Jesus Music

Jesus Music

Recently I rented the Jesus Music documentary and grabbed my sister, one of my sons, cousin Chuck and his wife and her twin sister and we sat down to take in a big part of our spiritual music history.

The well done doc made us laugh, tear up, reminisce and otherwise feel really good. If you are like us and grew up listening to “Jesus music,” then you should definitely check it out. We rented it on Prime.

You see I grew up in the 80s and 90s with roots in the renewal of the Catholic church in Spokane. My folks were a part of a group called “Lord of Love” that met in the GU chapel for Friday night prayer meetings. These were fired up Catholics. You have probably seen images of people at “big TV panel churches” (of which I was a part) lifting their hands, dancing, and getting otherwise super excited about prayer, worship, and connecting with God but this happened in the late 70s to Catholics! Fired up, hand-raising, out loud prayer leading, believers who went to Mass on Sundays and probably had the occasional coffee and donut after, or a Knights of Columbus chicken cacciatore meal during the week. Yes, THOSE Catholics!

As my sister and I grew up, we stayed in Catholic school through the 12th grade and our mom had albums of various praise and worship bands such as Maranatha, Dallas Holm, Sandy Patty and lots of the Gaither family. My mom loved the old gospel music. 

As we got older our cousins, initially Jay and Mary, introduced us to Christian Rock, of which a lot of the Jesus Music doc referred to, with artists such as Petra, Carman, Whiteheart, Russ Taff and so many more. I distinctly remember hearing Petra’s “Beat the System” at Jay and Mary’s home and my mom couldn’t believe that this LOUD music, loaded with electric guitars, synthesizers and drums, with loud, hard-to-understand lyrics, actually contained words that glorified God or were written to encourage people in their faith. Mom didn’t seem to want any of that (not the God part of course, but the noise…)

That is where it began. A little house on N. Perry where my older, cooler cousins lived and listened to music that I hadn’t heard before.  For Easter that year, I asked dad for a record (yes a record because we had a record player) of Stryper’s, “To Hell with the Devil.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Loud, grinding guitars, drums that took over our little speakers and a voice that was so high and full of passion, I was hooked.  Michael Sweet and his brother Robert, along with the rest of the band, had me hooked.

Older cousins introduced me to their older friends who also loved Jesus Music. I learned of Petra, who became my favorite band, Allies, Degarmo and Key, Mylon Lefevre and Broken Heart, the aforementioned Whiteheart, Whitecross, Siloam, Shout with Ken Tamplin, Bride, Sacred Warrior, and so many more.  Sister liked Amy Grant and all that too, and eventually loved to rock out as well.

I saw Carman, Petra, Whiteheart, Stryper, Whitecross, Michael W. Smith, dc Talk, Amy Grant, Commissioned, Newsboys, Idle Cure, and many others I can’t remember in concert.  Live music was AWESOME.  We went to festivals (Jesus Northwest), camps (Riverview primarily), and other Christian youth gatherings (Youth Alive).

As I got into college, the rock stayed but faded a bit as other artists rose up and were running a long side their mainline music counterparts. Artists like Jars of Clay, dc Talk, Kirk Franklin, Commissioned, and so many others.  I was a part of a new church in the Seattle area and the praise and worship during the 90s had a big Vineyard influence, later Hillsong, and certainly a lot of gospel.  Yes, I even bought praise and worship CDs (remember those?).  It was a great time in music. So many artists, so many streams, most all desiring to connect and have their “audience” connect with the Lord.  Powerful.

If I am being honest, it wasn’t just the guitars, drums and high-powered voices that I wanted so bad, rather, it was the message.  I love so many classic and anthem-style rock singers and bands that it wasn’t just the volume and energy, it was what they were saying.

I think I was drawn to the “Jesus Music” because these men and women were writing lyrics that connected me and the way my faith journey was taking shape.  I felt that every time I sang along, or belted out a rock tune, I was connecting with God, or the words filled my heart like an anthem or prayer or message that I needed to hear.

A couple of examples of lyrics that really connected with me at various times in my life were:

“Prayer,” Petra

I played this song as I left my youth group, Zion Christian Center, way back in 1992 as I was on my way to Seattle to attend the University of Washington.  I was invited to speak/share and this is what I finished with. It has been very meaningful since.  A simple, quiet prayer.

