Contemporary Christian music is so ubiquitous in today’s church that it is often sung in Sunday morning worship – few in the congregation even knowing the source.
Sixty years ago, however, the American church was in a different place, largely opposing the new style of music, which blended elements of rock, folk, country and gospel to form a new sound with a twist Bible-centered.
At the time, hymns were the music of choice.
Put simply: Many in the church in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t approve of “long-haired hippie” music – even though the lyrics about Jesus were at their 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, he was playing on radio stations across the country.
Growth over the decades
A new documentary, “Jesus Music”, follows the birth and rise of CCM, beginning in the 1960s and continuing through its growth through the 1980s, 1990s and into the present day.
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 making films, he and his brother were music video directors for several artists, including Casting Crowns.
It’s one of the best documentaries you’ll see – especially if your spiritual walk has been nurtured by these and other CCM artists. It’s a compelling 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 its own.”
The film, which hits theaters Oct. 1, is a “defense of the humanity of these artists,” Erwin said.
It’s rated PG-13 for some drug and theme related elements, but honestly I thought it should be rated PG.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment for over 15 years. He is Julie’s husband and the father of four young children.