Jesus Music Is Different From Today’s Christian Music

Most people today have not heard any Jesus Music because it happened long before 2000 AD.

Blame it on the desire by so many programming today’s Christian radio and churches to be perceived as “relevant” but there is an unwritten rule not to feature any songs recorded last century during worship or on the radio. Many Jesus Music pioneers who are actively performing today get very little airplay and tend to draw small concert crowds. Yet when one hears Jesus Music, it is instantly recognized as a “Christian” song compared to some of today’s Christian Music.

Last week I was chatting on Facebook with Al Cox, who has just launched a new public group “CCM & Christian Rock of the 80’s & 90’s” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1713244062229156/) when he commented that at 42 years old, he never tires of the “classics”. “Neither do I” was my response when he said something that was so profound,

“Yeah, something about the music then that isn’t there now.”

Boom! Did that get me thinking. I’ve been listening to Christian Music since the mid-1960’s. I founded SnTRadio.com in part to curate all the Christian Music that I could get my hands on since the Jesus Movement and place it into an on-going and ever expand music archive online. My intention has been to educate and inspire future generations with an accurate musical timeline, which takes listeners all the way back to the roots. You can read through the majority of the hard-to-find Jesus Music portion of the archive while listening to SnT Radio here. Then Al added;

“Some of the stuff today including rock, really lyrically you can not tell if it is Christian or not. You knew it with, Dion, Dallas Holm, Carman, Petra, and others.”

Jesus Music artist Dion on the cover of his 1981 album, Only Jesus" is a side-view of his head and upper chest.

 

I think a couple of distinctions need to be made in order to fully understand the good, the bad and the ugly concerning the current state of Christian Music. First, in my opinion, there are only two distinct forms of Christian music being produced: one is strictly for commercial purposes (profit), and the second is for worship and edification of the church. All the major Christian labels are now subsidiaries of secular record companies like Sony and Capitol.

Vague lyrics or just the mention of Jesus in a pop song doesn’t make it “Christian” per se. On the other hand, Jesus spoke in many parables to effectively communicate the Gospel and describe the Kingdom of God. He did this so a mass audience would understand His teaching. Knowing when and how much to quote the Bible is as much a matter of discernment as is reducing God’s Word to a readable bumper sticker. Overkill never works well. It normally ends badly with the exact opposite of the desired outcome. Al the added,

“I saw a recent Christian rock title called “CoConut Dracula”. I don’t even think of horror things when I think of Christ. Yeah, that’s why I don’t listen to much new stuff.”

I fully get bands like Mute Math or Stryper, (Michael Sweet) or Switchfoot saying “we’re not a Christian band, but a band comprised of musicians who happen to be Christ-followers.” Even U2, one of the biggest bands in the world for the past 25 years started out playing sets dominate with Christian message songs for Christian youth rallies in Ireland until they elected to make a change in bass players who was not a professing Christian. Yet one of the highlights of every U2 performance is the song 40 (based on Psalm 40) that ends with thousands singing the chorus acapella as single spotlight tightly focuses on Bono’s crucifix that’s dangling from a microphone stand in the darken hall or stadium. In these days where non-Christlike activity (aka sin) is saturating the media, the Internet, and every aspect of society even a little light shines brightly.

The fact that a large segment of popular Christian Music is designed for radio with sales and profit as the driving force is not at all surprising because they have dividends to pay to their stakeholders. The key distinction is the primary motive for creating the music. One is for making money and profit. The other is to worship God on earth as it is in Heaven.

Modern worship from the likes of Hillsong, Bethel Music and IHOP-KC have all shared roots in common with the seminal worship & praise bodywork of Keith Green, Andrae Crouch, The Vineyard, Integrity and Maranatha Music from the Jesus Movement of the 70’s, The Vineyard and Integrity from the 80’s afterglow.

The influence of Morningstar Ministries musicians Don Potter and Leonard Jones combined with the teaching of Ray Hughes over the three decades have been a bridge from the old “worship & praise” to the now sound that is fueling the new uncompromised and spontaneous worship cherished by so many of the millennial generation. Giving glory to God and encountering the manifest presence of God is the driving motive behind the creation of this worship music. Pure, genuine, and authentic vertical lyrics that lead listeners into an atmosphere of Heavenly worship described in Revelation 4 and 5 is the goal.The songs and psalmists that break through into this lofty realm become the modern hymns churches sing with regularity.

