Review: The Jesus Music

The Jesus Music is one of the most high-anticipated documentaries in a while and that’s because of focus on the evolution of the Christian music industry and the advertisements touching on some of the more controversial things in the industry’s history. Getting things out of the way early- yes, it lives up to the hype and expectations. It also goes in-depth into a few areas of Christian music that haven’t been talked about publicly…ever. One thing that has to be commended is the determination and commitment of many high-profile artists to be honest, candid, transparent and vulnerable. Amy Grant, Russ Taff, Stryper, Tobymac, DC Talk and many others are very honest about their careers and the impact the Church has had on their lives; it isn’t always positive. Running almost 2 hours in length, there still isn’t enough time to really touch on every artist that made a major impact on the Christian music world- Carman, Rich Mullins, Ray Boltz, Barry McGuire, Petra (even though they’re mentioned) aren’t really a focal point. However, Stryper, Chris Tomlin, Tobymac and many others are and they make it more than worth it. The film also features interviews with Skillet, Phil Keaggy, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith, Lecrae, Kirk Franklin, MercyMe, Newsboys, For King & Country, Lauren Daigle and many more. The film starts at the very beginning with the Jesus Movement of the 1960’s and features interviews with Love Song and people close to Larry Norman and Keith Green- all of which were vital to the infancy of Christian music. They also discuss some of the preachers and evangelists in the early days, who catered to the hippie crowd those artists were trying to reach. They also go in-depth with the drug use that ran rampant amongst some of the artists of the early Christian music days and the journey they went on getting clean and getting saved, finding their faith- they don’t hold anything back from the very start. From there, the film delves into the 80’s rock and metal days of Christian music- featuring interviews with Stryper, Eddie DeGarmo, Rez Band and Glenn Kaiser, among many others. The bands talk about how they knew they were different from the Church and they really talk about the pushback they received from Christians over the years and how hard it really was for them- some of them rebelling in response but still finding their way home because they just wanted to reach the lost. Amy Grant is another focal point, along with Michael W. Smith. Grant and Smith talk openly about the friendship they had and how each helped each other’s careers immensely but also how they too had trouble with the Church at times- Grant in particular when she released “Baby Baby.” Things get heavy too- the hardest part for Grant came when she got divorced and the judgement she got- not just from the Church but from inside the Christian music industry and how hard it was for her to come back from it. Russ Taff is featured, which was a pleasant surprise as he talks about his substance abuse issues and how those basically killed his career as well but, toward the end of the film, he details his journey with Christ and it’s obvious it was never him that had the issue with his faith. One of the most inspiring moments of the film is Chris Tomlin talking about writing “We Fall Down” and seeing the passion and fire in his eyes for the Lord and his faith, something that is common with every artist in this film. It isn\’t just CCM and rock and roll that get a focal point, though. The world of Christian rap has exploded over the last 10 years and we get firsthand points of view from Lecrae and Kirk Franklin- both talking in frank about the battles they\’ve faced as christian rap artists- with Lecrae mentioning he doesn\’t fit in with the mainstream rap world because he\’s talking about Jesus and faith but doesn\’t always feel like he fits in with the Church because he\’s playing rap music but that Kirk Franklin is the one person who\’s always been a mentor over the years. Perhaps the feature of the film that will entice fans the most is the segments on DC Talk and Tobymac. Toby and DC Talk have never come out and publicly disclosed why they actually split and took and “Intermission.” For fans who have been waiting 20 years for answers, you have those answers with The Jesus Music. Nothing is off the table and you see it firsthand in the film. The most common factor between all of these artists over the years is one man- Rev. Billy Graham. He saw the message, the heart and the passion in artists like DC Talk, Petra, and others and brought them into his rallies and events to perform- regardless of what the Church thought. He saw the changes coming and saw the young generations latching onto the new styles of music and made a point to mesh everything together and put aside his personal preferences and put Jesus first. That’s one of the common themes of the film- putting Jesus first. In the end, this is a film that every Christian needs to see and spend time with. The heart these artists have for Jesus and advancing the Kingdom should be infectious. When it comes down to it, that’s the one goal they all have. It’s clear when the CCM Industry became an Industry, though, and not just a ministry- granted, the ministry side has always been there and still is but the segregation within it and some of the judgement within it may be alarming to some people. However, this film is also a redemption story too. Seeing artists like Amy Grant get another shot at being on top because Bart Millard of MercyMe insisted that she go on tour with them- even though she was nervous and terrified of the judgement from her past. She got the redemption she deserved. Seeing Russ Taff get the acceptance in the Christian music industry he always wanted and deserved- that’s inspiring. Seeing Stryper still going strong after all these years is a testament to their faith and how strong faith can really make you stronger. This is the film the Church needs and has needed for a very long time. Hopefully there is a follow up film because they haven’t even scratched the surface. Ray Boltz, Carman, Petra, Rich Mullins, Geoff Moore & The Distance, Audio Adrenaline, Jeremy Camp, Promise Keepers, Acquire The Fire- just to name a few- have stories or roles in history that would fit perfectly into a second film. -Reggie Edwards