Contemporary Christian music is so ubiquitous in today’s church, it’s often sung in Sunday morning worship — with few people in the congregation even knowing the source.
Sixty years ago though, the American church was in a different place, largely opposing the new style of music, which mixed elements of rock, folk, country and gospel to form a new sound with a Bible-centric flare.
Back then, hymns were the music of choice.
Simply put: Many in the church in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t approve of “long-haired hippie” music — even if lyrics about Jesus were at the core.
But then men like Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie and Billy Graham stepped forward to embrace contemporary Christian music. Soon, other church leaders followed. And soon after that, it was playing on radio stations nationwide.
Growth through the decades
A new documentary, “Jesus Music,” follows the birth and increase of CCM, beginning in the 1960s and continuing during its growth in the 1980, 1990s and through today.
It was directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin — the same filmmakers behind “I Can Only Imagine,” “I Still Believe” and “Woodlawn” — and includes interviews with dozens of musical artists including Bill Gaither, Steven Curtis Chapman, Eddie DeGarmo, Michael Tait, Lecrae, Amy Grant, Mandisa, Michael W. Smith, TobyMac, Kirk Franklin and Lauren Daigle.
Andrew Erwin calls the film a “love letter to the music that shaped our careers.”
Before they made films, he and his brother were music video directors for multiple artists, including Casting Crowns.
It is one of the best documentaries you’ll see — especially if your spiritual walk has been boosted by these and other CCM artists. It’s a fascinating and inspiring film that reveals key behind-the-scenes moments in CCM history, but also raises important questions about racial diversity and the church’s tendency to “eat their own.”
The film, which opens in theaters Oct. 1, is a “defense of the humanity of these artists,” Erwin said.
It’s rated PG-13 for some drug material and thematic elements, but, honestly, I thought it should be rated PG.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment for more than 15 years. He is the husband to Julie and the father of four young children.