I think one of the most innovative and lasting changes to come out of the Jesus Movement of the 1970s was in the area of Christian music. For so long before that time, congregations would come together and sing the old predictable hymns written centuries ago. They would read the lyrics from hymnals or recite them from rote memory.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I really like hymns. They are theologically rich, packed with biblical truth and doctrine. But to the young hippies of the time, hymns were the church music of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.
I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but part of the Jesus Revolution—the great spiritual revival of the ’70s—included a revolution in music style. We were witnessing the birth of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). It was the Holy Spirit infusing new life into our worship and spiritual songs.
The use of modern instruments, the simple lyrics, the ear-pleasing melodies, and the unabashed passion that we saw in the culture around us was being applied inside the church—and it was catching the attention of young people in big ways. New Christian rock bands like Love Song and Sweet Comfort brought a new sound to the age-old message of the gospel.
In the 50 years that have elapsed since then, CCM has changed many times over. Rock, pop, country, grunge, rap, hip-hop, and even ska have each found their niches in the Christian music world, and it feels like it’s come full circle again with today’s emphasis on simplified lyrics and a focus on worship.
But here’s the important thing: while the style and sound have dramatically changed over the years, the message of salvation found in Jesus Christ has always remained the same. Each artist, band, and musical genre of the CCM universe has been used by God to attract nonbelievers to that message and to deepen the adoration of believers.
That’s why music plays such a prominent role in our crusade evangelism. People come to hear the latest music, but their lives are changed when they hear the gospel. And at the same time, believers have a chance to express their love for God by “singing to Him a new song,” as Psalm 33:3 instructs us to do.
A History Worth Learning
In my opinion, the unfolding and the development of the entire CCM movement has never been adequately chronicled . . . until now.
There’s a brand-new book that’s just come out, written by my friend Marshall Terrill. Marshall is a brilliant guy who worked with me to coauthor biographies on Steve McQueen and Johnny Cash.
In Marshall’s new book, called The Jesus Music, he takes an in-depth look at the history, the impact, and the evolution of CCM over the past five decades. He tells the story of artists who have risen (and many who have fallen) in the industry during those years and how they have changed the face of music—both in the church and outside of it.
From early artists like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, who would occasionally sing spiritual songs, to today’s household names in Christian music like Chris Tomlin and Phil Wickham—the book covers hundreds of artists in between: Larry Norman, Rez Band, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Stryper, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Cece Winans, DC Talk, Newsboys, Skillet, for King & Country, Lecrae, Kari Jobe, Lauren Daigle . . . and so many more.
Marshall asked me to write the foreword for this book, which I was more than happy to do, and I’m excited to endorse it because it’s a really interesting read—especially for anyone who has experienced how CCM has changed over time.
The Jesus Music was written in conjunction with a tremendous new film by the same name, produced by the Erwin Brothers, who are consistently making the very best in Christian films (Woodlawn, I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe).
This book goes in further depth on the history of the genre, and it’s got tons of great photographs of artists, bands, album covers, and events that span half a century of Christian music. In short, it’s a high quality, visually compelling book that would be a great addition to your library.
I’m happy to be able to make this new book available to you as our thanks for your gift of any size.
The great thing? Your donation to Harvest Ministries will be used to bring people to Christ in a multitude of ways, including the use of top Christian music at our large-scale evangelistic events, through our online services, over radio, and more.
I appreciate your support, and I also know you’ll benefit greatly from reading this awesome history.
Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.