Monday, March 05, 2007

Greatest Christian Artists

I've been rather harsh with Christian "entertainment" recently. And while there is good cause to be critical, I'd like to take some space here to honor some people who have been labeled as Christian "artists" but are actually more than that. Their personal and public lives have the integrity that Christ intended, and you get the sense that were they in front of a crowd or at the back of one, they'd be the same people on fire for the Lord. Here is a short and rather incomplete list of what I'm talking about ...

Keith Green. Wonderful voice, great musician and songwriter. Was more interested in evangelism and truth than anything else. You could hear it in his songs and in his voice. You can still feel his heart for the Lord and the salvation of others as you listen to his recordings.

Rich Mullins. The guy could have been a star and made a host of money. His songs are still hits for various artists. But he made sure he was paid a lower middle class income and lived on a reservation teaching music to poor kids. This guy was for real.

Michael Card. Ben said it best the other day. His songs are like listening to scripture. He is also an amazing musician and songwriter and vocalist. He still ministers, teaches. He has a radio program that you can check out on the web that I've heard awesome things about.

Smalltown Poets. Great songwriters. I remember when they were Villanelle and my brother and I put on a show with them at our old high school. As they waited for the show to start, we could hear them singing old hymns in perfect harmony, just praising the Lord. Humble and pure of heart is how I would describe them.

Third Day. Wildly popular, I've known these guys for years, although I haven't spoken with them personally in some time. Before they broke onto the Christian scene, half of the band was headed off for mission work. They take their ministry seriously and still do after all these years.

Disciple. Heavy metal version of Keith Green. Although their lyrics aren't quite the liquid fire they used to be, I would still put them in this class of real ministers who happen to rock. There are some deep messages on their last album.

Charlie Peacock. In my opinion, one of the greatest songwriters of all time. He had three albums there that expressed a real human struggle to know God as he is. I still have to listen to Secret of Time every now and then. And I shake my head at the truth expressed in his music.

Frank Peretti. His two books about spiritual warfare changed the perspective of thousands of Christians ... and they were pretty well written books. The salvation scene in Piercing the Darkness from the perspective of the unseen realm was amazing. The Prophet was also pretty cool. His message at Atlanta Fest one year was one of the best I'd ever heard.

C.S. Lewis. One of my personal heroes, the Narnia books are amazing. But the Screwtape Letters? One of the most creative things ever written and full of truth ... from the mouths of demons! His life is also an incredible testimony to grace.

Pocket Full of Rocks. I wouldn't put these guys as "entertainment", per se, but you really can't tell the difference between entertainment and a lot of praise music being manufactured these days. These guys are the real deal. They worship with abandon and spontenaeity. And from testimonies of others who know them well, they are humble and on fire for worship.

With most of these people that I've listed here, I hope you see a pattern that their artistic expression is only an extension of a life lived sold out to the Lord. God is pretty creative, and we should celebrate creativity from the Body. But we should remember that our creativity isn't just "entertainment" to be like the world. We are to be in the world but not of it. I think the people on this list are great examples of people who might use the creative language of the world but are obviously not of it through personal testimony and message.

Anyone else you'd like to put on this list? It is not comprehensive by a long shot!

Peace.

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5 Comments:

At 5:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few you neglected to mention:

1) Larry and Bob - take the straight/funny man act to new levels never before seen in Christendom... Keep their performances connected to God's word through their friend Cordy (with the exception of Larry lusting after a manatee named Barbara)... And just the mere fact that they are talking vegetables - that in and of itself is a miracle

2) Stryper - Honestly, has there been a more mega guitar-rifting hair band that taught us in God we trust, trust, trust.... OK, so the Above the Law album where they lost the yellow and black was a moment in the desert for them - but crafting a song that made it ok for prepubescent Southern Baptist boys to shout "to hell with" something without getting their mouths washed out deserves merit (OK, so it was only "to hell with the devil" but still...)

3) Dan Brown - the fact that this guy can attack his own professed faith (wait... he's a Episcopalian... does that count?) in such a pop-cultered convincing way through the Da Vinci Code, leading not just millions of book readers but half of Hollywood including Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and James Cameron (all Episcopalians too, I think) to believe it as fact, yet still remain true to that own professed faith of his because the book will lead to discussion and debate and a more solidly defended faith is, simply, just amazing - truly a great Christian artist.

 
At 11:47 PM , Blogger Britt Mooney said...

Not sure who left this last comment, but in response to that ...

Veggie Tales is certainly creative. Their lack of glorifying Christ would keep them off the list for me. You could be Muslim or Jewish and still appreciate most of the messages within them. Valid, to be sure, and I don't question their salvation at all, only whether to put them on a list of true Christian artists.

As for Stryper, I actually almost put them on this list. They were groundbreaking and had an impact, to be sure. While their messages weren't particularly on the level of what Rich Mullins or Keith Green ever said, their lives and witness were definitely a challenge to the status quo.

I'll have to completely disagree on Dan Brown, however. It is one thing to challenge the status quo with being original or creative. It is quite another to spread outright lies that have been recycled numerous times, cause thousands to question basic tenets of the faith and claim to do it out of the need for discussion and debate. I wouldn't even call what he did artistic, although I'm sure it was a great read.

Just because many had to solidly look closer at their own faith is no evidence of great Christian art. To use an extreme example, that would be like saying a Satanist who desires the Devil to be worshipped in the place of God is a great Christian artist because we have to ground ourselves in truth to combat his lies.

I don't know the heart of Dan Brown. But with the things he puts forth as true (and he goes around to colleges as a paid speaker to defend the points made in a fiction book), I don't believe he is being true to the Christian faith. I pray that Dan Brown is saved and going to heaven, and I want to bless him. But by your own admission, he led millions to believe a lie as fact. That is fruit of evil, not good, and Jesus said we would know them by their fruit. My hope is that Mr. Brown would one day realize the Truth and repent through the revelation of the true Son of God, if he hasn't already.

Again, I don't know who wrote this comment and it is not my intention to offend personally, but I felt the need to "rejoice in the Truth" rather than "rejoice in iniquity." I pray you hear the heart.

Peace.

 
At 6:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this suggestion would be controversial...hee hee. But whenever I listen to "Man In Black" I hear what I consider an echo of a Christ-like heart. He had a rocky life at times, but all the same I'd consider Johnny Cash in that category.

 
At 8:45 AM , Blogger Britt Mooney said...

I think Johnny Cash at least deserves consideration. Knowing what little of his life that I do, expecially the later half of his life, he was a powerful witness to God's grace and redemption.

I don't see him as that controversial because, while I never really thought he was that talented, I will say he had a very original style within the country music scene and some of his songs are really cool.

Peace.

 
At 1:21 AM , Blogger Blues and Greens said...

Michael Card's radio program is not to be missed.

 

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