My response to Al’s original statement was “I believe that it is a kind of anointing by the Spirit of God that was present during the Jesus Movement.” Even though there were “Christian” record labels back in the day the music was created in most cases to glorify God as a priority and make money if possible. It appeared that God honored and blessed it. When Christian Music became more of a business, Jesus Music faded somewhere along the way until a few went back to creating music in worship to God as in Heaven. So now you have the true spirit of the Jesus Movement sweeping through and stirring up a whole new community of worshippers to benefit the body of Christ. This is a real move of God and I’m expecting a revisitation upon this generation like we saw in the late 60’s and 70’s.

Written by James Kevin Burkhardt

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7 thoughts on “Jesus Music Is Different From Today’s Christian Music

  1. Christian music WAS better in the past, as a whole, though one can find good & poor music in any era.

    It’s disappointing that many Christians these days have no idea of any of the great founders of contemporary Christian music.

    If it wasn’t recorded after 2000, the song and artist rarely gets played.

    There are so many great artists from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s & 1990s and few get any airplay on modern Christian music radio.

    Unlike their secular counterparts, Christian radio kicked to the curb anyone with gray or anyone from the past.

    At least until 2000, secular “oldies” radio played the biggies of their genres: Elvis, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, etc., and those older songs were more familiar to many, even the youngest of listeners.

    In Christian radio, few have ever heard of the older artists and their many great contributions because the narrow and selfish masters of Christian radio seemed to care less about any older artist.
    Only the youth. That’s the most important thing in any endeavor. Right.

    I

  2. My name is Sherman Andrus, I was an original member of Andrae Crouch and the Disciples fro six years, I was with the Imperials for five years, and had my own group Andrus, Blackwood and Company for nine years. I agree with most of the article,but I have resigned myself to the fact that, this is the way it is on earth. I am content with the fact that God is aware of my contributions. Since I was five years old, I wanted to be a gospel singer because I wanted to reach people for Christ. It was never about money or fame. It was about being used of God. Maybe nobody will recognize my, that’s ok, as long as God knows my name.

    • Thanks Sherman! I started singing back in the “Jesus Movement Days” in the early 70’s and was on the same record label as you in OKC “back in the day”! My heart’s desire today…is what it was back then…is to Glorify God in the music! I am one of those “long, gray-haired, Jesus People” who is now in my 60’s BUT still touring and singing the classics of the Jesus music! I’m still reminding folks through the ages that “…through it all, through it all…I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God…!” Thanks Sherman for being a pioneer of some of the best Christian Music that world will be blessed to hear! Keep on sing those wonderful “Jesus Tunes”! 🙂

  3. There are several internet stations and weekly syndicated radio shows that plays the classics from this era. I organized “Streets of Gold”; a 2 hour syndicated radio program featuring CCM Classics from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I also broadcast the Christian Classics channel (among others) at Accu Radio. Today’s Christian music radio only plays today’s music because of the style and their audience. You wouldn’t hear the Beatles on your local Top 40 stations would you? Country stations only airs today’s country and goes perhaps as far as 2000 because of the same reason.

  4. In general, I agree with this post. The music of the era in which I was most actively a listener (1970s, 80s, 90s) is the music that I most enjoy. I can give reasons why the lyrics and music styles seems to me to be better than what is played on Christian stations today.

    However, to say that only the old stuff is any good sounds like what the adults who were in their 50s and 60s would have said to me in 1975 if they listened to Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Pat Terry and Keith Green. “Why don’t you want to listen to the Sixteen Singing Men perform ‘The Old Rugged Cross’? Now THAT’S Christian music that glorifies God! Music with electric guitars and drums are just using the devil’s tools!” (Remember those arguments? 🙂 )

    We can (rightly) complain that there are few stations playing the “classics” of Jesus music, but for those of the generation older than I who are still alive, they would be even more in their rights to complain about what happened to the music that was featured on religious stations when THEY were in their prime. Where does one even find lists of that music, when Bill Gaither was considered edgy!

    Absolutely, the music of the Jesus movement should get more airplay; it had many advantages over what is played today. But it will probably take the lens of time to see whether or not the CCM of the 2010s has enough of an impact that it is still remembered in the 2030s.

    BTW, thanks for posting, Sherman. Very much enjoyed AB&C!

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