Who is your favourite Christian musician or Christian band?
For some of you, you can not only name your favourite musician, but you can also name every concert you have gone to over the years to see them perform live.
For others, you don’t really follow Christian music outside of Sunday morning worship, but you are still familiar with some of the bigger names in the industry like TobyMac or Chris Tomlin.
For a few of you, you might have a negative response to Christian music, and you might think Christian rock music or hip hop has no place within the walls of Christianity.
I often find it interesting to see that Christian music still receives polarizing views from other Christians. As a speaker over the years, I have found myself within the Christian music scene doing events, concerts, and festivals with some of the most influential people in the Christian music industry. I have ministered alongside DC Talk, Phil Keaggy, Skillet, Michael W. Smith, and many more.
Recently there was a documentary released which was led by Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant called The Jesus Music. The movie looked at how contemporary Christian music first started in the 70s in California to reach young people, and how it ended up as a multi-billion dollar industry.
As I watched it, it helped give me some historical context behind the scenes, as well it provoked a few thoughts which made me reflect a little bit.
How would I have responded?
As contemporary Christian music took off in the 1970’s, it received some bad press within churches because it was different and considered ‘worldly’. As I learned about the context behind how it began I was encouraged. Ultimately, was used as an outreach tool to help reach young people in this ‘hippy movement’ and show them a new way to live apart from drugs and sex.
However, like anything that shakes our comfort zone, this style of music wasn’t received well. This only got worse over the next 20 years when we started seeing Christian rock bands on MTV becoming the most requested music videos to watch.
As Christian music began to reach new people outside of the church, many didn’t understand or want anything to do with it. In fact, the biggest critics who tried to shut down this movement weren’t the secular world, but rather it was the Christian world.
While watching this movie, I wondered how would I have responded to this if I was around when it was taking off? Would I have been like the many people trying to shut it down? Or would I have seen it as a powerful tool to reach a new generation?
They are real people
As they interviewed artists throughout the movie, many of them opened up about the challenges they faced in this spotlight. As some Christian bands became more popular, so did their critics.
These musicians had a gift and wanted to use it to share Jesus in a unique way. However, they aren’t perfect, sinless, or emotionless people. None of us are. Unfortunately, many held them to that level of celebrity prestige.
As people attacked their music, the way they dressed on stage, or their personal life’s challenges; did we forget that these were real people doing their best to follow Jesus…. No different than you and I. The only difference is that they might have had a bigger spotlight.
From my personal experience, I was like that too when I would only see them on TV, hear them on the radio or watch them at a concert while I was in the back row.
Even still, it’s easy to forget that these are people with feelings, spouses, and kids trying their best to serve Jesus.
When I started doing events with them and having dinner with their kids, everything changed. I learned very quickly these are good humble people who have the same challenges we have in this world. This documentary reminds us that these Christian artists are simply real people who we need to support and pray for as they minister to many people.
Three: Do I understand the impact?
It’s often easy to forget how powerful music is. When this documentary showed clips from the 70s with thousands of young people worshipping Jesus, it is hard to deny that Jesus Music impacts people from all walks of life. The same is true about concerts today where Lecrae raps about what Jesus has done for him.
When I first connected to a church outreach program in high school, someone gave me a mixed CD with all these Christian songs on it. I would listen to those songs over and over each night as bands like Switchfoot expressed Jesus in a unique way. This music impacted me and my walk with Jesus.
Today when I’m doing events alongside bands like Switchfoot, I have a unique vantage point to look out into the crowd from the side of the stage and see thousands of people impacted by this Jesus Music as well.
Can we really comprehend the impact contemporary Christian music had made on millions of people over the last few decades? This music has helped point so many people to Jesus.… or in some cases help many hold onto Jesus during difficult times.
As I reflect on this Jesus Music, I am reminded to look at these musicians as those being used by God to help bring light to a dark world. Let’s all learn to encourage people like them rather than tear them down because it might be different to us. Thankfully, God uses many different means to reach many people.