I grew up on Christian music. The late 80’s and early 90’s were the Forefront years, when Contemporary Christian Music began infiltrating many suburban homes. I remember my Dad driving me to 6th grade and me listening and learning every word to New Song’s hit “Tug of War”. When I was in Jr. High it was all about DC Talk. I bet I can still remember every word to most of the “Free at Last” record.
Then I heard Gun’s N Roses. Everything changed. Sorry Audio Adrenaline, Big House simply couldn’t compete with November Rain.
Around the time I was 14, me and Christian music broke up. It was messy…none of the “let’s be friends” stuff. I remember sneaking a White Zombie tape onto the bus for church camp hidden inside a Third Day tape case.
To a point, I still have the aversion. I have no good excuse for it. Even as a pastor, I don’t instantly jump to the genre. I even rolled my eyes a little when a church member invited me to go see Casting Crowns (sorry Ashley). Most Christian music never managed to hold up against other music. It wasn’t artistic and just felt canned and without emotion.
I am thankful over time I have found Christian artists writing music that really does appeal to my music snobbery.
The 5 Records That Saved Christian Music for Me.
1. The Normals “A Place Where You Belong”.
This was actually the third (and last) release by the Normals. A band I played in opened for them once and I realized they were playing a completely different sounding version of Christian Music than I was used too. They recorded with a producer I was fascinated with and shared production credits with Daniel Lanois, who can be thanked for some of U2’s best records. The Normals had a level of brutal honesty and atmospheric music I really enjoy. It scratches the itch Pink Floyd started for me in High School. The main lyric writer for The Normals, Andrew Osenga, has had a great career. His songs are able to uniquely identify emotion and feeling and how this plays into the faithful life.
2. Johnny Cash “My Mother’s Hymn Book”.
I grew up with hymns and didn’t fully appreciate their lyrical depth till discovering this Johnny Cash record. Since Cash recorded this after the death of June it really provides a snapshot of what faith looks like at the end of life. It has the typical appointments of his American era recordings. It is sparse, clear and focused on the simplicity of Cash. I absolutely love it and listen to it weekly. These songs are filled with hope and the selection really focuses on the idea of the afterlife.
3. John Mark McMillian “The Medicine”.
Funny thing, throughout most of my refusal to listen to Christian music I was leading worship. John Mark McMillian is part of the new renaissance of artists seeing themselves as worship leaders and song crafters. He possibly owns this identity better than anyone else. The Medicine is beautifully spacious and intense. It also just enough country twang to make me really enjoy it. He is a southern artist and the geographical identity comes through in his music. McMillian grew up charismatic and it really shows through in his music. These songs are filled with wonderful biblical imagery and he is able to write about worship in a wonderful way.
4. Matt Redman “10,000 Reasons”.
This is pretty pedestrian, but 10,000 Reasons is possibly the most played “worship” record of my life. I love how theological Redman is able to get while also sounding totally different from everyone else writing and recording modern worship. I love the whole album.
5. Delirious? “Touch”.
I could put most of the Delirious? catalog on this list, but I had to settle with Touch. It isn’t that well known record. What I love about it is how complex it is. A Christian record necessitating a headphone session is rare. Right when I started getting into more electronic music I found this album. I think it is an artistic masterpiece. Delirious? writes songs about the deep experience with God and how he works at the personal level. I love them.
I am thankful for these 5 records. They opened my eyes in different ways and at different times. There are more where these came from, but I wanted to highlight the records I consistently come back too.
If you have been reluctant to listen to Christian music tell me what records reopened your eyes to them in the comments.