether it be a conflict over worship styles or the outspoken words of a popular reality television star, we all too often let ourselves be drawn into disharmony rather than seeking to find that fine middle line where we are able to respect and even find appreciation for something that doesn’t fit easily into our comfortable boxes. Breaking out of those molds of conformity and division starts with opening ourselves to new thoughts, new ideas, and, in this case, new music.

The beauty that happens when we do that is multiple. One, our music becomes better. Just consider the world of fusion that’s happening across the world today, with artists like Avicii sampling bluegrass and melding it with EDM in a form that one would have never anticipated. Twenty years ago a country and hip-hop collaboration would have been unthinkable, but put open minds and artistic hearts together, and we’ve seen a number of combos that have worked. It’s only because those artists were able to let down their guard, seeing the beauty in something unfamiliar, that they were able to craft these new works that equaled and in some cases transcended the beauty of the original.

And that’s what the Church needs to be and, by extension, our Christian music community. As long as we seek to create art that is relevant and engaging in the name of Christ, we need to come together in unity and in creativity, using everything the Father has gifted us with and, to paraphrase TobyMac’s acceptance speech, realizing that where we are weak we ought to surround ourselves with those who are strong.

And that’s a job that starts right here, right now.