Jesus Music

This is the title of a documentary released in 2021, offering a narrative of the beginnings of what is currently called Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). It is rated a very respectable and deserving 7.3 on IMDB. It is well told with video from the early days of Larry Norman, Love song, Maranatha, and interviews from those who made the genre what it is today. It was produced by Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Kirk Franklin, and Toby Mac. The list of performers is huge and it leaves no branch of the genre out including artists with influences of Rock, Heavy Metal, Rap, Gospel, Soul, Pop, Dance, etc. It even has insightful comments from Billy Graham and Bill Gaither. 

This is a story born out of the Jesus Movement revival and a generation that was perishing, but searching for meaning and substance. Those hippies, (of which I was one) sought peace and love and found it in the person of Jesus Christ. Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA and Nashville, TN are prominent places highlighted in the early years of Jesus music. The late Sixties, early Seventies generation came out of Rock and Roll, anti-war, peace and love drug culture in a mighty move of God’s Spirit, opening hearts and minds to the message of Jesus. They brought their love of music with instruments and melodies they were producing at that time. Initially, there was no place for them or their music in the traditional church, but they came anyway, dressed as they were. The lyrics were passionate proclamations and adorations of their redeemer, Jesus, but the sounds were not always compatible with classic hymns. 

The narrative moves forward rapidly into the eighties and nineties when Amy Grant’s pop sound became a huge hit and began to generate commercial success that spawned a new name and structure, CCM, which eventually had a following of fifty million. A very important part of the genre covers Black artists, like Andre Crouch, CeCe Winans and later Kirk Franklin and others; if CCM did not welcome all ethnicities how could the message of Jesus come across with integrity. The faults of individual performers is not excluded from the story. The message is Jesus, but flawed humans tell it with words and music. Just as many traditional churches rejected these new believers and their music, hypocrisy could be found in their own ranks. Nevertheless, the message of Jesus spread and was even heard in secular venues, so great was its popularity. Toward the end, it chronicles a return to the roots of Jesus Music with praise and worship songs by Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, and many others. Is it any wonder the God who said, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out,” calls forth praise for the generation who seeks Him? (Luke 19:40) 

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