First I want to thank You Lord for being who You are
For coming to the rescue of a man who’s drifted far
For calling me to be Your son and calling me to serve
Lord the way You’ve blessed my life is more than I deserve
Keep the ones I love so dearly
Fill their emptiness while I am gone
And fill the loneliness in me
This is my prayer
Lifted to You
Knowing You care even more than I do
This is my prayer
Lifted in Your name
Your will be done I humbly pray
Let me be the evidence of what Your grace can do
To a generations struggling to find themselves in You
May they come to know the love of God
May their eyes be made to see
Give me the opportunity to share the truth that sets them free
And may unity in all things
Be the banner of Your church
And let revival’s fire begin to burn
This is my prayer
Lifted to You
Knowing You care even more than I do
This is my prayer
Lifted in Your name
Your will be done I humbly pray
As we face the last and final hours
Turn a wayward country back to You
And keep us from the evil that devours
Keep us on the path and lead us through
Keep us in Your light until Your kingdom comes
And our work is done
This is my prayer
Lifted to You
Knowing You care so much more than I do
This is my prayer
In Jesus’ name
Your will be done I humbly pray
This is my prayer

“Stand in the Gap,” Petra

This song fit my cries of prayer for people in my life that needed God to intervene. Variety of reasons why, simply put, they needed (still need) a miracle.

There’s no feeling
Like when you have a friend in need
Their heart is wounded –
And you can feel your own heart bleed
And you wonder
Will they pull through this attack
You feel so helpless – you want to be fighting back
Don’t think it’s over – don’t pull away
It’s time to stand in – it’s time to pray
Set the wheels in motion
With your devotion
Stand in the gap
Coming boldly to His throne of grace
Stand in the gap
He will hear you when you seek His face
Put your weapon to its use
And believe it will produce
Stand in the gap
Until all hell…
Until all hell breaks loose
In the conflict
It seems like He doesn’t hear
Be encouraged – He still has an open ear
It’s not for nothing
It’s not in vain
Make your petitions
Call on His name
He will bring assistance
Through your persistence
The enemy is gonna have to fold his hand
When the army of the Lord begins to take command
Nothing in the heavens or the earth can stand
Against the fervent prayer of a righteous man

“I Need to Hear from You,” Petra

There is not a lot that I can write here as to what this song means to me. It is equal parts quiet prayer and desperate cry, of which I have needed at various times in my life, most recently as I struggled to live while fighting COVID and pneumonia.

I’ve been away for a little while
And I don’t like where it takes me
Out of touch I’m going out of my mind
It’s times like these that really break me
So here I am all alone
I’m waiting on You
Just a word will get me through
I need to hear from You
Before this night is through
I need to hear from You
So I’m waiting, waiting just to hear from you
My whole world is turning upside down
When I’m lacking in direction
I don’t care if it takes all night
I need to feel Your sweet affection
So let me hear words of life
I’m lost without You
Speak to me the way You do
I’ve been here in this place before
And You’re not the one to blame
I need to know what You have in store
So I’m on my knees callin out Your name
I need to hear from You
Deep inside my heart
I need to hear from You
Just a still small voice is gonna get me through

I have played these songs dozens if not hundreds of times so my spirit could hear my voice singing a long. Usually in times that were hard on me and I needed encouragement. I needed to rally. I needed to connect.

Jesus Music is kind of a funny phrase, but for me, and for so many of my family and friends, these songs were like anthems in our growing faith and the artists were like our personal musicians, captivating music and lyrics that would impact our lives as teens and throughout adulthood.  I hope these artists know what kind of impact they have had on me/us.

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2 thoughts on “Jesus Music”

  • Hi Michael, Very good essay on Jesus Music of the 80s and 90s. I remember asking Jay for the tape cassette or CD jackets of some of the artists so I could “see” the words to the songs because I certainly couldn’t “hear” them! Pastor Wendell helped me more than any other person to navigate the Youth Group of Zion through his Youth Shepherds Conferences in Portland, OR. Your Aunt Nancy & I will be getting extra jewels in our crowns in Heaven for taking you young people to (and staying in the concerts while the “sounds” bounced off our chests) at the Youth Alive Conferences at PLU back in the day!
    Love you, man! Be blessed!
    Uncle John
    PS I’m glad you wrote out the words to some of those songs. Definitely heart cries and prayers to Almighty God.

    • You and aunt Nancy will definitely get extra jewels! Thank you for being so patient with us in our generation as we were crying out for something that matched our faith journey. It happen to have drums, electric guitars, and screaming lyrics!

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