This past week, I had the awesome privilege of being in the same place for a couple of days with my friends… who, for the better part of 30-40 years, have been making music. In the 80’s, it was called Contemporary Christian Music — CCM. Many of us were in our early 20’s when we began the journey into CCM. Some, like myself, had never planned on this; we had set out to do many other things. Some others had been dreaming about doing Christian music all their lives. But whatever the reasons it was that brought us into CCM 30+ years ago, we now find ourselves celebrating and being celebrated as “legends”, and “forerunners”… basically, I hear… “Bless their hearts, they are old.”
But this past week, the 80’s and 90’s artists got together and we reminisced. We laughed and we cried. We told stories and we listened to others tell their tales –– Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Ruff Taff, The Imperials, Petra, Larnelle Harris, Wayne Watson, First Call… and so many more.
The program began with Amy Grant singing “Sing Your Praise To The Lord,” then Steven Curtis sang “Saddle Up Your Horses.” I got to sing “How Majestic Is Your Name,” and then Michael W Smith closed the opening section with “Great Is The Lord.” After that, The Imperials ROCKED the house with “Trumpet of Jesus” and “Praise The Lord.”
There was so much music and so many memories. I remember when my producer, Greg Nelson, came to my house and played many many demo tapes of possible songs for a new record. He put the “cassette” (yes you heard me right) in the player and before he played the song he said, “Now this is kind of a new idea for a song but this songwriter, who is a kid, has a bright future I think.” This ‘kid’ was Michael W Smith and this ‘song’ was “How Majestic Is Your Name.”
Throughout the evening of music for this CCM United event, Larnelle and I sang, “I’ve Just Seen Jesus,” Wayne Watson and I sang “Another Time Another Place,” and I got to sing “We Shall Behold Him.” And at the end of the night, Amy Grant and I sang TOGETHER! That has happened only one other time in the past 40 years. She asked me to sing “El Shaddai” with her and I have to say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime-unforgettable-never-to happen-again moment! Basically, IT WAS AWESOME!
In the midst of the hugs and the “Oh my goodness, I haven’t seen you in forever,” or “You sounded better than ever,” and the occasional, “How are the grand kids?” I realized we all were trying to say the same thing –– We were still trying to tell the story of God’s faithfulness. That was the one theme that stood out too me and was heard and felt over and over –– God has been, God is, and God will continue to be faithful. We lived it. We wrote songs about it. We sang about it. And we are still saying it in any way we can.
As you can well imagine, there has been a lot of life lived in those past 30-40 years… lots of great life and lots of tough life. We all had a scarlet letter in some form or fashion that we wore. The scarlet letter “A” can stand for a lot of things: Abortion, Adoption, Abandonment, Addiction, Alcoholism, Adultery, Abuse. Or perhaps the scarlet letter wasn’t an “A” at all. Maybe a “D” for Divorce. “J” for Judgmental. “U” for Unkind. You get what I’m saying here. Not one of us in that room was without blemish, without mistakes, without the need for God’s grace.
And yet, somehow, through the songs that we sang for other people, those became our heart song. The lyrics that we wrote became the story of our own soul.
The Imperials sang “Praise The Lord” that begins with the lyric…
When you’re up against a struggle,
that shatters all your dreams
And your hopes have been cruelly crushed
by Satan’s manifested schemes.
Praise the Lord.
He can work through those who praise Him.
POWERFUL STUFF –– Not just to sing about, but to live it out.
Larnelle Harris and I sang “I’ve Just Seen Jesus” and the lyric in there slays me every single time…
All that I’ve done before
won’t matter anymore
I’ve just seen Jesus,
and I’ll never be the same… again.
We so often are guilty of thinking that “all we’ve done before” means all the bad stuff. But it means all the good stuff too ISN’T GOING TO MATTER ANYMORE. It doesn’t matter how many gold or platinum records, or Grammy or Dove Awards. ALL THAT MATTERS is we have seen Jesus and we have been changed.
So, here is what I’ve learned from Contemporary Christian Music…
1. It has been a joy to be part of music that has had an impact on people’s lives.
2. Contemporary Christian Music doesn’t define the genre as much as it defines the message. And this message will forever be about Jesus.
3. I have met some wonderful people on this CCM journey.
4. Over the years, we have allowed God to remove our wounded warrior scarlet letter and replace it with His Scarlet Letter “A” for ATONEMENT, “G” for GRACE, “F” for Forgiveness, “R” for Restoration.
5. God is still the God of second chances and of new beginnings and He is still in the business of setting people free.
6. This faith journey we are on is a compass, NOT a stopwatch.
7. God still uses what we bring Him today. He can still use these “legendary folks” and these “forerunners.”
8. And as my friends First Call still sing so beautifully…
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshipping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit, forever more